Branson Promoter Sues Gallagher

A concert promotion group in Branson, Mo., is suing “Sledge-O-Matic” creator Gallagher and his manager, claiming breach of contract stemming from the comedian’s reported profanity and assaulting an employee at Moe Bandy Theatre during the summer.

Leas Campbell, Rick Kraniak and Deborah Soodhalter of Branson Partners LLC filed a lawsuit October 16th claiming breach of contract and requesting undetermined general and punitive damages stemming from 48 canceled shows out of 93 scheduled. The performer was served with the breach of contract notice November 3rd.

“We have filed suit and we are actively pursuing our claims against him. We had signed agreements that were done in advance with Gallagher that had to do specifically with foul language and any physical altercations with the audience or personnel,” Soodhalter told Pollstar. “Strangely, he managed to violate both. He started with the foul language from the very first show.”

According to documents obtained by Pollstar, the comic, hired to perform between June 16th and September 4th, roughed up off-duty theatre employee Marcie Kowalski July 22nd as she sat in the front row at Gallagher’s 11 p.m. show.

Kowalski filed a report July 25th with the Branson Police Department claiming assault and battery.

“During his performance, Gallagher stormed off of the stage, rushed towards Ms. Kowalski, grabbed her by the arms and pulled her out of her chair while repeatedly swearing at her, then pushed her back into the chair with such force as to cause injury to her arms and shoulder rotator cuff,” a statement from the partnership said.

Kowalski said in her police statement that Gallagher blamed her for the low attendance, shouting, “I didn’t want to do this show in the first fuckin’ place. It is all your fault that I’m doing this fuckin’ show.”

“The solution by Moe Bandy Theatre General Manager Tom Tillis and by Moe Bandy to the problem of the out-of-control Gallagher was to totally cancel all the remaining scheduled shows that were to run through September 4th,” the statement said.

The documentation includes an e-mail to Branson Partners’ publicist from a local newspaper writer, Dwight Widaman, who had attended an earlier-timed Gallagher show with his 9- and 11-year-old daughters.

“If Gallagher thinks he has created a ‘family’ show fit for Branson, he might want to think again. I squirmed in my seat as Gallagher talked about oral sex, joked that the 12-year-old boy he brought on stage was ‘gay’ and cracked several jokes about the size of a 13-year-old boy’s ‘target’ between his legs and how that might appeal to a 12-year-old girl,'” he wrote. “He mentioned that his 11 o’clock show was his ‘adult’ show. I can only fear what this show would include.”

Noting that he is “no prude,” Widaman told the publicist that he would keep a promise to not write a negative review, opting instead to write nothing.

The documentation also includes a letter signed by the comedian’s manager, Ruth Ann Propper of Sold Out Shows, acknowledging that Gallagher agreed to the promoters’ guidelines for his performances at the venue.

“Leo Gallagher has agreed to not use foul language during his shows in Branson and also in any publicity for those shows. Gallagher has agreed that there will be no physical altercations to the Branson staff and audience. Gallagher understands that he will be financial [sic] responsible for any physical acts or public foul language that would endanger the Branson run or attendance of the shows,” the letter states.

Pollstar‘s repeated attempts to reach Propper, the comedian or another representative were unsuccessful at press time.

Soodhalter added that the partnership had talked to the entertainer about an extended run in Branson should the contracted dates go well.

“Our plan with Gallagher was to continue to run there on weekends and times that he had off,” she explained. “He was very interested in continuing on in Branson, and he certainly – like the other stars – could have had maybe a 10-year run here.

“Instead, he chose to destroy his career here.”

This isn’t the first time the performer has been accused of assaulting an audience member.

William Edwin May III filed an $80,000 lawsuit against Gallagher and the Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino in Laughlin, Nev., in July 2005, claiming May sustained hearing damage and extreme emotional, physical and psychological harm after the comedian struck him in the head during a show.

Gallagher disputed the claim, saying he did not hit May with significant force and that it was part of the act. He added that May didn’t seem upset at the time.

— Tina Amendola