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'Happy Days' actors file suit against CBS

April 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Ron Howard and Henry Winkler may be sitting pretty, but some other familiar cast members on the famous television sitcom "Happy Days" say CBS still owes them a bundle of cash. They've filed suit for tens of millions of dollars.

The spinning record, the old jukebox, the cheerful theme music: all earmarks of "Happy Days," the much-loved sitcom that ran for 10 years in the 1970s and '80s. But these days that happy feeling is history.

Several former cast members say CBS, the show's owner, is stiffing them out of merchandising royalties.

"Unfortunately 'Happy Days' now also represents the worst of America, of what major companies are trying to get from it," said Anson Williams, who played "Potsie" on the show.

Teaming up against CBS are Marion Ross, Anson Williams, Donny Most, Erin Moran and the estate of Tom Bosley, who died last year.

Happy Days slot machines are one of the merchandising ventures in question. A gaming industry official says they were launched in 2008 and have been popular with casinos across the country.

"Somebody came up to me and said, 'You must be cleaning up on those casinos.' I said 'What are you talking about?' And he said, 'Yes, if you get five Marions, you hit the jackpot," said Marion Ross, who played "Mrs. Cunningham" on the show.

The actors say they've received nothing from the slots.

When Eyewitness News asked CBS for comment, CBS Consumer Products issued a statement: "We agree that funds are owed to the actors and have been working with them for quite some time to resolve the issue."

But in documents sent to the actors, CBS says it owes each of them no more than $9,000 for the last four years. The "Happy Days" cast members say that number should be in the millions.

"There's something kind of skewed in that the people who really had nothing to do with making the show, they're exploiting, making money on it by using our face, our pictures and all that," said Donny Most, who played "Ralph Malph" on the show.

So the "Happy Days" action, which used to happen in and around the Cunningham family house, has now shifted to Los Angeles County Superior Court. The actors have filed a lawsuit against CBS. They're seeking damages in excess of $40 million.