Star magazine was onto a juicy scoop. “Is Reese Witherspoon expecting her third child?” asked the magazine in a story last summer titled, “Going for Baby No. 3!” After the item ran, Star got a 10-page letter from Ms. Witherspoon’s lawyer, John Lavely Jr., that called the story “fiction-masquerading-as-fact” and demanded a retraction.
The magazine issued a retraction of a sort. Writing in its pages that “Reese’s attorney assures Star that the Oscar-winning actress is not pregnant,” the magazine ran a photo of Ms. Witherspoon wearing a bathing suit, under the headline “Reese Mystery Solved: She’s Not Pregnant … It’s Bloat!” (Here’s a copy of the lawsuit Mr. Lavely filed on Ms. Witherspoon’s behalf; the case is pending.)
In the perpetual cat-and-mouse game between gossip publishers and celebrities’ lawyers, Lavely & Singer, of Los Angeles, has long been a prominent player on the side of skittish stars. The firm, which has about 17 lawyers, often threatens media outlets over the pending publication of stories, photographs or videos of its clients, who have included Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brad Pitt.
Lately, though, celebrity gossip mavens aren’t merely ignoring some Lavely & Singer letters. They are turning the missives against their senders — defiantly mocking the lawyers.