The introduction to the $30.5 million lawsuit lodged by producer/songwriter Rob Fusari against his former collaborator and girlfriend [artist id="3061469"]Lady Gaga[/artist] opens with the most famous quote from English playwright and poet William Congreve.
“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/ Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,” reads the intro, which includes another lyrical flourish with the added emotional argument, “All business is personal. When those personal relationships evolve into romantic entanglements, any corresponding business relationship usually follows the same trajectory so that when one crashes they all burn. That is what happened here.”
What follows is page-upon-page of legal argument from Fusari’s lawyer detailing the producer’s claims of having discovered and nurtured Gaga (then an unknown singer by the name of Stefani Germanotta, spelled “Stephani” in the complaint), only to have her abandon him and cut him out of her lucrative recording career once she made it big. At press time, a spokesperson for Gaga had not responded to MTV News’ requests for comment on the suit, but a deeper look at the legal document provides interesting details on Fusari’s version of Gaga’s early career.
The suit claims that on March 23, 2006, Gaga performed at a New Writers’ Showcase at New York’s Cutting Room club, where she met a songwriter friend of Fusari’s named Wendy Starland. Germanotta asked Starland if she remembered her from Germanotta’s days working as an intern at the Famous Music publishing company, and the two bonded.
“Starland knew that Fusari had been searching for months for a dynamic female rock-n-roller with garage band chops to front an all-girl version of the Strokes,” the suit reads. “Starland was blown away by Germanotta’s performance and immediately called Fusari and told him she had found him his girl.” The document says that the aspiring singer took a bus the next day to Fusari’s 150 Studios in Parsippany, New Jersey, hiking the last quarter-mile.
“Fusari was expecting someone a little more grunge-rocker than the young Italian girl ‘guidette’ that arrived at his doorstep and was worried that he had made a mistake,” the document continues. “Fusari then asked her to play one of her songs on the studio piano and within seconds realized that Germanotta had star potential. The trick would be coaxing it out of her. Before long, Germanotta was riding the bus to Jersey every day to work with Fusari at his studio. Fusari thought Germanotta’s songs were brilliant but lacked commercial appeal. He pushed her to explore different musical genres. Over the course of the next several months, Germanotta commuted from New York to Jersey seven days a week, radically reshaping her approach. They put their focus on writing music and finding a sound for her.”
Soon enough, Fusari says he convinced Gaga to give up on rock and focus on dance beats, showing her how a drum machine would not impact the integrity of her sound on the day they finished collaborating on “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich,” a song that would ultimately be released in 2008 on her multiplatinum debut, The Fame. He says they then went on to write several other songs together, including the smash hit “Paparazzi,” as well as “Brown Eyes” and “Disco Heaven.”
In a 2008 interview with MTV’s Buzzworthy blog before The Fame‘s release, [url id="http://buzzworthy.mtv.com/2008/07/08/lady-gaga-video-interview-exclusive-photos/"]Gaga credited Fusari with the origin of her stage name[/url]. “My name, Lady Gaga, comes from the first producer that I worked with, Rob Fusari,” she said. “I was playing a record for him one day in the studio called ‘Again Again,’ which is actually a B-side for the album, it’s like this super-Beatles/Queen theatrical ballad. He said, ‘God, you’re so “Radio Gaga,” ‘ and I thought that was funny. And every time I’d come into the studio he’d say, ‘Gaga is here, Gaga is here! Gaga Gaga!’ So it sort of stuck, and I tacked on the ‘Lady’ as a sort of ironic contrast to the crazy of the Gaga.”
Gaga has said in interviews that her moniker derived from the Queen song but was a nickname among family and friends.
The “close emotional quarters” the two purportedly shared during this period grew into a romantic relationship, with Gaga sleeping over at Fusari’s home and he, in turn, socializing with her family and dining at their Manhattan home. Fusari began shopping the CD of songs they worked on together to record companies, including Island Def Jam, which reportedly signed Gaga on the spot after president L.A. Reid heard her performing from his office.
Though her IDJ debut was set for release in May 2007, Gaga was “inexplicably” dropped after three months, according to the suit, just after she had renegotiated her deal with Fusari, which awarded him merchandising rights and some compensation as a producer on the album.
The loss of the deal allegedly coincided with the end of the couple’s personal relationship in January 2007, though Fusari said he encouraged Gaga to keep writing and recording. Around this time, Fusari’s manager, Laurent Besencon — who had also taken on Gaga as a client — introduced her to producer RedOne, who would go on to co-write such hits as “Poker Face,” “Just Dance” and “Boys, Boys, Boys” with the singer, while relegating Fusari to the sidelines, the suit claims.
In the documents, Fusari claims he then talked with a friend, Vince Herbert, who worked with Interscope Records, who sent Gaga’s music to company chairman Jimmy Iovine. The legendary record man was impressed and eventually signed the singer at the same time that Fusari claims Gaga and her father cut off all contact with him. Additionally, the suit claims that Besencon froze Fusari out of the Interscope negotiations and began protecting the interests of Gaga over his own, even allegedly sharing confidential information with her that compromised Fusari’s negotiating posture.
Gaga signed a deal with Interscope in May 2007, and the label released The Fame in August 2008, an album Fusari claims he co-produced and which included songs he is credited with co-writing and producing, “Paparazzi”, “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” and “Brown Eyes,” along with bonus tracks on various incarnations of the album: “Disco Heaven,” “Retro, Dance, Freak” and “Again Again.”
To date, the suit claims Fusari has received two checks totaling $203,000 and $394,965 (both in 2009) representing his 20 percent commission, with the second featuring the words “endorsed in accord and satisfaction of all sums due to undersigned” on the back.
“By adding this endorsement to the back of the check, defendants had attempted to trick plaintiff into depositing said check and thereby settle all outstanding debts due him by defendants under the [contract] and to bar plaintiff from seeking any additional payments,” the suit reads. In the documents, Fusari says he has not endorsed or deposited the second check. He also says he has not received his 15 percent share of merchandising revenue that was agreed upon in the contract.
As a result, Fusari lodged the $30.5 million suit against Gaga in New York Supreme Court on Wednesday.