‘Charlie’s Angels’, Jaacov Jaacovi, and the $1 Million Porn Lawsuit

‘Charlie’s Angels’, Jaacov Jaacovi, and the $1 Million Porn Lawsuit

One of the first adult film interviews that we ever conducted, over 20 years ago, was with the director Jaacov Jaacovi. Before we contacted him, we marveled and laughed at the innuendo-filled cheek of his over-the-top nom-de-porn: “Jackoff Jackoffi” anyone?

And then we found out that was actually his real name. Umm, sorry sir.

Jaacov told us about his memories of two of his most well-known films, Little Orphan Dusty and Taxi Girls.

Both movies were controversial because of their publicity campaigns – which likened the film’s stars, Rhonda Jo Petty and Nancy Suiter, to cast members from the most popular TV show at the time, Charlie’s AngelsFarrah Fawcett and Cheryl Ladd.

Legal threats and law suits exploded. Did they help or hinder the success of the films, and what was the effect on Jaacov himself?

This is the untold story.

With thanks to Jaacov Jaacovi, Jourdan Jaacovi, Svetlana, Bob Chinn, Richard Aldrich, and Rhonda Jo Petty. And to Nancy Suiter, just because.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

The Origin of Jaacov Jaacovi

Jaacov Jaacovi:

I was born in Israel. Tel Aviv to be precise, back in 1945.

My name has probably been misspelled more than anyone else’s in history. Jacob Jaqcovi. Yacob Jackofi. The list is endless. Anyway I’m Jaacov Jaacovi in the United States. Or Jourdan Alexander, which is the name I used to make videos in the 1980s.

Jaacov JaacoviJaacov Jaacovi

 

Jourdan Jaacovi (Jaacov Jaacovi’s son):

My father was a tank mechanic in the military in Israel before he came to America to attend film school in about 1970. He had two sisters who already lived over here: one of them worked as a producer for ABC for 25 years and was involved in several TV shows. My father was always very interested in photography so he came over and went to the Hollywood Film School, as it was called at the time.

I don’t know if he graduated – he was the kind of guy who would do something for while and then say to himself, “I can do this,” and then go off to do his own thing.

Jaacov JaacoviJaacov Jaacovi

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

I wanted to become a filmmaker. I made a few shorts, and then in 1971, I made a western with a friend of mine, Jack Holzman. It starred a large-breasted stripper from Minneapolis named Roxanne Brewer. We called it A Fistful of 44s. It was inspired by the Sergio Leone films, but with sex scenes. All soft-core obviously, because it was only 1971. It wasn’t a big hit, but I learned how to make a film.

Jaacov Jaacovi

 

Jaacov Jaacovi

 

Jourdan Jaacovi (Jaacov Jaacovi’s son):

He always wanted to make straight, mainstream movies. I’m not sure if he didn’t know the right people, or if he just didn’t have the talent to be successful.

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

I didn’t know what to do next because I didn’t have the industry connections I needed.

Then I met Dick Aldrich.

 

Richard Aldrich (aka Damon Christian):

I left my home state of New England in 1965 with a spirit of adventure and freedom. I got as far as Denver, Colorado, before getting arrested for picking a flower from a flower pot that was city-owned.

It didn’t get any easier after that: I ended up broke in Las Vegas so I took a job at Proctor & Gamble. That bored me so much, so I moved to Los Angeles where I was homeless for a while, living under the downtown freeway bridge.

Around 1967, I got a job at Permafilm, which specialized in nudie cutie movies. This was the era of guys like David Friedman of Entertainment Ventures Inc., Bob Cresse – who owned Olympic International Films, and Chris Warfield – who was a big sexploitation producer and director. My first job for the company was as a shipping clerk sending film cans around the country. These were films like House on Bare Mountain (1962), Mondo Freudo (1966), and Thar She Blows! (1968), which showed as much of the female anatomy as was legally possible – and that wasn’t much.

That time was a real education for me. There were thousands and thousands of movie theaters across the country exhibiting these films, so I got to know the B-movie theater circuit like the back of my hand.

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

When I met Dick Aldrich, he was everything I wasn’t. He was a smooth-talking, good-looking, sales guy. And even though he was still young, he seemed to know everyone in the film business.

We became friends, and decided to work together.

 

Richard Aldrich (aka Damon Christian):

Jaacov was an interesting guy. An Israeli war veteran who wanted to make films in Hollywood. We formed a partnership, and created a company called Mirage Film Corp.

 

Jaacov Jaacovi (below):

Jaacov JaacoviIn 1973, Dick and I made The Maids (1973). It was a soft-core film, and this time the star was Uschi Digard, another large-breasted stripper.

Dick was helpful in finding distribution for the film, but he had his finger in lots of pies and was always away making other deals.

I looked around for other collaborators.

Then I met Svetlana. She was an aspiring actress.

 

Svetlana Mischoff:

I’m Ukranian, born in Russia in 1949. My family escaped from Russia to Poland, and I grew up there.

We came to America when I was 16, and I had to learn English. I went to the University of Illinois, but nobody would talk to me.

I became an actress in the 1960s. I was doing a lot of shows on television, like My World And Welcome To It, where I played an exotic secret agent. I did a lot of Don Rickles’ shows as a dumb blonde, and quiz shows too, I won the $1.98 Beauty Show and The Gong Show.

Svetlana MischoffSvetlana Mischoff

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

Svetlana had had bit parts in some movies (The Christine Jorgensen Story (1970), and Myra Breckinridge (1970)) though it wasn’t easy because she had the thickest eastern European accent you ever heard. But was she was ambitious and aggressive, and through sheer force of will… Svetlana usually got what Svetlana wanted.

 

Svetlana Mischoff:

As an actress, I couldn’t get a break. What really annoyed me about Hollywood was the casting couch with the producers. You hear famous actresses say, “Oh I never had to fuck anyone and now I’m a big star. I had talent. They hired me right away.”

That’s a bunch of bullshit, excuse me. It just doesn’t happen. Men are men. If I was a whore, I would probably be a star by now. Sometimes I think if I could do it again, I’d just fuck every producer in Hollywood. I would have every part in the world! But I just couldn’t do it.

SvetlanaSvetlana

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

Svetlana and I became a film production team.

We made a couple of soft-core sex films, The Chaperone (1974) and Female Chauvinists (1976) – which featured both Roxanne Brewer and Uschi Digard – but we weren’t going anywhere.

Roxanne BrewerRoxanne Brewer

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

Svetlana and I got married, which is a whole story in itself. We struggled personally – and professionally. The market for soft films was drying up, so I took work on other people’s movies.

That’s how I met Bob Chinn.

 

Bob Chinn:

Jake worked as a cameraman for me on Disco Lady (1978) and also as an assistant director/post-production supervisor on China Cat (1978).

I liked him – he was engaging, smart, and ambitious, and he always had a crazy scheme that he was working on. Maybe I liked him just a little too much – because he often took advantage of my good nature, convincing me to do things that I shoulda turned down.

When he and Svetlana decided to go into hardcore films for themselves, he called me up and asked me to read the script that they’d written.

That was Little Orphan Dusty (1978).

*

Little Orphan Dusty (1978)

Jaacov Jaacovi:

By 1978, I’d learned enough about the business to start my own production and distribution company, Jaacov Jaacovi Productions, with offices at 6604 Hollywood Blvd.

Svetlana and I wrote a script called ‘Little Orphan Dusty’. The problem was that my name wasn’t worth anything. I knew that if I directed the film myself, it wouldn’t be as successful as it could be. I needed a more established director’s name on the poster. So I sent the script over to Bob Chinn.

Bob ChinnBob Chinn

 

Bob Chinn:

To be honest, I didn’t like the script that much. It was violent and nasty, and the dialogue was corny and melodramatic. Not that I had the courage to tell Jake that…

When he asked me what I thought of it, I just said it was great… but then he asked me to direct it! And, as usual, he was so enthusiastic and excited that I didn’t want to let him down. I figured I could use the cash he was offering. So I accepted – and of course, I regretted it almost immediately.

I worked with him on all the pre-production, but just before we started shooting, Jaacov took me aside and told me he was going to cut my fee in half. That was typical of him and Svetlana: they always over-promised and under-delivered. I was mad, so I told him, “If you’re gonna pay me for half the fee, then I’ll only direct half the film!”

 

Jaacov Jaacovi (below):

Jaacov JaacoviI had no problem with directing half of the film. It was a win-win for me: I’d get to make my own film, and I’d still get Bob Chinn’s name on the poster – which would make it easy to sell. It worked out well.

I also wanted Bob around because I hired John Holmes for the lead, and John was an asshole. John was the biggest star in the business, so I wanted him in the film, but, like I say, he was an asshole. Bob knew how to deal with John. They’d been making films together for almost a decade.

 

Bob Chinn:

Of course, Jaacov screwed me on the schedule and I ended up with the short end of the stick as I got all the difficult scenes. Which included a motorbike gang chase, a gang rape scene, a big orgy, most of John’s scenes… and of course, all the fisting scenes.

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

The ‘Little Orphan Dusty’ shoot went well. No problems.

 

Bob Chinn:

It was a tiring shoot because Jaacov and Svetlana always tried to pack two days filming into one day, which made for long days and even longer nights. The reason was simple: they weren’t paying overtime. And though Jaacov was around all the tine, he wasn’t a whole lot of help.

Jaacov and Svetlana cut costs wherever they could. It wasn’t just my fee that they slashed. The shooting schedule, the crew, the costumes, everything was done for as little money as possible.

Svetlana was ever-present, circling everyone, keeping her eye on what was going on. It was as if her life savings had been invested on this film: who knows, maybe they were? She was also in charge of the catering – which consisted of a loaf of bread and some packs of lunch meat. Nothing fancy like mayonnaise or mustard.

The best thing about the film was that it was fun to work with the film’s female star, Rhonda Jo Petty.

Rhonda Jo PettyRhonda Jo Petty

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

We discovered Rhonda Jo Petty. That was her first film. ‘Little Orphan Dusty’ made her a star.

 

Rhonda Jo Petty:

That was a rough film. (When you ask me about this) you’re walking into territory… that I’ve buried.

Svetlana… Oh God. She was blonde, she was powerful, and she had a mouth on her. Jaacov was all about business – for him, it was about getting the film done.

 

Bob Chinn:

One thing I noticed was that Jaacov and Svetlana seemed to confuse Rhonda Jo whenever they tried to explain something to her in their authoritarian style.

 

Rhonda Jo Petty:

I was being asked to do things that I was very uncomfortable with: for a start, I was nervous about working with John Holmes, but it was the motorcycle racing scene that was blowing my mind.

I’ve always had a hard time with my voice, and speaking up for myself. I’ve allowed people to take advantage of me, not knowing how to say no.

 

Bob Chinn:

I’d gotten a reputation for fisting scenes after I’d made Candy Stripers (1978), and Jake made it clear he wanted several in this film.

 

Rhonda Jo Petty:

I did things I didn’t really want to do. I was very young and naive  – and Jaacov took advantage of that. He knew what he was doing.

I had never done certain sexual things, and Jaacov didn’t discuss them with me until right before the scene. I didn’t feel I had any option but to go ahead with them.

 

Bob Chinn:

For the advertising campaign pressbooks and one-sheet poster, Jaacov proudly told me that he had come up with a wonderful and brilliant idea.

He was going to bill Rhonda Jo Petty as the Farrah Fawcett look-alike.

I looked him straight in the eye and told him, “Jaacov, the only thing about her that looks like Farrah Fawcett is her hair.”

Rhonda Jo PettyRhonda Jo Petty

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

Did Rhonda Jo look like Farrah Fawcett? Sure, she did. Farrah Fawcett was the biggest TV star in the world: she was on Charlie’s Angels, which was the most watched TV show, and she was the most popular Angel.

So we used her name on the poster.

 

Bob Chinn:

To (Jake), she definitely looked like Farrah Fawcett. And so did the girl in the artwork for the one-sheet poster that Jaacov had printed for the film, as it turned out. And to add insult to injury, she was in the exact same pose as Farrah’s famous poster in her bathing suit.

 

Before Farrah Fawcett joined the cast of ‘Charlie’s Angels’, she’d posed for a photo shoot with photographer Bruce McBroom. The resulting image of Fawcett in a one-piece red bathing suit became the best-selling poster in history, selling a record-breaking 20 million copies. Jaacov used the same picture for the ‘Little Orphan Dusty’ poster.

Jaacov JaacoviFarrah Fawcett’s iconic poster, and the ‘Little Orphan Dusty’ poster

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

We opened Dusty at the Pussycat (Theater), and we had the best poster you’ve ever seen: a picture of Rhonda Jo – and in prominent letters, I put the tagline, “Rhonda Jo Petty – the Farrah Fawcett look alike.” We had that poster in every newspaper, and if you just looked at the poster, you probably thought Farrah Fawcett was the star.

It worked. The film didn’t cost much to make, but it did well for us. Very well.

Jaacov Jaacovi

 

Rhonda Jo Petty:

I didn’t have any idea that was Jaacov’s whole plan for (marketing) the movie.

I didn’t even know that the film had come out, and I didn’t know about all the publicity in the newspapers around the film. There was no internet back then, of course.

And I used my real name. I guess a lot of the family saw it, and someone let my Dad know. So my Dad called me, and he says, “How could you use our name? How could you? I’m gonna break your arms and fucking legs.”

It really took me to the ground. I fell apart.

 

Bob Chinn:

Naturally, Farrah Fawcett’s lawyers sued, but by that time Jaacov had already raked in what amounted to a small fortune from the picture.

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

Farrah Fawcett’s guys tried to sue me. They couldn’t make their mind up: they claimed I said Farrah was in our movie, they didn’t like that I used her name on our poster, they said that I used her photograph without authorization… I didn’t care. The publicity was good for the film, and we made more money.

I can’t remember what happened after that. Maybe I paid some attorneys, maybe I gave these guys some money to go away.

I made enough money from the movie to not care.

Jaacov Jaacovi

*

Taxi Girls (1979)

Jaacov Jaacovi:

Naturally I wanted to repeat the success of ‘Little Orphan Dusty’, except this time I wanted to make a better movie. So I used the same formula: I wrote the script for Taxi Girls with Svetlana and a friend of mine, we got John Holmes back to be the lead, and I got Bob Chinn involved again.

 

Bob Chinn:

(Jaacov) came to me with a thick screenplay that was obviously for a far more ambitious project than ‘Little Orphan Dusty’. He asked me if I was interested in co-directing this new opus with him like we did the last one. He said, “We make a winning team, Bob.”

I wasn’t going to be starting up my new projects for at least a couple more weeks and I knew that I would probably be bored in the meantime so I answered, “Well, why the hell not, Jake. If the money’s right that is.”

“How about the same deal?” he continued cannily. “I’ll pay you half your salary, you direct half of the film?”

To which I said, “You really think that I’m a soft touch, don’t you.”

I’d become so used to being exploited that it didn’t really bother me much anymore.

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

Bob was always complaining about something or other. But I liked him – and there were few people who could direct movies as quickly and as cheaply as him so I was always happy to work with him.

 

Bob Chinn:

I agreed to direct Taxi Girls on the condition that he didn’t use my name. The reason was simple: he wanted to shoot it all in Los Angeles – where it was still illegal to make porn films. And I knew he wasn’t going to get permits for any of the exteriors – which included shooting hookers on Hollywood Boulevard. (That) was almost a certain invitation for a bust.

I was surprised because (Jaacov) was usually a pretty cautious guy. I’d never been busted in my entire career making these films, and I certainly didn’t want that to happen now.

He begrudgingly agreed to my terms. That’s why my name doesn’t appear in the movie.

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

I had this girl under contract. Nancy Suiter. She’d been in magazines, but hadn’t ever been in a movie. Blonde, young, and sweet-looking. Amazing looking girl. Not the type you’d expect to see in a porno.

Nancy SuitorNancy Suiter

 

Bob Chinn:

(Jaacov) enthusiastically told me he had a brand new starlet that was going to appear in the film. It was due to start shooting the following week. Obviously Jaacov was not one to waste any time, especially when there was the distinct possibility of someone grabbing his new discovery before he even had chance to use her, since he hadn’t actually signed her to any kind of contract. We all knew he was too cheap for something like that.

 

Jamie Gillis:

Serena and I were hanging out one day when we got a call from someone asking us if we wanted a day’s film work. Neither of us were interested, we were too busy doing nothing. But then I heard that Nancy Suiter was part of the deal.

So I changed my mind.

Nancy SuiterNancy Suiter, as ‘Susan’

 

Bob Chinn:

Jaacov showed me some pictures of his new star, a blonde All-American type.

“Yeah, she’s kinda cute,” I said to him.

Jaacov (was) a sort of secretive type who likes to play his cards close to his chest. Getting him to reveal anything is akin to pulling teeth. “Guess what?” he said. “Doesn’t she remind you of anyone?”

I looked so hard my eyes were getting strained. “Should she remind me of anyone?”

Cheryl Ladd,” he finally told me. He said that he was going to bill her as the Cheryl Ladd look-alike.

I said, “Jaacov, are you out of your fucking mind? She doesn’t look anything like Cheryl Ladd.”

He studied the picture very carefully.

“Sure she does,” he seriously assured me.

Nancy SuiterNancy Suiter, as ‘Suzanne’

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

Cheryl Ladd had replaced Farrah Fawcett on ‘Charlie’s Angels’ so she was an even bigger star.

And listen… if Rhonda looked like Farrah Fawcett, then Nancy Suiter could pass for Cheryl Ladd.

Did I discuss it with Nancy? No. It had nothing to do with her. Her job was to act, mine was to make money.

Jaacov JaacoviNancy Suiter in ‘Taxi Girls’

*

A Troubled Aftermath

Jaacov Jaacovi:

I got divorced from Svetlana, that was rough – and at the same time, I was getting married to my second wife, Jourdan’s mother.

Jaacov JaacoviJaaacov and his daughter

 

Jourdan Jaacovi (Jaacov Jaacovi’s son):

I remember we ran into Svetlana once in a movie theater. She started a crazy fight with my father in the dark as the movie was playing. That was a weird scene.

But my father was always very popular and sociable. He knew everyone – you couldn’t go anywhere without running into people he knew. Everyone loved him too – except for those who were really close to him, who knew him a little bit better and knew how selfish he could be.

Jaacov JaacoviJaacov, and his family

 

Bob Chinn:

‘Taxi Girls’ was even more successful than ‘Little Orphan Dusty’ had been, and as a result Jake was once again making money hand over fist.

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

‘Taxi Girls’ made a lot of money. A lot of money. It was one of the biggest grossing films of the decade. I bought a big house, expensive cars, and had lots of money to spare. I was rich.

But then along came the legal headaches, and they slowed me down.

 

Bob Chinn:

As I’d expected, Jaacov managed to get busted while shooting the street scene exteriors with the girls playing hookers on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Jaacov JaacoviStill shot on Sunset Blvd from ‘Taxi Girls’

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

We got picked up for shooting street scenes. The camera guy was doing it covertly with no fuss, but they still arrested us on that. It wasn’t so bad, I paid a fine, and moved on.

 

Bob Chinn:

When (‘Taxi Girls’) was being released, I saw the poster and the face on the girl in the poster was far more Cheryl Ladd than Nancy Suiter.

This Jaacovi really has balls, I thought. But this time, however, he wasn’t so lucky. This time Ladd’s agent sued.

Taxi Girls

 

James Selna (Cheryl Ladd’s attorney) speaking in 1979:

The Cheryl Ladd look-alike advertisements for ‘Taxi Girls’ were made without my client’s permission and they put her in a false light.

Cheryl Ladd has never appeared in the nude. Miss Ladd objects to the ads on a very personal level as a family woman and the mother of a 4-year old daughter.

The ‘Taxi Girls’ poster features a painting of Miss Ladd’s face rather than the face of Nancy Suiter.

 

Joseph Rhine (Jaacov Jaacovi’s attorney, and also husband of adult film director/actor Ann Perry) speaking in 1979:

There was no intent to deceive anyone. This is a common practice in the industry. My client merely referred to the likeness of his film’s star. This was done before when an actress resembled Farrah Fawcett, and no legal action was taken.

It’s nothing more than the intimidation of the big name over the smaller person.

Jaacov JaacoviNewspaper advert for the New York premiere of ‘Taxi Girls’ at the Circus Cinema

 

Richard Milner (New York adult filmmaker/journalist):

I read in the New York Post that ‘Taxi Girls’ had been busted at the Circus Cinema – which was owned by my friend, Howie Farber, who also co-owned Distribpix.

 

Howie’s defense of the film in the media was entertaining.

 

‘Heavens Above! TV Angel to Sue Over Porn Look-Alike’, New York Post, May 4, 1979:

“It’s ridiculous,” snorts Circus Cinema owner Howard Farber. “People tell me I look like Woody Allen, and I’m not suing him.”

Jaacov Jaacovi

 

Richard Milner:

Howie happened to look like Woody Allen. I drafted a letter – pretending it was from Woody Allen – in which I threatened to sue Howie for impersonating Woody Allen.

Richard Milner

 

SvetlanaSvetlana and Richard Milner

 

Howie went further in his public statements about ‘Taxi Girls’.

 

Howie Farber in the article ‘Heavens Above! TV Angel to Sue Over Porn Look-Alike’, New York Post, 4 May 1979:

‘Taxi Girls’ is the ‘Gone With The Wind’ of adult movies. It has a plot. It’s about a group of girls who decided they can have a very good business by driving taxi cabs, and using that as sort of a front for prostitution activities.

It’s definitely not anything like ‘The Sound of Music’.

 

Despite the humor inherent of the situation, it all turned sour for Jaacov when a judge ruled against him.

 

‘Judge Stops Film From Using Painting of Cheryl Ladd in ads’, Dayton Daily News, July 17, 1979:

Actress Cheryl Ladd has won a court order barring the star of an X-rated film from being billed as her look-alike.

Jaacov Jaacovi

 

Jaacov JaacoviSome felt that Cheryl Ladd’s lawsuit has played into Jaacov Jaacovi’s hands, giving him free publicity

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

After the ruling, all references to Cheryl Ladd had to be dropped – which was painful, and expensive. All the promo materials had to be changed…

How much did it cost us? I don’t know. The film was already successful. Who knows how successful the movie woulda been without the Cheryl Ladd scandal? We kept capitalizing on the publicity though. We used the same picture – and just scrubbed out her face… and we referred to “the famous look-alike”…

Nancy SuiterThe revised ‘Taxi Girls’ poster that appeared after the court ruling

 

Shortly afterwards, Jaacov was hit with a second ‘Taxi Girls’ lawsuit.

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

This time I was set up by the cops for pandering.

The cops had sent a couple of girls to me to audition for the movie. I had no idea they were undercover, and when I offered them parts, they arrested me.

That case dragged on for ages, and cost me a fortune to defend: I was arrested in the summer of 1978 and the court case didn’t take place for two years after.

 

‘Porno Film Figure Enters Guilty Plea’, San Bernardino Sun, January 11, 1980:

A movie producer, who was successfully sued by Cheryl Ladd over the use of her name in ads for his adult film ‘Taxi Girls’, has pleaded guilty to offering an undercover policewoman money to perform sex acts in the same film.

The maximum prison term for felony pandering is four years.

Jaacov Jaacovi

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

It was unprecedented and unconstitutional. It was the first time the XXX business had been attacked in this way. No adult filmmaker had ever been arrested for pandering before. And I took the heat for the whole industry.

The cops even admitted that they targeted me specifically. It was harassment, pure and simple.

 

‘Porno Film Figure Enters Guilty Plea’, San Bernardino Sun, 11 January 1980:

Deputy District Attorney Kirk Newkirk said prostitution is legally defined as performance of a sex act for money, and that Jaacovi was prosecuted on the theory that he engaged in pandering by inducing someone to engage in prostitution.

For a time, the movie industry expressed concern that the theory of prosecution used by the district attorney’s office in the Jaacovi case might subject directors in more mainstream films to prosecution.

However Newkirk said, “This is a tactic we would use against hardcore sex movie makers only.”

 

Two months later, Jaacov was found guilty and sentenced.

 

‘Filmmaker Gets Probation’, Associated Press, March 16, 1980:

LOS ANGELES. A pornographic movie maker was placed on three years’ probation Friday for allegedly trying to bribe two undercover policewomen to perform sex acts in a film. In addition, Jaacov Jaacovi, 34, of Los Angeles was fined $500 and sentenced to 180 days in jail by Superior Court Judge William Keene. But the jail sentence was stayed until Dec. 11, pending a probation report to the court.

During a plea bargain last month, he pleaded guilty to one count of pandering, but a second count was dropped. Prosecutors claimed Jaacovi twice offered $200 to undercover policewomen posing as actresses to entice them to perform in his film ‘Taxi Girls.’ The instances allegedly occurred in August and September 1978.

Jaacov Jaacovi

 

And surprisingly, Jaacov’s biggest legal problem over ‘Taxi Girls’ was still ahead: Cheryl Ladd announced that she was suing him for damages over the use of her likeness – and the case finally came to court for a jury trial in 1983.

 

From Cheryl Ladd lawsuit:

The plaintiff asserts the advertising for the motion picture ‘Taxi Girls’ unlawfully used her name and likeness.

The respondent used a publicity photograph of the plaintiff as the central motif of the marketing campaign for the motion picture.

The plaintiff seeks compensatory damages.

 

Jaacov defended himself at the trial, and his arguments were unconventional. He said that his star, Nancy Suiter, so closely resembled Miss Ladd that it would have constituted false advertising had he not mentioned Ladd’s name. He also argued that he had made a similar reference to Farah Fawcett in advertising for ‘Little Orphan Dusty’ and she did not sue him.

Cheryl Ladd’s attorney on the other hand argued that the word “look-alike” was printed in very small type on the posters, and that the intention was to defraud the customer.

The jury’s verdict was 10-2 in favor of Cheryl Ladd.

 

‘Cheryl Ladd Wins $1 Million Lawsuit’, The Napa Register, December 22, 1983:

Former ‘Charlie’s Angels’ star Cheryl Ladd was awarded $1 million because her name and likeness were used to promote a sex film, a decision called a “message that celebrities are not fair game for every huckster.”

Producer Jaacov Jaacovi, who has not made a film since the disputed ‘Taxi Girls’ in 1979, said he was unable to pay the $300,000 general damages and $750,000 punitive damages. The defendant, who acted as his own attorney, sad he might appeal the jury’s decision.

Jaacov and his co-defendant, Superfilms Ltd., did not contest the accusation that movie posters for the X-rated ‘Taxi Girls’ described the film’s star as “the Cheryl Ladd look-alike.” Miss Ladd was not in the film.

They disagreed, however, with the claim by Ms. Ladd’s lawyers that Jaacovi “desired to exploit” the actress and inappropriately used a pose resembling one sued by Miss Ladd in a popular poster that was sold nationwide.

Cheryl Ladd

 

Cheryl Ladd (speaking in 1983):

I am extremely pleased with the verdict. I think the jury sent a strong message about anyone attempting to do this sort of thing, using another person’s name and likeness without getting their permission. When that is taken away from you that is wrong.

The motive here was not money, but the principle.

 

Jaacov Jaacovi:

Well, how do you think I felt? It was a travesty. I lost everything.

I don’t know if I ever really recovered.

 

Jourdan Jaacovi (Jaacov Jaacovi’s son):

The lawsuit was his downfall. It ruined his career.

He’d been doing really well until then: we had a huge house in Woodland Hills. A beautiful property with seven bedrooms and a large swimming pool. He had two Rolls Royces.

But after he paid some, or all, of the damages awarded against him, he essentially went bankrupt.

We had to move in with his sister into her small house in North Hollywood.

 

Nancy SuiterVideo box cover for ‘Taxi Girls’

 

Taxi GirlsItalian one sheet for ‘Taxi Girls’

 

Jourdan Jaacovi (Jaacov Jaacovi’s son):

I’m sure that the defeat had a big impact on him, but he remained optimistic that he was going to hit it big again.

Maybe that was part of his gambling mentality. He was a terrible gambler: if he wasn’t shooting movies, he was probably at a high stakes poker game in Los Angeles. That extended to his view of business: if only he could hit it again, and get it all back, then it would all be ok.

Unfortunately that never really happened.

 

*

Endgame

Jaacov Jaacovi made only three more films after ‘Taxi Girls’: the first was Little Orphan Dusty Part II (1982) in which Rhonda Jo Petty returned as the film’s star. Jaacov used the same poster for the sequel, but this time Rhonda Jo was billed as “The ? ? look alike.”

Jaacov Jaacovi

 

Jaacov also made another sequel, Taxi Girls Part II: In Search of Toni (1986). The rest of his output consisted of a prolific series of shot-on-video quickies, where he was billed as ‘Jourdan Alexander.’

 

Jourdan Jaacovi (Jaacov Jaacovi’s son):

He always had plenty of ideas for new feature-length movies, and when I was a kid he’d pitch them to me. None of them sounded any good at all.

I’ve actually tried watching a few of his videos, and many of them are bad: terrible production values, and you can hear stage directions throughout the movie.

By this time, he wasn’t plugged into the right people, and to be honest he was on his way out as a filmmaker.

 

The last of Jaacov’s videos was released in 1994.

Jaacov JaacoviJaacov

 

Jourdan Jaacovi (Jaacov Jaacovi’s son):

My father’s life moved away from making movies to distributing his films on VHS to video stores. He owned the rights to his films, and he became a one-man distribution operation.

He did everything himself: he’d print the packaging, and he had boxes and boxes of tapes in the garage of wherever he was living at the time. I’d go with him on trips to video stores all across California, and he’d sell VHS tapes out of his trunk. He made a fairly good amount of money doing that, and lived in nicer houses for a while.

And then the internet came along, and that wiped him out again. He was also divorced from my mother by then, and was going through legal battles over unpaid child support. Anything he earned was taken away from him by the courts, so, as a result, he wasn’t doing a regular job.

The only money he had was from doing weird things like selling ties, and from money that his sister gave him.

It was a sad way for his life to end. When he died, he left absolutely nothing.

 

Jaacov Jaacovi died on September 24, 2008 at the age of 63. The official cause of death was a stroke.

 

Jourdan Jaacovi (Jaacov Jaacovi’s son):

My father was the most interesting person I have ever known. He was unique.

I actually have the poster for ‘Little Orphan Dusty’ hanging in my house now – the one with the reference to Farrah Fawcett. It reminds me not to do anything stupid in life…

 

Rhonda Jo Petty continued to make X-rated films for a decade after ‘Little Orphan Dusty’. She was also a stripper – and was frequently billed as ‘the Farrah Fawcett’ look-alike. She was interviewed for a Rialto Report podcast in 2017.

Rhonda Jo Petty

 

Nancy Suiter left the adult industry shortly after appearing in ‘Taxi Girls’, making only three other feature films and a small handful of loops. She was contacted for this piece, but declined to be interviewed.

Nancy Suiter

 

Bob Chinn continued to be a prolific director until retiring in 2003. He was interviewed for a Rialto Report podcast in 2013, and published a two volume autobiography in 2016.

Bob Chinn

*

  • Posted On: 17th May 2020
  • By: Ashley West
  • Under: Articles

28 Comments

  1. Paul Hamm · May 17, 2020 Reply

    Each Sunday I wait by my computer for the latest Rialto Report to drop – and it never lets me down.

    No exception today – another classic story, and a typically Rialto tale… information, happiness, and sadness in one expertly told story.

    Classic!!

  2. Harry Romano · May 17, 2020 Reply

    Never thought I’d ever see a Jaacov Jaacovi interview, so this is a killer of a report.

  3. JJ · May 17, 2020 Reply

    Have to admit my crush on Cheryl Ladd has been somewhat dampened by this story!

    Nevertheless – great tale.

  4. Barry W. · May 17, 2020 Reply

    I’d heard rumors of this story before but never the details. My heart goes out to Jaacov Jaacovi, and I’m saddened to see what he went through.

  5. Finn · May 17, 2020 Reply

    Another completely fascinating story – with the added bonus of getting to learn a little more about two of the most interesting and mysterious women of the golden age – Svetlana and Nancy Suiter. Awesome.

  6. Richard · May 17, 2020 Reply

    Nice to hear Nancy Suiter is still living. Would love to hear an interview from Rialto? Hint! Hint!

    Great job Rialto, you hit another one, out of the park!

  7. April Hall · May 17, 2020 Reply

    Thanks Richard!

  8. Mark · May 17, 2020 Reply

    It’s sad that some people don’t know when to quit while they’re ahead. Interesting story for sure. Agreed about Suiter/too bad she declined comment.

  9. Gary McEwan · May 17, 2020 Reply

    Just absolutely and utterly blown away by this amazing article, the bar you guys have set is unreal. Love to you, you’re the best! Utterly brilliant.

  10. dc · May 17, 2020 Reply

    Another wonderful piece. Sometimes you’re smart. Sometimes you’re lucky. It helps to know the difference at the time. A true golden age gambler. Recommend Bob Chinn’s auto – a great read.
    Svetlana seems to be a universally disliked figure in the golden age pantheon. Which is code for “let’s interview her!” I’m sure she has her perspective.

  11. Jourdan Jaacovi · May 17, 2020 Reply

    My father would love the idea of people reading his story and that he has a legacy in the industry.

    He was optimistic to a fault.

    Glad you all enjoyed the read.

  12. Jeff · May 18, 2020 Reply

    It is fascinating how one decision can completely change a life. Jaacovi’s fall certainly did not have to happen, but in the end it did. In addition, a story like this reminds me how sex films- soft and hard- were a gateway to a career in movies for so many people.

    This is a timely article, as Little Orphan Dusty is a recent watch. I also thought that Jaacov Jaacovi was a made-up name when it came up on the screen. It was not a pleasant film in its content, and Rhonda Jo Petty did not look comfortable at all. (Her own words about the film bear that out.) In spite of the outcome of it, the chase through the orchard at the beginning was handled well.

    Hopefully more people will respond favorably to your interview requests. Keep up the the good work, Rialto Report.

  13. Steve S. · May 18, 2020 Reply

    Great read! JJ and Svetlana were truly a force of nature.

    I worked on Taxi Girls as an A.D. in between Hollywood indie feature gigs, more for the adventure than the money — and multiple sets on the film were raided by LAPD Vice, not because of the Sunset Strip shot grabs, but because John Holmes was apparently already working as a police informant.

    Luckily, the Israeli production crew moved the negative to a secret location or the lab as soon as it was shot, so production losses were minimum. But the film had to be finished in San Francisco.

    Nancy Suiter did have absolute star quality. I drove her to a ritzy Oui magazine publicity photo shoot in the Playboy Building while first unit was on location in a law school in Glendale. She loved porn. Every time I tried to rehearse dialog with her, she’d whisper let’s just fuck. Unfortunately,
    she disappeared not long afterwards. I believe either Jaime Gillis or Serena told me later she’d allegedly married a judge or something, who conditioned their relationship on her leaving the business.

  14. Yizmo Gizmo · May 18, 2020 Reply

    Declined comment? Wow you have some serious investigative prowess just finding Nancy Suiter.
    I had assumed she was sharing a condo somewhere in the American Midwest with Bambi Woods and Jimmy Hoffa.

  15. Chris Flash · May 19, 2020 Reply

    ANOTHER HOME RUN by the wonderful folks at Rialto Report!

    You are performing a genuine public service in letting us fans of the golden age of porn know more about the stars and films we first loved back in the good old bad old days.

    Thank you!

    — Chris Flash

  16. Warren · May 24, 2020 Reply

    Good job.

  17. Nic · May 26, 2020 Reply

    More on Nancy Suiter!

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