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Local vintner hit with lawsuit

Posted: September 29, 2008 10:00 p.m.
Updated: December 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 

A stage manager to the stars is suing the Loose Goose Wine Festival's organizer, claiming he has not been paid for helping create one of Santa Clarita's signature annual events.

As he stood on the set of Dancing With The Stars, stage manager Murray Siegel said Monday he's sad and disappointed his relationship with Loose Goose organizer Peter Goossens has ended with a lawsuit.

"Sadness is the biggest thing I feel," Siegel said. "I was very proud of the work we were doing."

Goossens, meanwhile, says Siegel's claims are based on false information and suggested the timing of the suit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in Chatsworth late last month, is by design.

"It's a litigation matter and I probably have to talk to my attorney before commenting," Goossens said, calling receipt of the lawsuit "unfamiliar territory."

"There's a timing issue to this, trying to grab a little bit of the limelight of this festival," he added. The Loose Goose Wine Festival is held this week.

Siegel is suing Goossens for more than a quarter of a million dollars, including $125,000 in general damages, $140,000 in payment for work performed and repayment of a $15,000 loan.

To compensate himself for each day that goes by without being paid, Siegel is seeking 10 percent interest per year from March 25, 2008, and $800 in legal fees.

The suit claims Goossens promised to make Siegel a partner.

"Murray and I never had an agreement that he would become a partner," Goossens said. "He did some work for me for which he was fully paid the first year."

The suit also claims Goossens failed to repay a personal loan.

"Mr. and Mrs. (Mary) Siegel did make a small personal loan," Goossens said. "It will be paid off under the terms of the written loan agreement."

Siegel says his production and other fees were deferred each year because Goossens led him to believe they were partners.

"Goossens held (Siegel) out to the public as his partner in the festival," Siegel says in his suit.

"Unfortunately, all of this was untrue. Apparently, on or about April 3, 2007, Defendant Goossens formed the Goose Bumps, Inc., a California Corporation, without the knowledge, advice or consent of the Plaintiff (Siegel)," he says in the court document.

In January 2005, Goossens and Siegel began developing the concept of a wine festival, Siegel claims in his lawsuit.

In those early discussions, it was agreed that Siegel would "create, organize, produce and stage the festival" which would include work done designing "a template" for producing the festival, marketing, contracting vendors and managing volunteers, according to Siegel.

On March 15, 2005, he claims, the two met again and agreed that Siegel would, "receive the initial sum of $15,000 for his work, labor and services," for the first Loose Goose festival that year.

The suit also claims Siegel's "compensation" would be reviewed annually.

Siegel said he was paid $7,500.

What disappoints him most is not being able to pursue the plans he and Goossens had discussed, Siegel said.

The immensely popular "Dancing With The Stars" reality TV show is just the latest celebrity project for Siegel, who has worked as stage manager on productions such as The 61st annual Golden Globes, Oscar Countdown 2005 and Countdown to the Emmys.

"I really wanted to see us succeed," said Siegel, who lives in the Santa Clarita Valley. "We actually did create a professional festival.

"We're very proud that in just four short years it has grown into a community event," Goossens said.

"In at least Southern California we have the reputation of being a top-notch event. We're very proud to be able to bring it to Santa Clarita."

Today, organizers are bracing for more than 7,000 wine-loving festivalgoers and are setting up at various venues around town, including the picturesque Valencia Bridgeport Park and the Robinson Ranch Golf Club.

The luxurious and lavish weekend kicks off Wednesday with "Pre-event Wine Pairing Dinners" at local "Loose Goose Wine Society restaurant partners" Salt Creek Grille and Mojito Caribbean Cuisine.

Loose Goose begins officially Thursday at the Robinson Ranch Golf Club with a Loose Goose Golf Classic tournament through a wine-highlighted course featuring wine tasting at every Par 3 hole.

The first day is capped with an awards and wine reception.

Friday is the festival's gala to be held at a location yet to be announced.

On the weekend, the festival moves to Valencia Bridgeport Park for an "after dark" series of wine-tasting and food-samplings Saturday and an afternoon of the same Sunday.

The lavish five-day series of events involving fine wine, spicy food, cigars and sophisticated music is capped Sunday with a grand performance by the Pete Escovedo Orchestra featuring his famous drum-playing daughter, Sheila E.

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