THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Tuesday, March 5, 1996 TAG: 9603050178 SECTION: FRONT PAGE: A1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY MARC DAVIS, STAFF WRITER LENGTH: Medium: 96 lines
For five years, class clowns Henry Del Toro and Tommy Griffiths were inseparable.
They rocked together on WNOR-FM 99. They cut up together. They did weird TV commercials together. They got suspended from their jobs together for telling listeners on April Fools' Day that Mount Trashmore was about to blow up.
Now they will share a courtroom together - on opposite sides.
Griffiths, the more sedate half of the former radio team of Tommy and The Bull, is suing his one-time broadcast partner for slander. He accuses Del Toro, now co-host of a rival morning drive-time show on WROX 96X, of suggesting to listeners that Griffiths is a cocaine addict and homosexual.
He seeks $800,000 in compensatory damages, plus $350,000 in punitive damages.
The lawsuit also names as defendants Del Toro's new on-air broadcast partner, Perry Stone; station general manager Robert Sinclair; and the station's owner, Sinclair Communications. The suit was filed in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.
The manic Del Toro, Hampton Roads' best-known shock jock, left WNOR in June. Since then, he and Stone have been poking fun at Griffiths on the air, sometimes by snorting loudly at the mention of his name, as if snorting cocaine, sometimes more explicitly.
Attached to the lawsuit is a 47-page partial transcript of 26 Stone/Del Toro shows from August to December.
The lawsuit says Del Toro and Stone called Griffiths a ``coke head,'' ``whiff king,'' ``snort boy,'' ``cokey boy,'' ``Mr. Toot,'' ``whiff man'' and ``Frosty the Snowman'' on the air.
The suit claims that after Del Toro joined 96X in June, he and Stone and Sinclair ``formulated a plan or scheme calculated to damage Griffiths' reputation in the broadcast community and among his listeners, to embarrass and humiliate him, to inflict severe mental anguish and emotional distress upon him, to diminish his ability to work and to have a derogatory effect on his listening market.''
``The competition must have prompted Del Toro to make these comments,'' said Griffiths' attorney, Stephen C. Swain. ``They might have been funny to the audience, but they were very offensive to Tommy Griffiths and his family and his child.''
Swain said Griffiths would have no comment.
Del Toro sounded shocked Monday when told of the lawsuit, which was filed Friday. He had not seen it.
``It's sad that competitors have to resort to things like this,'' Del Toro said. ``It's sad that a five-year friendship would come down to this.''
Stone burst out laughing when told of the lawsuit Monday.
``This is the first I've heard of it. It's hysterical,'' Stone said. ``I don't really know Tommy, so I haven't really talked about him. . . . I think it's extremely childish because here they are (at WNOR) slamming everyone on the face of the Earth'' on the air.
Sinclair could not be reached for comment Monday.
In transcripts filed with the lawsuit, Del Toro and Stone are shown making fun of Griffiths - sometimes directly by name, sometimes just as ``Tommy'' with no other reference to which Tommy they mean.
In a transcript from Oct. 10, Del Toro said, ``Nothing could have been worse than having a partner who was Mr. Toot,'' and then made snorting noises.
``Are you speaking about Tommy?'' Perry asked.
``Shhh, shhh, I didn't say any names,'' Del Toro said.
The same day, according to the transcript, Del Toro acted out a skit as the pope and said, ``He touched me. The homo Tommy touched me. . . . He touched my p----. My little p---- bishop. . . . He says he is a friend of yours,'' and then snorted.
Earlier in the same show, the transcript shows, Stone joked at Del Toro, ``Well, you know, you could always go back to Tommy,'' and snorted.
The lawsuit is just the latest in a long series of controversies that have dogged Del Toro.
In 1985, he was arrested on a cocaine possession charge, received first-offender status and apologized on the air. In 1992, he, Griffiths and two other WNOR employees were suspended for two weeks without pay for the Mount Trashmore hoax. Later, the Federal Communications Commission slapped the station with a letter of admonition.
In 1993, a Hampton woman sued Del Toro and won $45,000 for being the unwitting butt of a Del Toro ``wake up'' call. In the same year, Del Toro was convicted of prescription fraud in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. He was fined, got a suspended jail sentence and was ordered to drug treatment and to perform community service. ILLUSTRATION: Tommy Griffiths
Henry Del Toro
[For a copy of a partial transcript from a 96X-FM broadcast Nov. 14,
see microfilm for this date.]
KEYWORDS: LAWSUIT SHOCK RADIO SLANDER