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TV

The 'real' George Costanza sues Seinfeld for $100 million

Seinfeld October 26, 1998
Web posted at: 11:39 p.m. EST (0439 GMT)

NEW YORK (AP) -- A man who says he was the model for nutty George Costanza on "Seinfeld" has filed a $100 million lawsuit alleging that Jerry Seinfeld and the show's producers stole his identity.

Michael Costanza, a real estate agent from Long Island, accused Seinfeld and others of violating his civil rights by "using his name, likeness and persona" without his permission in creating George.

In papers filed in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, Costanza, 43, charges that every episode, from 1989 until May 1998, "portrays (him) in a negative light" while using many of his physical and personality traits.

'You've got to be George Costanza'

Costanza has known Seinfeld for 24 years, since they were students at Queens College, his lawyer Jonathan Fisher said Monday.

Much of the obnoxious sitcom character accurately reflects Costanza but much does not, Fisher said.

"George is a jerk," Fisher said. "This has had a negative effect on the man's (Costanza's) life. If you looked at him you would say, 'You've got to be George Costanza.'"

Costanza's papers do not detail the similarities between him and the loutish George, played by Jason Alexander, but in interviews he has noted that he and George are bald and stocky, went to Queens College with Seinfeld, and have quirks about bathrooms and parking spaces.

Costanza, author of a book called "The Real Seinfeld," also says his high school gym teacher called him "Can't-Stand-Ya," as George's does.

Charges of libel and slander

The "Seinfeld" publicists have said that George Costanza was a character based on the show's co-creator, Larry David.

Glenn Padnick, president of Castle Rock Entertainment Inc., said, "George is modeled 100 percent on Larry. I believe Larry has never met Michael Costanza. This is just incredible."

Costanza's lawsuit accuses Castle Rock and David of libel and slander. Fisher said these charges stem from their calling Costanza a "liar and an opportunist" when instead he was the inspiration for George.

Padnick, whose company produced "Seinfeld," noted that during the show's nine years Costanza never filed a lawsuit. In fact, he had a small role in one "Seinfeld" episode, "The Parking Space," in 1992.

Besides Seinfeld, Castle Rock and David, the lawsuit names Sony Pictures Entertainment and its subsidiary, Columbia TriStar Television, Shapiro/West Productions, and NBC as defendants.

Sony and NBC did not immediately return calls requesting comment. Shapiro/West could not be reached for comment.

Copyright 1998   The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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