John Travolta’s pilot wins right to tell all about their ‘personal and intimate’ relationship
Former employee, Douglas Gotterba, alleges that his relationship with the Hollywood star was more than professional
Wednesday 23 July 2014
Aside from his many iconic movie roles, John Travolta is known as a qualified airline captain who pilots passenger jets dressed in full uniform and sporting an “Aw shucks” grin worthy of Chuck Yeager.
But less well-documented is the Grease star’s lengthy battle to silence a former pilot who worked for his aviation company, who alleges that their relationship went beyond the professional.
This week, Douglas Gotterba – who is trying to disclose what are described in court documents as details of “his personal and intimate relationship” with the star of Pulp Fiction and Saturday Night Fever – won the right to argue in a lawsuit that he holds no duty of confidentiality to the star and should be allowed to sue to speak openly about his relationship with the 60-year-old Travolta.
The case, involving one of America’s most bankable stars, its most notorious tabloid newspapers and the former pilot, has been discussed in increasingly threatening legal terms since 2012. According to documents filed at the Court of Appeal in California, Mr Gotterba worked for Travolta’s aircraft company, Alto, for six years before leaving voluntarily in 1987, the year Travolta reportedly met his wife Kelly Preston while filming The Experts.
The couple married in 1991 and had three children together.
However, it is what happened next that is fiercely disputed. Mr Gotterba says that a three-page termination agreement signed in March of that year with Alto did not contain any clauses that would prevent him from revealing personal information about his employer.
He has alleged that his relationship with Travolta was more than professional.
But Alto insists that a four-page “enforceable” termination agreement was signed in April and warned Mr Gotterba not to disclose personal “confidential or proprietary information”.
A quarter of a century later, after Travolta’s career slumped and then went through a remarkable revival, Mr Gotterba decided to “tell the story of his life and those involved in it” and reveal his relationship with Mr Travolta, the court documents say.
But Mr Travolta’s lawyer, Martin Singer, stepped in upon hearing that Mr Gotterba had “given statements” to the National Enquirer and was planning to chart his time with Mr Travolta in a tell-all book.
According to Mr Gotterba, he was “unwillingly thrust” into the gossip tabloids by revelations from another former Travolta employee.
In June 2012 Mr Singer warned Mr Gotterba that breaching the gagging order could lead to a payment running to “tens of millions of dollars”. He warned: “You proceed at your peril.”
Since then, the two parties have been fighting over which agreement is valid.
Travolta’s legal team issued a motion attempting to stop Mr Gotterba. That was dismissed in California on Tuesday. In response to the ruling, Travolta’s legal team at Lavely & Singer said: “While we believe that the Court should have thrown out Gotterba’s lawsuit at the outset, ultimately he will not prevail on his claim.”
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