American Apparel will pay Woody Allen $5 million in the lawsuit over the American Apparel billboards erected in 2007 depicting an image from Annie Hall of Allen dressed as a Hasidic rabbi. The case was settled out of court, and now that he can speak freely on the suit, Dov Charney has posted what is basically a term paper to the American Apparel blog detailing his defense. The crux of this riveting 1,200-word argument that obviously reads apace with the Devil Wears Prada is that the billboard wasn’t really an ad since it didn’t depict any merchandise. Also, Charney’s market studies show the billboards had no impact on encouraging people to shop at American Apparel stores (those girls doing splits in lame leggings earn their keep). Charney put the billboards up to “inspire dialogue” about the sexual-harassment charges brought against him — not sell clothes.
There were false allegations such as that I had conducted a job interview in my underwear that were sensationalized and exaggerated to the point where my entire persona was vilified. Today, two years later, all the claims in the lawsuits have been completely disproven and yet at the time, some writers characterized me as a rapist and abuser of women, others asserted that I was a bad Jew, and some even stated that I was not fit to run my company. There are no words to express the frustration caused by these gross misperceptions, but this billboard was an attempt to at least make a joke about it.
The joke was, for a billboard, a complicated metaphor. The Hebrew phrase on the billboard called Allen the “the highest level, extra-holy Rabbi,” which is not really what Allen was at all in that scene. Kind of like how Charney isn’t really a molester of epic proportions, or even worse, a bad Jew. So you were supposed to look at the billboard and think, “That Dov Charney, he’s not such a bad guy after all.” But the problem with it is that, even if any civilians got the metaphor, they probably wouldn’t want to have a pleasant dinnertime debate about it. If Charney wanted that, he could have just toned down his spread-eagled-Lolita ads.
A Statement from Dov (5/18/09) [American Apparel]