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An Elton John Acceptance Speech Is Embroiled in a Strange Custody Battle

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For many, warmer months mean charitable public walks, and AIDS Walks have been part of the landscape since 1985. The coronavirus pandemic has obviously placed most large-scale gatherings on hold, so last year the San Francisco and New York walks banded together for AIDS Walk: Live At Home, with proceeds going to the GMHC and other organizations.

This year’s virtual event is even larger, uniting additional cities and broadcasting a mix of taped and live segments from Tavern on the Green in Central Park and Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park. There will also be performances and from Billy Porter, Ann-Margaret, George Takei, Danielle Brooks, Rita Moreno, Liz Callaway, Heather Headley, and more. Additionally, Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish are to received a Lifetime Achievement Award for the decades of work they have done for AIDS awareness and fundraising. But that’s where things get weird.

According to a report in PageSix, the tape of John and Furnish accepting the award will not be shown during the telecast, because the person who shot it is, in the words of the events company producing the show, “holding the footage hostage.”

It gets stranger still. The man who shot the speech is actor Erich Bergen, who played Téa Leoni‘s assistant Blake Moran on Madame Secretary. He was also seen in Clint Eastwood‘s film version of Jersey Boys, as Bob Gaudio, but now also makes awards show packages. According to PageSix’s insider, Bergen shot footage of Elton and David at their Oscar party, submitted a watermarked version of the clip, and then “went AWOL.” A lawsuit on behalf of the producers, MZA Events, claims that he “provided the video in an unusable [watermarked] format out of spite and for the purpose of antagonizing MZA Events because MZA Events was unwilling to accommodate Mr. Bergen’s ‘my way or the highway’ approach to producing the video.”

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They claim that Bergen was paid $38,000 to deliver the clip.

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A Bergen representative told PageSix earlier that there was no contract, that “any suggestion of this is simply a lie” and they were “suspicious of the motives behind the filing of the lawsuit.”

Since the two parties are now litigating, there is not likely to be a resolution in time for Sunday’s event. “Everyone will be congratulating Elton and David,” says the anonymous insider, “but you won’t have them accepting the award.”

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