The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Atlanta, seeks more than $40 million in compensatory and punitive damages from the cable network.
At issue is the movie “Crazysexycool: The TLC Story.” It aired on Viacom’s cable network VH1 last year. It was initially billed as a “true” story of the group’s founding and rise to the top of the charts in the early 1990s.
It attracted 4.5 million viewers when it premiered, making it the highest-rated original film debut in VH1 history.
Reid claims in court papers that she came up with the idea of putting Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and singer Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas together as TLC.
Their blend of R&B, hip-hop, soul, funk and new jack swing caught on.
The band had 10 top-ten singles, four No. 1 singles and four multi-platinum albums, according to court papers. In all, the group sold more than 65 million records worldwide and won five Grammy Awards.
Reid, a successful singer in her own right, had started her own management and production company, Pebbitone, and the girls auditioned for her. She was impressed by their talent and became their manager.
In 1991, the girls, through Pebbitone, signed a deal with LaFace Records owned by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Reid’s then-husband, music mogul Antonio “L.A.” Reid.
“Pebbles” Reid claims TLC conspired with the label to cut her out of their contract, even before their first album was released.
In a now infamous filing, TLC sought bankruptcy protection in 1995. The lawsuit claims the move was a ploy to get out of their contract with her.
According to reports at the time, the girls, despite their success, were taking home less than $35,000 a year after paying managers, producers, expenses and taxes. LaFace refused to renegotiate the contract, although it was eventually rescinded.
For her part, Pebbles Reid says in court papers she “poured her heart and soul into the group for over five years and did not want to walk away from TLC or her personal investment in the group and its success and her vision that she created and developed.”
But the film shows her trying to manipulate the group’s attorneys and accountants. It also portrays her underpaying band members, denying them access to their contracts and encouraging Thomas to have an abortion, the suit states.
The wheels fell off TLC in 2002 when Lopes was killed in a car crash in Honduras. VH1 made a movie out of that, too.
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