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Did Hal Gooch's baboon video cost Amway $9,000,000+?

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Is this the story behind Amway's record out of court settlement with the Arista and Aerostation?

It all started in the early 1990's with Lee Luster, a videographer, who was making "Diamond lifestyle", and Diamond music videos to be sold to all the Amway Diamond wann-a-bees.  Luster first worked for Tim Foley in 1991.  Luster was later introduced to Randy Haugen in 1992 and then to Bruce Anderson in January of 1993.  After a few run-ins and some information about Luster's checkered past, Luster was fired by Foley, Haugen and  Anderson.   Luster subsequently went to work for Hall Gooch  (double diamond in 1993) in March 1993.  Gooch and Luster worked closely together for over a year.  The videos were a hit and major source of profit for Gooch. 

In 1994 as video sales slowed down, Gooch and Luster had a falling out. In the process of this falling out Gooch sued Luster on August 17, 1994 in Florida state court for fraud, replevin, conversion, accounting, civil theft, breach of fiduciary duty and injunction.   Luster filed a counter claim against Gooch as well. These suits were not settled until over 6 years later on November 20, 2000.

Finally in 1996 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) the National Music Publishers Association.(NMPA) Lawsuit filed lawsuits against Amway and about 50 diamond distributors for the usage of the popular rock music on the diamond videos.    The Associated press reported that the RIAA received $9 million alone.   The NMPA also pdf_icon.gif (914 bytes)settled their $2.5 million suit.  By this time there was at least 110 copyright violations from Gooch alone.    Luster was basically granted immunity by the record companies in exchange for going after the Diamonds.   Luster was critical in exposing all the copyright violations from the Diamond videos to the copyright holds.  Luster probably turned them all in due to the suit Gooch had filed against Luster.  The copyright suits were finally settled in April of 1998.

In January of 1999 Luster was sued by Anderson, Haugen, Grabil, Foley, and Gooch to have Luster indemnify them for their legal costs in fighting the copyright suit with the RIAA and NMPA.  Anderson, Haugen, and Grabil won.  Luster would be responsible for these diamond's legal costs.  Gooch, Foley lost.  Luster was to pay Anderson, Haugen, Grabil over $251,000 but since he had no money he was basically judgement proof.  

Now we jump up to November 2000 to finally settle the suits between Luster and Gooch.    On November 20, 2000 Gooch agreed pdf_icon.gif (914 bytes) to pay Luster $20,000 and to take over debts owed by Luster to Anderson, Randy Haugen, and Parker Grabil of $251,000.  Gooch basically agreed to pay Luster $271,000 to drop his suit.    In exchange, Luster would drop his suit and return all raw video footage as well and any copies of video he had.  As it turns out Gooch would later destory Diamond Bruce Anderson's business with Quixtar's and JAMS/Endsipute's help.    Anderson's judgement against Luster ended actually being judgments against Gooch..  But, the Anderson Gooch fight is another story.

Now for the rest of the story........

Lee Luster 1987In Luster's amended complaint 94-0988, first filed in 1994, Luster makes some very strong claims about Gooch.   Luster accuses Gooch of wrecking his video business.

25. Upon termination, GOOCH took actions to deprive LUSTER of these business relationships, including but not 1imited to contacting these other Amway people telling them that they could not use LUSTER's services.  GOOCH used his high position with Amway to accomplish this destruction of LUSTER's business relationships.

26. HAL GOOCH was aware of the relationships between LUSTER and these other individuals and entities and intentionally took action to interfere with these relationships.

not the actual baboonLuster accuses Gooch of being a racist:
"On or about August or September 1992, Hal Gooch caused to be delivered to Luster a videotape of one of Gooch's numerous hunting forays in Africa. The tape displayed a black baboon that Gooch just had killed. The voices of Hal Gooch and his associate, Parker Grabill, were on the soundtrack of the tape. Grabill, exclaimed, "Look! It's Jesse Jackson." Gooch then chimed in, and he has fingers and a peeter like a little black boy!! As a result, Luster knew that Gooch was a violent man who was utterly contemptuous, of blacks and surrounded himself with other bigots."

Chris Gooch Amagram December 1989 Luster accuses Gooch of false imprisonment:
"On March 22, 1994, Luster was ordered to appear at the Gooches' estate in Thomasvi1le, North Carolina. When Luster appeared Hal commanded one of Hal Gooch's bodyguard, who was acting at the direction and pursuant to the authority of the Gooches, seized Luster's car keys, and Luster was taken to the "trophy" room in a recess of the estate. A door in the 'trophy room led to the grounds of the estate, but the door was dead bolted and wired with an alarm that would sound if it were opened. The trophy room was adorned with the preserved remains of in excess of fifty animals the Gooches had killed on hunting trips. The Gooches owned a virtual armory and always had weapons within reach. Luster had witnessed all of the Gooches, including Hal Gooch's wife, Susan, emerge with guns drawn when they were offended because a maid resigned. Luster knew that the Gooches and their body guard always had weapons available, were easily offended, and were quick to draw their weapons when they were upset. When Luster arrived in the trophy room, Chris Gooch informed Luster that Hal Gooch was mad at Luster and that the only animal not hanging on the trophy room wall was a "nigger." This statement was designed to frighten, and succeeded in frightening, Luster, who is African-American."


I found a phone number for Luster and spoke with him on the phone for about a half hour on a Sunday morning.  He was more than willing to talk to me about the case.  I asked Luster to tell me about the baboon incident and the settlement with the record companies.  He told me that Amway settled with all the parties for $13.5 million.   He told me he was editing a video of one of  Hal's hunting safaris in Africa when he found the baboon clip.   Luster had not shot the video and he was not present on the trip.    With the video camera rolling, Gooch wanted to show off a new high powered rifle he had purchased, so he "popped off" a black baboon sitting in a nearby tree.  Luster told me the black baboon was also a protected species and Gooch shot it illegally, so you won't find it in his animal collection.   The text of the complaint repeats the words of Gooch on the video making the comparison of the baboon to a Negro.  Luster went on to explain how at first Luster was welcome in Gooch's home and "for black guy Luster was ok".   Gooch had also made the comment to Luster that "we don't even notice you are black anymore".  I guess the money at that time was so good Luster could overlook these type of comments.   I asked Luster if he still had a copy of the video and he said no.   He had to give them all up for the settlement.  It is curious however that on March 21, 2001 Gooch's attorney claims after their settlement agreement that Luster still had not returned all the videos. 

Luster had the video of this footage and was later accused by Gooch of stealing it.   He said Gooch and his lawyers were very anxious to get their hands on this since it would be devastating public relations to show that one of Amway's most "respected" double diamond's was a racist.  Since Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway, was the owner of the Orlando Magic NBA basketball team, which is made up primarily of African-Americans, this video was one thing to be kept hidden.

Luster told me before it turned into a full fledged fiasco with  legal discovery, Doug DeVos decide to settle the RIAA and NMPA suits even though Amway itself was a bystander to the whole affair.  No one wanted the baboon video and the diamond financials to every see the light of day.

Now you know the rest of the story..........

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