Comedienne/performer/LGBT icon Sandra Bernhard being sued by former manager of live performances
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Comedienne/performer/LGBT icon Sandra Bernhard being sued by former manager of live performances
Sandra Bernhard and James Sliman.

NEW YORK, NY.- Comedienne/performer/LGBT “Icon” Sandra Bernhard is now being sued by her former manager James Sliman in Kings County, NY Supreme Court. Sliman first started working with Bernhard close to 11 years ago in early 2013. The veteran entertainment publicist initially handled all her publicity, but soon after also started setting up all her live performances and personal appearances around the U/S. and overseas.

Within a couple years, Bernhard upped him to Manager of the live performance side of her career, the position he has held right up until early July 2023. Later in July, Sliman filed the lawsuit against Bernhard in Kings County Supreme Court. In the Summons and Complaint, Sliman accuses Sandra Bernhard of breach of verbal agreement/contract, wrongful termination, creating a hostile and extremely stressful work environment, strongly mischaracterizing and diminishing the role he played in her business/career, theft of services and for the many unscrupulous, questionable, embarrassing things she manipulated him into doing on her behalf in the course of his work.

He is seeking damages in the amount of $250,000, back management commissions on seven years of her annual six day run of Joe's Pub holiday shows in New York City, which amount to approximately $91,000, commissions on the live performances he arranged for her coming up in October 2023 and commissions of the upcoming run of Joe’s Pub holiday shows in December 2023.

As stated in the Summons and Complaint, and the accompanying affidavit, Sliman states that “in those first several months alone, Miss Bernhard started asking more and more of me other than just publicity services, increasing my responsibilities to now also include all the work of a tour manager, personal assistant, travel agent, personal collection agency on her payments due, and about one year later, as actual manager of the live performance side of her career. She took extreme advantage of our business relationship and used me to do the work of up to four people at any given time.

In the 2-3 months leading up to early July 2023, Sliman states that “she and I had been having phone conversations and e-mail exchanges in which I brought to her attention the poor way she had been treating me and talking to me, thus having a very negative effect on morale. She never once even acknowledged that this might be something she should take responsibility for.”

He goes on to state “We had also been having conversations about her rapidly declining ticket sales at live performances in various cities around the country, except for a few very select areas, and why this was affecting my ability to set up more live shows for her at the high fees she was demanding. When I tried talking to her openly and honestly about these issues and what we could do to overcome these issues, she always blamed the venues for her low ticket sales. When I explained to her that was not the case, she accused me of siding with the venues and not her. She also accused me of bullying her and she tried to control the narrative of our conversations by making these false remarks. In reality, she responded this way because she could not admit that her live shows were now selling poorly and her asking fees were too high. I was having a very hard time finding venues that wanted her. Bernhard always asked me to be honest with her, and when I did that, her response was to sever our relationship for no valid reason. I did nothing wrong to warrant this and I did nothing different than I had been doing over the almost 11 year period. There were also various promises made to me over the years that never materialized and a lot of work I was never compensated for.

In the Summons and Complaint, and accompanying affidavit, Sliman also states that “In dozens of instances, Miss Bernhard instructed me to send phony invoices from her to charity organizations, LGBT charity organizations, television shows, or documentary filmmakers who wanted to interview her. Whether or not she was already being paid a fee, she would insist I get them to also cover the costs of her hair & make-up people. In example, when they agreed, she would tell me to say it cost $1000 when it was really only $2-300. I would send the invoices and she would pocket the money”. “Then she would insist I chase down her money so she had it before the event or the night of the event. This, at times, actually became a small way she could supplement her income. This from a woman who everyone knows is a multi-millionaire. He says he has documentation and correspondence to corroborate this.

He goes on to comment that “it was a similar situation with an LGBT Netflix special last year. Aside from her fee, they gave her $10,000 for glam to cover two days worth of events. She paid out about $1000-$1200 and pocketed the difference. I know because I arranged the hair & make-up people myself. Then she made me chase the Netflix and production people to get her money in. I have been working for celebrities most of my adult life, over 40 years now, and I have never witnessed anything quite like this before. In my opinion, Sandra Bernhard is hands down the greediest, cheapest celebrity I have ever met”.

The court documents go on to say “She would also sell her merchandise at her live performances and tell the tour manager or other person actually selling it for her, to fudge the dollar amounts so she could pocket the money. She has various ways of trying not to pay the venues 20% of her merchandise sales, which is a standard rule for venues all over the country. She would simply refuse to pay it, or tell them they could only have 10% or just lie about how much she sold. Since it was cash only, this was very easy for her. And she would tell me she never reported that money to her accountants and not to mention it to them.”

Sliman also states that many times in the course of his work for her, she would “manipulate me into essentially burning bridges with people on her behalf, which many times I refused to do. On these occasions, she would then accuse me of not supporting her and not protecting her. This happened on a very regular basis.”

Sliman also states that “over the years, I witnessed Sandra always underpaying everyone that worked with us including musicians, various tour date workers, hair & make-up people, etc. etc. She would complain to me about having to pay these people, tell me they weren’t doing their jobs, and, at various times asking me to fire people on her behalf, including other representatives, even her own business manager and her own attorney in Los Angeles.”

This was also the case with various other “representatives” who came and went during the 11 years I was with her. In my opinion, this woman looks down on everyone else and has no respect for people that work for her or represent her in various ways. In my opinion, once she’s used them, she throws people away like used Kleenex. And, her standard pattern of operation was to play her representatives against each other, and then lie about it and deny it. She was always deceitful in these matters.”

“I was also constantly being embarrassed by her very extreme patterns of cheapness and complete lack of class. This would go on in business situations, out socially, etc. etc. and I always had to cover for her. Also during those 11 years I would constantly have to listen to her talk badly and complain about some of her well-known friends and various people she is involved with on a business level. If I didn’t agree with her or go along with what she was saying, she would again accuse me of not being supportive.”

“Once our relationship was severed in early July 2023, she immediately had her attorney in Los Angeles draw up a so-called “settlement agreement” with “non-disparagement” and “non-disclosure” clauses, which I had never been asked to sign before.”

After a few weeks, Miss Bernhard and her attorney “coerced me and pressured me into signing this agreement that I believe is not valid. She was essentially holding the immediate publicity fees she owed me hostage, saying I would not get a penny if I didn’t sign the agreement. When I first refused to sign it, her attorney pressured and intimidated me even further, via e-mails, and I very reluctantly signed it, solely in order to get the publicity money I was owed. I have since made the court aware of this situation and my belief is that it is not valid, and it is now part of the lawsuit.” The case will now move forward in King’s County, NY Supreme Court.

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