Turning bad into good. A false and misleading story published by the National Enquirer about Philip Seymour Hoffman and close friend David Bar Katz being lovers has resulted in a settlement agreement -- one that will help aspiring playwrights in memory of the late actor, Katz told the New York Times Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Three days after Hoffman was found dead in his West Village apartment from a heroine overdose, the Enquirer published a fictitious piece that quoted Katz as saying he and the late actor were lovers. The playwright, who was one of two people who found Hoffman's body on Sunday, Feb. 2, was also quoted in the piece alleging that he and Hoffman had used cocaine the night before the actor's death.
"My 14-year-old said, 'Dad, there's something online about you and Phil being lovers,'" Katz told the Times. "I said, 'Phil would get a kick out of that,'" he recalled. The playwright, who had never spoken with the Enquirer, filed a libel suit several hours later after reading the sensational piece.
Two days after filing the lawsuit, the Enquirer withdrew its article and apologized for fabricating quotes. The two parties then reached a settlement agreement -- hefty enough for Katz to form the American Playwriting Foundation, which will honor the late actor with an annual $45,000 prize given to an unproduced play. The foundation and its annual prize, called the Relentless Award in honor of Hoffman's "dogged pursuit of artistic truth," are being paid by The Enquirer and its publisher, American Media Incorporated.
Katz told the Times that his friend had "spoke often with him about addiction and his pursuit of sobriety." He shared how the two met about 15 years ago and became close after their kids ended up at the same school. The two pals would have breakfast after dropping their kids off at school. "We had talked so often that it's a tragedy playwrights can't survive being playwrights -- about how nice it would be if you could make your rent and still have an occasional steak," Katz recalled of his conversations with his late pal.
Indeed, Hoffman had communicated with Katz on the fateful night of his death, asking his close friend to join him to watch part of the Knicks game. Katz didn't respond until later that night, but never heard back from Hoffman. "The fact that he wanted me to come over for the Knick game meant that he did not want to be doing the drugs, because he never did them in my presence," he said.
It turned out that the Enquirer had spoken to the wrong David Katz, a man claiming to have the same name who completely fabricated a story about being gay lovers with Philip Seymour Hoffman. The Enquirer also bought a full-page ad in the news section of Wednesday's New York Times saying it had been duped by the wrong person.
The real David Katz said what sparked the most outrage was how the Enquirer article made it seem like he betrayed his late friend. "The issue was never me being outraged at being accused of being gay -- we're theater guys, who cares?" Katz told the paper. "The issue was lying about the drugs, that I would betray my friend by telling confidences."