Talk show guests sue Cunningham

June 23rd, 2010 by

Source: — Parents of child beauty pageant contestants were so angry about their treatment during Bill Cunningham’s daytime TV talk show taping in Chicago earlier this month that they locked themselves in the “green room” – and sued him and the Tribune Co. for $50,000.

The parents – who say they were promised they would be portrayed in a positive light – say instead they “were accused of physically and sexually abusing their children” during the June 12 taping.

They’re seeking at least $50,000 in a suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

They’ve also asked the court to prevent the Tribune from airing their likeness, and to provide all video and other media from their show so they could be destroyed.

Cunningham declined comment Tuesday.

The WLW-AM talk host has taped five “Big Willie” test shows at WGN. Tribune plans to air them in the next few weeks on Tribune stations and WXIX-TV (Channel 19).

After reviewing ratings and research, Tribune executives will decide whether to start production of the weekday show this fall for Tribune stations and eventually national syndication.

The suit alleges that Cunningham and the audience “continued to verbally accost” the women after their children were taken backstage.

When the parents joined the girls in the green room and locked the door “to protect their children,” TV producers “began kicking in the door,” the suit says.

Some people in the “Big Willie” studio “described the tapings as a fiasco,” according to longtime Chicago media critic Robert Feder.

Tribune CEO Randy Michaels – who hired Cunningham at WLW-AM in 1983 – was “personally urging Cunningham to abuse and berate his unwitting guests. One segment featured … parents of child beauty pageant contestants who found themselves blindsided when they were suddenly attacked by Cunningham,” he wrote

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