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NEW YORK � A defamation suit against the front man of the rock band KISS by an ex-girlfriend will go forward following a Manhattan justice’s denial Wednesday of his motion to dismiss. Georgeann Walsh Ward claims that Gene Simmons, who boasts of having slept with 4,600 women, defamed her in the VH1 documentary “When KISS Ruled the World,” which “repeatedly falsely portrayed her as an unchaste woman,” Supreme Court Justice Rosalyn Richter wrote in Ward v. Klein a.k.a. Simmons, 100231-05. Justice Richter held that the issue is a question of fact and denied Simmons’s motion. “[T]he court concludes that the juxtaposition of plaintiff’s photographs alongside commentary by Simmons and others recounting Simmons’s repeated casual sexual encounters with various female strangers is reasonably susceptible of a defamatory meaning,” Justice Richter wrote. “The repeated use of plaintiff’s photographs during the documentary could lead a reasonable viewer to conclude that plaintiff was a woman who would regularly make herself available to Simmons, at his beck and call, for casual sexual encounters.” “When KISS Ruled the World,” aired several times beginning in July 2004, chronicled the rise of one of the 1970s most successful arena-rock bands and its notorious front man, Simmons. Born Chaim Witz in Israel in 1949, Simmons immigrated to New York City with his family at age 9. In the mid-1970s, he and his bandmates became famous for spitting up fake blood, wearing black-and-white makeup and sleeping with an enormous number of women. The documentary reveled in Simmons’ sexual escapades and, though it never mentioned her by name, allegedly implied that Ward was more a groupie than a girlfriend. Ward claimed that she was in an “exclusive, monogamous relationship” with Simmons that began before KISS formed. In a segment entitled “24 Hour Whore,” a photograph of Ward and Simmons appears, then Simmons exclaims, “I was a 24-hour whore. All I ever thought about was sex.” Ward’s photo appears in the documentary a total of seven times, according to the complaint. “Although it is true that the documentary never mentions plaintiff by name, or otherwise identifies her, the use of her photographs during the ’24 Hour Whore’ segment could certainly lead a reasonable person to conclude that she was one of those women with whom Simmons had a casual sexual liaison,” Justice Richter ruled. Simmons set forth a number of defenses. He argued among other things that “no defamatory meaning could be inferred because [he] is simply describing his own conduct and not that of the plaintiff,” according to the decision. Justice Richter dismissed that argument. “[T]he fact that Simmons is recounting his own behavior does not defeat the inference that plaintiff participated in that behavior,” she held. Simmons also argued that changing social mores affect how society views sex and therefore what entails defamation per se. Justice Richter found the argument unsupported by evidence in this instance. “Although consensual sexual relations between unmarried persons are certainly viewed differently than they once were, defendants do not cite to any legal authority or social science data to support their argument that allegations of unchastity, when combined with claims of promiscuity and casual sexual encounters such as those here, can no longer support a finding of defamation per se,” the judge held. Justice Richter, however, dismissed a cause of action asserting violations of Ward’s right to privacy. A preliminary conference has been scheduled for next month. Martha McBrayer and Benedict Morelli of Morelli Ratner represent Ward. Morelli called the decision a “big-time victory.” Ward was “devastated” by the film, Morelli said. “It’s one thing if Mr. Simmons wants to go around and call himself a whore … but that doesn’t mean that just because [he] had a relationship with somebody [he] can pull them in,” he said. Linda Steinman of Davis Wright Tremaine, who represents Simmons and his co-defendants Gene Simmons Company, Kiss Catalogue and Viacom International, declined comment. Mark Fass is a reporter with the New York Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate.

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