Stiffing Chuck Norris in a business deal? Karate master, Walker, Texas Ranger Chuck Norris? The guy who irons his pants while he’s wearing them?
Sounds dangerous, but a promoter from Kentucky allegedly did, according to a document filed in federal court this week.
However, the promoter, Harlan County resident Chris Lewis, said the claim is ridiculous.
The dispute goes back to an August 2019 event in Knoxville, Tenn., called Bubba Fest, billed as a “Southern-fried” Comic Con.
Lewis was the managing member of the fan event and signed Norris to appear through a company called Top Kick Productions, according to a court document.
The contract called for Norris to sign autographs, pose for photos with fans and participate in meet-and-greet sessions for a total of six hours and 30 minutes.
There was a charge for autographs and photos, of course — $100 for an autograph from the action star, $130 for an autograph with an inscription and $120 for a photo, according to a copy of the contract filed in court.
The contract said Norris would be paid at least $50,000.
Norris has long been one of the most recognizable stars on the planet for his action roles in movies and television, inspiring hundreds of tongue-in-cheek “Chuck Norris facts” about how tough he is, such as the one about ironing his pants while he wears them.
He was booked to appear at the 2018 Comic Con in Lexington.
The contract for the 2019 Knoxville event included several perks, including a hotel suite for Norris and one for his representative at The Tennessean, a luxury hotel, two first-class airline tickets from Houston to Knoxville, car service and access to a catered hospitality room with healthy snacks.
Norris, an Air Force veteran, also agreed to sign up to 50 items free for Bubba Fest to give to charitable organizations, sponsors, volunteers and families of members of the military who died in the line of duty, called Gold Star families.
Other celebrities at the Knoxville Bubba Fest included stars from HBO’s Game of Thrones and from The Walking Dead, NASCAR legend Richard Petty and professional wrestlers, but Norris was a hit, with hundreds of people lining up to see him, Lewis said.
After the festival, however, attorneys for Norris argued Bubba Fest and Lewis didn’t pay the actor all he was owed.
Norris’ attorneys took the case before an arbitrator in Texas.
Last July, the arbitrator ordered Lewis to pay Top Kick Productions $31,050 under the appearance contract, attorneys’ fees of $130,489 and $11,630 in arbitration costs.
The arbitrator’s decision said Lewis did not take part in the final hearing, which was held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Attorneys for the production company filed a motion in federal court in London this week to confirm the award.
Lewis said in a statement that he wasn’t allowed to fully present his case during the arbitration and that the award has no merit.
He said he gave all the money due to Norris to an intermediary, and if it didn’t all get to Norris, “that is not within the scope of Bubba Fest’s responsibility or authority to address.”
Nearly 100 celebrities took part in the first two Bubba Fests, and only Norris has claimed he was shorted on payment, Lewis said.
Lewis said he has nothing bad to say about Norris, but the claim he stiffed the star is dishonest, and that he’s confident a judge will not uphold the arbitration judgment.
“This is one fight Chuck Norris will not win,” he said.