Bel Ami porn stars’ lawsuit against gay cruise line dismissed

A lawsuit by Bel Ami Online, a European company known in the gay community for its line of porn videos featuring extremely young actors, and RSVP, an American company specializing in all-gay charter cruises, was dismissed by a federal judge in Los Angeles last week.

The lawsuit, which was filed in June and was widely reported on in July, alleged that the porn stars were hired by RSVP to “mix and mingle” with passengers during a seven-day Mediterranean cruise, promising them in return “a 'vacation' including food and safe passage from Barcelona around the Western Mediterranean and back to Barcelona” and that Bel Ami “would be permitted to photograph and video graph” for a “documentary” during the cruise. However, “[i]nstead of a vacation, the young men experienced a nightmare.”

Bel Ami’s accusations

According to Bel Ami, that nightmare began when RSVP began objecting to the filming of their “documentary” in various public areas of the ship, and culminated when they were kicked off the ship at its first scheduled port-of-call in Tunisia (which at the time was in the throes of violent political upheaval during last year’s regionwide “Arab Spring”).

Bel Ami speculated that the reason for this peremptory expulsion was that the boys were getting “too much attention” from other passengers, and that RSVP feared that the “secret” arrangement for them to mix and mingle would be discovered.

Also, Bel Ami included the owner of the chartered ship, the Dutch cruise line Holland America, as a co-defendant to these allegations. The suit sought compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract, fraud, intentional interference with contract, negligence, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress suffered by the models during their “nightmare.”

RSVP’s response

The defendants responded last month to the complaint with a much different version of events.

According to RSVP, the Bel Ami crew was not booted from the ship in Tunisia, and they voluntarily insisted on leaving the ship at the first opportunity (against RSVP’s advice), after they were denied “professional, staged” commercial filming rights on board:

“… contrary to Plaintiffs’ contention, RSVP did not enter into any oral or written agreements with Plaintiffs … other than the Reservation Request Forms signed by each of the individual Plaintiffs … Before the cruise, RSVP merely communicated to Plaintiffs filming restrictions that would be applicable to any passengers on the cruise.

“Moreover, RSVP did not “force” the BAOL models and employees off the cruise ship at any time. Instead, once the cruise began, it became evident that Plaintiffs were violating applicable passenger Terms and Conditions by engaging in professional, staged photography and videotaping on the ship, and RSVP then asked Plaintiffs to stop. When Plaintiffs persisted in their professional photography and videotaping despite repeated requests by RSVP to stop, RSVP had further discussions with Plaintiffs. In one of those discussions, Plaintiffs Rudko Benko and Lukas Gombik stated that Plaintiffs were considering voluntarily leaving the cruise ship. RSVP then gave Plaintiffs a choice to either: a) turn over their camera equipment for the duration of the cruise and remain on the cruise ship; or b) leave the cruise ship at a convenient time. The choice was Plaintiffs’ to make.”

“The suggestion that Plaintiffs were forced off in Tunisia or were left stranded there is also incorrect. To the contrary, RSVP told Plaintiffs’ representative that if Plaintiffs could not secure flights out of Tunisia, they should inform RSVP so that RSVP could see if it was possible for Plaintiffs to remain on the cruise ship until it arrived in its next stop of Palermo, Italy; and further told Plaintiffs’ representative that staying on the cruise ship until the Palermo port was likely to be acceptable as long as Plaintiffs were no longer disruptive. When Plaintiffs were later unable to get flights out of Tunisia, they informed RSVP that they intended to disembark in Tunisia anyway; RSVP advised Plaintiffs’ representative Rudko Benko against doing so but stated that it was ultimately Plaintiffs’ decision. Thus, Plaintiffs chose to voluntarily disembark in Tunisia, despite RSVP advising them against doing so.”

Filming porn?

After the case was widely publicized last July, with its lurid headlines about young gay porn starts stranded in a war-torn Muslim country simply because they were attracting “too much attention,” many speculated that there must be much more to the story.

Dewayne Helms, publisher of “DeWayne in San Diego,” a popular local blog covering the gay porn industry, believes the words “professional, staged photography and videotaping” in RSVP’s response likely refers to the production of actual gay porn scenes on board the cruise.

“I think anyone who knows how a European porn company works (and how the producers think) … well both sides knew or expected that filming porn would take place,” Helms said.

“I am sure Bel Ami would never have agreed to the cruise if they were expected to keep the cameras locked away,” he said.

As for RSVP, “Seriously, Bel Ami is KNOWN for filming all over the world on cruises and at some world famous resorts, going back to the mid-'90s. RSVP would have KNOWN this and to claim otherwise is completely disingenuous.”

“I am sure at some point RSVP panicked when they realized filming was being done IN PUBLIC on board ship, and more than likely some of the passengers and crew complained.”

Case dismissed

However, both of these competing versions of events, and speculations about them, turn out to be moot as far as this case was concerned. In a rather pithy order issued apparently on the court’s own initiative this past Thursday, the judge in the case threw out the entire lawsuit, due to a discovered lack of federal jurisdiction:

“(IN CHAMBERS) Order re Dismissal for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction Plaintiffs, all of whom are citizens of a foreign state, have sued Holland America, a Dutch company, and RSVP, LLC, a California limited liability company. Plaintiffs allege breach of contract and tort claims arising out of a Mediterranean cruise.

“It is well-established that there is no diversity jurisdiction where there are foreign entities on both sides of an action, without presence of citizens of a state on both sides ...

“Even assuming that the members of RSVP, LLC are citizens of a state, there is no diversity jurisdiction, as the plaintiff group consists only of citizens of foreign states. Nor is there federal question jurisdiction, as Plaintiffs have alleged no federal claims. Based on the foregoing, the Court finds no subject matter jurisdiction and dismisses the action in its entirety.”

The now closed case is BAOL S.R.C., et al vs. RSVP Vacations, LLC and Holland America Line, N.V., CV12-05523 RGK (MANx).

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