Battle of the titans!
A Herculean struggle of lawsuits is being waged between Santa Clarita Valley musclemen Steve Davis and Harvey Keith.
The two behemoths are hurling charges and counter-charges at each other in Van Nuys Superior Court. This is in sharp contrast to June of 1976 when the two bodybuilders — the best of friends — opened the Valencia Health Club on Pine Street in Newhall.
“… The last word in modern, scientifically-designed, physical culture facilities,” read the ad in the 1977 Santa Clarita Valley telephone directory. For a time, the business — and the friendship — thrived. But then problems arose.
Davis and Keith fell to bickering and, in February 1978, the partnership was dissolved. Keith opened a new Valencia Health Club for men in Saugus. Davis and his wife started the Steve Davis Fitness Center for Women on Lyons Avenue in Newhall.
But the dissolution of the partnership left ill feelings between the two men and out of those ill feelings rose the current legal battle.
And so, in one corner, representing Harvey Keith, is attorney Bruce H. Singman of Beverly Hills. In the other corner, representing Steve Davis, is Encino attorney Herbert F. Blanck.
After the partnership broke up, Blanck said, “Keith made disparaging remarks about Mr. Davis. Mr. Davis filed a suit against Keith.” The suit was filed last October and claims, Blanck said, that Keith made libelous and slanderous statements against Davis.
What exactly does Davis claim Keith said about him? The lawsuit, on file in the Van Nuys courthouse, says Keith was spreading stories that Davis “was a homosexual (and) a male prostitute …”
The statements are totally false, Davis said. His suit also claims embezzlement, saying that Keith kept some $20,000 in receipts from the Valencia Health Club “with the intent to injure and defraud …”
The Davis suit asked for $2,210,000 in damages. While this figure may have shocked Keith, it did not put him down for the count. He fought back.
In December, Singman filed a cross-complaint against Davis. Singman said that the dissolution agreement for the Valencia Health Club included a clause that Keith would not operate a health club for women and Davis would not operate a health club for men. Singman claims that agreement binds Davis, for five and a half years, not to “own, manage, operate, control, invest in, participate, engage in or have any interest in” a gym for males within a 10-mile radius of the Valencia Health Club.
Singman, Keith’s attorney, claims Davis had violated that agreement by sneaking male members in during off hours at the Steve Davis Fitness Center, the gym for women operated on Lyons Avenue by Davis and his wife, Ellen.
And, Singman claims in his cross-complaint, Davis is actually the power behind a new gym for men, the Valencia Sports Fitness Center, operating on San Fernando Road in Newhall. This, Singman says, is another violation of the noncompetition clause Davis signed.
Finally, the cross-complaint claims, the alleged slander and embezzlement are not even the real reasons Davis filed the original suit against Keith.
“Their purpose in filing the suit was (to get ) a revision in the noncompetition clause,” said Singman. He claims Davis offered to drop the suit if Keith would pay him $12,000, revise the noncompetition clause to allow Davis to operate a gym for men, and stop saying nasty things about Davis.
Keith rejected the offer. And, Singman said, Davis continued to violate the signed noncompetition agreement by being closely associated with the new Valencia Sports Fitness Center in Newhall.
“Davis was out soliciting business for the new club. He appeared in ads for the Fitness Center, and he talked about it as ‘my club’,” Singman said.
On May 23, a Superior Court judge in Van Nuys signed a preliminary injunction against Davis. “It means Steve Davis has to cease participating in the operation of that club (the Valencia Sports Fitness Center),” said Singman.
Blanck went back to court to ask for a reconsideration of the injunction but, on July 3, Judge Robert London denied the motion. Yet, Singman says, Davis continues to violate the injunction by participating in the operation of the Valencia Sports Fitness Center.
But, last week, Blanck, Davis’s attorney, said it is his opinion that the injunction is not yet in effect. And, Blanck said, the injunction may violate some provisions of state law. “What you are doing (through the injunction) is saying Mr. Davis can’t earn a living. That doesn’t make sense,” said Blanck.
However, Singman thinks it does make sense and has asked that the matter be brought back to court tomorrow to have Davis explain why he should not be held in contempt of court for violating the injunction.
Blanck said he will be on vacation and will have one of his associates appear in court to ask that the case be continued to August 12.
Once the matter of the preliminary injunction is settled, Blanck said he will return to the matter of the original slander-embezzlement suit filed by Steve Davis against Harvey Keith. And that suit, Blanck said, could drag on for three or four years before it finally gets to trial.
Speaking to The Signal, Davis sighed and said; “Who is to say what causes these things. I just don’t know. Some things just can’t be worked out.”