Like basically everyone in the world these days, even the ultra-wealthy are (mostly) stuck at home. Apparently that’s helped escalate a very interesting battle between wealthy neighbors in Laguna Beach. The tiff started over a million-dollar sculpture, but now it’s mushroomed into a psychological battle that includes the Gilligan’s Island theme.
The Los Angeles Times has the story — and important photos for context — of “bond king” Bill Gross, his former pro tennis player wife Amy Schwartz, and their tussle with tech entrepreneur Mark Towfiq and his wife over a 22-foot-long blue glass sculpture by notable material artist Dale Chihuly.
Apparently the two couples have long been in a not-so-quiet war over property, and something damaged the statue to the point where the bond king installed a very tall net that blocked Towfiq’s view.
Gross and Schwartz in a lawsuit say more than $50,000 damage, “apparently” caused by a thrown rock, is evidence of an “escalating campaign of vandalism”; Towfiq and his wife say it was probably damaged by something falling on it.
Redacted emails released to The Times by the city of Laguna Beach indicated someone associated with Gross and Schwartz told a code enforcement officer the netting was temporary and needed to protect the sculpture from “trees and mother nature,” and that a palm frond caused $100,000 in damage.
There are a lot of fascinating details to the story, such as Schwartz and Gross’s deep love of the statue and some background on both parties’ business history and wealth. According to The Los Angeles Times, the fight over the statue has turned ugly, to the tune of using the Gilligan’s Island theme song as a noise weapon.
The neighbor’s lawsuit accuses the billionaire and his partner of playing blaring music at all hours, including the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song, rap and pop, in an effort to force him to drop the complaint. The couple say they have had to take refuge twice with either relatives or in a hotel room. In an application for a temporary restraining order filed Oct. 15, which was granted, Towfiq cites a text message allegedly sent to him by Gross after he asked the music to be turned down: “Peace on all fronts or well [sic] just have nightly concerts big boy.”
First of all, it needs to be said that this is an incredible use of the phrase “big boy,” even if there are some grammatical errors in the text. As the Times pointed out, both sides have issued lawsuits involving various other complaints against each other, and so, as often is the case in battles between two very wealthy parties, there are no real good guys here. But the Gilligan’s Island theme usage is a very funny, and certainly inspired, quirk in a battle that started over a piece of artwork.