News Anchor: No Press, Please

Steve Patterson, Chicago Sun-Times, July 26, 2006

As a journalist, WBBM-Channel 2 anchor Diann Burns regularly delves into the private lives of others, but she wants her own private life off limits. She’s trying to keep the public and media from full access to a lawsuit she filed against the company that she contends built her $3 million home shoddily because she is black.

‘Castle and refuge’

In recently filed court documents, Burns and her agent-husband, Marc Watts, ask a Cook County judge to seal much of their case, shielding it from public view or media scrutiny. They indicate they’re requesting this to protect the family’s privacy. The filing asks that all attorneys, experts and court personnel involved in the case sign a “secrecy agreement,” which would last up to five years after the suit has ended, barring them from talking about aspects of the case publicly or peddling pictures of the interior of the home.

The filing, which will be the subject of a Thursday court hearing, says that the luxury home is Burns’ and Watts’ “castle and refuge from the daily pressures of life,” and that they “will suffer unreasonable annoyance and embarrassment if pictorial or verbal descriptions of the interior of their home” are made public and “may attract curiosity seekers, depriving them of the privacy and peace of the home to which every human being is entitled.”

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The couple’s request for secrecy comes two weeks after Metzler-Hull filed a counterclaim against them, saying allegations of racism are “untrue, malicious, defamatory and despicable.”

‘I just want my house finished’

Metzler-Hull says the couple’s “baseless lawsuit” mentions race simply “for the purpose of destroying” the business, and the accusations are “irrelevant, immaterial and not pertinent” to what is a contract dispute. The company wants more than $1 million in damages.

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In its filing, the firm states that it has done $92,000 in “significant extras” on the house—beyond the contract—and did not charge the couple for them. But company officials balked when Burns demanded they do something about a neighbor’s gutters running rainwater onto her property, among other demands. Additionally, Metzler-Hull says it hasn’t been paid for $80,000 of work.

The business indicated that it could do nothing when Burns complained about wood floors not being a continuous color; the company says the natural qualities of wood often bring slight changes.

Metzler-Hull also states that many of the 84 construction and design flaws cited by Burns and Watts are not the company’s fault, but the result of design demands made by the couple. The company’s countersuit claims that Burns sat in on all design and planning meetings.

Still other gripes, the company states, came long after the couple moved in around October 2002 and long after warranties expired.

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TV star Mo’Nique got kicked off a United Airlines flight Sunday after getting into a spat with a flight attendant, and this time the comedian isn’t laughing—she’s crying racism.

“I felt like I was being treated like an animal,” said the 38-year-old celebrity, whose seldom-used full name is Mo’Nique Imes-Hicks. “This happens to black people all the time, and they don’t have a voice. I have a voice.”

The “Phat Girlz” actress, rumored to be in line to replace Star Jones on “The View,” told the Daily News the incident started when her hair stylist stashed a hair dryer in a first-class bin. While Mo’Nique was flying in the front of the cabin, her aide was in coach.

The “Showtime at the Apollo” host said she tried to keep her cool when a flight attendant first questioned the stylist’s actions. But things escalated when another flight attendant allegedly refused to believe the beauty tool belonged to Mo’Nique.

“Tell your people that the next time they have an attitude, they are being thrown off. . . Since 9/11, we don’t play around,” one flight attendant allegedly told Mo’Nique.

“Are you equating my hair dryer with 9/11?” Mo’Nique said she retorted.

The exchange ended in Mo’Nique being escorted back to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, where, according to the star, a supervisor called local police to complain of a “disgruntled and belligerent passenger.” “It was humiliating,” Mo’Nique said.

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Still, Mo’Nique hopes to unite other customers in a boycott of United.

“I won’t [fly United again], and I hope no other black person will fly them either,” she told the Daily News after venting her frustration on WBLS’ “The Steve Harvey Morning Show.”

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