Thursday, October 19, 2006

Former Kingsport Family Featured in movie "Running with Scissors"

The crazy Finch family in the movie, which opens nationwide Oct. 27, is based on the Turcottes who lived in Colonial Heights in the late fifties and early sixties. The dad, Dr. Rodolph Turcotte, was head of Kingsport Mental Health Center until '63, when the family moved to Massachusetts. Here is the Boston Globe story about the family's lawsuit over the movie and the book it was based on.

Family settles with Sony over 'Scissors'; suit against author remains

By David Mehegan, Globe Staff | October 18, 2006

The Northampton family that is suing the author of the best-selling memoir "Running With Scissors" has reached a settlement with Sony Pictures, averting a second lawsuit over the upcoming movie based on the book, the family's lawyer announced yesterday.

Six members of the Turcotte family, survivors of psychiatrist Rodolph H. Turcotte, who died in 2000, last year sued Northampton author Augusten Burroughs, formerly Christopher Robison, for defamation, invasion of privacy, fraud, and emotional distress.

The suit, filed in June 2005 in Middlesex Superior Court, alleges that the characters in the 2002 memoir were so thinly disguised that everyone in Northampton knew the identity of their real-life models. It alleges the book gave directions to the Turcotte home and identified them in a 2003 People magazine interview.

In the late 1970s, Burroughs, then 12, lived with the Turcotte family with the permission of his mother, a patient of Dr. Turcotte. In his book, Burroughs renamed them the Finch family, but his descriptions of "Dr. Finch" kept several of Turcotte's well-known characteristics. For example, Turcotte looked like Santa Claus and founded an organization called the World Father's Association; "Dr. Finch" is a Santa Claus lookalike who wears a World Fathers Organization button.

The suit also alleges the book was full of distortions and wholesale fabrications about the family: that "Dr. Finch" had a masturbation room off his office, that family members studied their feces, that one exhumed a dead cat, and that ``Dr. Finch" allowed his 13-year-old daughter to have a sexual relationship with an adult. A pedophile, living in the "Finch" home, molests Burroughs. The suit charges that the book presented the Turcottes as "an unhygienic, foul, and mentally unstable cult."

Burroughs did not return a call seeking comment yesterday.

Howard Cooper, the Boston lawyer representing the Turcotte family, declined to describe details of the settlement with Sony yesterday. However, in August 2005, he said it was primarily the feared impact of the movie that provoked the suit. "With the forthcoming movie," he said, "the family is living in fear that there will be utter devastation to their reputations, and the invasion of their privacy will be complete." Directed by Ryan Murphy, the movie stars Annette Bening, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jill Clayburgh, Joseph Fiennes, and Alec Baldwin.

Cooper said yesterday that the family is pressing on with the suit against Burroughs and St. Martin's, but the suit has been stayed by the court, at the request of both sides, until the release of the film, scheduled for Oct. 27. Cooper declined to specify how the movie could affect the suit but reiterated his statement of last year that the movie's impact remains the issue for the Turcotte family.

"But for the book," he said, "there never would have been a movie." After the release, "there will be an opportunity to assess how profound the damage to the family will be, but it all arises from the publication of the book."

And here is a link to the Turcotte family site, which will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about Dr. T, as many called him.


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