Troubled singer Tyrese Gibson took to social media to reveal he is suing Joan Pendergrass, the widow of Teddy Pendergrass, for allegedly breaking her promise to grant him the rights to write a book and create a film about his deceased mentor.
The $1 million lawsuit, as reported by TMZ, names Joan Pendergrass individually and as the executor of the Teddy Pendergrass estate as defendants. It asserts that Joan Pendergrass, the late singer’s second wife, had agreed to give him these rights back in 2011 in exchange for his investment in the two works and to promote the projects and the Philadelphia crooner’s legacy.
Previously, Tyrese boasted about his being made the producer of the biopic on Facebook in 2017 with a picture of him as a pallbearer at the funeral in January 2010. He noted his belief that he was granted the right to produce the movie because of the close bond he shared with Teddy Pendergrass. He further claimed it was one of the late singer’s dying wishes.
“He embraced me and told me and his wife Joan Pendergrass and his beloved family that ‘No one will tell my story of my life but you,’” he wrote, adding, “I trust you and feel like you will do right by me and my story.”
At the time, he said that he would not “rest” until the film was made.
A couple of years later, after linking with two Philadelphia filmmakers, Lee Daniels and Charlie Mack, he told his 18 million fans that he bumped into some trouble making the film but still said he was pushing forward.
What Led to Lawsuit
Now, it seems that Joan Pendergrass has changed her mind and in 2022 decided not to include the “Sweet Lady” chart-topper and his Voltron production company in her plans to bring Teddy P’s life to the big screen.
The lawsuit comes after the Grammy winner’s second wife, who married him two years before he died, and his only son, Teddy Pendergrass II, publicly feuded about control of the estate.
Both parties sought control of post-debt assets, including record royalties, publishing revenue, merchandise income, and Teddy’s lifelong investments as a performer.
In 2016, according to Delaware County Daily News, the son claimed he was entitled to the estate with a secretly executed will that court ruled “was a fabrication.” A Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, judge ruled the will “to be a forged document.”
“We believe the proponent’s tall tale was hatched when he learned he was being disinherited by his father…,” Orphans’ Court Judge Stanley R. Ott wrote in an Oct. 14, 2016, he struck down the decree of probate filed by Teddy II.
The judge’s decision granted control of the musician’s estate to Joan Pendergrass, who argued that the will from March 25, 2009, and a codicil from Oct. 17, 2009, named her as the heir and excluded the singer’s son. The estate’s value was undisclosed, but put her in charge of royalties, the music legend’s legacy, and the use of his name, as well as the traditional assets like bank accounts and property.
All decisions, particularly those around the commercial use of her husband’s story and likeness, are at her discretion.
While Tyrese acknowledges that Joan Pendergrass is legally over the rights, he said her refusal to let him produce the project has caused him and his company financial damages.
The Pendergrass estate has not formally responded.