“Thriller” Co-Star Heads to Jury Trial with Michael Jackson’s Estate
Since co-starring alongside Michael
Jackson in the immensely popular “Thriller” video, Ola Ray has fought an
uphill battle to collect royalties that she alleges have been unpaid.
Despite heading to trial with Jackson’s estate, Ray insists she
maintains only love and respect for the late pop star. “Ms. Ray simply
wants Jackson’s estate to honor the terms of her employment agreement so
that she may move on with her life,” asserts Jose A. Trejo of Trejo Law
Corporation, her entertainment attorney in the matter.
Los Angeles, CA (PRWE April 19, 2012
After nearly 30 years of royalty struggles, Ola Ray, the woman who
famously appeared alongside Michael Jackson in the immensely popular
“Thriller” music video, finally heads to a jury trial with the Jackson
estate on April 30, 2012 alleging breach of contract (Case No.
SC102953). Since co-starring alongside Michael Jackson in “Thriller,”
which many would call the most revered music video of all time, the
former Playboy Playmate has fought an uphill battle to collect royalties
that she claims have not been paid over the past decades. After
finally going the distance with her entertainment lawyer, Ray’s long ordeal is coming to a close.
Ray, 51, was just 23-years-old when she appeared alongside Jackson in “Thriller”
and frightened children worldwide with her piercing scream. Since its
release in 1983, the video has enjoyed countless airings and financial
success that has far exceeded any video in music history. Its
signature “zombie dance” has been emulated worldwide and the “Thiller
jacket” that Jackson wore in the video is one of the most popular
articles of clothing ever worn. The short film has even garnered
federal recognition, having recently been inducted for preservation in
the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
According to court documents, Ray’s original employment contract for
“Thriller” allegedly entitles her to a specified percentage of the
revenue derived from the video and related merchandise; however, even
though the short film has reportedly made millions, Ray asserts the
Jackson estate has not paid her regular royalties since the 1980s.
Despite her ongoing litigation battles with the Jackson estate, Ray
claims she has never held any ill feelings towards the late pop star
“I have always loved Michael Jackson
and thank him for the opportunity of a lifetime to be part of such an
iconic piece of music history,” states Ray. “Michael would always
re-release ‘Thriller’ in different packages so that I would get my
royalties. He really did his personal best to help me while he was
alive. Unfortunately, the people handling his estate have not been
acting according to his wishes since his death.”
Ray was a huge fan of Jackson even before landing the role in “Thriller.” As the June 1980 Playboy Playmate,
her centerfold listed the King of Pop as one of her favorite
entertainers. Understandably, Ray was on cloud nine when she beat
hundreds for the opportunity to star alongside her idol. She claims to
have nothing but fond memories and admiration for MJ.
“Michael was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met,” recalls Ray.
“We would run around the set and play like kids. When he passed away, I
was devastated. I had lost a friend.”
In the digital age, primarily since Jackson’s passing in 2009, the
pop star’s estate has allegedly profited greatly from the exploitation
of “Thriller.” For example, the video has been one of the best-selling
music videos in iTunes history. Ray continues to be adamant that she
has not received a cent from any revenue related to “Thriller” since
Trejo Law Corporation, a Beverly Hills law firm specializing in entertainment law,
recently revealed its representation of Ola Ray and the interesting
details of her case. “Ms. Ray simply wants Jackson’s estate to honor
the terms of her employment agreement so that she may move on with her
life,” asserts Jose A. Trejo, the entertainment attorney
representing Ray in the current matter. “The estate cannot continue to
exploit ‘Thriller’ and neglect to pay Ms. Ray the royalties to which
she is contractually entitled.”
After decades of legal struggles with Jackson and his estate, Ray seems optimistic that the ordeal is nearing an end.
“I am very thankful that Michael cast me as his girlfriend in
‘Thriller’ and I cherish the memories. I just want what’s owed to me,”
insists Ray. “I am looking forward to having my day in court and
putting this matter behind me very soon.”
Ola Ray currently resides in Sacramento, California with her 17-year-old daughter. Jose A. Trejo is an entertainment attorney at Trejo Law Corporation, an entertainment law firm located in Beverly Hills, California.