A once-popular song used to proclaim that love and marriage “go together like a horse and carriage.” Today, the lyricist would better pen a ditty celebrating love and lawsuits, and nobody would have been more suited to sing it last week than British rocker Peter Frampton. He is currently being sued in a White Plains, N.Y., court by former girl-friend Penelope McCall, who is demanding half his earnings from 1973 to 1979, when the couple lived together. She is also asking for halfownership of a house on Frampton’s $500,000 estate in Ossining, N.Y. To hear McCall tell it, she was far more than just a rock groupie. She claims an unwritten “partnership” in which she helped the 31-year-old Frampton promote his career in return for half his assets. The 33-year-old blonde says she “lent him money and helped clothe him,” “introduced him to the ‘right’ people” and “set him on the road to success.” Not so, contends Frampton. McCall was the inspiration for his song Penny for Your Thoughts, but otherwise her contributions were limited to those of a traditional “malefemale” relationship.
McCall first sued Frampton in 1979, but a judge threw out the case on the grounds that hearing McCall’s complaints would amount to judicial approval of adultery, a crime in New York state, because McCall had neglected to divorce her second husband, Nick Bridgen, once the road manager for Frampton’s group Humble Pie. McCall appealed, and the state’s Supreme Court, showing that even staid judges know a thing or two about cohabitation, decided that adultery should not prevent a hearing.
Ever since Michelle Marvin’s landmark victory, courts regularly have been asked to pick over what once was the stuff of lovers’ quarrels. Several of the most publicized cases have involved homosexual relationships: hairdresser Marilyn Barnett’s now-celebrated suit against Billy Jean King and Richard Hannum’s action against his former roommate, John-Michael Tebelak, director of the hit musical Godspell. As a result, Manhattan attorney Julia Perlis, an expert on cohabitation law, urges would-be roommates to consult their lawyers as well as their hearts. Whatever the song said, love and contracts are the things that best go together.
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