- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) - We’re the YouTube generation, living in the YouTube era, in a YouTube world. Now we apparently have a YouTube divorce.

Some prominent New York divorce lawyers couldn’t think of another case in which a spouse — in this instance, the wife of a major Broadway theater operator — had taken to the popular Web site to spill the secrets of a marriage in an apparent effort to gain leverage and humiliate the other side.

“This is absolutely a new step, and I think it’s scary,” says Bonnie Rabin, a divorce lawyer who has handled high-profile cases. “People used to worry about getting on Page Six,” the gossip page of the New York Post. “But this? It brings the concept of humiliation to a whole new level.”

In a tearful and furious YouTube video with close to 150,000 hits to date, former actress and playwright (“Bonkers”) Tricia Walsh-Smith lashes out against her husband, Philip Smith, president of the Shubert Organization, the largest theater owner on Broadway.

She goes through their wedding album on camera, describing family members as “bad,” “evil” or “nasty,” and talks about how her husband reportedly is trying to evict her from their luxury apartment. She also makes embarrassing claims regarding their intimate life — and then calls his office on camera to repeat those claims to a stunned assistant.

Famed divorce attorney Raoul Felder, called for comment on the video, terms the whole thing “funny, but there’s also sadness. This is a victim who is holding her head up. I think she comes off well.”

Then again, Mr. Felder is representing Mrs. Walsh-Smith — though he wasn’t when she made the YouTube video.

As for Mr. Smith, his office said he had no comment. His lawyers said they didn’t, either — “other than that we’re kind of appalled.”

“I don’t think it’s the kind of thing people should be doing, and it’s the kind of thing judges frown upon,” says Norman Sheresky, a partner in the matrimonial law firm Sheresky Aronson Mayefsky & Sloan, which Mrs. Walsh-Smith mentions in her video. Asked if he had ever seen a spouse use YouTube to fire a salvo in a divorce battle, Mr. Sheresky replies, “Jamais de la vie.” (Translation: Never.)

Mr. Felder says his client was “acting out of passion.” He also calls the prenuptial agreement she signed with her husband, who is a quarter-century older than her, “stupid.”

So why did his client sign? “Why do women sign these things? Love is blind, and sometimes it is deaf and dumb, too,” Mr. Felder says. The video, he adds, was the act of a powerless person, and “revolutions are made by powerless people.”

Does that mean divorce by YouTube is a true revolution? Miss Rabin, the matrimonial lawyer, sure hopes not.

For one thing, she says, this could come back to haunt Mrs. Walsh-Smith.

“Judges make decisions partly on [a person’s] judgment,” Miss Rabin says. “She could hurt herself with this.” Not to mention the threat of a defamation case from the other side.

More broadly, she asks, where does it end?

“Over the last few years, we’ve had to deal with e-mails getting into the press, e-mails that nobody thought would end up as Exhibit A. But throwing your secrets onto YouTube for the whole world to see — and comment on. That brings it to a whole new level.”

Or, in Mr. Felder’s words: “There’s no such thing as a private life anymore.”


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