Producer Sues Playboy Radio for Racial Discrimination

Slav Kandyba
LOS ANGELES — In a lawsuit filed last week, an African-American producer for Playboy’s Sirius satellite radio channel is suing the company, an executive producer and a host.

Former Playboy Radio producer Terri Hughes alleges racial and sex discrimination and harassment in her lawsuit, filed in L.A. Superior Court.

The former producer of the “Night Calls” program on Playboy’s Sirius satellite radio channel also claims executive producer Farrell Hirsch retaliated against her when she complained about discrimination and harassment, and cooperated with adult performer Vanessa Blue, who is African-American. Blue co-hosted the program with veteran adult performer Christy Canyon.

Playboy spokesman Jared Dougherty said the company wouldn’t comment on a “pending legal matter” but added that Playboy “has a long and proud history of opposing discrimination in all its forms.

“Playboy will continue to uphold its decades-long commitment to protecting, defending and promoting personal freedom and social justice," Dougherty said in a statement emailed to XBIZ.

Hughes' attorney Michael Fattorrosi said he found "Mr. Dougherty's comments interesting." In an email response to XBIZ request for comment, he suggested African-American women are rarely featured as playmates and it wasn't until 1990 - "37 years after Playboy's start" - that an African-American woman was named Playmate of the Year.

"While I do give Playboy credit for defending the First Amendment when few were wiling to do so, I can not believe that Playboy is leading the charge against racial inequality," Fattorosi, of Fattorosi & Chisvin in Woodland Hills, told XBIZ.

"There's no place in today's society for an executive producer of a nationally broadcast radio network to discriminate based upon race and to refer to African Americans as 'negroes."

When Hughes was hired in January as an assistant producer on “Night Calls,” Canyon (real name Melissa Conway) served as host with adult performer Ginger Lynn. Hughes claims she was unjustly passed up for a promotion when another producer was transferred from a post on Playboy radio’s “Private Calls” show, and made producer on “Night Calls.” Later, in June, Hughes was asked to replace the other producer.

Blue then replaced Lynn on Night Calls. Canyon and Blue’s working relationship “quickly became problematic,” according to the lawsuit, as Blue “indicated to [Hughes] that [Canyon] was creating a sexually and racially hostile environment.”

At the time that Hughes was promoted to producer on “Night Call,” Hirsch told her that to pay “special attention” to Canyon, because “Playboy did not want to lose [her] services.”

The work environment then took a turn for the worse, Hughes claims. During a live broadcast in July, Canyon “demanded that Hughes enter the studio to ‘wax [Canyon’s] ass,” which Hughes “repeatedly refused.” When Hirsch discussed “a lawsuit involving Vanessa Blue” — which hasn’t been filed — at a meeting in July, Hughes told him Canyon’s “behavior was sexually harassing” and that “this behavior was problematic.”

After Canyon didn’t appear on several shows in protest and Hughes replaced her with Sinnamon Love, an African-American adult performer, Hirsch demanded that Hughes fire Vanessa Blue. Hughes refused, telling him that Blue was under contract, but Hirsch fired her anyway and gave Hughes a list of replacements, all of whom were white.

Blue was later given her own show and requested Hughes as a producer. During discussion of the format of the new show with Hirsch, Hughes alleges he said, “I don’t know how to say this, and it might offend you, but I’m just going to say it anyway — no Negro shows.”