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Angry wife tries divorce-by-YouTube tactic

We're the YouTube Generation, living in the YouTube Era, in a YouTube World. And now we apparently have a YouTube Divorce.
/ Source: The Associated Press

We're the YouTube Generation, living in the YouTube Era, in a YouTube World. And now we apparently have a YouTube Divorce.

Some prominent New York divorce lawyers couldn't think of another case where a spouse — in this instance, the wife of a major Broadway theater operator — had taken to YouTube 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," said 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" or "evil" or "nasty," and talks about how her husband is allegedly 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, termed 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, Felder allowed that he is now representing Walsh-Smith — though he wasn't when she made the YouTube video.

As for Smith, his office said he had no comment and 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," said Norman Sheresky, a partner in the matrimonial law firm Sheresky Aronson Mayesfsky & Sloan, which Walsh-Smith mentions in her video. Asked if he had ever seen a spouse use YouTube to fire a salvo in a divorce battle, Sherefsky replied, "Jamais de la vie." (Translation: Never.)

Felder explained that his client was "acting out of passion." He also called the prenuptial agreement she'd 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," Felder said. The video, he added, was the act of a powerless person, and "revolutions are made by powerless people."

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

For one thing, she says, this could come back to haunt Walsh-Smith. "Judges make decisions partly on (a person's) judgment," she 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 emails getting into the press, emails 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 Felder's words: "There's no such thing as a private life anymore."