Bill Gross’s Neighbor Feud Shifts from Gilligan to Latin Music
(Bloomberg) -- A lawyer for Bill Gross said his Latino property manager will testify that he was responsible for the Spanish music that boomed from the billionaire’s California oceanfront home on weekdays when Gross wasn’t home.
The manager, Efrain Alba, will take the stand as early as Thursday to say he liked to listen to Spanish tunes and didn’t mean to annoy a neighbor, a lawyer for Gross, co-founder of Pacific Investment Management Co., said at a hearing in state court in Santa Ana.
Gross and his Laguna Beach neighbor, Mark Towfiq, sued each other with Towfiq claiming Gross blasted music, including the theme to “Gilligan’s Island,” at all hours to get him to drop a complaint about a glass sculpture. Gross claims Towfiq is a “peeping Tom” who leers and spies on him and his girlfriend.
A local police officer testified earlier that when she responded to Towfiq’s noise complaints in October, Mariachi music was blaring from Gross’s home and was louder than the sound of the surf, and the traffic on the coastal highway.
During cross-examination Wednesday, Gross’s lawyer, Jill Basinger, pressed Towfiq about his complaint that “Spanish-language music” had been played all day on Oct. 19, a weekday when she said neither Gross nor his girlfriend were home. She tried to ask if Alba was Latino, but the judge stopped her.
“What is the relevance of the type of music that was being played to this proceeding?” Judge Kimberly Knill asked impatiently.
“Because when the house manager takes the stand, he will indicate that it was his music, and it is his preferred music, and it’s certainly not Mariachi music and that’s an offensive way of describing it,” Basinger replied.
“It’s proof that it wasn’t played by the Grosses,” Basinger said. Towfiq’s “position is that it’s played to harass him by the Grosses,” she said.
Basinger asked Towfiq why, if he had the property manager’s number, he didn’t call or message to complain about the music.
“One of the reasons was there were all these lawsuits flying around,” Towfiq said, noting that he and Gross had filed for competing restraining orders. “I just didn’t feel comfortable contacting anybody at this house.”
Basinger tried to show that Towfiq is prejudiced against Spanish-style music.
“Do you find Spanish music, for instance, to be harassing?” Basinger asked Towfiq.
“No, I actually have a large collection of Latin music,” Towfiq responded. “We listen to it all the time. I have no problems with any kind of music.”
“Do you believe Spanish music is obnoxious?” Basinger continued.
“I already answered that, I believe,” he said. “I love all sorts of music.”
Towfiq has submitted cell-phone videos showing a man who appears to be Gross dancing on his balcony as the Gilligan Island theme blares.
Gross’s lawyer said they intend to call an “expert” sound witness, who can testify that any recordings made on an iPhone aren’t “reliable” as to sound levels. Police also aren’t reliable at gauging whether music is “loud,” she said.
Gross and Towfiq began feuding when the billionaire installed a large net over a 22-foot-long piece of art by Dale Chihuly, after it was damaged. Towfiq filed a complaint with the City of Laguna Beach, and Gross responded by blasting music, that also included rap, pop and TV theme songs from “Green Acres” and “MASH” at all hours of the day. It was an attempt to coerce him to drop the complaint, Towfiq had testified.
The hearing is set to resume Thursday with Gross’s girlfriend, Amy Schwartz, scheduled to testify.
The cases are Gross v. Towfiq, 30-2020-1165114-CU-NP-CJC, and Towfiq v. Gross, 30-2020-01165428-CU-NP-CJC, California Superior Court, Orange County (Santa Ana).
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