Why, if David D’Amato is dead, does Jane O’Brien Media and the world of Competitive Endurance Tickling live on? The filmmakers behind Tickled address the conspiracy theories, and reveal a new side to the story – and lawsuits – that simply won’t go away.
A Spinoff Exclusive.
To quickly bring you up to date in a very spoilery way, Tickled follows our journey as we dove headfirst into the world of Competitive Endurance Tickling.
We found that this world of tickling, and the associated online abuse, stretched back over 20 years and lead back to a key figure: Long Island’s David D’Amato.
The end of Tickled shows us confronting D’Amato on the street in New York. Following that incident, he appeared to go underground again.
Read more on the Tickled phenomenon, including exclusive content from Tickled co-directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve, here.
In our follow-up, The Tickle King, D’Amato started filing lawsuits against both us and his stepmother Dotty, who appeared in the film. The climax of The Tickle King shows D’Amato turning up to a screening of Tickled in Los Angeles to confront us, where he gave his version of the story. At the end of The Tickle King a new tickling video surfaces, indicating that maybe this isn’t all over yet.
Then, with Tickled and The Tickle King both widely released, in March this year something else happened.
David D’Amato died.
Which brings us to today, and a new story about Jane O’Brien Media and Competitive Endurance Tickling.
We’re writing this first of all to address the elephant in the room – one that refuses to go away. “At this point, do you wholeheartedly believe that David D’Amato is actually dead?”
“i hate to be insensitive, but could D’amato have faked his death to take heat off him and his actions?”
“I’m not sure if I believe it. When are services? Who has the body?”
“I’m not buying this death narrative.”
Look, we get it.
Donald Trump is President of the United States. Conspiracy-peddling InfoWars has been given White House press credentials. The world is apparently full of fake news. It’s not a stretch to think that a man who’d spent over 20 years finding elaborate ways to get young men to tickle each other on camera had found a loophole that allowed him to continue, post-Tickled.
Fake his death, and rise to tickle another day.
The tweets above are all responses to the statement that Dylan Reeve and I wrote on March 18, 2017, in response to the news that David D’Amato had passed away:
— Tickled Movie (@TickledMovie) March 18, 2017
To put that conspiracy theory to bed – D’Amato has indeed died.
As well as the funeral notice published in the local paper on March 18, we have a copy of his death certificate:
D’Amato died due to atherosclereotic and hypertensive cardiavascular disease. He had a heart attack. Other contributing factors were diabetes and obesity.
We debated whether to publish this information, but the question comes through daily on our social media, so it seems like it’s time to make it public. Essentially, we think we should let David D’Amato rest in peace.
But now it’s time to address the other elephant in the room: If David D’Amato is dead… how does Jane O’Brien Media still live on in 2017?
There’s a Facebook page:
And there’s a new website, TickleTopia:
It’s time to meet Louis Peluso, the man behind the new Jane O’Brien Media page on Facebook, and the new website. And no, we are not going to link to them directly.
Just know that Peluso runs the page, and he also reviewed the page himself: 5 stars.
We first heard about Peluso towards the end of making Tickled. As far as we could tell, he was another middle-man, much like producer Kevin Clarke. And, like Clarke, Peluso seemed to be receiving payments from David D’Amato to help make the Jane O’Brien Media video shoots happen.
Here, for example, is a payment to Peluso of $75,000:
Like Clarke, Peluso also has a history in producing gay pornography, in his case under the name Dexx Jones (NSFW).
We tried to contact Peluso while making the film – we were curious about his professional relationship with D’Amato – but he never got back to us. We emailed him and messaged him on Facebook.
Case in point:
But once Tickled was released in theatres, we did hear from Peluso. Well, sort of. He gave a comment to ABC’s Nightline when they covered Tickled’s release:
In the story, Nightline talked to Kevin Clarke and according to the report, Clarke “put us in touch with his boss, a guy named Louis Peluso, who also insisted that D’Amato has no connection whatsoever with Jane O’Brien Media”.
Despite Peluso’s public denial, it was clear to us that D’Amato was behind Jane O’Brien Media. Beyond that, we really didn’t have much more to say on the matter, so we let it go.
But after D’Amato’s death, Louis appeared to become a little more open online. Fast forward to May, when he posted his review:
“Rest in peace, David,” says Peluso, the dude who told Nightline that David D’Amato had no connection whatsoever with Jane O’Brien Media. And, if there were any confusion about who Louis was referring to, he clarified it later in the comments:
Right now, Peluso appears to be in possession of all of D’Amato’s tickling footage and seems to be positioning himself as the head of Jane O’Brien Media.
A video on Louis’ Facebook page shows a computer screen in Peluso’s house, filled with tickling files.
Someone, presumably Peluso, says “There is so much tickle footage here it is fucking crazy. We have counted so far 47,000 videos.” He’s practically bragging.
And now he’s selling them. Videos featuring guys who, in many cases, may have never realised they’d be online, let alone being sold.
And yeah – Peluso is showing off how much he has:
On top of this, Peluso is now totally clear about who was behind the making of the videos. Gone is any claim that D’Amato had nothing to do with it (Here’s the link to the following conversations – but be aware that Jane O’Brien Media has geoblocked New Zealand on Facebook, so New Zealand readers won’t be able to access it.)
So while D’Amato has gone, another person has risen up to take his place in charge of Jane O’Brien Media.
The footage of young men – some of whom thought they were competing in a sport called Competitive Endurance Tickling, or simply making private audition tapes – is still being distributed widely online. This time, for cash.
As far as we can tell, these young men are not being subjected to online abuse and their full names aren’t being associated with the new material. That’s really, really good.
But their videos are being sold online as fetish material, something many of those men may never have imagined, intended, or wanted.
In May, prompted by his flurry of Facebook activity, we tried Peluso again. He answered.
Peluso followed up with more messages, including one which claimed I had “zero credibility”.
It’s still a struggle to understand why he so angry at us, specifically. Maybe it’s because D’Amato paid him quite well. And isn’t doing so anymore, for obvious reasons.
He ended with this, before blocking us:
We haven’t been telling anyone they are cowering in fear, if you were wondering. And we didn’t really see much point in reaching out to his lawyer Larry, so left it there.
But his talk of lawyers did remind us of something. What about that lawsuit D’Amato had filed against his stepmother Dorothy? You know the one – seeking $40,000,000 in damages for “defamatory” statements he alleged she made in Tickled?
And what about the legal threats D’Amato made in that theatre in Los Angeles last year, or the lawsuits he filed against us and later voluntarily dismissed from the courts?
A dead man can’t sue, right?
Well, in New York, he sort of can.
It turns out that the executor of a will can continue a defamation suit, even if the person allegedly defamed is no longer alive. A quick look at D’Amato’s will shows that the lawsuits and their potential winnings are claimed to be an asset of his estate:
On top of that – the executor can even do some more suing, at least according to him:
political & climate reportersFind Out More
So, there you go. We joked at the start of this whole thing that it was a bit like stepping into a tickling wormhole. What we failed to grasp at the time is that wormholes aren’t exactly short. In fact, they can go on for billions of light years.
Read more of The Spinoff’s coverage of the Tickled phenomenon here.
Love The Spinoff? The best way to support us is to join The Spinoff Members. For just $2 a week you can help us hire more journalists – and receive a FREE copy of our first book.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.