Comedian George Wallace testified Thursday in his personal injury case against the Bellagio, but he has not yet told jurors about the Dec. 8, 2007, incident that led to his lawsuit.
His testimony is scheduled to resume this morning in District Judge Ronald Israel’s courtroom.
Much of Wallace’s testimony Thursday focused on biographical information. He revealed that he was born Henry Wallace in Atlanta but changed his name to George after entering show business.
Wallace, 61, said he knew since he was 6 that he wanted to be a comedian.
“It’s my sex. It’s my drugs,” Wallace told the jury. “I’d rather do it than anything else.”
He studied transportation, marketing and advertising at the University of Akron in Ohio before moving to New York City, where he first worked as a rag salesman.
In 1976, he began performing at comedy clubs in New York. When asked about his roommate at the time, he joked that he was living with “some little kid named Jerry Seinfeld.”
The two comedians became best friends — Seinfeld briefly stopped by the courtroom last week to speak with Wallace.
Wallace said he has performed all over the world during his 38 years as a stand-up comedian. Last week he celebrated his 10th anniversary as a headliner at the Flamingo, where he lives.
The comedian said he is “very active” during his performances.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do ’til I hit the stage,” he said.
Wallace was performing at a private corporate event at the Bellagio on the night of Dec. 8, 2007, when his Achilles tendon ruptured. He later sued the Strip resort and HSBC Card Services Inc., which sponsored the event.
He since has reached an undisclosed settlement with HSBC, but the case against the Bellagio proceeded to trial last week. Wallace is seeking millions of dollars in damages from the resort for lost earnings, pain and suffering, and medical expenses.
Wallace and his company, Crazy World Inc., filed the personal injury lawsuit in November 2009. It claims Wallace’s foot became entangled in loose electrical wires on the Bellagio stage.
During Wallace’s testimony Thursday, jurors were shown a video of his act at the Flamingo the night before his Bellagio performance.
Wallace walked around the stage throughout the performance.
The comedian claims the injury forced him to cancel many of his nightly performances at the Flamingo and to decline a movie role.
During his opening statement last week, Bellagio attorney Paul Haire said evidence will show that Wallace had a pre-existing injury that led to a “spontaneous” rupture of his Achilles tendon at the HSBC party.
Haire also said Wallace attended a sound check several hours before the event and approved the stage setup.
Wallace was paid $30,000 for the 30-minute performance for an audience of about 900. He mentioned his injury during the show, but Haire said the comedian still performed longer than the required 30 minutes.
He also performed later that night at the Flamingo, and jurors today are expected to view a video of that show.
On Wednesday, Israel ordered the Bellagio to pay $5,000 in attorney fees to the plaintiff as sanctions for late disclosure of evidence in the case. The ruling centered around a seating chart for the holiday party.
Before Wallace took the witness stand Thursday, jurors heard from his friend Merald “Bubba” Knight Jr., who is best known as a member of Gladys Knight &the Pips. He also is the older brother of Gladys Knight.
Bubba Knight said he introduced Wallace at the Bellagio and later helped him off the stage and into a wheelchair.
The singer described Wallace as “a very energetic comic.”
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-384-8710. Follow @CarriGeer on Twitter.