By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"My father always told me, 'That's the way people should address you,' " Zaffina says. "... And sure enough it stuck, I'll tell you that much."
The darts players are incredulous that Zaffina was able to obtain the league's historic name and are sickened at the thought that the whole thing started over leaving Zaffina's middle initial off a list of competition scores.
"We've had the SCDA name for more than 40 years," Fischer says. "Where does this upstart get the balls to take our name? I mean, who is this guy?"
Zaffina, 52, is a native of Southern California. He's a studio sound man, an actor and a licensed private investigator. Zaffina was blinded in his left eye in 2008 when he inadvertently fell off a stage and into a lighting pit while working on the set of Entertainment Tonight. He stands out at pubs because he carries a large attaché case filled with darts when he comes to play.
Outside of that, Zaffina is mostly a mystery.
"He never talked about himself and instead asked us questions," says Milan Sabata, a former SCDA board member. "And he was very generic about his job."
Zaffina's teammate, 30-year-old musician Nick Turpin, enjoyed playing with Zaffina, calling him "an older brother type" who didn't drink and would bring the guys pizza and pasta during the games. Not at all "what he turned out to be."
As Sabata tells it, when Zaffina first started playing pickup games in 2009 with him and a few others at the Robin Hood Pub in Sherman Oaks, Zaffina "was clean-cut, well-spoken but cocky and seemed very insecure about himself. Every time he threw a bad throw, he got embarrassed with a childish grin, wanting people to tell him it was OK. His parents were Italian and he has this way of talking about respect. He takes it very seriously. ... He spells the word 'respect' with his middle initial 'M.' "
When speaking, Zaffina occasionally peppers his sentences with legal jargon, which could be explained by the fact that he has a law degree, though he is not a member of the State Bar of California. It also could have something to do with the fact that Zaffina has been part of many lawsuits.
Since 1991, according to an online search of Los Angeles Superior Court records, Zaffina has been involved in at least 22 lawsuits, 18 of them as the plaintiff. They have ranged from small-claims cases to defamation and wrongful-termination claims.
In one case, for example, he sued Target, claiming he'd injured his toe on an escalator. In another case, Zaffina sued 20th Century Fox Films over failure to pay wages in a timely manner and for allegedly having fired him unfairly from the TV show Reba. In 2009, Zaffina's landlord, Zahra Taherkhanchi, sought a restraining order against him, claiming the rent was late and that he had started posting notes on her door four or five times a day and threatening that someone might set her home on fire.
"He gave me a great emotional distress," Taherkhanchi wrote in her legal complaint. "He wants to put too much pressure on me so I can have a nervous breakdown. ... I'm scared of [sic] my life."
The court found no credible threats of violence, however, and her request for a restraining order was immediately dismissed. Zaffina tells the Weekly he was unaware that she had filed for a restraining order.
Zaffina received some media attention in 1999, when he got into it with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 695, a union for sound technicians. According to Variety, Zaffina, who had been an unsuccessful candidate for the office of business representative of Local 695, alleged that his opponent wrongfully used union money to make and distribute campaign literature.
Two months later, Zaffina sued the local, the winning candidate, and another candidate who ran against him. It became a convoluted web of lawsuits and countersuits, rife with nasty accusations and allegations, stretching across many years. The sound technician union's attorney, Helena Wise — who at one point was sued for defamation by Zaffina — has trouble boiling down the complex case.
"The master complaint got disposed of," she says, "that he would not be able to set forth proper causes of action. And then he filed additional lawsuits, so it's like this never-ending saga."
Wise is reluctant to discuss Zaffina further — for fear of being sued again, except to add, "If you ever failed to include his middle initial [in a mailing], he would return the envelope unopened."
Wise is not the only one hesitant to talk to the Weekly about Zaffina. Several people, including former darts players and an ex-girlfriend, said they were afraid to comment or didn't want to risk the chance of letting Zaffina re-enter their lives — and sue them. Most also warned the Weekly that Zaffina might sue the newspaper for writing about him.
Zaffina, however, disputes the idea that he's a litigious person, pointing to the fact that none of his lawsuits — most of which he eventually won or settled — was ever dismissed as frivolous.
"I go after people under the guidelines of the law because that's the way to do it ... ," Zaffina says. "When I have a legitimate claim against somebody, I go for it because that's the right thing to do and it's my prerogative. I live in a free country that says we have the right to seek redress of our grievances in a court of law, and thank God for that.