David D’Amato, the subject of the controversial documentary Tickled, has suddenly died at the age of 55. Directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve, Tickled is a 2016 documentary about “competitive endurance tickling” and videos featuring it, and the practices of those producing the videos. It was one of John Waters’ favorite films of 2016.
The film uncovers the practices by a company called Jane O’Brien Media. Former participants in some of the company’s videos describe coercive and manipulative treatment by the producers. This includes defamation campaigns against them, exposing their personal information and contacting professional associates to discredit them as gay or as sexual deviants. This would be done in retaliation for challenging or speaking out against the company.
The filmmakers allege that David D’Amato ran and funded the Jane O’Brien Media. The former assistant principal at West Hempstead High School, D’Amato was found guilty in 2001 of e-mail bombings under the name “Terri Tickle” which caused service outages at a number of colleges and universities. He spent six months in federal prison after being convicted — but never stopped commissioning tickling films and harassing the participants.
D’Amato denied that he was affiliated with Jane O’Brien Media, but documents revealed during the investigations appear to tie him directly to the business. It is believed his funding came from being the heir to the D’Amato fortune — his father founded the highly successful New York City law firm D’Amato & Lynch.
Tickled made its cable debut on HBO on February 27, 2017 with the world premiere of a documentary short titled The Tickle King that showed everything else that happened since the first doc came out.
D’Amato’s obituary reads that he died suddenly on March 13.
The filmmakers David Farrier and Dylan Reeve put out the following statement regarding his death:
We are incredibly sad to learn that David P D’Amato, the subject of Tickled, has passed away.
We don’t know any specific details about his death at this time.
David D’Amato has been a part of our lives for around three years now – a very unusual three years – and despite the various lawsuits he brought against us, this news is something that brings us no joy, and has hit us pretty hard.
We mostly knew David through talking to those he had interacted with online over the last 20 years, and people that he had been close to.
We only met him twice; Once in Garden City, and another time when he turned up to a screening of the documentary in Los Angeles. We met a man who came out swinging, so to speak – threatening more lawsuits, while at the same time commenting that he enjoyed certain elements of the film. It seems to us that underneath it all, he did have a certain sense of humor.
It is also clear that he had certain troubles, and those are troubles that we hoped he would come to terms with at some point.
While making Tickled we always thought it was important to portray David D’Amato not just as an online bully, but as a person. That is why the closing minutes of Tickled are so important to us – an insight into D’Amato, the person. Ultimately we’ll never know all the things that made David the man he was. Like all of us, he was complex and complicated.
So we ask you to keep in mind that while David appears to have lived a fairly solitary life, he did have friends and family members. We ask that in comments online, and out there in the real world, you treat this information, and this man’s passing, with respect.
We will keep you updated if a cause of death is released.