When Good Neighbors Go Bad

Sometimes the key to a happy home is who is living next door.

ByABC News
May 5, 2006, 4:32 PM

June 22, 2006 — -- This story originally aired on May 5, 2006.

We all seem to have had a neighbor or two who's driven us crazy, whether they've got a barking dog, throw boisterous parties or have trees growing into our yard. Sometimes the tiniest infractions make us want to throw the book at them.

He can joke about it now, but for years Jim Belushi was involved in a real-life neighbor feud, and it was no laughing matter.

"Feuds are very serious," Belushi told "20/20." "Neighbors especially, I mean, it's tough because, you know, it's your land! But I mean, think about it, all over the world, they're all fighting over what? Land, you know."

Belushi's next-door nemesis was Julie Newmar, best known for her role as Catwoman in the "Batman" series. Belushi and Newmar have been next-door neighbors in Brentwood, Calif., for 20 years, and there is only about 10 feet between their houses.

In their case, good fences have not made good neighbors. In fact, the fence is one of their biggest problems. Belushi wanted it higher for more privacy. Newmar wanted it lower. Having spent decades tending her prized gardens, she said the fence robbed her plants of sunlight. "20/20" asked her how Belushi's fence affected her garden. She said that once she had "huge roses, beautiful roses," but they are now "kind of wimpy."

Years and years of griping ensued. He accused her of tearing down his fence. She complained that his noisiness forced her to buy air traffic controllers' earmuffs. It got so bad that Belushi sued Newmar for $4 million -- accusing her of harassment, defamation and vandalism.

Belushi accused the still glamorous 74-year-old of egging his house. Newmar cringed when "20/20" asked her about it. "Oh!" she grimaced. "Well, it, it left my hand, unfortunately."

She attributed the slip to frustration and "just not communicating well enough."

Belushi's written a new book called "Real Men Don't Apologize," and he stuck fiercely to that motto in his feud with Newmar. He does an impression of himself in a booming voice when "20/20" asked him if he ever considered apologizing, or simply moving.