The Misfits' unnecessarily plentiful merchandise could be taken as the ultimate symbol of capitalism's shameless commodification of punk rock, but it's also worth a lot of money -- money founding singer Glenn Danzig is suing former bassist Gerald Caiafa, a.k.a. Jerry Only, for taking.
Re-Tox broke the news that Danzig (real name Danzig Anzalone) filed a lawsuit against Caiafa to a California district court a little over a month ago, on April 3. He claims that since 2000, when the Misfits broke up for good after singer Michael Graves and drummer Dr. Chud walked offstage during a performance at Chicago's House of Blues, Only has been violating the band's 1994 merchandising contract by telling retailers he was the sole owner of the band's trademark logo.
"Caiafa has prevented and continues to prevent other retailers, including Hot Topic, which is the largest retailer of the Misfits products, from entering into licenses with Danzig and/or his designee to merchandise products bearing the Fiend Skull and other Marks by falsely instructing the merchandisers that he is the exclusive owner of the Marks," the claim reads. Furthermore, Danzig accuses Caiafa of demanding that these stores pay him monetary penalties, including licensing fees, if they enter into any sort of agreement with the former.
The claim gets personal. "The vast majority of the Misfits fans associate the marks with the 1977-1983 classic Misfits era when Danzig was the creative heart of the Misfits, and not with Caiafa's imitation Misfits." Aside from the fact that legally, Caiafa and his brother Paul, a.k.a. Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, retained the rights to record and perform as the Misfits after the band broke up in 1983, some might argue that these days Danzig is more associated with "Mother", his onstage meltdown, or buying Kitty Litter.
One might also think someone so committed to the purity of the Misfits might have qualms about the use of such an iconic logo for things like this, but no: Danzig wants what he thinks is rightfully his, no matter how tacky, which he claims amounts to $75,000 plus legal interest rates -- until Caiafa hires an accountant, as per the suit's stipulations, to figure out how much he really owes him. So far, Caiafa has not responded one way or another.
New Wave pioneers Devo found themselves in a similar trademark violation situation a few months ago when they filed a lawsuit that T.V. Store Online, which they claimed was selling their infamous "Energy Dome" hats without giving them due credit, was infringing trade dress and common law trademarks.
UPDATE: Caiafa has released a statement regarding Danzig's claims, Alternative Press reports. "Danzig’s lawsuit can only be described as a sour grapes tantrum based on outrageous allegations, the majority of which are completely false, while others are ill conceived and grossly misguided -- and will be proven false in court," it reads in part. As mentioned previously, Caiafa says that in 1995 he secured exclusive rights to tour and record as the Misfits and launched his own licensing program, Cyclopean Music, while Danzig "made it clear" he did not want anything to do with the Misfits. Danzig, Caiafa continues, is just bitter about how poorly his own merchandise line has sold.
"Apparently Danzig’s own product line doesn’t sell as well as he might like," he adds, "but the fact of the matter remains that Jerry Only and Cyclopian Music’s Misfits licenses, business activity and merchandising endeavors are 100% lawful and consistent with their legal rights . . . Danzig’s lawsuit is nothing more than a calculated attempt to unfairly and improperly enrich himself from revenue streams to which he is not entitled."