The other Jersey boys: Glenn & Jerry, 1978. Photo by Ken Caiafa.
If you think the legal skull-banging between Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only ended in August of 2014 when Judge Gary Klausner threw out Danzig’s lawsuit against Only for breach of contract, think again. Danzig amended his complaint and the case over who owns the logos and trademarks pertaining to the Misfits drags on; opening briefs related to Danzig’s most recent appeal of a summary judgment Only won in April 2015 are being filed this month.
And yet, in an incredible shock, this entire affair was nearly settled over the winter holiday of 2014 by having Danzig rejoin the Misfits. That December, Danzig’s attorney suggested his client (who dissolved the group in 1983 after a six year run) and the defendant (who reformed the Misfits without Danzig in 1995) agree to a certain amount of reunion concerts, split the profits, split all future revenue from the disputed trademarks, and consider entering a new licensing agreement together with a major merchandiser. Only was receptive, so negotiations began for the first Misfits shows with Danzig in thirty years.
A proposed 60/40 reunion profit split in Danzig’s favor was leveled to 50/50. A ten date concert tour shrank down to six—but “at least one” reunion album was added. All other participating Misfits, no matter what their stature, were to be treated as “paid employees.” In response to Only’s demand for built-in protections to ensure Danzig would actually follow through with these gigs, Danzig’s attorney wrote, “I really don’t think this will be an issue as Danzig wants to do the reunion shows” (a $250k penalty was put in place should either party fail to complete the reunion obligations).
Initially Danzig envisioned the reunion happening in 2017 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Misfits. Only wanted it “as soon as practicable.” Only also wasn’t fond of billing these performances as “the Original Misfits” (though no alternate name was suggested). The real breakdown, however, was over the same trademark issues that instigated Danzig’s lawsuit in the first place. Confusion as well as contention remained over who owned what and who was entitled to how much of any given piece of Misfits imagery. Specifics failed to be clarified, certain copyrights could not be identified, documents proving anything conclusively could not be produced.
The two sides went back and forth until February 10, 2015, when Danzig’s attorney ended an e-mail by saying, “it appears we are going to try this case.”
Dovetailing with that was some rigamarole over depositions each party was to give that month. Danzig felt he wasn’t given enough time to prepare for his scheduled deposition so he bailed at the last minute; meanwhile, Only and his co-defendant, Misfits manager John Cafiero, refused to commit to any deposition date or agreement. On April 15, the defendants were awarded their summary judgment because Danzig had provided no evidence of the pre-existing business relations that Only is alleged to have sabotaged with his fraudulent ownership and representation of Misfits trademarks. Danzig also could not prove “lost economic advantage” from Only’s activities, nor could he outline “triable facts” concerning Only misrepresenting the famed Misfits skull logo (a.k.a. the Fiend Skull, a.k.a. the Crimson Ghost).
The information above is sourced from a forest of court documents that are available to anyone via Pacer.gov and probably a few other less bullshitty legal repositories (Bortz Law first posted excerpts from said documents on their blog in October 2015; for whatever reason, Bortz’s post didn’t reach fiends until very recently). The case is Glenn Danzig v. Gerald Caiafa et al in the California Central District and at this point it could be a book unto itself. There’s a great subplot that debates whether or not Danzig performing a Misfits song in any context constitutes a performance by the Misfits.
If I hadn’t seen it all in PDF form myself I wouldn’t believe it. The American judicial system almost returned to us the Original Recipe Misfits. Concerts are one thing, but I can’t stop thinking about the reunion album. What in the hell would that be like? What could they call it? Settlement A.D.?
Parties Agree Not To Disparage Each Other Publicly, that would be a good title. It’s my favorite of all the terms they reached for this proposed reunion.
[Flag, the more name-heavy of the Black Flag reunions, treating Moose Lodge 1873 in Redondo Beach, CA to a secret show, 4/19/13]
– thank you, Chuck Dukowski, for bringing a splash of color to this shindig
– I’m surprised the band didn’t institute a “no cell phone” rule to prevent the tangled mess of arms rising up from the crowd; on the other hand, when’s the next time most of Black Flag’s gonna be at your local moose lodge?
– feel like maybe they hung those antlers up for effect
– in a surprise to no one, this reunion performs with a degree of excellence, probably because no robots in sombreros are involved
– the person recording this made some weird cuts, such as editing down the tension-fraught bass / drum opening of “No More” (WHICH IS KIND OF THE WHOLE POINT OF THAT SONG BUT W/E)
– Egerton nails Greg Ginn’s guitar tone; again, not a surprise as he seems like something of a Ginn disciple, but still, I didn’t assume he’d be this on target
– this has no relevance to anything but I met Egerton after an ALL show in 1997 and he was really nice
– Flag hits it out of the park on “My War”
– am I on drugs or does the band look “professionally lit?”
– “My kids are out there!” Chuck says at one point in reference to the crowd, seemingly amused that his children even exist
– I think “White Minority” has always kinda spoken for itself and doesn’t necessarily need further defense, yet Keith offers one any way (something about his grandma sexing Native Americans)
– when Dez Cadena takes over on vox for a few songs his stage patter makes him seem like a “down to Earth bro” I’d “like to have a beer with” (I’m actually being sincere)
– Dez gets a little Vegasy in “Thirsty & Miserable” and I ain’t mad at that!
– closing with “Louie Louie” hit this brother hard in the heart for some reason, maybe because that seems like a true Black Flag move, in the true spirit of the orig band
– DUDE NO “TV PARTY” WHAT THE FUCK THAT’S A “FALSE FLAG” IF I EVER HEARD IT LOL LOL LOL
The following quotes are taken from recent Punknews.org interviews with singer Jello Biafra (second from right) and bassist Klaus Flouride (far left) concerning the band they used to share and are presented “oral history” style, because additional commentary is sort of unnecessary (or maybe because I just can’t bring myself to dwell on this acrimony anymore).
KLAUS: We’d recently been invited by a premiere festival that has in past years reunited bands ranging from Sex Pistols to Portishead to perform with the original [Dead Kennedys] line-up. We put forth the offer (through our manager to Jello’s lawyer—the only route), the proposition to which we were flatly refused…we have to think, he plays Dead Kennedys songs, we play Dead Kennedys songs as we both have the right and desire to, so why the hell can’t we figure out how to let our agendas go and perhaps play them together again?
JELLO: I’m still as proud as I’ve ever been of Dead Kennedys’ music and our legacy and all the cool shit we did together but I’m just embarrassed to know those guys now.
KLAUS: The reason Biafra will only talk to us through lawyers could be that he’s too embarrassed to admit he skimmed $76,000 from his fellow band mates and then lied to us about it. That’s what he did to [guitarist East Bay] Ray, [drummer] D.H. [Peligro], and myself, and that’s what he was found guilty of in the trial.
JELLO: They sued the shit out of me to walk away with everything and abuse it anyway they want. Sure, there was an accounting error on [our record label] Alternative Tentacles’ part, for which I am very sorry and for which we paid them in full dating back to something like 15 years before they sued.
KLAUS: In the early days after the trial, when we found ourselves offered tours and dates to play, I personally contacted Jello and invited him to put the past in the past and to come along with us to which he flatly refused in the form of a fax letter. Since then we’ve again offered an olive branch and invited him to sing on subsequent tours only to be told by his lawyers to not contact him directly, but to make all communications through his lawyer.
JELLO: I’m not a big fan of reunion[s] but when I saw the Stooges it was not lost on me how much it would mean to people to see the real Dead Kennedys line-up back together…but for that everybody has to be willing to get along and treat the other people with respect and they have no intention of doing that…in their hearts [the other Dead Kennedys have] become Republicans and I just wouldn’t do something like that unless we can bring back the real thing.
KLAUS: That’s kinda a crazy inflammatory comment and he knows it. What do you think? And so you can’t claim that as a non-answer answer I’ll be serious for you and state flatly, no we aren’t [Republicans], and it is sort of sad that one would even ask that question in response to yet another flagrant “Big Lie” kind of statement.
JELLO: In a way getting me back into the band would be their worst nightmare, [because I’d] make them rehearse.