Monday, February 14, 2011

RIP Lois Lane

Joanne Siegel died today at the age of 93.  She was married to the late Jerome Siegel, the co-creator of Superman with Joe Shuster.  Joanne was the model for Lois Lane.

I met Joanne at a memorial service for Jerry Siegel in 1996.  Jerry died only a few weeks before my article in the Los Angeles Lawyer magazine about the rights of comic book creators appeared.  I had so wanted to talk to both Jerry and Joe when I wrote the first incarnation of the article while I was a law student and had come to the realization that the two men were fast approaching an opportunity to relitigate their rights to the Superman character.  Unfortunately, that was in 1992 and Joe died about then and I had no convenient way to contact the Siegels.  I was also concerned about the question of rights when the property was co-created and there was no spouse or children to claim the reversion for one of those co-creators (Joe.)

After my article appeared, I heard from Joanne's son-in-law and met him at at Beverly Hills Bar Association lunch one day.  I also got a call from Joe's nephew, but a nephew does not have the same rights that a spouse or a child has under the reversion of rights which can accrue to a copyrighted property created under the Copyright Act of 1909.

I admired Joanne for going forward with action to reclaim her rights to Superman after Jerry died and the reversion period kicked in.  I admire her even more for putting up with more than a decade of litigation which has yet to be resolved.  I am sure her daughter will continue the fight.

Comic book companies cheated young creators like Jerry and Joe (while wiser men with better advisers managed to negotiate better contracts) and continued to lie and cheat creators until the 1980s when they really couldn't get away with it any more.  By then,  people talked to each other and young creators had access to organizations which made them a little more savvy about their rights and business practices.  Paul Levitz at DC made a concerted effort to improve contracts, creators' rights and royalties, and even reached back to improve the participation of creators of older properties.

Nevertheless, there are a few very valuable properties created under the 1909 Act that will be subject to reversions and the Siegel cases combined with Joe Simon's efforts to reclaim Captain America will help those creators--or their widows or children--get a fairer shake for the remainder of the copyright term.  I hope Marvel/Disney is ready for that, because Marvel never made any effort to atone for its greedy ways.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Santa Anita Morning

Today was the presentation of the first Secretariat Vox Populi Award given to Zenyatta's owners.  Not surprisingly, the promise of getting Penny Chenery's autograph beat out spending the morning working at the old house.  I got up and headed over to Santa Anita Racetrack this morning, beating my friends Erin and Kay by more than half an hour, even though I got off the freeway at the wrong exit.  I got there before the gates opened, so I spent the time in line, talking to a nice man who gave me a ticket for free admission to the park.

When the gates finally opened, I headed over to the line for purchasing the poster of Secretariat and Zenyatta.  I was well ahead of where Kay, Erin, and Erin's sister Maureen were able to join it.  We decided that one of them could come and join me without too much trouble, but three would be a problem.  Kay came up to me and I greeted her with "so you found the restroom?"  Nobody made any objections, so I had someone to talk to for the hour we had to wait.

Eventually, Penny Chenery and Team Zenyatta arrived to applause.  The line weaved around the barriers and I was lucky enough to get a few good photographs.  I'm glad I decided to use the SLR rather than the point and shoot.
Zenyatta's owner Jerry Moss, jockey Mike Smith, and trainer John Shirreffs.
 Scretariat's owner, Penny Chenery, with Zenyatta owner Ann Moss.  Note Ann's "Z" pin.
 Jockey Mike Smith signing the lithograph portrait of Zenyatta.
Penny Chenery got out of a golf cart and walked to the signing tent.  Someone said "isn't that great that she's walking." I said "she's 87 or 88, she isn't dead."  When I saw the movie Secretariat, I pointed her out to Len in the Belmont Stakes shot.  I have no idea how I knew what she would look like almost 40 years after I saw her in the winner's circle on TV, but there was no mistaking her.
 Dottie Shirreffs writes the entries for Zenyatta's on-line diary, which I enjoy reading. 
 The very beautiful Ann Moss.
 Jerry Moss.
Kay watches John Shirreffs autograph the poster of Secretariat and Zenyatta.
Kay picks up her posters. We were lucky to be able to buy two each, so Erin and Maureen could have copies. They were in position to be able to buy them, but the autographing would have ended before they got to the tent.

I decided not to stay until the sixth race for the actual ceremony, figuring I'll be able to catch it on line somewhere and have a better view of it that way.  But I had to stop at the gift store before I left--Santa Anita has a great gift shop.
I noticed copies of Secretariat's Meadow and then I realized someone was signing books--Penny Chenery's daughter Kate.  I was suddenly very happy that I hadn't ordered the book from Amazon.
Kate Chenery Tweedy signed my copy of Secretariat's Meadow.  She described herself to another customer as "I'm Penny's rebellious hippie daughter Kate."  It must be funny to think of yourself as immortalized that way on film, but she definitely had a sense of humor about it.  Another customer pulled out a photograph of his horse--a descendant of Big Red.  Kate said they're encouraging people to send photographs of Secretariat's progeny for a website.  That will be worth checking out.

I also picked up a tee-shirt like the ones that the gift store staff were wearing:
I like the reverse as well:

Secretariat and Zenyatta are definitely racing royalty.  Watching them run is something I will never forget.  My poster is now ready for hanging.

Friday, February 4, 2011


All over the country, people are planning what to eat on Sunday afternoon while the Superbowl is on.  I've given some thought to it, and will expound on Into the Kitchen, but I'm more concerned about what to do tomorrow.

Equine Affaire is this weekend at the Los Angeles County Fairplex.  It started yesterday and runs until Sunday. I haven't missed it in years. It's a great place to go shopping, and if I time it right, I can also hit the enormous Broken Horn Saddlery on my way out there. 


Penny Chenery will be at Santa Anita Racetrack tomorrow to present Jerry and Ann Moss with the Inaugural Secretariat Vox Populi Award for Zenyatta's amazing effect on the popularity of horse racing during the past year. Zenyatta's already in Kentucky awaiting her first breeding to Bernardini, so I've read she'll be there on camera.  There's a gorgeous poster of portraits of Big Red and Zenyatta that will be sold, and Ms. Chenery and the Mosses will be signing prior to the ceremony. I am so tempted to go, even though I hate crowds. Besides, Santa Anita has a great gift shop where I've purchased some fun jewelry in the past.


What I really need to do is go back and finish the last load of boxes to empty the old house, so that will no longer be hanging around my neck like a millstone.  I want to be finished with that annoyance, so I can enjoy the new house.

Decisions, decisions.