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Of Matzoh Balls, Lawyers and Fringe Theatre Artists

February 27, 2009

I'm often amazed at the stealthiness and cutthroat efficiency of dead artists' estates. Even the most little-known entertainers seem to have incredibly efficient spy networks working for them beyond the grave and even elementary schools and fringe theatres aren't safe from the eagle eyes of lawyers.

In the latest news from the world of cease and desist orders, Matzoball Entertainment LLC of West Hollywood, California, has sent San Francisco's fringey Exit Theatre a letter banning local playwright-performer Sean Owens (pictured in drag, left) from performing a staged reading of his new solo show about the late comedian Paul Lynde. Lynde, (pictured above, right) an American character actor who died in the early 1980s, was best known for his roles and appearances in such television shows as Bewitched, Bye Bye Birdie and Hollywood Squares.

Matzoball, the current licensee of The Estate of Paul Lynde, controls and owns the rights, image and likeness of the late actor. The estate, the letter states, does not give permission of the trademarked and copyrighted name Paul Lynde to anyone other than Matzoball Entertainment. "The family is adamant about the portrayal of Mr. Lynde and asks that you cease and desist from performing any and all performances and using the name Paul Lynde in any and all Advertising immediately," the letter concludes.

Owens' now-verboten play Stealth Diva was to have received a staged reading on April 11 and 25 at the Exit Theatre as part of the company's annual DIVAfest festival of plays by women dramatists, performers and directors. (Owens, though male, is a flamboyant staple of the festival each year.)

The Exit's artistic director Christina Augello says the EXIT has not yet picked a replacement for the Owens show.


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