Chubby Checker Sues Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom Over Kids' Clothing Line

Chubby Checker with Eden Riegel in 2010 at the Emmys.
Chubby Checker with Eden Riegel in 2010 at the Emmys.
Photo by Greg Hernandez via Flickr Creative Commons

A Pennsylvanian man named Ernest Evans, better known by his stage name, Chubby Checker,  is suing a New York clothing company called Andy & Evan Industries for selling children's clothing — some pieces of which, like "shirtzies," are branded as "Chubby Checker" —without the singer's knowledge or consent, or compensation. Also named as defendants in the federal civil suit are Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, for carrying and marketing the clothes.

The complaint, which was filed May 14 in the Southern District of Florida by Fort Lauderdale attorney Michael Santucci and Stuart attorney Wille E. Gary, alleges unauthorized use of name, violation of right of publicity, unfair competition,  false endorsement  and false designation of origin, as well as trademark infringement and dilution. 

Checker had the #1 hit in America in 1960 with "The Twist."  The iconic song remained at the top of the charts for 18 straight weeks, and came back on the charts in 1961. Checker also won the first ever Grammy Award for "Best Rock Performance" due to his performance on "Dick Clark's American Bandstand" of "Let's Twist Again.”  

The complaint explains that he has two companies that are authorized to commercially exploit his name and likeness — The Last Twist and The Ernest Evans Corporation — and that he has trademarked the name Chubby Checker for entertainment purposes, and for selling hot dogs, chicken, jerky, pork chops, veal chops, hamburgers, popcorn, chocolate, and spring water. Clothing has been sold in relation to these businesses, the complaint claims. 

The suit says Evans, who is now 73, has experienced “great and irreparable harm, including economic damage, lost profits, dilution, tarnishment, disparagement, devaluation, emotional distress and harm including, without limitation, embarrassment, shame, depression, anxiety, anger, stress, worry and disappointment.”

Santucci said that Checker still tours nationwide "on an aggressive schedule.  This is partly because of love for his craft and a genuine love he has for meeting new people.  However, his aggressive schedule, at his age, is unfortunately also the result of exploitation that so many musicians from his generation faced early in their careers.  It is a common theme in the history of American music that the grandfathers and grandmothers of blues, pop, jazz and rock did not get their fair shake.”

Santucci continued, “I think that it is incomprehensible that successful manufacturers and retailers can sincerely believe they can use the stage name and trademark of a pop icon, without permission, without warning and without compensation.  I think that a fair recovery in this case is one that holds these defendants accountable, deters future abuses, and one that sends a message to the business community that Chubby Checker, and other pioneers like him will not sit back and watch others profit from their decades of hard work and success.  Only 8 and 9-figure jury verdicts send that kind of message to enormous companies like these defendants.”

Hopefully, the parties can work something out. These tiny little clothes look super cute!  

A quick perusal of Andy & Evan's website shows nothing for sale under the "Chubby Checker" name now. Some plaid shirts are desc ribed as "checkmate" or "check marks the spot."  

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