Crazy Court Cases: Will Archie Comics and Goodnight Moon Have Happy Endings?
Legal disputes and crazy copyright cases — involving Archie Comics and Goodnight Moon — wrack Westchester
By Marisa LaScala
Illustration by Mark Matcho
While courtroom dramas can be a snooze, once in a blue moon, they’re much juicier (or, at least, stranger). Two such local cases come to mind: one at Archie Comics, and the second with beloved children's book Goodnight Moon.
Right now, there’s a huge dispute for control of Archie Comics in Mamaroneck. After the deaths of lifelong pals — and sons of the original founders — Richard Goldwater and Michael Silberkleit, ownership of the company had been shared by Jonathan Goldwater (Richard's half-brother) and Nancy Silberkleit (Michael's widow).
Well, apparently there’s some bad blood between the two. The New York Times has the full story, but here’s a preview of some of the claims against each other:
“He punctured her car tires, destroyed her Web site and claimed that she sexually harassed employees. She ordered him to fire several longtime employees because they were too old, too fat or too buxom, and let her dog, Willow, roam the offices and defecate in the art department.”
Yikes — Jughead and the gang would never approve!
As it stands, Silberkleit is under court order to stay away from the company while they go into mediation. It's a shame, because Archie is such a unique company; its Westchester location helps it remain independent from the mega-publishing franchises. There's something quaint about the fact that it's run by a family and still can trace a direct connection to the comic's founders (though tire-slashing ain't so quaint). Plus, it hasn't been gobbled up by Paramount or Fox… yet.
The second bizzaro drama comes via this Wall Street Journal article from 2000 about the rights to Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon. The beneficiary of the title’s royalties, Albert Edward Clarke III, grew up in Yorktown and lives in South Salem. (He’s the son of Brown’s neighbor, who was a close friend to the author.) Sadly, he’s not anything like his benefactor’s serene storybook character. (According to the article, Clarke hasn’t kept a steady job or home; has blown most of his $5 million in earnings on material goods such as alligator shoes; and has be arrested for grand larceny, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal trespassing, and assault, to name a few.)
Even weirder, Clarke claims he overheard his mom saying that Brown was his biological mother. (That might explain why the author willed her inheritance to him, though nearly everyone — including Brown's biographer — is skeptical.)
Sometimes, the real-life goings-on behind these crazy stories seem like more unbelievable fiction…
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