September 13, 2009
Old Man Trouble can’t stay away from Kurt Cobain’s door. The huzzerai over the plaque honoring him in his hometown in Washington seems to have died down, but now there is a problem with how his image is used in the video game Guitar Hero 5.
Courtney Love, who was married to Cobain at the time of his death in 1994, gave Activision, the publisher of the game, permission to use Cobain’s image, but she says she did not know or agree that the avatar could be activated so as to sing other writers’ songs. Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, Cobain’s Nirvana-mates, are also annoyed. Love says there will be legal action against Activision if the game isn’t altered so as to restrict the use of Cobain’s image to songs associated with him.
There have been similar blowups in the past, including one involving the great stage and screen actress Shirley Booth, who played the housemaid Hazel from 1961 to 1966 in a TV series based on Ted Key’s cartoon character by the same name. After the show left the air, in 1971, Key gave Colgate-Palmolive permission to use the Hazel image in a commercial for a detergent called Burst.
The sponsor or its ad agency hired an actress named Ruth Holden to provide the voice in the commercial, but the voice sounded exactly like Shirley Booth’s voice, as I recall myself. Anyone who was familiar with Booth and saw that commercial would have assumed the voice was hers.
Shirley Booth thought so, too. She sued the sponsor and its ad agency in federal court, but the court didn’t agree with her complaint.
For now, you can see the Kurt Cobain avatar and read a Christian Science Monitor blog about Courtney Love’s objections, both at this link: