Friday, June 21, 2024

Stop It: Frank Zappa’s Sons Are Still Fighting in Public Over Use of the Family Name, Etc


Every family has its differences, but this is getting ridiculous. Frank Zappa’s sons are still fighting in public over use of the family name, etc. Frank is dead, and so is their mother, Gail. This doesn’t seem like a great way to honor them. I guess if you want you can read posting from Dweezil Zappa here. Now Ahmet has responded here. (I’m assuming Ahmet was named for Ahmet Ertegun. I don’t know what Dweezil was named for.) Look, enough is enough. Hiring publicists to send this stuff out is embarrassing. Get a therapist. Life is too short for this crap. And boys, the only people benefiting from this stupidity are the lawyers. They are laughing behind your backs. At a fancy restaurant.
Hey Dweezil and everyone else reading this, I’ve been pretty quiet since you began this negative narrative about me and our family business, but when I heard that you once again went back to our father’s fans for more money or “200%,” I felt the need to speak up.
Let me start by saying, I would rather be sitting face to face with Dweezil and figuring things out privately and respectfully–like I think families should do. Frank would have wanted that. That fact has never changed on my end.  I have repeatedly said my door is open. The truth is, before Dweezil ever decided to take our UNFINISHED family business public, I asked for a family meeting in February 2016 with our estate attorneys to discuss everything and Dweezil wanted his outside lawyer in attendance. We were fine with that, even though we were confused as to why he felt it necessary to bring an outside attorney. What was important to me was sitting down with my siblings, finding clarity, resolving outstanding issues and having a mutual understanding of our new roles since our mother passed. We went back and forth trying to schedule the meeting between the four siblings and before the meeting was set, Dweezil went to the New York Times with a skewed version of our family business and started this distorted campaign against the ZFT (which is bizarre, since he is one of the four beneficiaries of the ZFT and had no problem recently cashing a check from the trust). 
For those searching for some better understanding, when Gail passed away, each of us received a significant, identical amount of money, in the millions of dollars.  At the same time, the ZFT’s terms (created by Frank and Gail) gave to Dweezil, along with my sisters and myself, money from the ZFT on any Frank Zappa related project. I repeat…ANY FRANK ZAPPA PROJECT. And the percentages were not decided by me, but are legally set forth in the trust.  This means that I can’t give money to whomever I choose, but that Diva and I, as co-trustees of the ZFT, MUST follow the rules set forth in the document or we can be held accountable.
While I do not want to argue with Dweezil, I am compelled to let you all know again and again that the ZFT has no issue with Dweezil performing under his full name DWEEZIL ZAPPA.  The ZFT has never had an issue with it. The ZFT and its lawyers have repeated this to Dweezil and his different lawyers multiple times. For him to say that we have tried to stop him from using Dweezil Zappa is untrue and misleading. Additionally, Dweezil is representing that the ZFT owns rights in the DWEEZIL mark but this is absolutely false.  Dweezil owns four U.S. registration marks for DWEEZIL.  The first since 1998, originally filed in 1995.  You can look up the registrations (2214878, 2214879, 2272497, 2270908).  The ZFT owns no DWEEZIL marks and doesn’t want to own any of them.  Our family business is about Frank Zappa.  Beyond that, this gets into the minutiae of Frank’s trademarks since the 1970s.  For me on a personal level, I think it’s disgraceful that Dweezil, a guy who has received millions of dollars, would mislead and manipulate Zappa fans into thinking he cannot afford to handle his own, again in my opinion, completely absurd lawsuit against the ZFT (of which he is a beneficiary), collecting money from many people who may have far less than he does…to fight a battle that if he TRULY wanted to resolve, he could have tried communicating directly with his little brother. 
Regarding his latest posts about the ZFT lawyers not responding…Dweezil is correct, because I reached out personally instead.  What is even more confusing is that Dweezil should be aware that we have a mutually confirmed mediation date to try and settle all of this in early November (a date he chose and which we accommodated, due to Dweezil’s schedule).  We wanted to have the mediation in October. So again, I don’t understand all of this drama.
To explain further, before his September 29 post, I sent Dweezil an email asking to sit down, walk through everything together and figure it all out one-on-one rather than waiting for the mediation in November. He has still not responded to that note. Through our back and forth (via one of Dweezil’s representatives), whom I also reached out to, I was optimistic that we were making good progress (which I am grateful for).  His rep suggested I reach out to Dweezil personally and I did.  When I spoke to this same rep the next day, he informed me then that Dweezil would not speak directly to me. So his post from September 29 is once again completely misleading and untrue.  On Tuesday, in a new statement on his website, Dweezil asks, “Why haven’t you even replied to the offer?”  My question to him, why hasn’t he responded to my personal outreaches so we could talk about the offer? Why won’t he sit down with me instead of continuing the narrative that I am wasting money on lawyers? This is crazy. Dweezil–I have been speaking to your representative and we have been making progress. I have reached out to you directly to sit down with me and discuss not only family business, but whatever is underneath all of this for you AND we have scheduled a mediation hopefully to settle all of this in November. So the need to incite the fans and create this public outrage makes no sense to me since I believe the comments are untrue and consistently misleading, but as the co-trustee and fiduciary my lawyers have advised me I cannot speak to this in depth publically. Let me assure you, it has been beyond frustrating.
What everyone needs to understand is that this is not a black and white situation. But it is certainly solvable. I have an emotional responsibility because he is my brother and I care about him–despite what he continues to say publicly about me. But I also have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to do the right thing as a co-trustee of the Zappa Family Trust (along with our sister Diva), a position we never asked for but were given by our mother.  And to set the record straight once and for all about Dweezil’s narrative of me or Diva making money, while stopping him from making his–I have not taken one dime for my day to day work as the co-trustee.  Neither has Diva. I have the difficult role of honoring what is legally spelled out in the trust, as well as trying to make everyone in our family happy which is really…really hard…apparently.
I ask anyone reading this that enjoys speaking up on this family situation to encourage Dweezil to sit down with me once and for all…and by all means wish us well as we navigate and protect the legacy of FZ. Because what I think is obvious common ground is that we both have a passion and love of our father. What I think should be happening is Dweezil should be out kicking ass playing Frank’s music on the road, while we are kicking ass here creating different outlets of our father’s work, both new and unseen for generations current and those to come. Dweezil, this is all a sad waste of time and money…if you really wanted to resolve everything and be part of this family, you’d sit down with me like I have asked.  I don’t want to keep doing this in public. Let’s get back to having respect for our family, our father’s legacy and what we have been given…you were raised better than this. And we have a lot of amazing things ahead of us. There are so many things we could be doing together as a family as, I think, our parents would have wanted. We were raised in an epic way and truly wanted for nothing.  Considering everything going on in the world today, I feel shame that we are discussing this publically.  Again, with communication, these are super easy problems to solve. Your call bro. I am here. You want to resolve everything sooner, I am here. Or you can keep writing blog posts, wasting time and money on lawyers. And then I’ll see you in November.  
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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