Remember the naked baby image on Nirvana's iconic Nevermind album cover? Well, that baby grew up into a guy who feels he was exploited in the image and that the band owes him big bucks.
But a California judge doesn't agree and has dismissed the lawsuit brought forward by Spencer Elden, who was pictured as a baby on the cover, after he argued that the grunge rock group had engaged in “child pornography.”
Spencer claimed he was a victim of "commercial sexual exploitation" but US District Judge Fernando Olguin decided to dismiss the case because Elden had waited too long to file it.
Bert H. Deixler, a lawyer for the defendants, told the New York Times that his clients were "pleased this meritless case has been brought to a swift conclusion."
There was a time he raved about being part of history. In fact, Spencer Elden loved being on the 1991 Nirvana album cover so much he recreated it for the album’s 10th, 20th and 25th anniversaries. But a year ago, he started singing a different tune and decided to sue the band for sexual exploitation.
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It all started when Spencer, who appeared as a naked baby on the Nevermind album cover, invited Nirvana’s surviving members, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, to be part of his art show in 2016, but was repeatedly referred to their managers and lawyers.
“Why am I still on their cover if I’m not that big of a deal?” he said at the time. Fed up with being snubbed, he decided to take them to court.
The 31-year-old filed a lawsuit in a California district court in August last year, alleging the nude image constitutes child pornography as it exposed his intimate body part and “lasciviously displayed his genitals from the time he was an infant to the present day”.
The cover depicts Spencer as a four-month-old in a swimming pool, grasping for a dollar bill that's being dangled in front of him on a fishing line.
His lawyer, Robert Y Lewis, argues the dollar bill, which was photoshopped into the picture, makes Spencer seem “like a sex worker”.
Nirvana also reportedly promised to cover Spencer’s genitals with a sticker but never upheld the agreement.
To make matters worse, Spencer claims his parents never signed a release authorising the use of the image and were paid just $200 (R2 984) for the photoshoot.
He’s now demanding the surviving members of the band, Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, and the record labels that released or distributed the album in the last three decades cough up for the “lifelong damages” he has suffered.
None of the 15 defendants have responded to the lawsuit or commented on it publicly but Spencer sought damages of at least $150 000 (about R2,2 million) from each of the defendants.
Though he has in the past admitted “being the Nirvana baby opened doors” for him, Spencer has always been ambivalent about the use of the picture.
“When I go to a baseball game and think about it, ‘Man, everybody at this baseball game has probably seen my little baby penis’,” he says. “I feel like I got part of my human rights revoked.”
He also feels everyone made money off it except him.
The cover was the brainchild of Nirvana frontman Kurt. The rocker was inspired by a documentary about babies being born underwater, says Robert Fisher, who designed the cover.
“He thought the image would make a cool cover,” Robert says. “That vision was a bit too graphic, so we went with the swimming baby instead.”
The album went on to sell 30 million copies and delivered hits like Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come as You Are and Lithium.
Spencer says the album’s worldwide success only adds to his humiliation. “It’d be nice to have a quarter for every person that has seen my baby penis.”
Sources: BBC.COM, THEGUARDIAN.COM, NYTIMES.COM