Earlier this year, an artist by the name of Lesley Johnson was hired by the unstoppable Major Food Group to create some artwork for the forthcoming Williamsburg location of Parm. Her plans included a few characters, with names like Sammy the Shrimp, Tomatina, and Caesar the Singer. According to the Post, co-owner Jeff Zalaznick loved her work and claimed that the group had "big plans" for these creatures. Major Food CFO Seth Gittlitz allegedly offered her $10 for the copyright, plus an elevating agreement that might eventually be worth $40,000.
But Johnson says that when she requested some time to think about the deal, the Major Food honchos threatened to replace her with someone else who could recreate these "Parm Party" critters. The artist also alleges that they never paid her the $4,579 she was owed for the work in the first place. Johnson tells the Post: "They were very late in sending out the check and not telling me why....Then they stopped payment on the check when I told them I wouldn’t discuss copyright or usage issues until my invoice was paid in full." Johnson now wants to retain the copyright. She notes: "These characters are like a piece of me, and the fact that I have no idea what their future holds or that I have a say in it is heartbreaking."
Apparently, Johnson created 10 characters for the new location of Parm, which is almost ready to open its doors. Clearly, there is unlimited potential for Sammy the Shrimp and Tomatina — T-shirts, dolls, koozies, maybe even a Saturday morning cartoon produced by Vito Schnabel. Stay tuned for more details on the Parm lawsuit — and the identities of those other characters — as they become available.