The International Writers Magazine:Lifestyles and Living in
Encounter with Martha
This is a tiny tidbit about Martha Stewart, or perhaps its
about Karma, or some more Greek way of seeing the way the balances
come into line, or perhaps its a story of naiveté,
perhaps my own. It begins sort of awhile before Martha took her
big fall, so bear with me a moment.
the chef and owner of a restaurant in Tribeca, a neighborhood downtown
in New York City that most have heard of by now. When Bubbys opened
in 1990 Tribeca was a real estate term for an isolated neighborhood
with no name; maybe it was called "the cheese and egg" district,
or something. There were guys standing around fires burning from fifty-five
gallon drums drinking cheap liquor in the middle of the street in "Tribeca"
back then, before the big stars came and turned all those lofty cavernous
warehouse apartments into multi-million dollar loft apartments. Tribeca
was so underdeveloped (there were no traffic lights) I was able to open
Bubbys for $10,000. If it were not for the fact that one could
open a restaurant for $10,000 I would not have a restaurant today. Actually,
I recently opened a second restaurant, in Brooklyn, and for a comparably
ridiculous small sum of money, in a neighborhood called Dumbo (down
under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.) Dumbo is also fairly under-developed,
with a similar dearth of traffic lights. I never have made it rich.
I probably never will. But running your own joint beats the hell out
of catering parties for other companies, or working as someone elses
chef. I used to work for lots of little companies freelancing here and
In the freelance catering world there is a circuit of people, and one
gets to know lots of people on the circuit. One night I was driving
a vanload of food along 23rd Street, shooting the breeze with one of
the young ladies I had worked with a lot. As we passed in front of the
Chelsea Hotel, I shared a fact with her I had recently learned, "Thats
the hotel where Sid Vicious killed that prostitute."
The young woman, Susan, got upset. "She wasnt a prostitute,
she was my sister," she said.
We were both embarrassed and drove back to the kitchen pretty much in
silence. Susan went on to become Martha Stewarts top assistant, and
I went on to open Bubbys.
Anyone who thinks he can open a restaurant for $10,000 has got to be
an idiot, and anyone who knows me will testify that in many ways I am
exactly that, in many ways. Certainly idiot enough to think one can
open a restaurant for $10,000. But, idiot that I am, not only did I
come up with the original $10,000; I also gave away 50% of the business
to a partner, who I have since bought out for somewhat more than $5000.
We had to work hard all the time to make it happen. My partner had a
flair for design, and so he really put the look and feel of the place
together, while I cooked food and baked pies, and all the fun stuff
that I love to do. Of course, we had no budget for frivolity, and I
would always be after him not to spend what we didnt have.
One Christmas season my partner designed a beautiful Christmas card,
a black and white photograph of freshly baked pies on a lovely pewter
or brushed-steel pie stand. It was an impressive photograph. It never
occurred to me to ask where the photograph came from because I had no
concept of copyrights or image rights or any kind of legality, having
always operated by the seat of my pants, protected by what I called
"goodwill," based upon the notion that everyone who came into
Bubbys seemed thrilled to see a couple of kids making a place
work on their own merit. We had a pile of the cards out on the pie counter
for people to take for free. Being marketing material, my partner had
all of our graphics superimposed over the photograph: Bubbys Pie
Co., with our address and phone number and all.
One morning my partner came down to our shared basement office with
some bad news. He had snipped the photograph from " Martha Stewart
Living" magazine, and the photographer had happened to come in
for brunch and saw that we were using her property, actually Marthas
property, and we should discontinue handing out the cards right away.
We did as asked, and figured that was the end of it.
A couple days before Christmas I received a phone call from Martha Stewarts
legal team. Her lawyer insisted I cut a check for $5000, and they would
forgive our infringement of their copyrights, and that would be that.
In fear of being sucked into a nasty legal battle of Homeric proportion
I said Id cut the check, and I did, and that was that.
Martha took exactly half of what Bubbys started with. I understand
the value of owning the rights to a thing, having had to deal with several
instances of people opening Bubbys in Chicago or Hawaii. I am
always gracious but firm in my ownership of the name of the business
I started, nurtured, and grew. Certainly I would never use someones
photograph again, without express written consent. But I also understand
that lawyers are grubbing little clerks, and all I had to do was tell
him Id already stopped using the photograph, and that Id
see him in court, and that would have been the last heard from them.
That is the cost of an education; I am not complaining. But I am happy
to see Martha get hers, and for lying, the pettiest, most easily avoided
offence. I stole without malevolence, and I gossiped to the wrong person
when I called Sid Vicious girlfriend a prostitute. I paid $5000
to learn a valuable, if humiliating, lesson, and I paid to get, spiritually,
a front row seat to a damn well deserved lynching. Hurray for justice.
Not long after the new restaurant in Dumbo opened, Susan, Sid Vicious
girlfriends sister, Marthas right hand woman, came in for
dinner with a group of people. It was nice to see her after all those
years; she looked happy and good. She had a nice boyfriend, and she
was taking time from work for herself, before figuring out her next
move, post-Martha. We sat together chatting at the bar about old times,
where wed come from, where he had managed to get to now. It was
a somewhat sentimental, philosophical discussion, like we used to have
driving around in the van. After a few moments she took my hand, looked
me in the eye, and said, "Sorry we banged you for that five grand."
I was smiling. She continued to tell me how the photographer came into
the office irate, Those jerks at Bubbys are using my pie
photograph, the photographer ranted. Susan brought it up with
Martha, and they decided to hit us as hard as they could while still
keeping it fun. For them. As I am sure they did all day, everyday. It
seems now, with Martha going to jail for just enough time to bring some
humility to the world, all is back in balance and as it should be, in
a Greek sense.
© Ron Silver March 11th 2004
Hudson Street New York, New York Tel: 212 219 0666
Live Jazz, great breakfasts, great value
Now in Dumbo
1 Main Street, Brooklyn Heights at Water Street 718-222-0666
Also by Ron - National
Leadership Award Scam
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