Image: Naked Cowboy
Timothy A. Clary  /  AFP - Getty Images
"The Naked Cowboy" Robert Burck is seen singing in Times Square. Burck is suing Mars for trademark infringement after the candy dressed up an animated blue M&M candy in a remarkably similar outfit.
By Brian Tracey Associate editor
msnbc.com
updated 2/14/2008 8:36:47 PM ET 2008-02-15T01:36:47
COMMENTARY

Here's a case of risque business: The New York City street performer known as "The Naked Cowboy" is suing Mars Inc. for $6 million over the use of his trademark look — white underwear, cowboy boots and a hat — by a blue M&M candy on an animated Times Square billboard.

For nearly a decade, Robert Burck has been a fixture in Times Square, where he strums a guitar on a street corner while dressed in his skimpy signature costume.

In a lawsuit filed this week in Manhattan federal court, Burck said that two oversized Times Square billboards that promote M&Ms used his look without compensating him.

The billboards feature a scantily clad blue M&M with a guitar alongside views of New York including street scenes and the Statue of Liberty.

Burck is suing privately held Mars Inc., which makes M&Ms, and Chute Gerdeman Inc., an Ohio agency that he said created the ad, for trademark infringement.

Neither company was immediately available for comment.

"Just like The Naked Cowboy does on a daily basis in Times Square, the M&M is not only dressed as "The Naked Cowboy," it is playing the Naked Cowboy's distinctive white guitar in the cartoon," the lawsuit said.

Mars and Chute Gerdeman "decided to exploit and trade upon The Naked Cowboy's well-recognized likeness without a license and without furnishing any compensation," the lawsuit said.

He also could claim the ad has severely hurt his chances of landing an endorsement deal with Godiva chocolates.

Tornado victim blown away by cable bill
Having a tornado demolish her home last month was bad enough. But weeks later when Ann Beam received a $2,000 cable bill for destroyed equipment, she was floored.

Time Warner Cable billed a number of Wheatland, Wis. residents for equipment damaged in the Jan. 7 twister that destroyed more than two dozen homes. Beam's bill covered five cable boxes and five remote controls.

She immediately called the cable company, but a man who identified himself as a manager said there was nothing the company could do.

"They said I would have to take the bill and turn it in to my insurance company," Beam told the Kenosha News.

But her cable equipment was nine years old, and the insurance company would pay only a depreciated value, she said.

Beam's case was simply a misunderstanding, Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Celeste Flynn said. Some customers were charged for unreturned equipment, but only because they canceled or transferred their service without mentioning the tornado, she said.

"We understand this is an unusual situation," Flynn said. "All they will need to do is call, and we will take the equipment off their account."

"I just couldn't believe it," Beam said. "I was like, 'What are they thinking?'"

We swear on a stack of Bibles that we did not make that last quote up.

Where's my lines?
Shakespeare must be rolling in his grave over this: Britain's National Theatre is to stage the world's longest play without any dialogue.

For one hour and 40 minutes, 450 characters played by 27 actors will not speak a single word between them, reported the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Austrian playwright Peter Handke's "The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other" is to be given 30 performances at the respected theater.

"The point is to explore what's left when you remove language — and the answer is that there's a huge amount," James Macdonald, the British director of the play, explained.

The play is set in a city square through which the characters — including a bride, a businessman, a roller-skater, a playwright, Charlie Chaplin, Tarzan, Abraham and Moses — amble about.

There is no plot and virtually no character appears twice. The idea apparently came to Handke as he sat at a cafe on an Italian piazza watching strangers come and go.

If wordless, it is not entirely soundless. The silence is punctuated by snatches of music, the occasional scream and the recorded sounds of an airplane or workmen drilling.

"Tickets are selling well — not like hotcakes, but they are doing well," a National Theatre spokeswoman said. "It is appealing to younger people. We think our more traditional audiences will wait until the reviews."

We think the critics should give it the silent treatment.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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