One Angry Songwriter Takes the Band Filter to Cou

Filtering The Past

When the rock band Filter released its first album, Short Bus , in 1995, front man Richard Patrick took a lot of crap for sounding like his previous employer, Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails. But now that Filter is surfing the single charts with “Take a Picture”, a song that sounds nothing like Mr. Reznor’s personal hell, Mr. Patrick and company are under fire from someone new.

In February, a Staten Island musician named Michael Tisi filed suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, charging Mr. Patrick and his band, as well as the group’s label, Reprise Records Inc., and the song’s publisher, EMI April Music Inc., with copyright infringement. Mr. Tisi has claimed in court papers that “Take a Picture,” which is about waking up naked in an airplane, is a “blatant” copy of a song he wrote and copyrighted back in 1994, and he is seeking at least $17.5 million in damages.

Filter’s attorney, Orin Snyder, call the lawsuit “nonsense,” adding: “Richard Patrick wrote ‘Take a Picture’ on his own and is outraged that anybody would claim that this heartfelt work is not his own.”

In court papers obtained by The Transom, Mr. Tisi, who is in his mid-20’s, was in a band called Blue Dahlia in 1994 when he composed the music and lyrics to a song called, “Sell Your Soul.” That same year, he copyrighted the words and music. In 1994 or 1995, court documents contend, Mr. Tisi submitted Blue Dahlia demo tapes (containing “Sell Your Soul”) to a number of record companies, including Warner Brothers Records Inc. and EMI Records Group. One letter to former EMI Records executive Brian Koppelman [who has since become a filmmaker], which is included in the court file, promised: “As Bob Dylan once said: ‘The times they are a-changing.’ Thanks to the efforts of the new bands like Hootie and the Blowfish, Blue Dahlia is more in demand than ever before.… Relax, turn up the volume and get ready for the sound of Blue Dahlia.” (Mr. Koppelman was also invited to see the band perform at a street fair near EMI’s offices.)

All of the record companies named in Mr. Tisi’s suit passed on Blue Dahlia’s demo tapes, and Mr. Tisi has since moved to another group, called Smug. But in late December 1999, Mr. Tisi’s affidavit claims, “At least three individuals informed me that a song playing on the radio by the band Filter was a copy of my copyrighted work, ‘Sell Your Soul.'”

After he bought a copy of Filter’s Title of Record , Mr. Tisi reached his own conclusion: “I recognized track No. 6 entitled ‘Take a Picture’ to be a blatant copy of the music in ‘Sell Your Soul,’ with new lyrics.” (Mr. Tisi’s lyrics were unavailable.)

As of the March 4 issue of Billboard magazine, Filter’s “Take a Picture” was No. 19 on the singles chart. It has been on the chart for 15 weeks, and its peak position was 12. In addition to monetary damages, Mr. Tisi wants the court to impound all copies of the song if Filter is found to be in violation of copyright laws.

Neither Mr. Tisi’s lawyer, Daniel Marotta, nor a spokesman for Filter returned calls for comment, but sources close to the situation said that Mr. Tisi’s legal team has enlisted Michael White, a faculty member at the Juilliard School, as an expert in the case. Ironically, Mr. White served as an expert for the law firm of Filter attorney Mr. Snyder, Parcher, Hayes & Snyder, when the firm represented Mick Jagger in a similar copyright infringement suit. (Mr. Jagger won that case.) Mr. Snyder said he did not recall Mr. White’s involvement in that case.

A source in Filter’s camp did say that tapes showing the evolution of “Take a Picture” seem to offer “compelling” evidence that Mr. Patrick created the song on his own. The source also noted that much of Mr. Tisi’s argument seems to revolve around “the most basic guitar riff in the world.” Mr. Snyder declined to comment on this, but he did say: “It’s a shame that Mr. Patrick must be subjected to this kind of harassment.”

Soupy and Schimmel

When Robert Schimmel took the stage of Irving Plaza on Feb. 26, he told the crowd that since his HBO special, a lot of people have been telling him, “We always knew you were funny.”

“That’s why I’ve been working Uncle Fucko’s Comedy Huts for the last 16 years,” said the comedian.

Uncle Fucko was not among the receptive New York crowd, but one of Mr. Schimmel’s comic heroes was: Soupy Sales. And after Mr. Schimmel had finished his show and left the stage, he returned, not for an encore, but to dedicate his performance to Mr. Sales, whom, he said, “made me laugh like no one else.”

Then Mr. Sales visited Mr. Schimmel backstage bearing a gift in a crumpled Bloomingdale’s bag. Mr. Sales had brought Mr. Schimmel a collection of videotapes of his old children’s show from the 50’s and 60’s, including the episode where Frank Sinatra gets a pie in the face. Mr. Schimmel told The Transom that Mr. Sales had actually promised to send the tapes to him about two years ago, after the two met at a show that Mr. Schimmel had done at the Bottom Line. “He lost my address,” said Mr. Schimmel. So Mr. Sales, wearing a U.S.S. Randall cap, brought the tapes to the Irving Plaza show. While he was backstage, someone asked Mr. Sales about the time when, during a regular bit on the show, he opened the door to his house and encountered a naked woman. (The viewers only saw the visitors’ hands.) “Was the woman completely starkers?” was the question. Mr. Sales said he couldn’t recall, because at the time, the only thought in his head was, “There goes my career.”

“I was in awe,” said Mr. Schimmel. “I don’t really suck up to people, that’s not me. But I grew up watching him. I used to watch him every day, and he used to floor me. And then I find myself sitting in the greenroom with him. And while he’s talking, all I’m thinking is, ‘This can’t be real.'”

Lest anyone think that Mr. Schimmel is kidding about not being a suck-up, during his Irving Plaza show, he unveiled an elaborate new Louie Anderson joke that involves oral sex and Mr. Anderson laying face down across two chairs while someone slides underneath him in one of those little carts that car mechanics use.

The Anderson joke is the result of Mr. Schimmel’s recent appearance on Hollywood Squares. When Mr. Schimmel was asked the question, “If you’re reaching for your mashy or your niblick, what activity are you engaged in?” he replied “Playing Twister with Louie Anderson.” That answer was cut from the tape, as was Mr. Schimmel’s reply to the question, “A pig in the poke refers to what?” Mr. Schimmel’s answer: “An evening with Louie Anderson.”

Clinton’s Culinary Quest

On Feb. 24, Bill Clinton took part in a heady round of fund raising for the Democratic National Committee, which involved stops at both Daniel Boulud’s eponymous restaurant and the Four Seasons restaurant. Then Mr. Clinton spent the night at the new family homestead in Chappaqua, N.Y.

For the sake of the Secret Service men who closely guard the President, pray that the Clinton domicile was equipped with a working ionic air freshener. Because by the time the President left Manhattan, he had consumed enough four-star food to test even the stoutest gourmand’s constitution.

Mr. Clinton’s first stop was Daniel for a $25,000-per-couple bash hosted by Democratic fund-raiser Shelby Bryan, where, according to a New York Times article, he was served assorted canapés, a lobster and avocado salad, and, for the main course, a “Duo of Stuffed Saddle and Roasted Rack of Lamb” filled with Swiss chard and duxelles and accompanied by a tomato-and-mushroom polenta. “He cleaned his plate,” said Daniel spokesperson Georgette Farkas.

Such a dinner would leave most New Yorkers unable to do much more than order a glass of vintage port and a Town Car, but around 9:45 P.M., Mr. Clinton ventured out to the Four Seasons Grill Room, which had been especially outfitted with a curtain by florist Robert Isabell. After a cocktail reception on the Grill Room balcony, Mr. Clinton sat down to another dinner, prepared by Four Seasons chef Christian Albin, costing $10,000 per plate and hosted by Doug Teitlebaum and about 46 other people.

There, Mr. Clinton dined on tuna tartare with beluga caviar, and … more lamb. Roast filet of lamb, served with black truffle sauce and sautéed spring vegetables with black truffle sauce. A source at the dinner told The Transom that Mr. Clinton not only finished his plate, he wiped it clean with a hunk of bread.

The restaurant had planned to serve Mr. Clinton Key lime pie, which apparently the White House had requested, but Mr. Clinton, perhaps feeling the effects of the night’s grub-crawl, requested a bowl of raspberries and some coffee.

No doubt fueled by all that protein he’d consumed, sources at the dinner said Mr. Clinton spoke for almost an hour and then answered a lot of questions about the coming Presidential race.

Mr. Clinton didn’t leave until after midnight, and not before hopping into the Four Seasons kitchen to shake hands with the dishwashers and to take pictures with staff members.

“The staff was screaming, ‘Four more years,'” said Julian Niccolini, co-general manager of the Four Seasons. “It was magic. He told me that he was looking forward to coming back to Four Seasons after he leaves the White House.”

When we brought up the amount of food that Mr. Clinton apparently had eaten, Mr. Niccolini dismissed the question. “He looked extremely fit,” said Mr. Niccolini.

As the Presidential motorcade pulled away from the curb, however, on board was a doggie bag containing one Key lime pie. One Angry Songwriter Takes the Band Filter to Cou