Thing is, that’s no woman, at least not in the usual sense. It’s the off-Broadway drag cabaret artist Lypsinka, a creation of writer and performer John Epperson. The photo in question greets Web surfers at www.lypsinka.com.
Now no one is quite sure how a transvestite ended up on the cover — and Page 1,265 — of nearly 750,000 phone books. And perhaps more importantly, who granted permission for her image to be used.
The owner of Extra Attic Mini Storage refused to comment. Verizon spokewoman Karen Testa initially said the ad was designed in-house, with a photo taken from a software package loaded with royalty-free images.
The spokesman for the software company, Mats Lindeberg of the Quebec-based firm Hemera, says that no one at the company can recall seeing the image before. Lindeberg also says he couldn’t locate the photo on the stock-image agencies Getty Images, Corbis or Queerstock.
At press time, Verizon’s Testa was still investigating the ad.
Lypsinka’s representative, Mark Sendroff, says neither he, Epperson nor photographer Russell Maynor authorized the photo for advertising use. Sendroff insists he will pursue legal action if the use was indeed unauthorized.
Intellectual property litigator Brian C. Riopelle, a partner at the Richmond office of McGuireWoods LLP, said that different states have different laws on privacy and copyright infringement matters. In such a case in Virginia, the plaintiff could sue for both damages and punitive damages.
Testa says Extra Attic Mini Storage has not purchased a tip-on for 2004.
Lypsinka just wrapped up a run at the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York, but you can catch her on and in your SuperPages until the 2004 edition is released in January. — Mark Mobley
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