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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Snakebitten: Sideshow Performer Sues Local Brewer, Claims He Swiped Her Image to Hawk 'Coney Island Albino Python' Beer

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2009 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge ba_coneyislandpythonlg.jpg
UPDATE, 10:20 a.m.: Shmaltz owner Jeremy Cowan replied that he hadn't heard of this suit until being informed of it by SF Weekly.

He said Torres "approved everything" and laughed bitterly when told she

was seeking $250,000. "I haven't made a quarter of a million dollars in

13 years of brewing He'Brew Beer," he said. "Good luck with that."

A woman describing herself as a "well known side show performer" who has picked up a "favorable reputation as a 'snake charmer'" -- we're guessing charmers with "unfavorable" reputations don't last so long -- has sued the San Francisco proprietor of the Shmaltz Brewing Company. Stephanie Torres -- aka "Serpentina"-- claims that her 6-foot-tall, 140-pound, albino serpent-toting image has been swiped by Shmaltz -- owned by San Franciscan Jeremy Cowan, who founded the popular He'Brew line --  to hawk its "Coney Island Albino Python" lager. 

In the suit filed earlier this month in New York, Torres claims she's long been waiting for compensation. "On or about the spring of 2008, the principal of the defendant corporation promised the plaintiff a to-be negotiated sum of money in consideration for which plaintiff would allow her image to be placed on a beer to be created and sold by the defendant corporation. Defendant never issued any monies to defendant despite her due demand," claims the suit.

Torres contends she's still waiting for dollar one, while "the beer products containing the plaintiff's exact image have been circulated to hundreds of thousands of customers in New York State and the United States" both on labels and in advertising material. The plaintiff further claims the brewing company has "fraudulently" stated her image was obtained through a nonexistent "license agreement" and has "threatened to continue the wrongful use of the plaintiff's name as aforesaid, and intends to continue such use unless restrained from so doing."

Our e-mail to Cowan has not yet been returned.

The charmer is asking the court to cut off the taps and grant a permanent injunction on moving the product with her alleged likeness on it. She also wants damages of an amount determined by the court -- but no less than $250,000.

That would buy a lot of Albino Python Chow.

Incidentally, this Brooklyn Web site detailed Torres' dire financial plight in February; the article notes that she does not derive any income from Cowan's beer. Either Torres did not mention that this was a result of wrongdoing -- or the writer did not report it.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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