We now know that Woody Allen’s reputation is worth only half what he thought it was. But, at $5m, it’s still quite a lot compared to yours or mine. That was the sum fixed out of court to settle an acrimonious libel case with American Apparel owner Dov Charney after Charney took Allen’s name in vain by featuring him, without his consent, as a Hasidic jew in a series of billboard posters. The image was pinched from a slapstick personality who appears momentarily in the film Annie Hall.
Now if I were Charney, I’d say: cheap at the price. It’s an old trick, meretricious maybe, but effective in drawing attention to your brand name. And last employed to great sensationalist effect by Oliviero Toscani in the service of Benetton, featuring such timeless tastelessness as the AIDs patient and prisoners on death row ads.
I don’t for a moment accept Charney’s tortuous explanation that the Allen image in some way drew an ironic parallel between his own situation and that of Allen as two social outsiders. He’s having a laugh, but at least it’s quite funny.
Whether his brand of sensationalism actually sells clothes, any more than Toscani’s, is open to debate. But maybe I’m straying from the point.