Cohen suit seeks control of Tonys

Latest action in string of troubles

In a surprise move, veteran Broadway producer Alexander H. Cohen has filed a petition against the American Theater Wing for control of the Tony Awards name and logo.

The filing with the United States Dept. of Commerce is set to begin discovery next week. In it, Cohen alleges that the American Theater Wing, which owns the rights to the Tony Awards name, has in fact never once used the actual service mark it registered — thereby voiding the Wing’s claim.

The move seems as much personal as professional in motivation: Cohen, who served as the Tony Awards’ producer from 1967 to 1986, is striving to take total control over the vast (and valuable) 40-year archival trove of Tony Awards film footage.

Cohen maintained that repeated “bad faith interference” on the part of the Wing regarding his right to sell and use his Tony Awards archive footage has led to the filing.

Cohen dissents with those who can’t help but think that he might be trying to gain control of his old institution following this year’s Tony Awards, which were widely regarded as a Nielsen and creative disaster.

“I wouldn’t know how to fix it, and I don’t want to produce it,” Cohen said.

Heritage spat

Still, he’s clearly not happy with the Wing’s stewardship.

“They have robbed the Broadway theater of its heritage and sense of occasion,” Cohen spat, “and substituted it with a crude vulgarity which demeans, embarrasses and infuriates those professionals who really care.”

Only in February did the American Theater Wing bury the hatchet with its Tony Awards co-presenter, the League of American Theaters and Producers: The two had been locked in a struggle over the soul of the Tonys. With the League seeking a greater emphasis on using the Tonys to market Broadway, and the Wing hoping to emphasize artistic merit, the two were ready to part company.

New show pitched

League prexy Jed Bernstein even went so far as to pitch a non-Tony awards show to CBS, but Eye network topper Leslie Moonves balked, saying ratings were low enough, and that without the Tony name, a nationally televised theater show would never fly.

Now history seems ready to repeat itself.

Calls placed to Wing prexy Roy Somlyo were not returned late Monday.

Calls placed to Keith Sherman, a spokesman for the Tony Awards were referred to Shirley Herz Associates, a spokesman for the Wing. A spokesman there referred calls back to the Tony Awards.

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