In light of concerns raised by one of Frank Zappa’s four children, a judge said he would not rule Wednesday on a request by the late singer’s two younger offspring to approve a settlement of their dispute with an older sibling over the latter’s alleged attacks against the petitioners and their mother in the media.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Juarez said he wanted to give Ahmet, Diva and Dweezil Zappa more time to address objections to the resolution filed Jan. 31 by Moon Unit Zappa.
“I think I’m going to let caution drive me in this case,” said the judge, who set another hearing for March 27.
Jeffrey Forer, attorney for Ahmet and Diva Zappa, urged Juarez to give his nod to the settlement Wednesday, saying his clients want to settle their disputes with Dweezil Zappa and have agreed to exclude Moon Zappa, who has a 25 percent interest in the family trust, from its terms.
“I think that if she wants to complain she is not getting her fair share, she can file something,” Forer said. “She’s not involved, period.”
But attorney Ryan Szczepanik, on behalf of Moon Zappa, said that even if the settlement excludes his client, he is still concerned about some of the language in the agreement. He said that by delaying ruling on the settlement petition, he can work with the other attorneys to address his concerns.
“I just want to make sure her beneficial interests are protected,” Szczepanik said.
In his court papers, Szczepanik says his 51-year-old client is an author who regularly performs comedy about herself and her family members and that she worries the settlement terms could jeopardize her livelihood.
Ahmet and Diva Zappa said in their Los Angeles Superior Court papers filed in March 2017 that Dweezil Zappa was unhappy he was not named a co-trustee of the family trust instead of their younger brother and sister after their mother, Gail, died of lung cancer at age 70 in October 2015.
The proposed settlement agreement includes a promise by Dweezil to discontinue making disparaging remarks about family members.
In their original court papers, Ahmet, 44, and Diva, 39, wanted a judge to allow them to set up a website and “take other actions in order to respond to these scurrilous attacks to protect and preserve the value of the assets of the trust without fear or retribution …”
The younger siblings alleged that in October 2016, 49-year-old Dweezil posted on his website that he no longer was allowed to use the federal trademark “Zappa Plays Zappa” because of an order “fired off by the ZFT,” referring to the Zappa Family Trust.
No such order was in effect and the trademark was obtained by the family trust in 2007 to allow any of Frank Zappa’s children to play his music for the benefit of them all, the petition stated.
Under the proposed settlement, Dweezil agrees to remove all negative comments about the ZFT on his website and merchandise. In return, he will receive all his CDs, vinyl records and posters currently under ZFT possession as well as any master tapes the trust may be holding on his behalf.
The ZFT will not oppose or challenge any of the siblings from using their full legal name in any live music and entertainment worldwide, according to the pending settlement.
The co-trustees have agreed to send all ZFT beneficiaries a monthly review of pending business deals and any planned projects. In addition, both sides agreed “not so say anything negative about each other in public,” according to the proposed settlement.
Before either side can file a lawsuit, they must try to avert litigation by talking to each other and, if that is unsuccessful, attend mediation.
Before the tentative settlement was reached, the younger Zappa siblings alleged that Dweezil had “refused to acknowledge the trust’s ownership of the (trademark) and has refused to sell Frank Zappa merchandise at live engagements. He uses assets belonging to the family and owned by the trust and appropriates them to his own use and then accuses the trust of attempting to stop him from playing the music of his father.”
To mock the trust and his younger siblings, and to attack the legacy of their mother, Dweezil toured under the title “Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever the (epithet) He Wants: Cease and Desist Tour,” the petition stated.
In November 2016, Dweezil said in an interview with Magnet magazine that his mother had “run herself and the business into the ground, spent $20 million in lawsuits and by her demise was $6 million in debt.”
Dweezil also said his mother had not paid him for 10 years.
In truth, Gail Zappa put her younger children in charge of the trust assets because Ahmet was already running most of the business prior to her death and Diva had been assisting her mother in running the family business for years, according to Ahmet and Diva Zappa’s court papers, which further state that Dweezil also was paid more than $100,000 in 2007-15.
Frank Zappa released more than 60 albums as a solo artist and with his band Mothers of Invention. He died In December 1993 at age 52 of renal failure and metastasized prostate cancer.
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