(CN) – New Orleans airport can keep a mural of the late Queen of Second Line, Ellyna Tatum, a Louisiana appeals court ruled.
The jazz singer’s son, Vernon Tatum, filed a $14 million lawsuit in 2002 against the New Orleans Aviation Board over the mural titled “Two-way, Pockey-way, the Parade of Life” at the New Orleans International Airport.
Tatum’s lawsuit also named Visual Jazz and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival as defendants, claiming that they needed his permission to sell art prints, posters and postcards depicting his mother’s image.
But a New Orleans judge dismissed the case, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed on April 11.
“We find that the right to privacy is a personal right that belonged only to the late Ms. Tatum,” Judge Max Tobias Jr. wrote for the three-judge panel. “Nothing in Louisiana law, statutorily or jurisprudentially, gives Mr. Tatum the authority to assert this right on behalf of his deceased mother, especially as Ms. Tatum did not assert this right during her lifetime.”
The decision notes that the mural, a street scene depicting more than a dozen people, does not identify one of its subjects as Tatum’s mother. A brochure on the airport’s website does identify 20 different people in Richard Cornelius Thomas’ mural, including “Grand Marshal Elenore Tatum.”
“Finally, it appears that Ms. Tatum waived her right to privacy, insofar as her appearance in jazz funerals and second lines on the streets of New Orleans and elsewhere is concerned,” Tobias added.
A jazz funeral is a Crescent City tradition in which a somber parade to the cemetery eventually breaks into an upbeat musical celebration.
The “second line” is the group that follows the family and friends in the funeral procession, just to enjoy the music, as dancers twirl parasols or handkerchiefs in the air.
Ellyna Tatum also performed in Europe, the New Orleans Jazz festival and at professional basketball games for the New Orleans Jazz before the team moved to Utah.
An invasion-of-privacy claim does not apply to the so-called Ms. Jazz, who died in 1986, the appeals court noted.
“Ms. Tatum held herself out as a public entertainer,” Tobias wrote. “One can only imagine the number of photographs taken of her career, both in the United States and abroad. By appearing in public on the streets of New Orleans, she placed herself in the public arena, one in which she obviously excelled and enjoyed.”
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