Tonya Hot Sauce Has Skater Fired Up
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Tonya Hot Sauce features an unflattering caricature of disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding outside a dumpy trailer, cigarette in mouth, ice skates in one hand and a hubcap in the other.
``Not for the weak-kneed,″ reads the label. ``Guaranteed to assault your taste buds. It’s a lead-pipe cinch you’ll love it.″
John Farmer and his PDX Hot Lix company brought out the product a couple of years ago and says it’s all in fun.
``I just read the papers and think up ideas for a product,″ the airline employee said. ``Tonya just keeps on giving.″
Harding doesn’t think it’s very funny and neither does her lawyer. Made in Oregon stores pulled the product from the shelves after getting a legal letter advising them not sell the sauce.
The five-ounce bottles are still available at a few stores for about $5. Farmer says he’ll supply them to any retailer who will have them until, or unless, Harding sues.
``I’m in hot water, so to speak. Or I may be in hot water,″ Farmer said Thursday. ``I have an attorney who basically thinks the whole thing is laughable. It’s like editorial cartoons we see every day throughout the country.″
Farmer says he developed the recipe and has it made to order. Portland cartoonist Joe Spooner did the label.
Harding’s San Diego attorney William Markham said the spoof defames Harding and unfairly conjures up memories of what he says are disturbing and misunderstood events that foiled her dreams of an Olympic championship.
The letter threatens a lawsuit for misappropriating Harding’s image.
``Tonya has been punished more than enough for what she did or didn’t do,″ Markham said.
``(The label) portrays her as cigarette-smoking, bubble-gum-chewing trailer trash and that’s not who Tonya Harding is,″ he said. ``She is a world-class athlete who trained for years on end, and in a horrible episode lost all that.″
He said Harding wants to know how much of the sauce has been shipped and to be paid in accordance with standard celebrity agreements.
``She went from Olympic contender to a publicly notorious person who, to pay her bills, has to trade on her ignominity,″ he said. ``That’s bad enough. Then to profiteer from it at her expense ... that’s wrong.″
Attempts to reach Harding were not successful.
The Willamette Week newspaper, which first carried the story, quotes attorney Duane Bosworth, who practices law relating to intellectual property, as saying Harding may have a point. He says she has the right to stop people from using her image to make money.
``If they’re trading on her celebrity, then she has a legitimate claim,″ Bosworth said.
Harding, a two-time U.S. figure-skating champion, was convicted in 1994 of hindering prosecution in a plot to injure rival Nancy Kerrigan during the U.S. Championships in Detroit. Harding also was banned for life by the U.S. Figure Skating Association.
Last April she was arrested for drunken driving while on probation for whacking her then-boyfriend with a hubcap. A condition of probation was that she not drink.
Harding served eight days of a 10-day sentence. She was evicted last January from a house she rented in Camas, Wash., for nonpayment of rent.
``I’ve sold maybe 2,000-2,500 bottles,″ Farmer said. ``When she does something really stupid, I sell extra cases of it.″
He said he hasn’t talked to Harding, but that Markham said in his letter that Harding would go along with it all if she got ``a reasonable share of the revenues.″
``She’s not going to get much out of me,″ Farmer said. ``If I have to give a percentage to her I demand she give it to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).″