BetteBack April 14, 1990: Tom Waits Sues Commercial Based On Bette Midler Case

Santa Fe New Mexican
April 14, 1990


Musician Tom Waits said that the first time he heard a SalsaRio Doritos corn chip commercial, he could barely believe his ears: The
singer was copying Waits’ gravely style grit-for-grit.

“1 was shocked,” Waits testified Thursday in Los Angeles in his trademark infringement case against the chip maker. “1 think he studied me closely. I heard things 1 do with my voice that I’ve never heard anyone else do, a certain intimacy.”

Waits said the singer, Stephen Carter, copied “my phrasing, my timbre, my voice, my approach.”

“It embarrassed me,” Waits said.

“I had to call my friends and tell them, ‘If you hear this thing, please be informed it’s not me.’ I was on the phone for days.”

Waits, 40, is suing under federal trademark laws and under a California common law, established in a case involving Bette Midler, thatoutlaws imitating a professional singer’s distinctive voice for commercial use.

Waits’ lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court against Frito-Lay Inc. and ad agency Tracy-Locke Inc.

Anthony Liebig, attorney for Frito-Lay and Tracy-Locke, said the gravely, jazzy voice used by the singer in the ad was like that of
many performers, not just Waits.

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