How easy to become a brand name! Newspaper "Kultura", issue Nr. 5
c 2 February 2006
For fourteen months, the story of the medicinal cremes bearing my name has made its rounds through the media and has appeared on TV. I have remained silent all the time. But now, the moment has come for me to speak out, particularly because all information the people got to hear and read have been completely one-sided.
In 2002, the director of the Imperial Russian Ballet, G. Taranda, got my permission, by devious and deceitful means, to use my name free of charge 'for the development of Russian ballet art'. It was devious and deceitful because he came to my home without prior announcement, when I was alone, in the company of a quiet lady who had not introduced herself to me and whom I remember well because she bashfully averted her gaze from me. I was asked to sign something. Sign what? For how long? 'For two years, Maya Mikhailovna, we have to help the ballet', said Taranda, lulling my suspicions with a bright smile. Of course, I made a mistake - I did not even have my glasses on - and hastily signed the papers without reading them. But then, I believed every word of Taranda. In all that hurry, I had not understood that the lady brought by Taranda into my house, R. R. Urazova, was a notary of the city of Moscow, as it turned out later.
The notary R. R. Urazova did not give me the paper I had signed. She handed it over to Taranda.
After having put his plan into effect, Taranda gradually stopped having any contact with me. He did not inform me about creative projects and planned guest performances of the company nor about planned performances of the Imperial Russian Ballet even though I was still the Ballet's honorary president. He never, not once, sent me New Year's or birthday wishes or congratulations on 8 March. I was not invited to the premieres of the Ballet. I only heard unpleasant things about his new productions - the taste was poor, the choreography depressingly bad. Many good soloists left Taranda's company under scandalous circumstances. He was said to pay low wages and misbehave himself. The talented dancer Olga Pavlova (she is now prima ballerina at a renowned American company) came to me to complain: 'I had told Taranda that people must not be treated in such an ungodly way, whereto he answered "So what? There will always be hungry ones…"'. According to what I was told, the turnover of employees in the company was disastrous. One or two months, and the people left Taranda. Soloists of other ballet groups were invited for guest performances only 'once'.
Then the surprises started. In Finland, I unexpectedly met a group of nice young girls in lemon yellow shirts bearing the print 'Maya Plisetskaya School'. 'We study at your school', they told me. Then, an old friend informed me that his granddaughter would go to the 'Maya Plisetskaya School' in Moscow. 'It's just quite expensive', he said to me almost reproachfully. Other friends gave me loads of prints of my advertising photographs from the Internet which invite to attend the 'Maya Plisetskaya School'…
And finally, I received a call in my house in Lithuania in the summer of 2004. A woman calling from Japan told me that she had had a lot of trouble to get my Lithuanian telephone number.
- 'Your agent Taranda did not want to give it to me for anything in the world. But I wanted to talk to you personally.'
- 'Who said that Taranda is my official agent?' I asked her.
- 'Taranda showed me a stamped paper.'
- 'And what matter do you wish to discuss with me?'
- 'My husband is a wealthy man and loves the ballet. This is why we would like to open a ballet school in Tokyo under your name. But Taranda demands 300,000 dollars in cash for that. That's too expensive for us. But if we can come to an agreement with you directly, it may perhaps be less expensive…'
When I returned to Moscow in autumn, I demanded an explanation from Taranda concerning the paper he had shown to the lady in Tokyo.
Taranda began to squirm and tried to worm his way out of it. But I insisted on it. After many tricks, long excuses and sweet smiles, he finally showed that paper to me and Shchedrin. It was an unlimited power of attorney according to which everything concerning me and my name was in the possession of Taranda. That's the betrayal!
The very same day I revoked this unscrupulous and suicidal document. How fortunate that the lady from Japan had reached me in Lituania!
At that time, the medicinal cremes against swellings of the legs, bruises and contusions, an antivaricose gel for the legs, feet… began to appear under my name (a 'commercial product line' as was printed on the packaging).
With my picture (which, by the way, was made by the American photographer Richard Avedon whose rights are protected worldwide) and also the drawings of our artist V. Shakhmejster whose rights should be protected as well. With my detailed recommendations which are confirmed by my facsimile signature 'Maya Plisetskaya'. Nobody thought it necessary to ask for my permission or at least inform me. After all, this was about medicinal cremes. I have never seen nor tested them. So how can I recommend them, particularly since they cure serious illnesses? What if these cremes cause irreparable harm to suffering people? Then I will be responsible for it. This seems immoral and cynical to me.
My angry objection which was immediately sent by registered letter to the address indicated on the packaging of the creme bearing my photo by Avedon was followed by the official answer that the manufacturing company 'Healthy Biotechnologies' had never existed at the indicated address. What a nice surprise!
Later, when the news concerning 'my cremes' were spread on TV, the company 'Healthy Biotechnologies' suddenly contacted me, offering me money in order to prevent the looming conflict. However, I rejected their offer and filed a suit, hoping that there was justice in Russia. In addition, everybody around me told me that the case was absolutely clear and could not be lost at all. But no! The whole matter took a year. In the end, the judge of the Meshchansk court of the city of Moscow, Ms Vereshchak, dismissed my suit twice.
But why does Taranda not produce a medicinal creme for all injuries and illnesses under the name of 'Gediminas Taranda' himself? Why does he need my name?
Today, the cremes still sell well everywhere, even abroad. The monies received, I am sure, are quite considerable. Not only the décor and costumes for a 'Swan Lake' production could easily be paid with them… But Taranda carries on, despite my objection; he does not use his name but mine. The audience buys tickets (which is probably profitable for every theatre director) when they see my photo and my name on the posters announcing guest performances. And then, my telephone starts to ring: 'Why didn't you come? You deceived us. We were waiting for you. We had prepared receptions and discussions.' Only recently, I have received detailed information from Germany, Greece, Israel, Spain, Finland, Bulgaria and many Russian cities, such as from Sochi a few days ago.
I insist that my name be removed from the programmes of all ballet companies, especially of Taranda's company. I ask everybody who reads this letter to expose this appropriation of another person's name and fraud. For our judiciary which, apparently, serves only theoretically to expose and punish fraudsters and villains does not take action against lies and lawlessness.
24 January 2006