The real sensation of the Pellicano trial.

Inside the big picture show.
March 21 2008 12:03 PM

The Real Pellicano Story

Did the private eye intimidate alleged rape victims on behalf of a client?

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We could not understand what was being shouted and thought perhaps that Seth Rogen or one of the other many vocal talents in the film was expressing love for Dr. Seuss' elephant and his signature line. But as you may have read elsewhere, anti-abortion activists had infiltrated the theater. Afterward, they handed out fliers designed to look like tickets.

None of this sat well with Audrey Geisel, widow of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), who attended the screening. So did Karl ZoBell, the lawyer who represents her and who has represented the interests of Dr. Seuss for some 40 years. In an interview with NPR, he said he couldn't make out the yelling and thought maybe "some nut" was in the theater. Later, he asked the protesters what group they represented, and none would answer. Their silence didn't seem like an accident to him, which makes sense, because ZoBell has not been bashful about sending cease-and-desist letters to those who appropriate Dr. Seuss' material for their own purposes. And many do. (According to ZoBell, politicians love to sling the term Grinch at their rivals.)

ZoBell says it would be nice if these people came up with their own material. But if they don't go too far—by copping the illustrations, for example—they can use a line like "A person's a person, no matter how small," even if it wouldn't have pleased Dr. Seuss. And it wouldn't have. The Geisels were opposed to using the Dr. Seuss books for any political agenda.

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Some anti-abortion Web sites claim that Audrey is a supporter of Planned Parenthood. ZoBell says he's never discussed the issue of abortion with her and can't confirm that.

It seems that Horton will inspire more anti-abortion activity in cities around the country. A Colorado group gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would define life as beginning at conception will show up at theaters in Denver when the movie opens. Its members will wear T-shirts emblazoned with Horton's immortal words and try to get more signatures for their petition. They don't plan to disrupt the movie (which seems reasonable, since Colorado probably won't accept signatures from 6-year-olds).

Executives at Fox say the studio is ignoring these plans. As for Audrey Geisel, it's not that we lack sympathy. But perhaps this wrath on behalf of the unborn is ironic punishment for having allowed Hollywood to inflict the previous movie versions of her husband's work on the born. (link)

Correction, March 19, 2008: The item on the Pellicano trial originally included a photo of John Connolly, who's actually a reporter who investigated Pellicano. The image has been removed.