Bad news for Spencer Elden, who you may better know as the baby from Nirvana’s 1991 Nevermind album cover: a judge has dismissed his lawsuit in which he claimed the photograph was taken and used without his consent and the nudity amounts to an image of child abuse.
Elden sued surviving band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic as well as Kurt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, who is the executor of Cobain’s estate as well as the late Cobain himself. The lawsuit also named several other people associated with the album such as photographer Kirk Weddle, art director Robert Fisher and, oddly, Nirvana’s original drummer Chad Channing who was replaced by Dave Grohl before Nevermind was even written and recorded.
Elden was four months old when the iconic photo was taken of him naked in a pool with a one-dollar bill dangled in front of him. “It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember,” he told The New York Post in 2016.
He later changed his tune and instead claimed in his lawsuit that he has suffered “lifelong damages” as a result of the image — which he says depicts him as “a sex worker grabbing for a dollar bill” — including “extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations”, plus loss of education, wages, and “enjoyment of life”.
Elden also claimed that he was never paid for the imagery — although other reports suggest that he was compensated USD $250 — and that his parents never signed a release authorising the use of his image.
As part of their defense, the attorneys for Grohl, Novoselic, Weddle, Love, Cobain, Nirvana, L.L.C., MCA Records, UMG Recordings, Inc., Universal Music Group, Inc., The David Geffen Company and Geffen Records banded together to seek a dismissal of the lawsuit, on the grounds that Elden has “spent three decades profiting from his celebrity as the self-anointed ‘Nirvana Baby’”.
“He has re-enacted the photograph in exchange for a fee, many times; he has had the album title tattooed across his chest; he has appeared on a talk show wearing a self-parodying, nude-colored onesie; he has autographed copies of the album cover for sale on eBay; and he has used the connection to try to pick up women,” the defendants said.
Because they missed the December 30 deadline to respond to Nirvana’s motion to dismiss, Elden and his legal team now have until January 13 to refile the case, which his lawyers say they fully intend to do.