Nude Nirvana ‘Nevermind’ Baby, 31, Loses Sex Exploitation Lawsuit

Spencer Alden became the world’s most iconic baby floating on the “Nevermind” cover, but infant-fame turned out to be a real downer
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A perennial rite of ‘90s rock revivalism has arrived in time for Fall: the now-adult baby from the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind album is once again back in the news, this time for losing a lawsuit against the group for their non-consensual use of his image, the New York Times reports.

In his filing, the plaintiff, LA-based artist Spencer Alden, accused Nirvana of child sexual exploitation for using a nude photo of him at four months old, underwater in a pool, appearing to swim toward a dollar-baited fishing line. The satiric image went iconic as the cover of Nirvana’s 1991 major-label debut, which launched them into a global fame their troubled singer-songwriter, Kurt Cobain, found increasingly difficult to navigate, taking his own life three years later.

Years after this, Elden, now 31, discovered that it was his photo that designer Robert Fisher had picked from dozens of other babies Kirk Weddle had photographed for a series called “Submerged Humans,” at the time paying Elden’s parents $200 for their participation. For decades, Elden celebrated his neonatal role in history, recreating the cover, clothed, to commemorate the album’s 10th, 17th, 20th and 25th anniversaries.

“It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember,” Elden told  the New York Post in 2016, for whom he posed holding the then-25-year–old album cover. But that same year, he told GQ Australia that his feelings toward the group cooled when their managers rebuffed his efforts to involve the group in his art show. “What if I wasn’t OK with my freaking penis being shown to everybody?” he said, in what seemed at the time to be rhetorical question.

Last summer, Elden filed a federal lawsuit in California against the estate of Cobain, his former bandmates, and his widow, Courtney Love, among others, claiming that they and major label Geffen “knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography” in using his image on the album that sold 30 million copies.

Charging “permanent harm” from the image’s use, including a “lifelong loss of income-earning capacity,” Elden’s suit sought $150,000 from each of the 15 people and companies named in his complaint. Referring to these emotional damages, Elden’s lawyer, Maggie Mabie, said her client “hasn’t met anyone who hasn’t seen his genitalia.”

In January, Judge Fernando M. Olguin dismissed Elden’s case over his lawyers’ failure to respond to the defendants’ motion to dismiss in a timely manner. He allowed Elden to file a second amended complaint, but last week, ruled against the plaintiff. His eight-page ruling found that since Mr. Elden had learned about the album cover more than 10 years ago, his claims were untimely. A statement from the defendants’ lawyer said that they were “pleased this meritless case has been brought to a swift conclusion.”

In his 2016 GQ interview, Elden shared the downsides of a strange abstracted fame that has no financial compensation. “You’ll hook up with a hot chick, and then they figure out you’re not making any money from it and they’ll dump you,” he complained. He also spoke to the shadow this iconic image has cast over his own creative life.

“I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to do a piece of work better than that in my entire life. But I’m just trying to get it out of my head—this image of a baby chasing a dollar—and not worry about making millions of dollars. It’s a complicated thing.”


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