On April 30, this writer told you about the widening rift among the adult children of the late Frank Zappa and how the rift relates to Frank’s widow, Gail, and the way that Ahmet Zappa is continuing her questionable business practices in the wake of her demise last October.
Less than one week later, Ahmet Zappa used his Facebook page to publish an open letter to his brother Dweezil in which he claimed that he had no other way to make contact with his older, exponentially more talented sibling. In the letter, Ahmet used a numbered list to refute what seems to be the general public opinion that he (Ahmet) is behaving like a “greedy, deceitful a*****e” who wants to “take away” Dweezil’s right to play their father’s compositions under the name Zappa Plays Zappa. Ahmet accused Dweezil of having given “incomplete and misleading” information to the New York Times. Ahmet denied charging Dweezil “an exorbitant” fee to play Frank’s music.
In essence, Ahmet stomped his big baby feet and called his elder brother a liar.
Early this morning, Dweezil Zappa responded with what appears to be a well-considered blog post that disputes his brother’s claims point by point while clarifying numerous “contradictions and erroneous statements” contained in Ahmet’s open letter on Facebook. Before that part of Dweezil’s answer, however, he reminded Ahmet that the primary reason the sons of Frank are in public conflict stems from the Zappa Family Trust’s refusal to pay him even a penny of the merchandising money he’s been owed for more than a decade.
Here’s the crux of the biscuit, in Dweezil’s own words.
“I would like you to understand that in my opinion we are where we are due to the fact that you ignored my offer to settle a 10 year battle over unpaid merchandise money due to me. During her tenure as the executor of the ZFT, our mother created a Zappa Plays Zappa merchandise contract with me that she did not honor. She kept 100% of all of the ZPZ tour merch money since day one instead of paying me my portion. I challenged her regarding her actions for a decade. When she passed away the situation was brought to your attention as the new executor of the ZFT and instead of making it right you demanded the same, to collect 100% of all monies from merchandise sold at my concerts even though I’m the one doing 100% of the work presenting our father’s music to audiences around the world.”
Two weeks ago, Dweezil told Chaz and AJ In The Morning of his intention to blog a response to Ahmet’s public letter. During the five-minute interview on the popular Connecticut radio show, Dweezil confirmed what many Frank Zappa, Zappa Plays Zappa, and Dweezil Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa (ahem) fans have suspected for a very long time.
Gail started it.
According to Dweezil, the mother that he calls by her first name* “did not do things appropriately.” He told Chaz and AJ that since the inception of the ZFT, he hasn’t seen a cent in publishing royalties, nor has he received any money from merchandise sold at ZPZ shows. Dweezil said that he is part of the ZFT to a “small degree” and has no decision-making power whatsoever.
One of the radio show hosts offered his savvy observation that the Zappa family fracas is not about the Zappa brand per se, but more “about people wanting to feel powerful.”
Listen to the interview for yourself.
Ahmet’s letter said, “Strange to be writing this in public, but I don’t know how else to respond.
After reading the article in The New York Times, I’m not sure how else to reach you.”
Dweezil replied, “Sorry to say this but I find this sentence to be disingenuous. Despite your claim that you have no other means of reaching me except to post an open letter on your Facebook, twitter and the zappa.com site, you can easily reach me directly and personally by phone, text, email, fax, fed ex, certified mail, sky writer, carrier pigeon or a note slipped under my front door for that matter.”
Ahmet’s letter said, “If we talk through our lawyers, it’s not because I want that. It’s because you’ve refused to talk any other way. I’ve been reaching out to you for months. I even tried to set up a family meeting so we could discuss all of our family issues, but you repeatedly said you couldn’t fit it into your schedule, and that you weren’t available to attend without your lawyers present.”
Dweezil replied, “Again sorry but I find this to be disingenuous as well. Fact: I have not received a single phone call from you in months. The last email I received from you was on February 19, 2016. It was in response to my own email that I sent to you 2 weeks earlier on February 5th 2016. That is the extent of our private communication since then.”
“Your team of attorneys has been your preferred method to evade answering my questions about the ZFT and the settling of the family estate since our mother’s passing.”
“As far as attending meetings, I was not available because of rehearsals and touring. It is counterfactual to imply that I am avoiding contact with you when in reality I was fulfilling my professional responsibilities and obligations.”
Ahmet’s open letter on Facebook worked hard to give the impression of a little brother who’d been woefully misunderstood. An unwitting victim in the Zappa family feud, if you will. If the letter were presented as a one-man stage play, it would be a real scenery-chewer. And, if Dweezil Zappa is to be believed (and this writer does believe him), Ahmet’s letter was a crock of cosmic debris.
Zoom the following to 5:20 if you dare:
How the Zappa family feud will unfold is anyone’s guess at this point. In the meantime, this writer supports Dweezil and his band mates as they continue to present remarkable renditions of Frank Zappa’s music to appreciative audiences.
— Dweezil Zappa (@DweezilZappa) May 13, 2016
*The full name of the mother of Moon, Dweezil, Ahmed Emuukha Rodan, and Diva Muffin Zappa was Adelaide Gail Sloatman Zappa.
[Photo by Franka Bruns/AP Images]