Yesterday I got an email from the listserv at Ram’s Head Live, the downtown Baltimore concert venue where I’ve seen two concerts in the last month, advertising a newly-announced show by indie-pop star Santigold. Now, the reason this caught my eye — I’m not a huge fan of her brand of punk-meets-reggae-meets-hip-hop-remix style — is because until a few months ago, the singer was known as Santogold with an “O.” This is important because 2008 was a break-out year for Santogold. She toured in support of British supergroup Coldplay, her album made influential music website Pitchfork.com’s Top 50 “best of” list, and her songs were remixed by big-name DJs.
So I did some googling in search of an explanation, and ended up lost in a weird world of infomercials, space aliens, fake rock stars, and ’80s pro wrestling movies shot inside the Baltimore Civic Center (now 1st Mariner Arena).
Let me explain.
According to some online sources, Santogold (the singer), whose real name is Santi White, was sued for copyright infringement last year in U.S. District Court in New York by Santo Gold, otherwise known as Baltimore jewelry merchant Santo Rigatuso, who under the name Bob Harris has been running totally incoherent, and at times downright psychedelic infomercials to hawk his cheap-o gold jewelry since the 1980s.
Now, since legal precedent indicates that in order for a claim like this to win, it must be reasonably likely that the two trade names would be confused by the public, you may be wondering, how could I confuse the woman who is headlining the Hollywood Bowl this summer with a guy who’s jewelry business, according to state records, has been ineligible to do business in Maryland for at least five years?
Well, it seems Rigatuso is something of a musician, as well, and he, like Santi White, sometimes wears dark aviator sunglasses on stage. Rigatuso’s stage career began in 1985 with a movie he produced, directed, and appeared in called Blood Circus. According to Wikipedia:
“The movie revolves around aliens from the planet Zoran who are sent to Earth to fight against professional wrestlers from the United States and the Soviet Union. The aliens are actually man-eaters who devour their opponents upon defeating them in a wrestling match. Some of the Earth wrestlers were actual professional wrestlers from the then-World Wrestling Federation. (WWF, now WWE).
“One of the key moments in Blood Circus was filmed at the Baltimore Civic Center, where Rigatuso, playing a character called Santo Gold, performs a song before the climactic wrestling match. The song lyrics have nothing to do with the movie; instead, the song promotes Rigatuso’s ‘Santo Gold’ jewelry.
“‘Scream Bags’ were also provided to moviegoers as a promotional tie-in. The bags had a long poem about Blood Circus on each side, as well as a coupon for a free diamond ring from Rigatuso’s ‘Santo Gold’ infomercials, which peddled cheap gold plated jewelry that left marks on the wearer’s body.”
In addition, Rigatuso has stayed current by recording a bizarre track called “The Obama Stomp,” which he released on YouTube late last year, and according to his website (which in hindsight, may have been the origin of this whole name dispute), the lost 35mm film print of Blood Circus has been recovered, and is currently seeking producers for a grand re-release.
And with that, mystery solved, I beg your pardon to return to my coverage of the local real estate market, which is, arguably, slightly less insane than all this.