Detroit’s iconic gay bar Menjos sued over steamy photo of buff model

One of Detroit’s oldest and most popular gay nightclubs was sued in federal court on Tuesday over a steamy photo of a buff, shirtless military guy.

The California photographer who took the photo claims that Menjos Entertainment Complex, the iconic gay bar in Detroit’s Palmer Park where Madonna cut a rug, illegally posted the photo on its Facebook page to promote a drinking festival titled “Military Might Night” – with special moves all night long.

It is not the image the photographer wants his work to be associated with, the lawsuit states, alleging that using the photo to promote a night of drinking could offend members of the armed forces.

“The advertisement created by the defendant not only exploits an American service uniform for the sale of alcohol, but also involves patriotism and a celebration of the country,” the lawsuit states.

In the copyright infringement lawsuit filed in the United States District Court, photographer Michael Stokes alleges that Menjos damaged his reputation as an internationally acclaimed artist who captures images of injured veterans and the male form. The photo in question was taken on June 26, 2013, of JR Bronson, a partially clothed male model, with both arms crossed behind his back.

According to the lawsuit, the photo was registered with the US Copyright Office in 2015, making it illegal to use without permission.

But two years later, according to the lawsuit, Menjos posted the photo to his Facebook page as part of an ad for an event titled, “Military Might Night…Shot ration specials all night!”

Another five years passed before the photographer saw Menjos’ Facebook post, sparking the lawsuit alleging Menjos “knowingly” used a photo without permission to make money at a night out at the bar.

This Facebook post is the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit against Menjos, Detroit's iconic gay nightclub.

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“(Menjos) received a financial benefit directly attributable to the offense,” the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, since Bronson’s image was created, Stokes has become world famous for photographing wounded American and British war veterans, and over time “became more selective about when and where where he publishes an image representing or alluding to the armed forces”. .”

“(Stokes) also tempered the use of partially nude models in uniform – when photographing his veteran subjects,” the lawsuit states, noting that “photographing veterans in partial uniform is controversial and within the armed forces community is often frowned upon”.

According to the lawsuit, the model in the photo in question is not a veteran and was photographed before Stokes became famous for photographing injured veterans.

“The general public familiar with plaintiff’s work may assume that this image is of a war veteran and that the (photographer) licensed the image to an entity that profits from the sale of alcohol,” the lawsuit states, adding that it could be seen as “treason” by the military.

According to the lawsuit, the photo was also posted on Menjos’ Facebook page on July 4.

“Mr. Stokes is a very unique photographer,” his attorney, New York attorney Craig Sanders, said in a telephone interview. “It’s really more about controlling the distribution of his images than anything else.”

As of Tuesday night, the nightclub had yet to be served with the lawsuit. A man who answered the phone to Menjos said he had not heard of the trial.

The lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount of damages.

Contact Tresa Baldas: [email protected]

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