National Enquirer sued over Winfrey pictures

October 07, 1990|By Mary Daniels | Mary Daniels,Chicago Tribune

In Sunday's Maryland Living section, an article from the Chicago Tribune incorrectly said the Maine Antique Digest is suing the National Enquirer in a dispute over the Enquirer's use of Digest photographs. Samuel Pennington, Digest editor, said the matter has been referred to a lawyer, but no lawsuit has been filed.

CHICAGO -- When photos of TV star Oprah Winfrey buying at a Shaker auction showed up in the National Enquirer, it came as a surprise to editor Samuel Pennington of the Maine Antique Digest, whose publication originally took the pictures.

Mr. Pennington said in a telephone interview that when an Enquirer photo editor called and asked to buy the photographs at a liberal fee, he refused "on the grounds of taste."


But the Enquirer ran the photos anyway, according to Mr. Pennington, reproducing them from a page in the September edition of the Digest, considered the bible of the antiques-buying world.

Mr. Pennington is suing the Enquirer.

The talk-show host had "alone accounted for some $470,000" in sales when she attended the Aug. 5 auction at Mount Lebanon Shaker Village in New Lebanon, N.Y., Dave Hewett, who took the photos, reported in the Digest. He added that she "drove up the prices on other pieces she didn't get."

But the money was well spent on Shaker items that should give her home a distinctive, elegant look.

She bought a work counter in original red paint, initialed "AW" with "1830" on the back, for a record-setting $220,000. She also bought an armchair for $9,350 and another for $6,600, an elder's rocker for $8,250, a 13 1/4 -inch-long oval box in bright blue paint for $11,000 and a large basket for $4,180, among other items.

"She bought some wonderful things," said Willis Henry, the auctioneer and owner of Willis Henry Auctions Inc., Marshfield, Mass. "She bought the top of the market." The work counter "is one of the best pieces the Shakers ever made, one of the finest pieces we've ever sold." Mr. Henry said.

The Digest reported that she bought "the great pieces" on the advice of her friend, David Driskell, who was pictured with Ms. Winfrey in the photos.

Mr. Pennington identified Mr. Driskell as "a renowned American artist who has had major shows at both Colby College and Bowdoin College and whose work is exhibited in galleries from coast to coast."

Mr. Henry added that "it is very unusual for a celebrity to come to an auction in person instead of sending a representative.

"It was such a pleasure to have her come and be a part of it," he said. "She had a lot of fun. Every time she bought something she loved, she got up and cheered."

Though the money Ms. Winfrey plunked down might seem high to the uninitiated, Mr. Henry added that Ms. Winfrey got a bargain on some items.

"Some things brought less than they would have three or four years ago; the market is soft," he said, a condition that seemed to have needlessly worried dealers at the auction, said Mr. Hewett of the Digest.

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