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    By Eric Matthews

    A gory legal feud festers between two zombie events. 

     

    For more than a decade, a horde of partygoers dressed as zombies lumbering their way down Bardstown Road has helped keep Louisville weird. This year, with two competing zombie events in three days and a gory legal feud between their organizers, things are getting even weirder.

    Zombies first descended on Louisville in 2005, when John King and Lynda Curtis (who goes by Lyndi) staged a flash mob to celebrate their shared birthday. Their unusual festivities, unheard of at the time, would soon morph into “Louisville Zombie Attack,” the longest-running annual zombie-themed block party in the world.

    “We were just wanting to get folks excited about our birthday party,” King says.  “And it was fun so we did it the next year, and all of a sudden zombie walks pop up around the world and ours frequently broke records and became this massive cultural event.”

    In 2015, while King was busy at college, Curtis changed the event’s name to “The Louisville Zombie Walk” and brought on Jason Besemann as organizer for 2016. King sued the Zombie Walk for trademark infringement, unfair competition, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, resulting in a settlement with Curtis abandoning all rights to the Louisville Zombie Walk. Besemann, who did not agree to the settlement, went ahead with the Louisville Zombie Walk in 2016. Unable to compete with an identical event two days before his own, King was forced to scrap last year’s Zombie Attack. This year both organizers are running events, with the lawsuit ongoing between them.

    King asserts that Besemann violated his intellectual property rights by having a nearly identical name, plan and logo; representing his event as the same one that began in 2005 and even using the same tagline — “The end is nigh.” The result, King says, is that Louisville zombie fans are being mislead into supporting an impostor, and now the authentic event cannot compete.

    Besemann’s walk will take place Aug. 26, following the traditional route down Bardstown Road from Eastern Parkway to the Highlands Taproom. The Louisville Zombie Walk will begin at 8:29 p.m. sharp, taking another cue from Louisville Zombie Attack.

    Muscled out of his original stomping grounds, King decided to get creative.

    Rather than a procession of the undead, King is throwing a party at the recently-expanded Zanzabar billed as “Louisville Zombie Attack Presents: A Funeral for Indecency,” where partygoers will mourn (or not) the Zombie Walk. Highlights include live entertainment, a movie marathon, pinball tournament, prize raffle and costume contests for Best Funeral Attire, Best Couple In Mourning and Best Looking Corpse. The event is open to all ages until 9 p.m. and 21+ afterward.

    “It is also my 40th birthday, and it is totally lame having something so negative associated with your birthday, so why not have a party?” King says.

    The George A. Romero Tribute Double Feature Matinée, presented by Never Nervous, begins at 6 p.m. with dinner options available from Zanzabar’s menu. Live entertainment starts at 9 p.m. with Tony Robot, Season of the Witch, Alice Cooper tribute band Sick Little Things and comedian Clownvis Presley. The evening concludes with Michael Hartman’s Walking Dead Split Flipper pinball tournament at 10 p.m.

    The event is free to attend. All proceeds from the raffle will go to fund King’s proposed “We Gon’ Be Alright” mural at the corner of Hill and Floyd streets.

    Besemann wouldn’t discuss any possible relationship between his event and King’s, citing the ongoing lawsuit, but he did comment on the ways in which the walk benefits the city.

    “It has a huge impact on Bardstown Road businesses — bars and restaurants especially,” he said. “It’s their second-busiest day of the year after St. Patrick’s Day. It’s beginning to draw people not only locally, but regionally and nationally as well.”

    As far as King is concerned, however, these are Louisville Zombie Attack’s accomplishments, and Besemann’s event deserves neither the credit nor the glory.

    “I would like to keep a project I have spent the major part of my adult life working on,” King says. “I have no idea how this will all end, but I can't allow myself to accept an idea that I should quit just because it is too difficult.”

     

    Cover photo: Adobe

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