Former JFK campaign worker in Neb. sues bookseller

AP News
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Posted: Nov 21, 2011 6:41 PM
Former JFK campaign worker in Neb. sues bookseller

A Nebraska woman who served on John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign claims a bookseller unlawfully used her name to advertise a rare, autographed copy of Richard Yates' acclaimed first novel, "Revolutionary Road."

The pre-published, hardback copy of the 1961 novel about a disillusioned Connecticut couple was autographed by Yates for Helen Abdouch and included a personal note. Her attorney, Mary Kay Green, said Monday that someone took the book from Abdouch in the 1960s. She said Abdouch does not own a computer and didn't know about the online ad for the book until she received a printout from a friend.

Abdouch's invasion of privacy lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court of Nebraska, alleges Hadley, Mass.-based Ken Lopez Bookseller used her name and position in the Kennedy campaign to sell the book. The lawsuit cites a 1979 Nebraska state law that allows people to sue if their names or images are exploited for commercial gain.

Abdouch, 84, of Omaha, was the executive secretary of John F. Kennedy's 1960 campaign in Nebraska. Yates had worked as a speechwriter for then-U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who managed his brother's presidential campaign.

Green said Abdouch is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

"She's been a private person by choice," said Green, a longtime friend of Abdouch's and the daughter of James F. Green, Kennedy's state campaign manager in Nebraska. "His defense was that she's a historical figure, which is not true."

Two phone messages left with Lopez on Monday were not returned. A woman who answered the phone at his bookstore said he was busy with customers and had not yet seen the lawsuit.

The Ken Lopez Bookseller website touted the book as a "very good copy" with stained covers and a slanted spine, but clean text. According to the website, the business sells rare books with a specialty in modern literary first editions.

"Given the date of the inscription _ that is, during JFK's presidency _ and the connection between the writer and recipient, it's reasonable to suppose this was an author's copy, presented to Abdouch by Yates," according to a copy of the ad included in the lawsuit.

Green said she contacted Lopez in June, and was told he bought it from an unidentified seller in Atlanta. The book had also made its way to Canada and Australia before he bought it, Green said. Lopez told her he sold the book three years ago but refused to identify the customer, according to the lawsuit.

Lopez based his advertisement on an Oct. 10, 1960, Time Magazine article that he found online, according to the lawsuit. The article included a brief mention of Abdouch riding next to Democratic Senate nominee Bob Conrad on a rainy drive to Lincoln. Lopez found Abdouch's campaign title through an Internet search, but assumed she was dead and made no effort to confirm otherwise, according to the lawsuit.

Yates died in 1992. His novel "Revolutionary Road" was adapted into a 2008 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.