Forget Enron exec Ken Lay’s trial or the latest phone company merger, the biggest business scandal in the news this week has been the L.A. Times expose on Thomas Kinkade, the kitsch painter best known for selling warm and fuzzy paintings of cottages and lighthouses in Christian bookstores and galleries everywhere. Seems the artist–who claims he has brought “God’s light” to the masses–is facing a slew of allegations, including heckling Sigfried and Roy, urinating on Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland as a way of “marking his territory,”–and, oh yeah, committing fraud against business partners and stockholders. And, believe it or not, he is not exactly denying all of the accusations.
According to he L.A. Times investigation, the American Arbitration Association last month awarded $860,000 to the owners of two out-of-business Kinkade’s Signature franchise galleries. The arbitrators ruled that Kinkade misrepresented and manipulated the gallery owners in his business dealings with them. Several other arbitration cases are also pending against Kincade, addressing questions about whether Kinkade, who has grossed roughly $50 million dollars in the last several years, deliberately set out to devalue his publicly traded company so he could buy it back for a fraction of its worth and turn his company into a private enterprise once again.
The more bizarre allegations came out in those same legal proceedings, when former employees and business associates recounted in very specfic detail such un-Christian-like behavior as visiting strip clubs, groping a woman’s breast at a signing party, and urinating in public places, including Disneyland (poor Pooh!) and a Las Vegas hotel elevator.
In a bizarre twist to this entire drama, it’s these allegations of lewd conduct that Kinkade is not denying. (He has denied the accusations of financial impropriety). In a deposition, the artist mentioned his practice of urinating outdoors, saying he “grew up in the country” where it was common. When asked specifically about the alleged Las Vegas elevator incident, Kinkade admitted it might have happened. “There may have been some ritual territory marking going on, but I don’t recall it,” he said. In the same deposition, Kinkade also said there was a lot of drinking and “rowdy talk” at the party in question, but he couldn’t quite remember what he did to the breasts of the woman who claims he harrassed her.
I guess this new information could give Kinkade a fresh perspective, perhaps inspiring a new series of paintings such as “Watering Pooh,” “Ode to A White Tiger,” or “Sunset on Stripper Lane.” But I hope this scandal also reminds Kinkade, as well as the rest of us, that whatever evil is done in the darkness, will sooner or later be brought into light.