A strange bump in the road to riches for Bob Langmuir, the Center City collector who purchased a circus trunk that turned out to contain a trove of rare Diane Arbus photographs.
The dealer who sold him the trunk contends that Langmuir knew they were extremely valuable prints when he bought them in 2002 for just $3,500. The dealer says he got conned, and has sued.
(Langmuir and his once-in-a-lifetime find were the subjects of my column two weeks ago.)
The photographs and other artifacts from the life of Richard "Charlie" Lucas -- a deceased, black sideshow performer and Times Square emcee -- are to go to auction in New York next month. They are expected to sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, says the New York Times.
Does Langmuir get to pocket all that dough?
No, no, says the dealer, a 50-year-old Nigerian named Bayo Ogunsanya.
"I feel victimized," says Ogunsanya, according to an AP report. Ogunsanya filed suit Wednesday in a federal court in Brooklyn. He wants a court to block the auction, nullify or sweeten the terms of the sale and award him unspecified damages.
A lawyer for buyer Robert Langmuir called Ogunsanya's suit a nice try by an old pro.
"Mr. Ogunsanya is a professional who seems to have had a case of seller's remorse and is trying to wring a few dollars out of my client," said the attorney, Peter Meltzer.
Ogunsanya had purchased the unclaimed trunk from a Brooklyn storage shed. Langmuir bought the photos in pieces, having spent a few years tracking down the set and proving that 29 of the photographs were shot and printed by Arbus, the late photographer.
The trunk turned out to have been the effects of "Charlie" Lucas, a former sword-swallower, nail-walker and African wildman. He finished his career as an emcee at the Times Square emporium called Hubert's Dime Museum & Flea Circus, whose performers Arbus photographed sometime before 1963, as she was developing her disturbing style.