01-23-2016, 10:12 AM #1
The ‘Bill Cosby Of Indie Music' - The downfall of a rock publicist
Take the case of Heathcliff Berru, an indie-music publicist who’s now alleged to have made unwanted attempts at a number of women over the last few years. This week, Amber Coffman of the band Dirty Projectors recounted on Twitter how Berru groped her and bit her hair at a bar. Soon other testimonials flooded in from women in bands, at PR firms, and elsewhere in the rock scene. Some said that Berru or one of his friends roofied them. Others told stories that amounted to him attempting rape.
Berru has now resigned from Life or Death PR, the firm he cofounded and that has represented a number of high-profile artists including D’Angelo, Frank Ocean, GZA, Cloud Nothings, Killer Mike, and Wavves, many of whom quickly severed ties with the company. In a statement, Berru blamed his actions of alcohol and drugs, said he’d go to rehab, apologized to any women he “offended,” and included a line so deadpan and strange that it might be a passive-aggressive joke: “It’s time to put a stop to all of this. Create a world with one less inappropriate man.” Regardless of his sincerity and of whether it’s okay to chalk up a pattern of sexual assault to partying too hard, it does appear he has lost his career and reputation for now.
Yasmine Kittles rarely goes on Twitter. But she woke up early on Tuesday morning and the first thing she saw was a series of tweets from Amber Coffman, of the band Dirty Projectors, describing how Life or Death PR founder and CEO Heathcliff Berru allegedly groped her at a bar.
“All of a sudden I was like — immediately, I didn’t even think twice — ‘I have to respond.’ I have to let her know she’s not alone,” Kittles, half of the electronic duo Tearist, said by phone. “Because that was my fear.”
Kittles had never gone public, really, with her experience. She says Berru had groped her, too — grabbed her butt, pulled her onto a couch, gripped her in a hug, and forced her to touch his penis — in 2011.
After Coffman shared her experience, another LA-based music publicist, Beth Martinez, replied that she had a similar experience
Here is Berru's full statement (third paragraph added after this article was originally published, at his request):
"There have been several reports about my alleged inappropriate behavior which deserve a response. I am deeply sorry for those who I have offended by my actions and how I have made certain women feel. If I crossed the line of decency or respectfulness in situations when I was drunk and under the influence, there is no excuse of course. To be clear, while my conduct may have been inappropriate, I have never drugged anyone or engaged in that type of behavior. Nevertheless, I do not want to be the type of person who would let drugs or alcohol take command of his life and compromise how he treats people. Yet I have been this person and it’s time to put a stop to all of this. Create a world with one less inappropriate man.
"I have been fighting a losing battle against drugs and alcohol for many years and will be checking into a rehabilitation facility in the hope that I can improve my chances of winning that fight. A year ago, I was confronted by a peer and began to try to clean up and make things right with therapy and with an eye towards quitting the addiction. The shame and sadness feels as strong now as it did then and I am making an immediate change.
Update at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 15: Several of Berru's accusers responded to his statement last night via Twitter. Best Coast's Cosentino tweeted, "drugs and alcohol are no excuse but lemme bring them up as many times as I can," while publicist Judy Miller Silverman, who says she knew of Berru's behavior for years and tried to warn others, but was never personally harassed, wrote, "How about the sex addiction? The propensity to touch women against their will addiction?" Amber Coffman wrote, "Love that Heathcliff's initial statement uses 'alleged.' He knows damned well what he did. That's what I call a half assed apology." Roxy Lange, a former musician who says she was sexually assaulted by Berru when she was 21, simply wrote, "I want to throw up."]
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