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for February 26, 2003

Facing The Furtive
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

The day after last week's article, as Michael Jackson's rebuttal footage aired, a club in Warwick, Rhode Island burned down, killing 97 and injuring 100 more. Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love had exhorted you to deplore greed that jeopardized lives. As if on cue, events conspired to demonstrate the eerie and awful veracity of those remarks. Please, my dear, make a habit of noting your fire exit options wherever you are as we move on to discussing moral if not legal fault in these matters.
The media assigned blame for the tragedy immediately. It's the band's fault. Let's take a step back. There's plenty of blame to go around, really. We've all seen the video footage and certain things can be deduced.

First and not least: what genius of a professional pyrotechnician set up torches on an elevated stage with a low, level ceiling and didn't know down to his tube socks that the room was going up in flames?
Second, public areas of the club appear in the video to be one large room with a stage. This is a familiar set up for many of us, like patrons of the Brighton Bar, the Stone Pony, the Continental in New York. Lots of places where bands play live are designed this way. If you're a musician, you know that few things like large pyrotechnic devices will get by the staff without a wry, "Say, boys, does that make fire? No way, Jose." Sadly, that last part can sometimes be mispronounced in such a way as to sound like, "Cooooooool." No bar opens without bartenders, door and cleaning people. A bunch of somebodies were asleep at the wheel.
The owners have publicly declared - to anyone who'd listen - that no one cleared these devices with them. Hmm. Unconvincing. It's their club, their staff. They hired and trained and paid people to run things the way they wanted them run. Ultimately, blame can be squarely laid at the owners' feet. That guy from the Stone Pony can stop looking victimized on TV, too. Great White didn't ask to use pyrotechnics in his bar either? Knock it off. Try replacing the word "use pyrotechnics" with "deal drugs in the bathrooms" and see how much sympathy flows that way.
The band? Yeah, sure. The band can be blamed, but we knew they weren't Mensa members. Jack Russell, the singer, looked on camera like the most hapless man in America. If this is the musicians' fault, it is as much their management's fault for sending out Great White without a sensible keeper.

No matter what one secretly thinks, fans of Great White did not deserve this for sporting mullets. No. No. No.
Any one person here could have looked at circumstances as they developed and put a stop to them. Fortunately, you know from personal experience that sharp-eyed bartenders, bouncers, musicians and booking agents regularly set limits and stick to them. How do you know this? You're alive, aren't you? Probably. So there you are. Surviving an evening of your favorite live music doesn't sound like a lot to ask, but recent events offer us one truly important lesson: if everyone else turns out to be an idiot, you have to be smart enough to save yourself. In Warwick, three hundred people tried to push their way out one door at the same time, ignoring basic laws of physics in their panic. Be, my friend, the wise one who locates another way out by noting it on his or her way in.

©2003 Robin Pastorio-Newman

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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