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A Rocking Anti-drug Campaign

November 21, 1986|DENNIS McDOUGAL | Times Staff Writer

"A good friend of mine, Sid Vicious, died of drugs," former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones says in an MTV anti-drug spot that will begin airing today. "I nearly died from drugs. Drugs suck."

At a Rock Against Drugs kickoff press conference Thursday, California Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp agreed with both what Jones said and how he said it. Van de Kamp's office contributed $50,000 to help produce the spots.

In fact, Van de Kamp said, he hopes the Jones spot and 19 other public-service announcements like it will generate controversy when broadcast over MTV and any other network willing to give them airtime.

"Some people may be offended by some of the language that's used," said Van de Kamp. "They have to place themselves in the 20th Century."

Van de Kamp, who self-consciously referred to himself as a "buttoned-down attorney general," was not the only establishment figure to put in an appearance. Sharing his semantic sentiments as well as a seat on the dais Thursday with heavy-metal rocker Ronnie Dio, pop singer Belinda Carlisle and ex-Sex Pistol Jones were Billboard magazine publisher Sam Holdsworth and Pepsi-Cola marketing executive Brad Brown.

"This campaign is very important to this industry," said Holdsworth. "Naturally, at Billboard, we're behind it 1,000%."

Pepsi, which has already begun a $100,000 anti-drug campaign, contributed an undisclosed amount to the production.

MTV President Tom Freston said his company's three networks--VH-1, Nickelodeon and MTV--will contribute the equivalent of $3 million in broadcast airtime for the anti-drug spots.

According to organizer Danny Goldberg, most of the actual performance and production costs also are being contributed. Goldberg, president of Gold Mountain Records, has encouraged many of his own acts, including Carlisle, to participate for free.

"There was a time when rock and roll and commercial products were incompatible," Goldberg said. "Michael Jackson changed all that in spite of his hair catching on fire."

(During the filming of a Pepsi commercial two years ago, the singer's scalp was set on fire by fireworks; he required hospitalization and surgery.)

Both Carlisle and Jones said that they are former drug abusers.

Carlisle said she has been "clean" for two years and decided to become an anti-drug crusader following the fan response she received after she went public.

Jones, who said he was a "junkie" who has only recently quit drugs, said he "would do anything to help" keep fans drug free.

In addition to the Jones spot, Goldberg unveiled six other public-service spots featuring Andy Taylor, Kiss' Gene Simmons, Dio, Mr. Mister, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue's Vince Neil.

Neil recently served 30 days in Los Angeles County Jail as part of his sentence for involvement in a fatal auto accident last year. He admitted to drunk driving at the time of the accident that claimed the life of musician Nicholas Dingley, 24. Dingley used the stage name of Razzle when he was drummer for the Finnish band Hanoi Rocks.

Neil, whose full name is Vincent Neil Wharton, was ordered to pay $2.6 million in restitution to two other victims of the accident as well as to perform 200 hours of community service.

In the Vince Neil spot, the singer sits on a police motorcycle, explaining that he can "still party with the best of them" even though he no longer uses drugs.

"I'm on top of everything I do," he says. At that point in the spot, a sports car speeds by and Neil--long locks blowing and siren shrieking--takes off in pursuit.

Both Van de Kamp and Goldberg acknowledged that some of the rock artists who appear in the spots could revert to drug use, but warned against finding fault with the campaign simply because of that possibility.

"Nobody in this room is perfect," Van de Kamp said.

Goldberg said he had faith in the continued sobriety of all of those performers who had made spots.

"We don't ask people to do urine tests before they do an anti-drug spot," Goldberg said.

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