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Panel moves to thwart band's onstage suicide

September 30, 2003|From Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The St. Petersburg City Council passed a law Monday designed to scuttle a rock group's plans to feature an onstage suicide.

The hard-rock band Hell on Earth had said that a suicide by a terminally ill person would take place during a concert Saturday to raise awareness of right-to-die issues.

In response, the City Council met Monday to unanimously approve an emergency ordinance making it illegal to conduct a suicide for commercial or entertainment purposes, and also to host, promote and sell tickets for such an event.

"While I still think it's a publicity stunt, we still couldn't sit idly by and let somebody lose their life," council member Bill Foster said.

Tampa, Fla.,-based Hell on Earth, known for such outrageous onstage stunts such as chocolate syrup wrestling and grinding up live rats in a blender, created the furor by announcing the suicide would happen Saturday at the Palace Theater in downtown St. Petersburg.

But the theater's owner, David Hundley, canceled the band's show, and another venue also turned away the event.

Band leader Billy Tourtelot has vowed that the concert and suicide will still take place at an undisclosed location, broadcast live on the band's Web site.

"This show is far more than a typical Hell on Earth performance," Tourtelot said in an e-mail last week. "This is about standing up for what you believe in, and I am a strong supporter of physician-assisted suicide."

A Florida law already views assisting in a suicide as manslaughter, a second-degree felony.

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