Band's Plan For Onstage Suicide Is Investigated

September 17, 2003

An industrial rock band's claim that they will feature a "live suicide" onstage during a St. Petersburg gig next month has gotten the attention of the concert hall's owners and police, according to Mitch Stacy of the Associated Press.

The Tampa group, HELL ON EARTH, said on their web site that a terminally ill member of a right-to-die group planned to commit suicide on stage during an Oct. 4 performance at the State Theater.

The volunteer, who the web site said would not be identified until the day of the show, wanted to carry out the suicide onstage to "raise awareness for dying with dignity."

Dave Hundley, one of the owners of the theater, said he found out about it via an e-mailed press release Monday. He said he was hoping to talk with band members to determine whether they planned to carry out the stunt or were trying to generate publicity.

"If I have an inkling that this is for real, I need to worry about it," Hundley said Tuesday. He stopped short of saying he would cancel the gig, for which the band paid to rent the downtown St. Petersburg theater.

Hundley said HELL ON EARTH played the venue a couple of years ago and has been known to stage some strange stunts, such as chocolate-syrup wrestling and grinding up rats in a blender.

"I wouldn't put it past them," he said of the staged suicide.

Spokesman Bill Proffitt said St. Petersburg police started getting calls about the band's claim on Tuesday morning. It's a second-degree felony in Florida to assist a suicide, he said, but police were trying to get more information and hadn't yet determined how to respond.

"We've just begun looking at it, and we're not quite sure where to go from here," Proffitt said. "Obviously, the St. Petersburg police does not condone public displays of suicide."

The band's web site, which went down late Tuesday morning, did not say how the person planned to commit suicide. The volunteer hoped to use the event "as a platform to make back-street suicides a thing of the past," the site said.

But the band shouldn't expect applause from right-to-die advocates, said David Goldberg, spokesman for the Denver-based End-of-Life Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society.

"While we encourage national dialogue on dying and death issues, we are concerned about this particular circumstance," Goldberg said.

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