Seals Bite Great White

When can a benefit to save cute little baby harp seals cause scorn to be heaped on one of its performers? Apparently when the performer is Great White.

Just as grand jury testimony in The Station nightclub fire begins to be released, Great White finds itself in the crosshairs, announcing a 25th anniversary tour and benefit concert – to aid baby harp seals.

Whether this means the band has decided to distance itself from its connection to The Station fire or if the charity aiding victims of the tragedy is cutting off Great White depends on who’s doing the talking.

The Boston Herald reported January 4th that the band would be kicking off a reunion tour January 27th in Los Angeles with a benefit for harp seals, not to help the now-depleted Station Family Fund charity. Included were several quotes blasting the band.

"I think if you’re in Great White and you’re talking about charitable endeavors, I don’t see how you look past the victims of the Rhode Island fire," victims’ attorney Steven Minicucci said.

The paper also reported The Station Family Fund has "run dry" after distributing some $800,000 to victims’ families for housing costs, medical bills and other expenses. Fund president Victoria Potvin said the account is empty and the fund is "defunct."

Great White has given about $82,000 but, according to Potvin, nothing since December 2003.

It could be a matter of "damned if you do, damned if you don’t." The band’s management responded that organizers of the victims’ fund no longer wanted to be associated with the band.

"The Station Family Fund wanted to distance themselves from Great White," manager Obi Steinman told the paper. "They thought Great White’s efforts were hindering their ability to raise money."

As to whether any proceeds from the reunion tour or a new album would aid the Station victims, Steinman said, "We would love to continue our charitable endeavors. They asked us to disassociate with the fund. It was never the band’s wishes to. The band has always wished to raise money for the victims."

Back in Rhode Island, grand jury testimony began to be released January 3rd by attorneys in the case showing that former West Warwick, R.I., fire marshal Denis Larocque told a different story to the panel than he did to state investigators shortly after the fire.

Larocque told the grand jury that his most recent inspections at the club in November of 2001 and 2002 were not full inspections but "fire safety" checks focusing on extinguishers, exit signs and emergency lighting.

Previously, Larocque told investigators he was so distracted by the sight of a swinging door he’d ordered removed that he failed to notice the foam – even though some was attached to the door in question.

Some relatives of those killed in the blaze have been critical of Larocque and said he should have been prosecuted or held responsible for failing to detect the foam during repeated visits to the club. He was never charged in the case, although fire survivors and relatives of those killed are suing him in federal court.