Originally created 09/30/03

New law passed to block concert suicide



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 morning to unanimously approve an emergency ordinance making it illegal to conduct a suicide for commercial or entertainment purposes, and 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-based Hell of Earth, known for such outrageous onstage stunts 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, promptly 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 in the city, 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 message left for Tourtelot was not immediately returned Monday.

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

Hell on Earth is playing clubs in support of its independently produced album, "All Things Disturbingly Sassy."

On the Net:

Hell on Earth: http://www.hellonearth.net