From Addicted to Noise...

Perry Farrell Rails Against Pollution Outside White House

Addicted To Noise Staff Writer Chris Nelson reports : Ask Lollapalooza founder and Porno For Pyros leader Perry Farrell about cleaning up worldwide dioxin pollution, and he'll liken the situation to daily calisthenics.

"In the morning, you have all this tension from yesterday," Farrell told ATN at a Washington, D.C. anti-dioxin rally Thursday. "If you don't stretch that tension out, that's death in your body. It's unavoidable and it's just the way the day has to go.

"We have to do a global stretch, so to speak," Farrell said. "We have to clean up our environment. It's just the way it goes. Otherwise, you have death in your system."

Farrell was on hand for the rally along with other members of Porno, as well as folk singer Michelle Shocked and British popsters James. Co-sponsored by Greenpeace, an action-oriented environmental organization, and the 1997 Lollapalooza festival, the event took place in Lafayette Park opposite the White House. It marked the first time that Lollapalooza, which chose the environment as its first-ever theme, has sponsored a political protest.

Dioxin is an invisible byproduct of chlorine manufacturing and burning, and is believed responsible for innumerable cases of cancer, reproductive disorders, birth defects and other ailments throughout the world, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Against a backdrop of orange-clad Greenpeace volunteers holding tall "Dioxin = Death" signs, Farrell said he became concerned with dioxin poisoning during last year's Porno For Pyros tour. "Amongst the first places we were at was New Orleans," Farrell said. "I had a beautiful room about 20 stories up, overlooking the Mississippi. I looked down at the Mississippi and I said, 'God! Something's wrong with the Mississippi!' It didn't look like water. I knew something was in that water that didn't belong there.

"On this very same tour, I get the news that my guitarist [Pete DiStefano] isn't feeling well," Farrell said. "We find out that he's got cancer over 70 percent of his body. We had to cut the tour short." After, Farrell met a New York fan who had lost three family members to cancer. He said, "There's got to be a reason that all this is happening. I've got to do something about it."

Before Thursday's rally started, DiStefano sat on the grass, holding his guitar while his 2-year-old daughter Doran strummed it. "I really want her to have a clean world," he said. "When I pass away, I want her children to have a world that's not filled with toxic chemicals.

"I had cancer, and I had to fight that. Thank God I beat it. I don't want her or her children to get cancer. There's lots of things that we're doing now for instant gratification that's destroying our planet. I just want us to be aware, and I'm glad to be a part of this awareness."

After a few speakers and a brief set by James got the crowd charged, a bass-less Porno took the stage for an inspired three-song acoustic set that felt like a celebration. Drummer Stephen Perkins jumped up and down as he beat bongos and a tambourine. DiStefano lived it up, eyebrows raised and bending back as he strummed. On "Good God's Urge," Farrell -- dressed in a full suit and tie, but like the other members, sporting a Hawaiian lei -- sent his impassioned vocals soaring and generated smiles from his bandmates.

Michelle Shocked, barefoot and wearing a sundress appropriate for the beautiful, warm day, kicked back on the grass during Porno's set, clapping her hands as the band found its groove. Later, she took the modest stage herself and offered an a cappella lament about a Vietnam War widow named Penny Evans. She was then joined by Washington, D.C.'s Union Temple Youth Choir for an original number called "God's Country," and wrapped up with an impromptu, story-filled "Kumbaya" that set the crowd jumping.

Shocked told ATN that before she became involved in the fight against dioxin poisoning, she couldn't get behind environmental causes.

"You could get righteous about indigenous people all over the world, and environmental racism was an issue that I couldn't really see getting addressed here, and it's one I have a lot of passion for," Shocked said. Greenpeace educated her about dioxin pollution, and its role in environmentally racist policies, she said. "Out of the dioxin poisoning plants in America, 14 of them are in Southern Louisiana. That's a real direct connection for me with environmental racism in that statistic."

According to Lois Marie Gibbs, author of Dying From Dioxin, which inspired Farrell to involve Lollapalooza in the toxics fight, the solution in the dioxin battle is twofold. "One, it's political. The people have gotta get involved. People have got to speak out and say 'You've got to stop poisoning.' It's just that simple. The Congress has to do it, and the Senate has to do it, and the states have to do it.

"The other thing is that people need to make better choices," Gibbs said. "When they go to a supermarket, and they pick up a plastic shampoo container, and it has a 'V' or a '3' on [the bottom of] it, that's a plastic that has chlorine in it. Don't buy it. But it's not enough not to buy it. You have to call the 800 number for the corporation and go 'I didn't buy this because it's poisoning our environment. It's killing our bodies, it's killing our artists, it's killing our scientists, and we've got to stop this.' "

back to show list