The LA-based PR company Life Or Death came under fire last month when multiple allegations of sexual assault were made against its founder, Heathcliff Berru. Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman initiated the call-out via Twitter, asserting that Berru had groped her without her consent several years prior. Coffman’s account of misconduct was corroborated by other musicians and women working in the music industry, and throughout the next few days, more and more women came forward with stories about Berru’s inappropriate behavior. Berru later resigned from Life Or Death PR and issued a statement via LA Weekly. In the statement, Berru was elusive about the sexual assault allegations, writing, “I am deeply sorry for those who I have offended by my actions and how I have made certain women feel. If I crossed the line of decency or respectfulness in situations when I was drunk and under the influence, there is no excuse of course.” He also denied that he had ever drugged anyone and asserted that he would enter into a rehabilitation program in California to deal with his substance abuse issues. Berru’s former employers started a new PR company called Liberal Arts in wake of his departure.
It’s been a month since this unfolded, but former Stereogum staffer Caitlin White has been investigating the aftermath of the allegations since she broke the story on 1/19. Brooklyn Magazine published her extensive, in-depth article about the situation today, which includes multiple victims’ harrowing accounts of assault at the hands of Berru as well as an interview with Berru himself. This is the first time he has spoken publicly since his original statement.
Berru spoke to White over the phone from his recovery center in California where he is undergoing treatment for alcohol, drug, and sex addiction. He apologized multiple times for his inappropriate behavior in the interview but fully denied having ever drugged or raped anyone:
I was made an example of in a way that was necessary given the circumstances. It was time for me to pay for all my mistakes and accept responsibility and face what I did do. When I first spoke out and made that statement, that was me reacting as a fucking publicist. That dry, almost insincere response was the last bit of publicist in me, trying to put out a fire. I tried to live this lifestyle with disgusting disregard to those I hurt.
He later admits to having made mistakes in regard to his conduct when under the influence of drugs and alcohol:
I made mistakes, but I am not a mistake. I had a hard time coming to that realization… I’m in detox and treatment right now; I’ve surrendered everything. I look back, and I can’t help but obsess over it. I look at the things I did, I have to say this: My behavior was wildly inappropriate, hurtful, and terrible. But I have never raped or drugged anyone. I can’t accept that.
Berru then explains why he chose to be interviewed for the piece:
I think it’s very brave and bold when people stand up. I hope this motivates women and anyone to stand up, and put one foot forward in a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable. Particularly sexism in music or entertainment, or in industries where people drink, use drugs and do other things that they’ll use to excuse themselves the next day when they clean up. I want to be a good example for people that have addiction issues. The reason I’m even speaking today is to express sincere apology and to acknowledge that I was a really shitty person and upset a lot of women. Men everywhere are shaken as a result of these stories, and you know what? It’s time that people own up.
The article draws from an extensive list of sources, including Berru’s former employers and other powerful figures in the music industry. Read the entire piece here.