By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Havre Festival Days this year include a chance to see a famous group of rock 'n' rollers while helping local causes and the victims of the band's show-turned- disaster in Rhode Island.
Great White, which rose to fame in the mid-1980s, will play Sept. 20 at the Havre Ice Dome as part of the band's Help Us Help Them tour. The band is donating its proceeds from the tour to help the survivors and families of victims killed when the band's pyrotechnics started a fire in The Station, a club in West Warwick, R.I.
The Feb. 20 fire killed 100 people, injured nearly 200 more and left 56 children with one or both parents dead. Several lawsuits have been filed, and the Rhode Island Attorney General's Office is conducting a criminal investigation of the incident.
Great White guitarist Ty Longley was killed in the fire. A fund has been established for his child, Acey Ty Christopher Longley. The baby was born to Longley's girlfriend, Heidi Peralta, on Aug. 12.
Havre Jaycee June Erickson, chair of the committee that organized the concert, said the Jaycees will donate all of its profits from the concert to local causes.
MTV and radio stations played Great White's songs like "Rock Me" and its covers of Ian Hunter's "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" and Angel City's "Face the Day" during the band's heyday in the 1980s and early '90s.
Their 1989 album " Twice Shy" went double platinum with more than 2 million sales, and the band earned a Grammy nomination for its performance of "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" in 1990.
Band co-founder and vocalist Jack Russell said the lawsuits and investigation are not what's important to him now.
"What's important to me is getting these people some help," he said in a telephone interview.
The tragedy has given him a new perspective on rock 'n' roll and on life, he said. Platinum records are now just something to dust off, he added.
"The only thing that's important is the Station Family Fund," Russell said of the fund to help victims of the fire. "The music business has always been very self-centered. Now I realize it's not about me."
The Help Us Help Them tour began July 22 in Sterling, Colo., and so far has made 12 stops in eight states. Russell said he doesn't really expect the benefit tour to end.
"I plan to keep contributing to this fund as long as I can sing," he said.
Geno Goguen of Burrillville, R.I., is a survivor of the fire and a volunteer with the Station Family Fund. All of the work for the fund is volunteer labor done by survivors of the fire or family members of victims, he said.
Goguen said the Great White tour has raised about 60 percent of the fund's money. Def Leppard, Quiet Riot, Poison, Iron Maiden and other bands also have helped raise money, and the fund benefits from a weekly comedy show in a Rhode Island club.
Other fund-raisers are being held, he added.
"We've done everything from motorcycle runs to car washes," Goguen said. "Things are going phenomenally."
During the interview, Russell challenged more artists and fans to join the benefit drive. Bands like Kiss or Bon Jovi - which make more in one show than Great White can in six months - and their fans should chip in to help the fund, he said.
"This is not just a rock 'n' roll tragedy, it's an American tragedy," Russell added.
Erickson said tickets for the Havre show may be in short supply pretty soon.
"We've been selling them, believe it or not, like crazy," she said.
The Jaycees have decided to donate profits to the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line and the Havre High School band department, and to the effort to expand the softball complex south of Havre, Erickson said.
The Jaycees may donate to other causes, depending on how much money is raised, she added.
The concert also is sponsored by P.S. Limo Service, Coca Cola and Budweiser. Great Falls band Wrathaheart will open for Great White.
Goguen said the money collected by the Station Family Fund, about $35,000 after costs, has gone to a variety of needs. Almost $17,000 has been distributed.
The money has been used to pay off car loans, pay utility bills, buy children's school clothes, pay for funerals and other expenses.
Goguen said one expense was helping a woman who turned 18 a couple of weeks after her mother died in the fire. The fund furnished her with an apartment, bought her clothes and food, and got her a car and a job, he said. She is now supporting herself, he added.
"We're doing a lot of good things with the money," Goguen said.
An investigation into the fire began almost immediately. Mike Healey, spokesman for Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, said nothing has been ruled out of the criminal investigation. The attorney general is confident that the investigation is more than half over, he added.
The fire led the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to levy a $7,000 fine on Jack Russell Touring Inc., which represtents the band, and fine Derco LLC, which operated the club, $85,200. The entities have 15 business days after the fines were levied on Aug. 20 to appeal.
OSHA said the club's violations included installing an exit door that swung the wrong way, using highly inflammable foam to soundproof the nightclub and having an exit door concealed by foam.
Jack Russell Touring was fined for failing to protect employees from a fire hazard, OSHA said.
Goguen said there are some survivors of the fire who oppose Great White's tour to benefit the fund. He said he understands, although he disagrees.
"They have a right to be angry. I think a lot of it's misdirected," Goguen said. "I think a lot of people don't know who to be angry at."
Erickson said people need to consider what the band is trying to do with the tour.
"It's not like they're touring to have a good time. They're touring to make a difference," she said.
Tickets for the show are $18 in advance or $24 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Pardi Gras, Griggs Printing, Havre Distributors, E-1 Towing, Elite Tan & Styling Salon, Creative Leisure, Sam Goody, TownHouse Inns of Havre, and from local Jaycees.