TWISTED SISTER singer Dee Snider spoke to the New Orleans radio station Bayou 95.7 about his involvement in “America’s Deadliest Concert: The Guest List”, a documentary about the infamous GREAT WHITE concert fire nearly two decades ago that killed a hundred people and injured hundreds more. The film will receive its premiere on Reelz today (Sunday, February 20) to coincide with the event’s 19th anniversary. A trailer for the documentary is available below.
Snider, who was interviewed for the film said (as transcribed by Phoosi.com): “It’s hard to remember and listen to, but a hundred people burned to death, over two hundred were injured, and 65 kids lost one or both parents in a fire in a nightclub. GREAT WHITE was playing. And yeah, GREAT WHITE, they were vilified. Their pyro ignited the building, and wrong or right, they’ve been shouldering the blame for a long time.
“One of the things I like about this documentary, it’s very well rounded and it actually allows Jack Russell [former GREAT WHITE singer, whose pyrotechnics ignited the deadly blaze on February 20, 2003 in Rhode Island] to speak,” he continued. “I remember Jack from back when, and we toured together back in the heyday, and now he’s a broken man. And people may say and rightfully so. But let me just say, was it stupid, was it foolish to set off pyro in a small club? Yes. Was it malicious? Not on your life. They would never, ever intentionally hurt any of their fans.”
According to Dee, the deadly event “struck a chord in so many ways” with him when it happened. “I had, post-TWISTED SISTER, gone from arenas to the bars, just like GREAT WHITE had, and I played The Station nightclub,” he explained. “The DJ, who was called Doctor Metal, he was this kid, and what he did with my show is what he did with GREAT WHITE — he introduced me and then jumped off the front of the stage into the front of the audience and rocked out, because he was that local guy, that fan. And he perished in the fire. There were so many people. To think that those same people who came to see me were probably at that GREAT WHITE show as well. So it just struck so many chords. And I got very involved in a concert event to help those people. Troy Luccketta from TESLA, myself… But more than the money we raised that night, it was a deadlock with the lawyers and the courts and the insurance companies for a decade. And because of the attention we brought to the plight of these people, 175 million dollars finally went through to help these people. But the truth of the matter is the scars, literally and figuratively, remain for that community. It’s very tough.”
Snider also touched upon the documentary’s title, saying: “It’s called ‘The Guest List’ because Jack had been in town at a tattoo parlor, getting a tattoo, and met a bunch of fans and put them on his personal guest list. The greatest honor ever to have a lead singer of a band that you like put you on their guest list. And in the documentary, their families are talking about how their brothers, their sisters, their wives, their friends called and said, ‘I met Jack Russell. He put me on the list.’ Jack put ’em on a list that turned into a death list — see those names, and they died. So it’s an awful, awful remembrance. But certainly Jack was doing something nice for the fans that turned into an awful tragedy.”
This past December, Russell told Tulsa Music Stream about the documentary: “We took three years shooting this thing. I mean, it was a long time. A lot of footage — a lot of footage. But it’s really moving. It is really moving, touching, and it’s a beautifully shot piece of film. It lets you know how beautiful music is and how music can heal everything, no matter what people think. There’s a certain thing in music that is very healing, and it’s helped a lot of people through the aftermath of the fire.”
Russell also said that he wanted the tragedy to serve as a reminder to remain alert about public safety.
“Honestly, I haven’t been asked a question about the fire in — I can’t remember how many years now,” he said. “It’s been a long, long time. The public has a short memory, unfortunately. It was something that I hoped that people would remember, just because of the nature of it and the fact that we need to take care of ourselves when we’re out at places; we need to be conscious of our safety.”
Five years ago, Russell told Psycho Babble TV about the documentary: “What it is is partly my life story, as a kid growing up, and then it goes off into the fire, unfortunately, and the aftermath of that, and testimonies… not testimony, but… talks by the victims and their families and how it affected them.”
Russell said that parts of the movie are especially hard for him to watch “because a lot of people blame me.” He then corrected himself: “I wouldn’t say a lot, but they’re very vocal.” Still, he said he understood why some believe he should be held accountable for what happened fifteen years ago. “I look at it like this: if it makes it easier for them to grieve the loss of somebody close to them, then my shoulders are big enough,” he explained.
The fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick began in an overcrowded club when pyrotechnics from Russell‘s GREAT WHITE ignited illegal soundproofing foam lining the club’s walls.
“I’ve seen so many video tapes of pyro shooting off in that club with the foam — bigger stuff than we had — and it never happened,” Jack told Psycho Babble TV.” Why it happened that night… Who knows? I mean, it’s like a plane crash — it takes all these little things to fall in line for that one big thing to happen. So [the movie] gave me the opportunity to talk about how I felt and for me to apologize. Not a guilty apology, but because I just…
“I mean, I feel horrible that it happened,” he continued. “I lost a lot of friends that night — a lot of friends. People that I didn’t even know were even there. And people have said, ‘Well, he’s not remorseful.’ And they’ve gotta understand, when all this went down, my legal team, they said, ‘You cannot ever say you’re sorry, because it implies guilt.’ And I’m, like, ‘But I am sorry.’ [And they told me], ‘But you can’t say it.'”
According to Russell, at least one “really beautiful” thing came out of the tragedy. “There was a man named Joe; they call him ‘The Lizard Man,'” Jack said. “He was the worst, most badly burned of all the people. And he met his wife in the fire and they had a beautiful son. And his comment was, ‘If this wouldn’t have happened, I wouldn’t have met the love of my life.'”
The singer said that the documentary, which he hopes will help bring him some closure, is “really well done. The guy [making it]… He’s done Disney movies. He’s actually from that town. So he had to be really unbiased, which he really was — he just told it. And it’s really, really informative, and it delves into people’s lives.”
Russell added that he is “glad” the film was made. “It may not be the best thing in the world for me, but it’s very cathartic,” he said.
At least one relative of a Station fire victim was angered by Russell‘s plan to make a documentary about the incident and discuss it in the upcoming book.
“I think it’s ruining all the positive strides that we’re now making to heal here in Rhode Island,” Jody King, whose brother Tracy was a bouncer at the Station, told the Associated Press in 2015. “If he wants to help, stay away, shut your mouth.”
Russell‘s bandmate Ty Longley (guitar) was one of the people who perished in The Station blaze, which became the fourth deadliest fire in U.S. history.
In 2008, the band agreed to pay $1 million to survivors and families of the victims of the fire.
GREAT WHITE guitarist Mark Kendall founded the band with Russell in 1982. At the time of the fire, the group that was on the road was called JACK RUSSELL’S GREAT WHITE. Kendall later said he was asked to join Russell and his solo band on the tour to help boost attendance.
Official “America’s Deadliest Concert: The Guest List” description: “Fates of the innocent and guilty collide in a small New England town when pyrotechnics from an 80’s rock band spark America’s deadliest rock concert.
“On the night of February 20th, 2003… America’s deadliest rock concert began in West Warwick, Rhode Island, when the band GREAT WHITE ignited pyrotechnics inside a run-down roadhouse called The Station. The resulting conflagration killed 100 persons and grievously injured many others. It could fairly be said that music and rock culture drew one hundred innocent people to their deaths in The Station fire. ‘The Guest List’ explores how that same music and culture became sources of healing and comfort, at least for some, in the years thereafter.
“Many victims of The Station fire had been seduced by the siren song of rock celebrity. They met Jack Russell in the local Denny’s, a nearby motel or at a tattoo parlor, where he generously added their names to the show’s guest list. For many of those passionate fans, what appeared to be their very luckiest day turned out to be their last. Weeks after the fire, the actual charred, handwritten guest list was recovered from the club’s ashes.
“The film contrasts Jack Russell‘s post-fire journey, in a search for redemption, with survivor Joe Kinan‘s rebirth, courage and inspiration. along the way, we meet other survivors and victims’ families who have memorialized their loss through pursuits ranging from an exhibit of commemorative body art to re-immersion in the rock culture that initially brought them and their loved ones to the station nightclub. Throughout this journey we discover what many feel was legal injustice within local and state government.
“The documentary addresses timeless themes of personal responsibility, acceptance forgiveness and redemption. Its central characters struggle to cope in the aftermath of tragedy – some gracefully, and some less so. It is an object lesson in the tragic potential of poor decisions. ‘The Guest List’ remains timely, years after the station fire tragedy, as young people will always be attracted to concert events while some bands, promoters, and concert venues remain tempted to cut corners for cheap spectacle. ‘The Guest List’ is based in part on John Barylick‘s narrative non-fiction work, ‘Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert’. The result is poignant footage contrasting very different life stories. the guest list is a strikingly visual film. No one who watches ‘The Guest List’ will enter a concert venue again without first checking for the exits.”
“America’s Deadliest Concert: The Guest List” includes interviews with Russell, Snider, Don Dokken (DOKKEN), Lita Ford and Michael Sweet (STRYPER).
Russell exited GREAT WHITE in December 2011 after he was unable to tour with the group due a series of injuries, including a perforated bowel and a shattered pelvis. Jack largely blamed these injuries on his alcohol and painkiller addictions as well as the prednisone drug he was prescribed.
Russell sued his onetime bandmates in 2012 over their continued use of the GREAT WHITE name after Jack had taken a leave of absence from the band for medical reasons. A short time later, Russell was countersued by Kendall, rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Michael Lardie and drummer Audie Desbrow, claiming the vocalist’s self-destructive behavior was damaging the GREAT WHITE name (they also alleged he was charging promoters less for his own touring version of GREAT WHITE). The parties settled in July 2013 without going to trial, with Russell now performing as JACK RUSSELL’S GREAT WHITE while the others are continuing as GREAT WHITE.
This is an IMPORTANT rock doc that EVERYONE needs to watch. The truth is ugly but should never be forgotten. “America’s Deadliest Rock Concert: The Guest List” premiers Feb 20th on @ReelzChannel https://t.co/uQPOE13agm
— Dee Snider?? (@deesnider) February 5, 2022
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