Photo of Heathcliff Berru
Last night, Dirty Projectors member Amber Coffman took to Twitter to accuse one of the industry’s most prominent music publicists, Heathcliff Berru, of sexual assault. Berru is the founder of Life or Death PR & Management, whose clients include high-profile artists like D’Angelo, Killer Mike, Wavves, Cloud Nothings, and Mac Miller.
“Was just re-telling/re-remembering a story abt how a very popular music publicist RUBBED my ass and BIT my hair at a bar a couple years ago,” she wrote. “I’ve been told many women have had scary stories about him for years but are scared to speak up. And dudes overlook it and keep hiring him.”
“Tired of sketchy ass dudes and sexual predators getting a pass from their ‘bros.’ Grow a spine and hold your friends accountable.” She also noted that ever since disclosing her accusations to Dirty Projectors’ label Domino Records, they’ve severed ties with Berru.
Not long after Coffman’s initial tweets, Danger Village publicist Beth Martinez, known for her work with MØ, HOLYCHILD, Goldroom, and Harriet, chimed in, alleging that she’d also been sexually assaulted by Berru.
“He repeatedly put his hand down my shirt while driving me home after I told him to stop many times,” she tweeted. “Also I’m fairly certain I’ve been roofied by him or members of his crew on more than one occasion.”
Two more women later echoed Coffman’s and Martinez’s sentiments regarding Berru, Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino and Judy Miller Silverman of Motormouth Media (publicist for Animal Collective, Flying Lotus).
“Thank you @Amber_Coffman for bravely speaking the truth,” Cosentino wrote on Twitter. “Heathcliff Berru is a scumbag and I’m glad someone finally spoke up.”
Update: Since publishing this article, Martika Finch, a coordinator at Bonnaroo and Outside Lands’ parent company Superfly, has alleged that a similar incident took place in which Berru harassed her at a music festival.
Update – Tuesday, January 19th at 2:25 p.m. CT: Two more women have accused Berru of sexual misconduct.
Musician Roxy Lange shared the following account with Brooklyn Magazine:
“Heathcliff Berru sexually assaulted me when I first moved to NYC in 2007, I was 21 years-old. He kept trying to force me to give him a blowjob in a cab and wouldn’t stop pushing my head into his lap forcefully, with his pants unzipped and penis out in the open. After I got out of the cab, he followed me up 3 flights of stairs and forced his way into my apartment, attempting to force himself on me but he was luckily too drunk and coked up to get hard so he gave up. He then pissed himself and fell asleep in my bed while I laid there, a very drunk 21 year-old experiencing NY nightlife for the first time and this happened to me. About a year ago, I ran into him while grocery shopping in Silver Lake with his wife and he hugged me, I wanted to throw up. I repressed this memory for so long and always assumed that I brought this upon myself because I was very drunk that evening but that’s not the case at all. He’s a disgusting, loser scumbag who doesn’t respect women. It pains me to know that there are others out there who have been violated by Berru, it makes me sick to my stomach.”
Update – Tuesday, January 19th at 2:35 p.m. CT: Wavves say they’ve fired Berru as their publicist.
Update – Tuesday, January 19th at 3:35 p.m CT: It’s unclear whether any of the women accusing Berru of sexual assault have filed a formal report with the Los Angeles Police Department. When asked whether they could disclose such information, an employee with the Sex Crime Unit told Consequence of Sound that due to the “nature of the incident”, and confidentiality concerns, even if such a report had been filed the LAPD might not be at liberty to acknowledge its existence.
Update – Tuesday, January 19th at 4:15 p.m. CT: Berru has “stepped down” as CEO of Life or Death PR, according to a statement released by the company.
“Life or Death has a zero tolerance policy for the type of conduct alleged in today’s on-line postings. We take these allegations very seriously.
The men and women who make up this company do not, and will not, condone or tolerate any conduct described in the on-line postings. Life Or Death is 3 men and 3 women who are committed to promoting art and serving the clients that we’re so privileged to represent. We are taking measures to ensure that the alleged behavior did not, and will not, make its way into company operations or impact our commitment to promoting art and assisting our clients.
We are grateful to Heathcliff Berru for all the work he’s done to date and his creative vision at the company. We appreciate and support his decision to step down as CEO of Life Or Death.”
Update – Tuesday, January 19th at 7:35 p.m. CT: NYMag.com has published more extensive accounts of the allegations brought about by Coffman and Martinez.
As Coffman recounted:
“I was introduced to Heathcliff in L.A. at an Unknown Mortal Orchestra show through a friend and he got us into the show. He was very friendly and he introduced me to his fiancée so I sort of thought, Okay, well this guy is not threatening. And then a week later I went to the same show back in New York and I ran into him backstage after the show and he said, ‘Hey, let me get your number.’ It seemed harmless to me so I gave him my number.
“Then we go to the after-party and it’s like me and it’s a lot of my friends there just hanging out at this cocktail bar. We’ve probably been there for about an hour and I was with my friend and we had just ordered drinks and we were leaning on the bar, and across on the other side of the room I saw Heathcliff make eye contact with me. He walked over and I was like, ‘Oh, he’s coming to say hi,’ and as soon as I thought that he comes up to me and his hand goes straight to my ass. He was rubbing up and down and I totally froze up. I told my friend ‘I’ll be right back’ and ran over and grabbed three of my other guy friends and I said, ‘Hey, will you guys come back over with me, I ditched my friend and my drink’s over there but this guy just grabbed my ass.’
So I walked back up with three guys and Heathcliff was still standing there and he says to me, ‘Can I just tell you that you’re incredibly cute?’ And then he grabs my hair and starts biting it in front of all these guys. We just left immediately. One of my friends almost punched him in the face.
I told Domino Records and I told my friends and people who I knew but I guess I didn’t really think to take it public. And it wasn’t until now that I realized that I was actually kind of scared to in a way.”
Coffman said she was encouraged to share her story about talking to her friends about their experiences with sexual misconduct.
Meanwhile, DIIV have severed ties with Life or Death PR.
We’ve reached out to Berru and Life or Death PR for comment, but have yet to hear back.
Full disclosure: Consequence of Sound has worked with Life or Death PR, Danger Village, and Motormouth Media countless times over the years.