Dirty Projectors' Amber Coffman Accuses Publicist Heathcliff Berru of Sexual Harassment

BY Gregory AdamsPublished Jan 19, 2016

Early this morning (January 19), Dirty Projectors guitarist/vocalist Amber Coffman went on Twitter to accuse music publicist Heathcliff Berru of sexually harassing her in the past. The tweets, which had the artist saying that the Life or Death PR & Management publicist had fondled Coffman at a bar, have led to other industry figures sharing similar stories.

Coffman's initial run of tweets had her explaining that "a very popular music publicist RUBBED my ass and BIT my hair at a bar a couple years ago." According to Coffman, she barely knew the person, whom she'd later identify as Berru, and was "mad" that she hadn't done anything about it at the time.

Coffman added that she'd "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."

Berru is the founder of Life or Death, whose current stable of artists includes high-profile names like D'Angelo, Wavves, Cloud Nothings, DIIV, Dilly Dally, Mac Miller and GZA. At one point, they also handled publicity for Dirty Projectors.

Following Coffman's series of tweets, a number of women said that they had faced similar treatment from Berru. This includes Beth Martinez, a publicist for Danger Village, who said that Berru had allegedly put his hand down her shirt during a car ride after being told to stop. Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino also showed Coffman support, calling Berru a "scumbag" and "not a good person on any level." Other women that have now spoken up against Berru include Ninja Tune project manager Theodora Karatzas, who noted "I don't have a lot to say on @Amber_Coffman's story right now except that her story is my story and I am sorry I didn't speak up sooner."

Following the outpouring of support, Coffman took to Twitter again to thank people and note that Dirty Projectors' label, Domino, likewise stands by her. The label apparently stopped working with Berru and Life or Death a while back.

Berru and Life or Death PR & Management have yet to comment on the accusations.

UPDATE (01/19, 3:30 p.m.): It looks like Wavves and now DIIV have severed ties with Berru and Life or Death PR, while Speedy Ortiz detailed their experience with the company and explained they would never support an abuser. UPDATE (01/19, 5:30 p.m.): Life or Death has now issued the following statement, announcing that Berru has stepped down as CEO:

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 (01/20, 9:00 a.m.): Berru has shared the following statement via LA Weekly:

There have been several reports about my alleged inappropriate behavior which deserve a response. 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. To be clear, while my conduct may have been inappropriate, I have never drugged anyone or engaged in that type of behavior. Nevertheless, I do not want to be the type of person who would let drugs or alcohol take command of his life and compromise how he treats people. Yet I have been this person and it's time to put a stop to all of this. Create a world with one less inappropriate man."I have been fighting a losing battle against drugs and alcohol for many years and will be checking into a rehabilitation facility in the hope that I can improve my chances of winning that fight. A year ago, I was confronted by a peer and began to try to clean up and make things right with therapy and with an eye towards quitting the addiction. The shame and sadness feels as strong now as it did then and I am making an immediate change.

I have already lost my wife, abandoned my family, and destroyed those I love as a result of my shameful, embarrassing, unacceptable behavior. I deeply apologize to them as well. By no means do they deserve to feel the pain of my actions. Please give them the space they deserve. They were the light at the end of a dark tunnel. I was married during some of these years and hid my problems from everyone well. Especially her and her family. Totally inexcusable.

In no way do these allegations reflect on Life or Death PR, its staff, or anyone associated with the company. These are my issues, not theirs. I could not be more proud of the company and what it stands for. That being said I have stepped down as the CEO and [am] relinquishing all responsibility to the current president, Nick Dierl. The company shouldn't have to deal with this distraction and I want Nick and the rest of the team to continue to do their good work while I take care of myself.

UPDATE (01/20, 5:35): As The Fader reports, Life or Death president Nick Dierl and the rest of the staff are now leaving the company. His statement reads: "In light of recent events, the remainder of the Life or Death staff is leaving the company today. We are saddened by the circumstances under which we are departing but are grateful for the opportunity we had together. There will be a new venture imminently that bears no ties to Heathcliff Berru or the Life or Death name. More soon from Bradley, Linda, Duncan, Emily and Nick."


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