APRIL 2000 



Multi-platinum rock band Foo Fighters stage benefit concert for Alive & Well

ONE OF THE principal reasons why the HIV explanation of AIDS achieved and maintains its popular support and public funding is that celebrities embrace and promote it. Scientists who have investigated the evidence and dismissed the HIV modelthe "dissident" AIDS scientistswould probably agree that celebrity endorsements have meant more than the data in establishing the HIV model's hegemony. Now the AIDS scientists have their own major celebrity endorsersthe Foo Fighters, a mega-popular platinum-selling alternative rock group.

On January 14 the band staged a Los Angeles benefit concert on behalf of Alive and Well AIDS Alternatives, the dissident AIDS group formerly known as HEAL-LA, and directed by HIV-positive mother Christine Maggiore. "This is the first time that internationally known celebrities have openly endorsed our cause," Maggiore says.

The benefit raised $20,000, the largest fund raiser ever for an AIDS reappraisal group, and took place in a sold-out Palace Theater in Hollywood, a music club that holds 1,200 people.

Maggiore connected with the Foo Fighters through a friend of band bass player Nate Mendel. Mendel's friend attended a 1998 talk Maggiore gave for HEAL-Seattle, and shared his information with Mendel, including Maggiore's book, What if Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS was Wrong? Mendel was receptive, and made contact with Maggiore, mindful of the linchpin role fellow celebrities had played in successfully promoting what Maggiore was saying was "wrong." Email and phone communications led to Mendel's full alignment with Maggiore's perspective. He presented his information and conclusions to band mates, who came to agree with him.

They offered to stage the benefit for Alive and Well. As a measure of the Foo Fighter's ascendant celebrity, the event sold out in five minutes. The Foo Fighters are certainly among today's top-drawing rock bands.

The band has placed on its popular website (www.foofighters.com) a prominent link to Alive and Well's website (www.questionaids.com). Text accompanying the link reads, "If you've ever lived or loved in fear of AIDS, click here for a reality check and to find out information the AIDS establishment isn't telling you."

In promoting the event, Mendel had Maggiore join him for an on-air interview on KROQ, LA's number-one radio station and the benefit sponsor. "Nate made an articulate spur-of-the-moment spokesperson and KROQ aired his remarks uncut," Maggiore says. "He said that Alive and Well's message is that HIV is not the cause of AIDS, that we take a healthy approach to AIDS, that AIDS drugs compromise immunity, and other things I never thought I would hear on a major mainstream radio station like KROQ during evening drive-time, let alone uttered by a member of one of my favorite bands. When asked what got him into Alive & Well and questioning AIDS, Nate gave the full title of my book on air for millions of listeners."

Maggiore continues: "Tami, the KROQ air personality who interviewed us, was receptive to our ideas off-mike. She told me she felt like one of 'the choir' and asked for more books to share with DJ's who have talk shows involving social and health issues. She gave me contact names to pursue and told me I could mention her name. We met at the concert and was relieved to find that she hadn't changed her mind!"

Band members provided supportive on-camera statements to Maggiore's husband, Robin Scovill, for a documentary he is making of the AIDS reappraisal movement. Founding Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, the band's most popular member, assured Maggiore, "I am behind you guys 100%."

Before the band's performance, Mendel introduced Maggiore and described Alive and Well as "an organization doing important work." Maggiore discussed her experiences as a healthy, pharmaceutical-free HIV-positive mother, and alerted the audience to "an epidemic of unfounded information and unnecessary fear." This perspective was new to nearly all the 1,200 fans. "We worried that Foo fans would not be interested in what I had to say and might even be rude," Maggiore recalls. Instead, "the response was really encouraging. That night it was as if challenging the HIV-AIDS model was normal and popular."

During the performance, band members expressed support for Alive and Well, and dedicated a song to the group. Mendel urged everyone to read their brochures and buy their stickers, postersincluding one featuring the Foo Fighters logoand the What if...? book. Everything sold well, including all 300 copies of the book, which represented one copy for every four attendees.

Afterwards, band members pledged Maggiore their continued support, and seem to have made good on this promise. The national magazine, Mother Jones, published a website article describing the Foo Fighter's as endangering the lives of their fans by supporting Alive and Well (visit www.motherjones.com or www. questionaids.com). Newspapers and magazines, including the national gay publication, The Advocate, ran the Mother Jones article, or their own articles based on it, and Rolling Stone mentioned it. Mother Jones received so many responses, pro and con, it set up a special page for it on its website. In response, Mendel composed a lengthy and informed letter which the magazine includes as well on its website.

According to Maggiore, band members intend to use their celebrity as deliberately and as assertively to question the HIV model as others have used theirs to promote it.

--Paul Philpott