Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J, who have been accused of sexual harassment, infliction of emotional distress and wrongful termination by a former publicist. Photo by Daniel Cronin
Once I started writing about Juggalos, it became very difficult for me to stop defending them both to my friends and on this site. Every little bit of news from the world of Insane Clown Posse's hardcore fans – They're suing the FBI! There's a Facebook for Juggalos! Some Juggalos covered Ariel Pink! – gave me an opportunity, which felt like an obligation, to try to find some way to defend those scrappy Faygo guzzlers to the world. This attitude really set in after I took Danny Brown to last year’s Gathering of the Juggalos – everyone on the festival's staff and Juggalos generally, were unbelievably nice to us the entire time. Since then, I've been generally pro-Juggalo, which is not always an easy position to take.
When I was at the Gathering, I met Andrea Pellegrini, who was acting as ICP's publicist and legal counsel. She was the one who hooked me up with my press passes and drove me around the festival grounds in a weird little golf cart. Pellegrini told me she’d started working for ICP a few years ago, and it’d been “a wild ride so far”. She also gave me probably the best advice I got the whole week: if a Juggalo says “woop woop!” to you, you sure as hell better say it back. She was courteous and helpful, though maybe a little stressed out from handling PR at an event that looks more like a lost Salò blooper reel than an annual music festival.
This week, some of the less savoury details of her "wild ride" became public, as Pellegrini filed suit against ICP and a handful of staffers at their record label, Psychopathic Records, in Oakland County circuit court. She cited "a consistent culture of sexism and sexual harassment," and accused them of wrongful termination and infliction of emotional stress, among other things.
According to Pellegrini’s 17-page, 86-count formal complaint (which you can read in full below), her four-year tenure as an ICP employee was marked by “constant and pervasive harassment… including having a large dildo given to her while at work, and being presented with ‘vagina tighteners’. [She was] mocked, belittled and the subject of sexual advances from top level persons at ICP’s label, Psychopathic Records.” In addition, Pellegrini was “asked to do illegal and/or unethical things at her job, including [being asked] to obtain automatic tommy-guns for a photo shoot.” According to the statement, she refused to break the law, and when she reported the sexual harassment she was unceremoniously canned.
The details of the document make for some pretty crude reading. Pellegrini was repeatedly called a “bitch” and a “cunt” by her supervisors, and a coworker named Dan “Dirty Dan” Diamond pulled her hair, told her he “had a fat cock”, and said he'd “like to fuck her”. This guy also gave her a dildo in a velvet bag for her birthday after learning via Facebook that she’d recently become single. The allegations go on and on, and even include things I didn't know existed, like "vagina tighteners".
This is all pretty frightening stuff, but what resonates with me personally is a section of the document with a dramatic headline: “The Gathering of the Juggalos 2012 – A Living Hell.” This section describes Pellegrini's experience at last year's Gathering, where she was apparently so petrified of her coworkers that she actually brought mace to the event. Her lodging arrangements were changed at the last minute, leaving her forced to travel with coworkers who were verbally abusing her regularly. She was also compelled to endure bathrooms "often full with naked male strangers," reduced to tears on multiple occasions and eventually sent home. All of this was happening the same day she was driving me around in a janky golf cart, showing me around the festival grounds. It’s hard to believe she was under that sort of stress.
Many consider Juggalos to be America’s meth-addled, inbred spawn, a demographic so mind-numbingly moronic that they don't know what magnets are. For those who believe the stereotypes, it's not really a surprise that ICP and their employees were engaging in this sort of harassment, which can lead to a cruel brushing aside of the whole a-human-may-have-been-sexually-harassed part of the story:
More disturbing, though equally unsurprising, is the fact that some people are blaming Pellegrini under the pretence that a woman working in a place like that should know better:
The above argument, I think, goes something like this: Pellegrini worked for a company that produces a product that some people find offensive, therefore she should have anticipated being harrassed and abused to the point where she feared for her safety. Obviously, that's bullshit. Just because Pellegrini worked for a band with lyrics like, “All I wanna do is choke a bitch / Roll up a jimmy and smoke the bitch” doesn’t mean she could expect her nine-to-five life to feel like a combination of Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Accused. Even if a guy spent his days listening to nothing but ICP's angrier songs, he should know that his coworker doesn't want to hear about his cock, no matter how fat it is.
Does ICP have a chance of beating the case? An attorney for Psychopathic Records and ICP said yesterday that "the allegations are untrue. Ms. Pellegrini was terminated for poor job performance." Maybe she was, and after all, ICP is innocent until being proven otherwise. But having met her, I doubt Pellegrini would waste her time (and her reputation) with a lengthy lawsuit consisting of allegations built entirely on lies.
Nobody will be surprised if ICP and their cadre eventually has to pay for the emotional distress inflicted on Pellegrini. Juggalos are basically America's pop-culture Roma – we tend to see them inbred, drug-addled thieves searching for their next rape victim. Actually, it's entirely possible that ICP will end up settling out of court rather than facing a jury made up of people who think they are face-painted trailer trash who should be in prison.
There I go again, defending Juggalos. I'll stop myself before I go any further. I still believe that a lot of the Juggalos out there are true outcasts who endure a lot of unnecessary public abuse, but if a fraction of Pellegrini's allegations are true, and Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J knew about this hostile work environment and did nothing about it, they are something a lot more common and less interesting than misunderstood outsider rappers: straight-up assholes. And I won't bother defending them.
Follow Ben on Twitter: @b_shap
Read Andy's complaint and request for a jury trial:
More Juggalo stuff: