Rev. Billy exorcises the devil from Victorias Secret
By Lincoln Anderson
Calling Victorias Secrets catalogues evil incarnate, performance preacher Reverend Billy is ramping up his fire-and-brimstone campaign against the lingerie giant, demanding it stop using wood pulp from Canadas Boreal Forest.
Reverend Billy, aka Bill Talen, has made the campaign the centerpiece of his current Sunday afternoon show at the Spiegel Tent summer performance space in the South St. Seaport, which runs through September.
Talen, who leads the anticonsumerist Church of Stop Shopping, has in recent years taken on corporations ranging from Disney to Starbucks for their practices. His latest preaching against Victorias Secrets catalogues if of dire importance, he says, because its a matter of life and death for the planet.
Talen has teamed with the group ForestEthics, which is leading the campaign against a half-dozen of the countrys largest catalogue producers and which has highlighted Victorias Secret, in particular, because its catalogue is so iconic and identified with the brand.
Talen saw Al Gores new film, An Inconvenient Truth, and was deeply affected. Global-warming prophet Gore has further fueled Talens environmental fervor.
The North Pole is becoming soupy, Talen said. Polar bears are drowning they cant find ice to stand on. Its an emergency and we seem unable to say its an emergency. Its like a horror movie. There just isnt anyone standing up against this except Al Gore.
The clear-cutting of the Boreal, a vast forest stretching across Canada, is removing a huge air scrubber, while releasing carbon dioxide back into the environment, Talen says.
Talen and ForestEthics say Victorias Secret produces an astounding 1 million catalogues per day or about 360 million per year.
Anthony Hebron, a spokesperson for Limited Brands, Victorias Secrets parent company, confirmed that amount is roughly accurate. However, he said that Victorias Secrets monthly catalogue is now 80 percent post-consumer-waste paper, and that the company is working to improve on that.
But Tom OLeary, a ForestEthics spokesperson, said as far as they can tell, Victorias Secrets monthly clearance catalogue accounts for just 7 percent to 12 percent of the companys total catalogue output. While OLeary said ForestEthics is heartened Victorias Secret has moved to include recycled paper in its clearance catalogue, more is needed.
The Boreal Forest is being logged at a rate of 2 acres per minute, 24 hours a day, said OLeary. They use huge machines called fell-a-bunchers
. Were not calling for an end to all logging. But reduce, dont clear-cut do sustainable logging. The Boreal Forest is one of our last chances to get it right.
OLeary noted that ForestEthics previous campaign against Staples and Office Depot was a success that transformed the office-supply industry.
At his opening Spiegel Tent show on Sun. Aug. 6, Talen planned to take his choir and any willing audience members to the Victorias Secret shop in the South St. Seaport Mall, which happens to be only 50 feet from the Spiegel Tent.
Inviting him to be part of the Seaport show, he admits, was like having the fox guard the henhouse.
But South St. Seaports management which leases the property from the city got wind of the plan, and
contacted the Spiegel Tents producers. A powwow was held with Talen. Though he cried censorship, he agreed not to take his show into the mall and risk jeopardizing the other 90 Spiegel Tent artists. The Spiegel producers are standing by Talens right to do his show, but say he must also be neighborly to the malls tenants and keep his act inside the antique velvet-and-mirrored performance tent, which is making its first North American appearance.
Not to be deterred, after his performance last Sunday, Talen and some of his choir and audience members who had agreed they would be willing to be arrested, boarded a subway to Soho where they staged a protest at the Victorias Secret store at Broadway and Prince St.
With his jumbo white megaphone in hand, the white-clad preacher stormed the store with his co-ed choir clad in G-strings and wielding cardboard chainsaws in tow.
Do the research! Do the research! Talen exhorted the shocked shoppers as he strode among the brassieres and bustiers. He then announced they would perform a cash register exorcism. Placing his hand on the till, he called for the chainsaws to be removed from the cash register. However, the negative energy may have flown into an emotionally disturbed woman who entered the store with the protest. Shouting angrily and spitting on the floor, she seemed to have a relationship to a sidewalk vendor selling headbands and neckties in front of the store, who objected to Talens message of stop shopping.
Feeling the protest was hurting his business, the vendor cursed out the protesters after they continued their rally outside the store, then tried to rip off Talens clerical collar and wrestled the protesters banner away from them and ran off. The vendor returned and cocked his fist at an audience member dressed as a tree, then took a swing at Savitri D, Talens wife and production manager.
After about 20 minutes, police arrived and took away the emotionally disturbed woman in an E.M.T. van, though allowed the vendor now acting calm again, apparently satisfied he had disrupted the protest to remain. Meanwhile, Talen and the protesters slipped off. He later said he decided not to get arrested because he felt the message was diluted by the chaos caused by the woman and the aggressive vendor, whom he said were both drunk.
We didnt want to be part of a free-for-all, he said. If youre going to be arrested, you want to be clear. We did contact hundreds of people, he said. American consumers dont know where their things come from.