Virginia Slim SLAM
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Virginia Slims offered singer Leslie Nuchow exposure. But the price was too high for Nuchow's conscience. Now she is about to get more exposure than she ever expected as a result of taking a stand for what she believed in. Sometimes doing the right thing pays off.On Monday April 27, the Indigo Girls will be joining Nuchow for a benefit concert at Irving Place in New York City. The cause: SLAM II, an effort to expose how the tobacco industry is exploiting young singers to peddle their wares to young girls."We want the world to know that the tobacco industry is not wanted in the music industry and that we are appalled at their use of music to market their deadly product to young people," says Nuchow. Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls doesn't mince words: "What goes into the corporate cigarette? Chemically treated tobacco; environmentally damaging farming practices; inhumane and unnecessary animal experimentation; exploitation of children, minorities, women and disenfranchised nations; and sordid alliances with right-wing politicians who say no to child welfare, education, and health care reform, no to women's and gay rights; but yes to the tobacco lobby. The SLAM! is an opportunity to stand against corporate deception and exploitation."The SLAM story is rather straightforward. Nuchow, a powerful throaty singer-songwriter, had been bouncing around New York City's music scenes like many other talents, looking for the break, trying to scrape enough money together to get a CD made, playing often at the Mercury Lounge. A "scout" approached Nuchow and asked her to participate in a three women competition for the best unsigned singer-songwriter and the ongoing promotion had a number of great elements -- including tours and a potential label -- but there were two big hitches. The first: the whole effort was sponsored by Virginia Slims, owned by Phillip Morris. and second, Virginia Slims Women Thing music was to produce a CD that would only be available with the purchase of two packs of Virginia Slims cigarettes.Nuchow said no way. And swung into action. She started organizing, testifying at City Council hearings, speaking and singing across the country, and getting the kind of publicity -- a "Dateline" TV segment, for example -- that struggling performers only dream about. But the focus of the effort isn't all about Nuchow; it's about her determination to draw attention to how far the tobacco companies will go to draw in the quota of young smokers to keep the dollars flowing. And to get others to join her in making it more difficult for the tobacco industry.I first met Nuchow at the Blue Mountain Center, a wonderful retreat space in the Adirondack Mountains which provides creative time and space for artists of all types. I discovered that Leslie was the daughter of my old friend Bill Nuchow, a progressive Teamster leader and a New York City West Side community activist for many years. Bill had passed away and I never got a chance to see him before he died. What a nice connection it was to meet Leslie and to see that social conscience had been passed down to another generation. So I became a fan, both of Leslie's singing, and of her activism. Go see her perform. No doubt you'll be a fan too.The SLAM! hotline is 212/802-7226.