Minneapolis singer Sean Tillmann, whose provocative Har Mar Superstar stage persona earned him celebrity friends and a star outside First Avenue, issued a public apology Thursday acknowledging "conduct that was harmful, abusive, and selfish" after several women accused him of sexual assault.
But Tillmann denied the allegation of a 2016 sexual assault that one woman posted this month, causing others to step forward with their own stories about the singer, who admitted to misbehavior "fueled by a toxic mixture of alcohol, drugs, and cavalier sexuality."
Three women gave detailed accounts to the Star Tribune of assault or harassment incidents from 2014 to 2017, saying Tillmann aggressively propositioned them for sex and grabbed or touched them inappropriately.
Widely circulated on social media over the past two weeks, the women's stories prompted First Avenue to halt sales to an upcoming concert featuring Tillmann's band Heart Bones, while radio station 89.3 the Current has stopped playing his music as the Twin Cities music scene wrestles with issues of #MeToo.
"Once we became aware of the allegations, we felt it was the best decision to take the show down until there is accountability," First Avenue said, adding that the club "takes all accusations of harassment and assault seriously."
Adding pressure on Tillmann to respond, a statement hit social media Thursday attributed to seven women who said they survived harmful behavior and in some cases assault from "a staple in the Minneapolis music scene," later confirmed to be him. "The assaults ... shared thus far have ranged from pointed inappropriate sexual comments and grooming to physical sexual assault," they said.
Tillmann issued his statement on Facebook and Twitter. "I want to provide my deepest apology and my public commitment to be accountable, to listen, and to do what I can to allow for healing and growth," he said, "not only for those women who have come forward, but for our community — and in particular our musical community."
He responded directly to only one of the stories — the alleged 2016 incident. "I categorically deny the version of events that has been presented within her post," he wrote. "It just didn't happen that way, and the recent account includes awful, untrue details that have been added."
That woman, whose name is being withheld to protect her privacy, told the Star Tribune that she was a friend who trusted Tillmann "completely" until a gathering one night at his house in Minneapolis, when she said he unbuckled his pants and stuck his penis in her face.
She said she is still haunted by certain details of that night, including the sound of his belt jangling.
Three mutual acquaintances of the woman and Tillmann told the Star Tribune that she shared her story with them soon afterward. One of them confronted Tillmann in 2019, text messages reviewed by the Star Tribune show.
Another woman who came forward was an acquaintance who was shocked when, one night at Grumpy's Bar in Minneapolis, he suddenly slid his hand down her pants, she said.
A third woman described being at a recording studio with Tillmann, who drunkenly propositioned her. She turned him down and went down to the basement bathroom. "All of a sudden, Sean comes busting in the stall," she said. "I remember him trying to kiss me and touch me."
Referring to all the other accusations, Tillmann said in his statement, "I take these claims extremely seriously."
"I am deeply sorry to anyone who feels I've hurt them. … I want those who have been brave enough to speak up to know that I have heard you, I am ready to listen, and that I am committed to doing what I can to be accountable and, frankly, to just be a better human."
Tillmann has been a fixture in the Twin Cities music scene since the late 1990s, first with his punk band Calvin Krime and then under the Har Mar Superstar persona, named after the mall he frequented in Roseville.
As Har Mar in the 2000s, he gained renown and national recording deals with innuendo-laden R&B songs and genuine soul-man vocal power — and wild stage shows that often culminated with him stripping to his underwear. He became something of a B-list international celebrity, winding up on screen in a dance-off with Ben Stiller in the "Starsky & Hutch" movie, and on gossip sites making out with model Kate Moss or partying with such pals as the Strokes and actor Macaulay Culkin.
Earlier this month, he released a new album, "Roseville," telling the story of how, after years of partying, he got sober and started therapy. With ample radio play and media attention — including a Forbes magazine article — it seemed like he was entering a new career phase.
All that attention, however, sparked the public backlash from the women who say he assaulted them.
The women said they were frustrated with Tillmann's talk about sobriety and therapy because he never tried to make amends with them. It's a way of skirting responsibility, one woman said, "so that he can't be held accountable."
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