Michael Mariotte, a former Washington City Paper editor and punk-rock drummer who later became a nationally known anti-nuclear activist, died May 16 at his home in Kensington, Md. He was 63.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, said his former wife, Lynn Thorp.
In 1981, Mr. Mariotte was the founding editor of an alternative weekly newspaper that evolved into the Washington City Paper. He continued to work at the paper in a variety of positions, including managing editor, until 1985, when he joined the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS).
He launched the organization’s newsletter, Groundswell, now called Nuclear Monitor, which has become a clearinghouse of information on issues related to nuclear power and alternative energy sources.
After becoming executive director of NIRS in 1986, Mr. Mariotte helped lead successful efforts to prevent the development of nuclear power plants in Maryland and Louisiana and initiated anti-nuclear advocacy programs in Eastern Europe.
After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in what was then the Soviet Union, Mr. Mariotte visited the shuttered nuclear power plant. He testified before Congress and became a key player in an effort to block federal legislation to allow the interstate transportation of nuclear waste, which he and other activists belittled as “mobile Chernobyl.” The bill was ultimately defeated.
Mr. Mariotte participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations and helped train locally based groups concerned about the spread of nuclear materials. He also helped solicit participation from celebrities who were sympathetic to his message.
He was executive director of NIRS from 1986 to 2013 and served as president of the organization, based in Takoma Park, Md., until his death. In 2014, he received a lifetime achievement award from a consortium of environmental groups for his activism promoting a “nuclear-free, carbon-free future.” The award was presented by consumer advocate Ralph Nader.
“Creative to the core, he found new and interesting ways to show the dangers of nuclear power and the benefits of the safe energy alternatives,” Nader said in a statement. “Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and other socially motivated entertainers all have paid constant compliments to his boundless energy taking on the nukes all across the globe.”
Michael Lee Mariotte was born Dec. 9, 1952, in Indianapolis. He spent four years in Paris during his youth, when his father was assigned to France as a civilian employee of the Army.
The family later settled in Reston, Va., and Mr. Mariotte graduated in 1970 from Herndon High School. He attended the University of Texas at Austin before graduating from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 1978.
After moving to the Washington area, Mr. Mariotte worked as an editorial assistant for the American Bar Association before helping launch 1981, the alternative weekly that later became the Washington City Paper.
While living in Arlington, Va., in the late 1970s, Mr. Mariotte and his housemates were interested in starting a band but did not have a drummer. Mr. Mariotte, a onetime guitarist, learned to play drums on the job.
He and singer-guitarist Diana Quinn, guitarist David Wells and a changing cast of bassists began performing in 1978 as Tru Fax and the Insaniacs. Through the mid-1980s, the band was a mainstay at the 9:30 Club and other Washington-area venues, along with other leading groups in the local punk scene, including the Bad Brains, Insect Surfers, Slickee Boys and Urban Verbs.
When Washingtonian magazine named the Insaniacs Washington’s worst band in 1980, the group gleefully used the epithet for publicity.
The Insaniacs’ 1982 album, “Mental Decay,” received some radio airplay. One of the band’s most popular tunes, “Washingtron,” co-written by Mr. Mariotte, became something of an alternative-culture anthem of the time, featuring the lyrics: “I used to work as a waitron in the lounge of the Hiltron/Now I work for my senatron and I live in Arlingtron, I live in Arlingtron.”
The Insaniacs continued to perform occasionally until shortly before Mr. Mariotte’s death. In recent years, the band was working on a new recording, “ArtiFax,” which is scheduled for release later this year.
Mr. Mariotte’s first marriage, to Thorp, ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of nine years, Tanya Murza of Kensington; two children from his first marriage, Nicole Mariotte and Richard Mariotte, both of Olympia, Wash.; two children from his second marriage, Zoryana Mariotte and Kateryna Mariotte, both of Kensington; a brother; and a sister.