Jeff Smith 2 p.m., Dec. 18
When Kids Go To Prison, plus 100 Rockin' Lawsuits
When Kids Do Life, plus Lawsuits Rock and Backstage Busts
1 – 15 Years Old & 25 To Life: When akids Do Life
2 – Danielle Barcheers “How I Ended Up Where I Am Today” (courtesy www.myspace.com/juvielaw)
3 – Rockin’ the Law: Clubs in Court
4 – Rockin’ the Law: Lawyers, Songs & Money
5 – Rockin’ the Law: Pain And Suffering
6 - INsecurity: Local Firms Fight For the Right to Bounce You
7 - Worst In Rock: Celebs In SD Find Trouble In Paradise
8 - Roundup of local music-related lawsuits & legal actions
9 - La Jolla Drivers Suck
INTRODUCTION: Anyone willing to put up with me long enough to call me "friend" knows I’m very involved in supporting the reform of U.S. juvenile justice laws. In this post-Columbine world, there’s too much inclination to lock up and throw away the key on juveniles in trouble with the law. More and more kids are being convicted under adult sentencing laws, which is the subject of an upcoming Reader feature I’ve been working on for the better part of the last year.
Meanwhile, here’s my story of what it’s like when a loved one is serving 25 to life. Danielle Barcheers was 19 when I first met her. She was about to face trial, for the second time, for her alleged complicity in a murder that took place just days after her 15th birthday. She was tried as an adult and convicted to life in prison, the youngest female ever to receive a capital conviction in state history.
Not long before I met her, Danielle's conviction was overturned, by all three appeal judges – it’s my understanding that this is one of the only times in a capital conviction was ever overturned on appeal by all three California judges. That’s how flawed the trial had been -----
The story picks up with the beginning of her second trial, in June 2000. Following my own account is an essay written by Danielle herself, for her blog on the juvenile justice reform website Juvielaw (www.myspace.com/juvielaw).
15 YEARS OLD AND 25 TO LIFE: WHEN YOUR LOVED ONE IS IN PRISON
During the two days that the jury deliberated, the rest of the world seemed on freeze-frame, and I spoke with no one besides Dee's mom. We spent the time on uncomfortable wooden benches outside the doors to Department 17. Through the Vista Courthouse windows, we could see the TV news trucks raising transmitters and the makeup flunkies prettying up local newscasters, who never failed to grandstand for the final moments of a high-profile murder trial.
Few of these "journalists" had attended any of the trial itself. Informed that the grim couple sitting on the bench were the mother and the fiancé of the accused, reporters would approach us every few minutes to ask for an interview, and we became skilled at polite denials. Whenever one of us moved away from the other, the horde of paparazzi would attack en masse, five or ten at a time surrounding me, the same number surrounding her, with others standing between us, as if one of us would relent if not buoyed by the strength of the other. Their strategy was military-like in precision -- I never dreamed so much fanfare could accompany my every urination.
The bailiff told us to keep an eye out for Dee's lawyers and the prosecutors going into the courtroom; this meant the jury had reached a verdict. In the meantime, we searched for clues to pin positive hopes on. We studied the demeanors of jurors as they came from and went on breaks. We strained to hear what anyone in earshot was saying. Silently and out loud, we went over the evidence presented in Dee's defense, things that surely no clear-thinking individual could know about and still think her guilty of killing someone.
But then we'd hear in our minds, unbidden, the inflammatory and emotionally charged final statement by the prosecutor. Through a small glass partition dividing the court seats and the defense table, I had watched Dee's heels digging furiously into the carpet while the sickening fiction was spun about her. I was the only person who could see this, and I've never in my life wanted and needed so badly to put my arms around someone and hold her.
The woman I loved was accused of first-degree murder. She'd (uncharacteristically) taken part in a home robbery in which someone had ended up being killed. Someone else had already been convicted of wielding the murder weapon and sentenced to life without parole. Dee was brought to trial afterward, where it was established she hadn't been spattered with blood and her fingerprints hadn't been found on the weapon or near the murder scene. She had, however, stolen belongings from another room.
The jury was instructed on California law, which states that when a murder takes place during a robbery, everyone taking part is equally guilty of first-degree murder. They were also told they could opt instead for a second-degree conviction if the defendant hadn't planned to commit murder, which was the case in Dee's impulsive presence that night. A teenager at the time, she'd been coerced (under the influence of prescribed psychotropic medication mixed with alcohol) into participating in the robbery, with no idea that someone would die.
The second day of deliberations was identical to the first, and I have no recollection of how or where I spanned the bridge between the two. It was nearing five o'clock on the second day, and the news trucks were packing up to leave, when I saw Dee's lawyer and the prosecutor push past the media throng and enter the courtroom. I felt a bipolar rush of dread and exaltation.
Dee's mom and I made our way toward the doors, gripping each other tightly for fear of stumbling, microphones thrust in our faces ("Is this it?" "How do you feel?" "Has the jury reached a verdict?"). The judge was already seated at the bench, nodding in our direction, and Dee's mom's grip loosened slightly as we numbly took the lonely seats closest to the defense table. They brought Dee in seconds later, I think, but it could have been an hour or more. She was dressed in street clothes, a luxury allowed only in the jury's presence, so we knew the jury was on its way.
(Newspaper photo of Danielle in court)
I was struck by how brave and lovely and vulnerable and terrified she looked. I silently mouthed to her that I loved her and kissed the ring I wore that was engraved with her name, our signal of love in the courtroom, where we were generally not allowed to communicate at all. She nodded and touched her heart, and in seconds (perhaps hours) the jury was filing in.
I was so acutely attuned to the moment that I seemed to have panoramic vision. I could hear and feel reporters filling the room behind me to an overcrowded capacity that for many reasons made me think of a tiny circus car stuffed full of clowns. The judge had allowed only one video camera and one still camera in the courtroom, and both operators were visible in the corner of my eye, pointing their lenses at Dee, then at her mom and me, then back at Dee, and so on.
Reporters scuffled for the seats right behind us and slowly, and none too discreetly, pushed an array of microphones within inches of us, hoping, I guess, to catch some audible reaction to the verdict's being read.
Dee's mom and I examined every line on every juror's face as the note was passed to the judge. The judge was saying something that sounded to me like the adult voices in the Peanuts cartoon -- "whaaahh whaaaa whaaa whaaaaaaaaaaa."
A millennium seemed to go by as the judge folded the note and passed it to the court reporter to read aloud. Sometime in the middle of this bottomless, horizonless moment, I found I was holding my breath, as was Dee's mom, and we were holding on to each other so tightly that both our pulses pounded together.
The cliché "time stood still" never had much literal meaning to me until that moment. I relived my entire love affair with Dee as that flimsy piece of paper that contained the fate of several lives flitted in casual silence to the woman who would read aloud its contents. I saw myself from outside my body, arms around Dee's mom and in shameless tears, fighting to keep my lips from trembling out of control as I stared at my lover and tried to will into reality the words "Not guilty."
The moments after hearing "Guilty of first-degree murder" are a violent haze. Over the din of reporters running from the room, cell phones beeping on, I heard the judge say that the jury had ruled that Dee did not wield the weapon to participate in the murder, and so this charge against her was dismissed. We were at least dazedly aware that this would be of huge importance later, in appeals and, eventually, parole.
All three of us -- Dee, her mom, and I -- managed to keep our faces turned from the cameras, so the cameramen switched them off, hurriedly packed them up, and followed their fellow scurrying rodents out into the noisy hall. The bailiff led Dee off to a side room, and I saw her turn and mouth "I love you" to her mom and me before she blurred indistinctly on the other side of my tears.
The jurors were allowed to leave through the judge's chambers, but Dee's mom and I were refused this courtesy. A line of sheriffs formed a sort of cop tunnel out of the courtroom and into the hall. At first I thought it might be a cordon to protect us from the pressing media, but the line ran out after 40 feet, and beyond the line, about 40 reporters and camera crews gathered in a tight, anxious clutter. It was a static moment. The well-trained troops didn't move toward us. The TV army simply waited there, poised between us and the elevators around the corner.
I don't think I imagined that several of the cops were grinning, like those mean neighborhood kids who love feeding mice to snakes, but I'm way too biased to state this as a surety.
I gave Dee's mom the same drill I'd run when I played bouncer and bodyguard to strippers and porn stars, before I met Dee. It wasn't hard to equate the twitchy reporters at the end of the hall with a bar full of drunk, horny Texans who think that every time a centerfold winks, they've been invited backstage with her. We stop for nothing; keep your head down; don't look back; if I get stopped, you just keep going -- I'll catch up, and if I knock somebody down in front of you, don't trip over him.
As she covered her face, I draped one arm over her shoulder and put my other elbow out, assuming full defensive block position. There was no real opening in the crowd. We moved slowly down the hall, beyond where the cop line ended, before where the reporters began, listening for the ding of an elevator opening. Camera lights came on, flashbulbs popped, reporters began shouting. Once we heard the ding, we were off and running.
Some of the reporters and crews attempted to move aside, if only to save equipment, but I still bumped and elbowed a few things and people along the way. The brief footage that ended up on the news looked a lot rougher than it felt. Rounding the corner tightly, we got through the final flank of about 20 reporters in front of the elevators and into the open car. I hit the button and told Dee's mom to keep her back to the doors, but just as they closed, one reporter ducked through them. I put one arm out to reopen the door and used my other arm to block him from stepping any farther in. I told him we wanted to be alone. All of this was videotaped, but as shot from the hallway (and aired on TV with no sound), it looked as though I were shoving him out of the elevator.
The doors closed and we were alone, but just as Dee's mom turned, they opened again -- one of the reporters had hit the button -- and more photos were hurriedly snapped. This gross behavior still stuns me. Finally the doors closed again and we made good our escape, leaving the reporters to sniff out the prosecutor, who never seemed to tire of hearing his own voice and seeing himself on TV.
I was too numb to be surprised that two vanloads of reporters followed my car down Highway 78, honking and waving past the first few exits as if they thought I'd suddenly pull over for a press conference. It felt like a Wacky Races cartoon. Eventually, I was home and alone, in a house Dee would not likely share with me for a very long time.
Dee was sentenced to 25 years to life in a California women's maximum-security prison. That was 8 years ago.
Seeing a loved one on trial, seeing her lose her freedom, and then choosing to stick by her, you can't imagine what this is like just by reading about it or watching TV courtroom and prison dramas. Law and Order it ain't.
Dee's first parole hearing will likely be around 2016. We know she won't get out on her first or second try. The California parole board has a history of refusing to release inmates convicted of capital offenses, no matter the individual circumstances. According to current law, those convicted of murder can be denied parole for up to five years at a time, although denials for shorter periods are also granted.
The governor gets a yea or nay in the parole process as well, hence my newfound interest in who's governing this state. Between 1998 and 2002, according to Parole Board Survey 2002, the California parole board decided to grant parole to 225 people convicted of murder. The governor reversed all but 5 decisions.
In 1977, when mandatory sentencing laws were enacted, the California Institution for Women was the only prison in California that housed women exclusively. There are now two others, both in Chowchilla, and women are also incarcerated in rehab centers and conservation camps and community-based facilities.
Since 1987, the number of women in California facilities has risen around 300 percent -- at the beginning of 1987, that population totaled 3564, while today it numbers about 10,753. According to recent Department of Corrections statistics, 34 percent of the state's incarcerated women are imprisoned for property crimes and 30 percent for drug crimes. Today, on average, women's facilities are occupied at 176 percent of capacity. The California Institution for Women was designed to hold 1026 prisoners. At this writing, it houses 1963.
Dee was processed into the prison system at the Central California Women's Facility, in Chowchilla, a six-hour drive north of San Diego. Valley State Prison for Women is built just around the corner on an intersecting road, and a lot of first-time visitors end up standing in long lines at the wrong prison only to be sent packing with a shrug and a "whoops, try again tomorrow." I was lucky and took the right turnoff. I found myself showing my ID at the guardpost of a serious-looking facility with rifle-toting sentries manning the watchtowers, miles of barbed wire, and an entry room crowded with forlorn-looking family members and friends, filling out the visit paperwork and being searched and x-rayed before entering the facility.
Central California Women's Facility is the only prison that has x-rayed me, and I understand the machine works sporadically. Most institutions settle for using metal detectors, having you empty and pull out your pockets and remove your shoes. For x-raying, they make you stand in funny positions, with your arms out as if you're flying and with legs lifted one at a time in a strange bunny-hop ritual. We could carry in only $40, all in ones, plus a single vehicle key, a photo ID and, at that time, a sealed pack of cigarettes, which they'd open, inspect, and mark.
I went to see Dee as soon as she was allowed visits. She was being kept in a wing where we had to talk through Plexiglas with boxy old phone receivers. These little talk booths were set up around the rim of a large circular room, and on the day I showed up, I was the only visitor. A guard had to open the building, go find Dee, and bring her down, and then he sat at a desk right in front of Dee as we tried to converse about what this prison was proving to be like for her. Her accommodations were a double cell among two tiers of identical cages placed around an atrium, all overlooked by a second-story control-room tower they called "the bubble," from which guards watched inmates' every movement 24/7. This included showers that could be observed by any male guard in the bubble.
She's tough, my babydoll, and she'd been going through the correctional-facility wringer for a while at this point. I knew she'd soon be released into the general population, but she was plenty strong enough to fight off unwelcome advances from both guards and amorous inmates. Though, it should be said, she and I had already allowed that, sooner or later, another inmate's attentions would indeed be welcomed. It's just an inevitability of the faux-family units that women in prison set up -- for support, for supplies, for survival.
I was emotionally preparing myself for Dee's having a female lover (not her first, not even her first since I met her), so I told her, "As long as I'm your number one, and the person you're with is good for you and good to you, I'm okay with it." She even gave me license to help her choose potential hookups, half-jokingly; but you can be sure we were both checking out the other female inmates in the visit rooms.
I gave Dee final approval over girls I dated too. This arrangement seemed perfectly natural, and certainly necessary. We were looking at around a 20-year sentence -- at best. If we were going to be in each other's arms at the end of it, that was gonna take a lot of improvising re our other relationships and lovers in the meantime. Reality check -- we weren't planning to be celibate or vacuum-sealed in Baggies between her conviction and parole.
Of course, talking such smack and making it work are two different things. Luckily, we're both choosy about whom we bump naughty bits with. In her case, with HIV, TB, and three kinds of hepatitis running rampant in California prisons, it pays to be picky.
After a few weeks' processing, the state moved Dee down the road to Valley State Prison, where we could now spend face-to-face time in the visit room. I was driving my LeBaron convertible six hours each way over the Tehachapi Mountains, just south of Bakersfield, two or three weekends a month. The endless drives were rewarded with a six-hour visit on Saturday and again on Sunday. I grew to enjoy the trek up -- playing Pink Floyd and Badfinger CDs, growing increasingly excited as I got closer to Chowchilla, counting the miles, knowing that soon I'd be kissing the woman I loved (something we were allowed to do only at the beginning and end of each visit).
The trip home always seemed longer, beginning with that endless walk out of the visit room and across the prison grounds, leaving her behind as armed guards ushered me through the automatic barbed-wire gates and I returned to my car, where I was rarely in the mood for music until well into the interminable drive home. The worst mountain-pass weather always seemed to hit on the way home. Or maybe I just didn't notice storms on the way to Chowchilla.
Weather along that Bakersfield stretch could be brutal. One night, driving through rain and thick fog, I got lost on a gas exit and couldn't even spot signs leading back to Highway 99. After about a half hour of driving who knows where, in who-knows-what direction, all evidence of life and industry were lost in the haze and I could barely see the road. When a car appeared from nowhere and turned onto the street in front of me, I followed its taillights in hopes that it would lead me to civilization. After about ten minutes of follow the leader, the car came to a stop and the driver opened his door. Even through the fog, I could see his quizzical expression as he approached my open driver's side window.
"Um...why did you follow me into my driveway?"
After the fog cleared, I found my way back to the highway. I'd added an extra hour to my trip home.
The prison staff told Dee that Valley State Prison was where she and other recently convicted "lifers" would likely spend their entire incarceration. I.e., this was her new home. That's how her family and I referenced it from that point on, in an attempt to deal with the finality of her situation, never failing to call it "Dee's pad" and referring to Chowchilla as "Dee's back yard."
Chowchilla is a funny little town of around 11,000 people, with much of its economy dependent on the nearby prisons. Not that residents seem happy about this. I quickly learned that the townspeople dread weekends, when family and friends of prisoners -- outsiders -- fill up the town's two motels and apparently scare the piss outta the locals.
The first time I pulled into Chowchilla, I drove around looking for the Star Motel, which turned out to be a seedy little multibuilding dive, akin to those along El Cajon Boulevard that cater to hookers, bail jumpers, and like-minded reprobates either detoxing from or binging on their preferred recreational mind-bender. It was daylight, the convertible top was down, my long hair was flying in the breeze, and as I passed an intersection, a police car fell in behind me and hit the siren. I'd been in Chowchilla less than five minutes. The officer came up to me, hand hovering over gun, and announced that I hadn't broken any traffic laws but "I wanted to warn you about these intersections. There's no stop sign, and sometimes people come really fast from the other direction, so you have to look both ways. Have you ever been in prison?"
Not even a pause between telling me he had no reason to pull me over and "Have you ever been in prison?" (I hadn't.) He shook me down pretty good, fiddled through my car, had me empty my pockets, and didn't seem to listen or care as I explained that my fiancée was at Valley State Prison and I was thinking about buying a house in Chowchilla. He finally cut me loose, and I checked into the funky little motel, where $45 got me a single room. I found a well-used crack pipe hidden in the air conditioner as I was settling in, so I crunched it up, put it in some fast-food trash, and took it to a gas station garbage can. I just had an instinct this extreme distancing was a good idea.
(Parked at Chowchilla’s Bedrock Café)
Sure enough, that night I walked out of my room and found the police officer from earlier squatting outside my motel room window. He told me he thought he smelled marijuana smoke coming from one of the cottages, flat out admitted he was secretly sniffing any and all odors emanating from my room. Welcome to Chowchilla.
Along the main drag, Robertson Boulevard, there's a Chinese restaurant where I saw only Caucasians working. My first meal there, a boy about ten years old sat nearby with his parents, staring at my ponytail and the multiple tattoos sneaking out from under my shirtsleeves. He had one of those frightened, disgusted, "I swallowed a bug" expressions, and I heard him ask loudly, pointing at me for dramatic punctuation, "Mommy, is that one of the bad men?"
At least that place served me. A pizza joint up the road literally chased me out one time when they realized I was waiting for the shuttle van to pick me up and take me the additional several miles out to the prison. "We don't serve you people," an old Hispanic man yelled at me as he snatched my paid-for, half-eaten pizza from the table and routed me out the door under threat of violence.
Town full of criminals, indeed.
Of the few hundred visitors cycling through Valley State Prison each weekend, about 25 percent arrived via Greyhound buses that pulled into Chowchilla around sunup on Saturday. That was as close as public transpo went to the prisons, so visitors had to catch the aforementioned shuttle van to travel the other ten or so miles, and it came through town only once, around 8:30 a.m. The shuttle was run by a group of volunteers, who also maintained a service trailer just inside the prison grounds, as I discovered when my car was in the shop and I looked into busing from San Diego.
In lining up the trip, I found that no cab companies existed in Chowchilla, and taxis refused to come from nearby towns like Madera. They claimed they'd been robbed or stiffed too often by "those people" visiting the prisons. The only way to get cab service was to get off the bus or train in Madera or Fresno and hire a cab to drive you out and drive back to pick you up after visit hours. The one time I did this, the cabbie made me pay in advance -- $40 for his trip each way (drop-off and pickup), hoovering $160 from my pocket to get the last 30 miles to and from the prison, when I'd paid only $55 for the other 650 miles of the round-trip.
In truth, some of the folks visiting prisoners had clearly been on the wrong side of a pair of handcuffs from time to time. Some weekenders couldn't even afford to stay at the decrepit Star Motel, let alone at the more expensive Days Inn, just off Highway 99. I'd see people camping under the overpass where Robertson split off the highway. They were visible from the back corner of the Days Inn parking lot, but you wouldn't notice the squatters unless you looked real close; they kept a very low profile (wise, given the cop I'd met). I saw only glimpses of them, walking to the corner store or catching a prison shuttle at the motel.
I walked down there once during the daytime and found a littered shooting gallery under the highway, with needles, cotton balls, burnt spoons, and torn plastic bags among the spread-out cardboard flats, newspaper blankets, and torn pages from a hard-core porn magazine. I had to suppose that Chowchilla residents had good reason to fear and mistrust the weekly invasion of nonlocal locusts, seeing as how some arrived clearly evincing narcotic eyes, heroin physiques, and methamphetamine sweats.
At Valley State Prison, some prison staff seemed to like visitors even less than townsfolk did. In summer 2001, I was handing my Doc Martens over the counter to be inspected when I saw a guard telling a tiny old woman next to me -- she had to be in her 70s -- that her driver's license had expired so she wouldn't be allowed in to visit her daughter. The woman started crying and stammering; "But...I rode a bus all the way from Utah! I haven't driven in years. I don't need a driver's license, so I didn't renew it." She pleaded with the guard that the photo ID clearly proved who she was and she'd visited many times in the past; she was on an approved visitor list and had been for years.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but your ID is expired and we can't allow you entry. You'll have to update your identification. Now please step aside," and the stone-faced creep called the next person to the counter, leaving the poor old lady sobbing and heaving her shoulders as she scuffled away and out the swooshing entry doors. If she'd indeed ridden a bus, that meant she had to sit in the visitor's trailer for about six hours until the shuttle took her back to Chowchilla, and it would be the next day before she'd be boarding a bus back to Utah -- without having actually seen her daughter.
As she left, there was a round of chuckles from all half dozen or so of the guards running the visit entry that day, and you could practically, but not quite, hear boos and hisses coming from everyone on the other side of the counter who'd witnessed this sad scene.
A few people are turned away most days, usually for not having pre-applied to visit a specific prisoner. The prison does a background check, and if you have so much as an unpaid ticket, they turn you down until taken care of. The visit aps have to be renewed from time to time. Once I was sent packing after the six-hour drive because of a ripe parking ticket that cropped up on their 'puter as they checked my ID on the way in. My visit rights were revoked until I paid the ticket off, sent proof of this to the prison, and reapplied to visit Dee, which took nearly two months.
Others aren't admitted because they're wearing forbidden colors, which is just about every color except gray and black, the safest and most common choices among frequent visitors. When I was first visiting, if you wore disallowed colors, they'd let you go outside to the volunteers' trailer, where approved clothes in all sizes were kept in dressing room closets. You signed in, ideally put a donation in the desk jar (they were self-funded), and left your offending togs on a shelf, returning the borrowed duds at the end of the visit. That is, provided you didn't keep the borrowed duds and forfeit your own clothes, which volunteers told me happened surprisingly often. They'd get stuck with lousy used rags they had to throw out.
The volunteers' trailer even had snacks, couches, a TV, and a bathroom (where I once found another used crack pipe, which someone had tried to flush, presumably after one final hit just a few feet away from prison guards). However, around late 2002, they ran out of money and closed the trailer down. That also shut down the shuttle service to Chowchilla, meaning anyone without a car could get to town via bus or train but couldn't get the additional miles to the prisons. It was a long walk through the desert, with only one pit stop along the way -- a Jack in the Box and gas station convenience store.
I found out how long the walk was while the trailer was still open, after my LeBaron exploded going back home over the Tehachapi Mountains one hot July afternoon. The water pump blew, and the engine started smoking and died as I sped down the mountain, my power steering doing a quick fade. I managed to wrestle the hurling mass of steaming metal off an exit ramp, through a stop light that luckily had no cross-traffic, and into a gas station parking lot, where two other smoking vehicle remnants were also cooling down, the occupants dealing with the respective ramifications of their enormous new paperweights.
It cost $475 to have my car towed back to San Diego, where it served as shade for the neighbor's dog for several weeks while I rounded up $3500 for a new engine.
Once again turning to Greyhound, I arrived in Chowchilla on a Saturday, checked into the motel, and showered, taking so long that I missed the volunteers' shuttle. With little other choice, I packed some water and hoofed it down the desert road toward the prison. This was apparently suspicious behavior, because I was shadowed the entire walk by Chowchilla police cars that'd park a quarter mile up the long straight road ahead of me, wait until I was walking nearly abreast of the car, and then pull away while another prowler parked down the road to wait for me again.
I tried to hitchhike, but no one would stop, and I swear one guy in a jeep swerved as if to hit me. After three solid hours of trekking through the desert, a truck finally picked me up, only to drop me off a half mile later at Jack in the Box before turning off onto the highway. In the restaurant, I offered money to people to drive me the last few miles. I pleaded with them, saying I feared for my survival in the heat, but everyone either said they were taking the highway or ignored me like a leper (one announcing a new terror alert; it was that kind of existence denial).
I took my pleas to the parking lot, where people rolled up their windows and one person even refused to let me hop on the back of his produce truck that was already going past the prison. One lady in a sedan made a cross with her fingers as I approached, holding her forefingers together as if warding off a vampire.
I trudged the final brutal stretch, trying to look past all the animal corpses on the roadside, avoiding several snakes that jumped in and out of dirt holes, and keeping a close eye on the buzzards circling overhead, as if waiting to make me the walking punch line of a Charles Addams cartoon.
A Chowchilla police car was parked just outside the prison gate when I finally stumbled up about 1:30, with only a half hour left to check in. The two cops shook me down, searched me, and pored over my ID, acting incredulous that I didn't have my own criminal record. I still got into the visit room in time to be processed and see Dee for about an hour before it was time to leave again. In the prison parking lot, I saw a guy who visited often and prevailed upon him for a ride back to the motel. I was optimistic because he was a priest, one who drove a pickup truck with a camper shell converted into a sort of portable church with faux stained-glass windows, and as I found out on the short drive back to Chowchilla (so-o-o-o much shorter on wheels!), the interior had its own full-fledged altar and a surfboard on which was painted a reproduction of Da Vinci's Last Supper. I told him he was literally answering my prayers by giving me a ride and unfolded my woeful tale of nearly becoming buzzard bait getting to the prison.
I grew to dread that weekly busload of the damned, going from San Diego to Chowchilla.
It took upwards of ten hours, beginning before midnight Friday on Broadway, with a layover in L.A., where about half of the bus's occupants who were going to the prisons got on. I soon recognized those heading for the prisons, a population of inmate loved ones that grew steadily as we approached Fresno. By the time we arrived in Chowchilla, almost everyone aboard was there to see a convicted criminal, and I daresay you could tell. I got to know most of the prison people over the next few months, not liking all of them; but everyone operated under a kind of unspoken truce -- we were all on the same mission of love and support.
People who normally wouldn't have any interaction (other than maybe fighting) would be playing cards, swapping tapes and CDs, comparing personal hardware -- knives and guns, mostly -- and doing a little drug trade here and there. One guy got caught smoking something in the bathroom, crack or meth. He squawked like a bird getting its feathers pulled as the angry driver put him off the bus at a closed gas station somewhere just outside Fowler, in the middle of the night.
The guy showed up in the visit room the next day, telling everyone he hopped an Amtrak train, hid in the bathroom to avoid paying, and got off close enough to walk to the prison. The proof was in his presence; he sure as sh-t didn't fly there, the glass pipe I'd seen him lend other bus riders notwithstanding.
While saving for an engine -- and then after my car was stolen (long story for another day) -- my budget was low enough that I was sometimes known to sneak a ticketless ride myself. I also filched the occasional AM/PM burrito and once slipped out on paying for a Denny's meal on the way home from Valley State Prison. At least I never stiffed a cabbie or had to sleep under the Robertson Boulevard overpass. I justified such hitherto uncommon behavior (honest! I just wasn't used to being broke) by telling myself that getting to Dee's side as often as possible was the number-one priority. I was already falling off to only once or twice a month, causing a strain in our relationship that eventually contributed to a rift.
Among my less larcenous ways to save ducats was to buy a $6 ticket to the multiplex theater in nearby Fresno and spend most of the night napping in the seats rather than paying for a motel room. I'd stay awake to see a few movies first, but then I'd lie across the seats and saw logs for hours at a time, waking up to the same scenes onscreen again and again (explaining why and how I'm able to recite nearly every word of Jim Carrey's Grinch movie without having actually seen the film -- the dialogue insidiously seeped into my subconscious).
(Bus stop Valentine's Day card)
The Greyhound run shrank to almost nobody once there was no more shuttle going from Chowchilla to the prison and back. Sadly, this meant a lot of individuals and families without their own transportation could no longer visit loved ones, and many of Dee's roommates no longer received visits. I eventually got my car running, but I began budgeting myself so I could instead rent cars to drive north, saving wear and tear on my wheels, while ensuring my ability to get all the way to the prison gates (and the car often provided my sleeping quarters).
Family members and lovers often seem to abandon women inmates. Women prisoners have a scandalously low percentage of supportive outsiders; the visit rooms are often half empty or more except near holidays, unlike at male prisons, where the visit rooms are routinely packed.
The same several dozen women seemed to get the majority of frequent visits; some women I'd see in the visit room only a handful of times or just once. Most inmates getting a lot of visits seemed to be white, for whatever that's worth by way of observation. According to current California Department of Corrections statistics, 30 percent of women in prison in California are black (only 6.5 percent of women in the state are black); 40 percent of women behind bars are white (versus 47 percent of the state's female population); and Latinos constitute 26 percent of California's female prisoners (but 31.5 percent of the women in the state).
About 3691 inmates are presently interred with Dee at Valley State Prison, although the prison was built to accommodate 1980. Her cell was designed for four, but currently eight women live among the tightly packed bunk beds and lockers. For a while, Dee shared her cell with a pet frog too, a tiny guy she and a friend picked up in the yard and adopted. When I visited, Dee was adorable to watch as she told me how she had taught the frog to do tricks, like sitting up for a fly. She'd beam almost like a proud mom or at least a happy dog owner whose Lab can bring in the evening paper. A froggie (necessarily kept secret from the staff) was one of the few options for critter company. Dee had always lavished love on pets before her incarceration.
During visits, Dee and I could hold hands while sitting at our assigned, numbered table or walking in the outdoor courtyard, but we couldn't hug or kiss, other than hello and good-bye. She had to wear prison-issue clothes in the visit room, usually baggy dark pants and a white T-shirt with long dark sleeves, but she had the option of wearing a dark sweatshirt on cold mornings. She used to be able to wear her long hair down, but then they started requiring inmates with tresses past shoulder length to tie the hair back or up. Dee always had to sit facing the guard's desk, and we were watched closely by staff and by a multitude of cameras.
(Parked at a Chowchilla store plugging ciggies, liquor, and lottery tix)
We could order food from a service cart that offered dishes she rarely or never got inside the prison, like shrimp, pepperoni pizza, and chocolate milk shakes. I'm told that at some California women's prisons, the cafeterias don't serve hot dogs or zucchinis or anything else phallic-shaped. Prisons don't want food used as sex toys, so all suggestively shaped fruit, vegetables, and meat-based products are sliced several times in order to disabuse this whimsical application.
Yes, I've seen women at Valley State Prison who look as though they carry their own phalluses, some being particularly, um, masculine, a few sporting facial hair. Inmates and visitors. Dee told me about the ones she knows but advised me early on not to make eye contact, stare, point, and especially not to talk to anyone, as this was bad etiquette. Such a social faux pas in this closed-circuit live-wire lesbian inner society could get Dee in trouble later, not to mention getting me kicked out of the visit room for fraternizing with prisoners other than the one I signed up for. Dee had to be careful about acknowledging friends at nearby tables; our visit could be shut down for this too.
We could loosely hug while having Polaroid photos taken ($2 each) by inmate trustees, though a guard had to inspect each picture to make sure we weren't touching inappropriately, in which case they'd tear up the print. Dee and I split up approved pics (stamped with a bear paw -- hah hah) so we could each take away a few from the visit.
These too-rare time capsules - showing us smiling and hugging and enjoying our precious moments together - are among my most treasured possessions.
When you're in love with someone locked away from you, each shared moment is special and intense in a way that's hard to convey. You cling to, cherish, and live for those scarce moments spent on the phone together or looking into each other's eyes. There's not a wasted, blah second in a relationship like that; it's always tip-of-the-nerve-ending stuff. Perhaps the tragedy adds to the romance. I suspect few married couples outside newlyweds, no matter how close, spend as much pure quality time together as a couple maintaining their relationship through a prison sentence.
Sure, sometimes we just shoot the sh-t, gossip, or play Scrabble, occasionally we even argue (though you'd better believe we save that for only the biggest issues), but neither of us has ever said, "You know, this is boring. Let's wrap this up early so we can do something apart for a while." Just never happens. If you want every moment spent in love with someone to truly feel like love, try having those moments restricted by the state.
At first, I could bring cigarette packs in to Dee, but then the prison began requiring us to buy them -- at $5 a pack -- from the inside concessionaire. I could buy extra packs for her to take back to her room after the visit, but around 2002 they stopped allowing this. Then they forbade cigarettes and smoking altogether in the visit rooms, which is the current rule. You can be sure that the six-hour visits end with nicotine fits on the part of many "guests" and inmates, creating an even more tense atmosphere than already exists with the inevitable crying couples and clinging children and inmates lining up to be strip and body searched on the way back to their cells.
Many inmate privileges, and basic human rights, have been taken away since Dee went in. In late 2003, Valley State Prison began allowing male guards to do pat-down searches of clothed female inmates that include touching their breasts and crotches, a practice that had been banned at the facility since 1998 after documentation surfaced of complaints about groping and outright sexual abuse by guards during intrusive "cross-gender pat searches" (as they're called in a state prison training video).
Amnesty International, which conducts human rights investigations at Valley State Prison and other California prisons, is petitioning the state and the California Department of Corrections to again restrict such pat-downs. In an October 2003 press release, Amnesty stated that the practice is "inherently degrading and inconsistent with international standards and constitute a form of violence against women....
Research has shown that pat-down searches and other intimate contact involving male guards can be particularly traumatizing for women prisoners, many of whom have histories of being physically or sexually abused before their incarceration." According to an April 1998 Department of Justice Statistics report, 48 percent of women in United States jails reported being sexually or physically abused prior to their detention; 27 percent reported being raped.
A 2002 study of Valley State Prison conducted by California Prison Focus, a group that monitors human rights in prisons, stated, "Last year we learned that the man who was responsible for some of the worst physical and verbal assaults on women...was up to his old tricks on the general population yards. CO Ross had been transferred out of the SHU [mental and physical disability unit], but prisoners on the C yard reported that he was harassing and intimidating prisoners there. A guard named Venemma was reported to have assaulted a prisoner who was just having a conversation with another staff member. He also does room searches in an illegal way. He is reported to break up property, mix up and trash prisoners' legal materials and Court documents, and has failed to allow prisoners to view a random room search as is required. He is known for making sexual comments to prisoners and reported to get nasty if they don't flirt. CO Lucas is reported to be very aggressive toward the women with provocative yelling and demeaning and profane language."
The women at Valley State Prison have virtually no privacy. Male and female guards can observe them at all times -- as they're dressing, going to the bathroom -- and sometimes male guards walk in on inmates being strip searched in the reception area. Searches are frequent, from post-meal pat downs to strip and full-body searches after leaving the visit room.
Male officers are allowed to assist in cell extractions, where women are forcibly removed from their rooms, and these often involve strip searches conducted or witnessed by the men. In researching this article, I discovered that Rule 53 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners states, "Women prisoners shall be attended and supervised only by women officers."
Dee says she's never had a major problem with a male guard coming on to her. "The girls who have that happen to them usually invite it, at least after the first time," she told me. Female staffers are just as likely to sexually or verbally abuse prisoners, she says. She also mentions that an alarming percentage of girls who've been incarcerated at California Youth Authority, where most inmates are underage, say they had sex with and were even impregnated by male staffers, including psychiatric and medical personnel and volunteers, like instructors and even religious counselors.
At Valley State Prison, inmates may keep only as much personal property as can fit in a six-cubic-foot space, with only two electrical appliances allowed. Regarding space for books and electric typewriters, no exceptions are made for women in vocational training programs or taking self-study courses.
Few education or job-training programs are offered to women with the word "life" in their sentences, though many of these women may eventually be paroled back into society. Pregnant women (around 80 percent of the state's female population are mothers) are shackled to their closed-ward hospital beds while giving birth -- as are other prisoners, including the terminally ill -- and their babies are handed over within days to the inmates' families or, most often, to social services.
Dee has to apply to see a doctor. The request has to be reviewed and approved, and then she's charged $5 per health problem that she seeks diagnosis or treatment for (prisoners indigent for the previous 30 days don't have to pay). Prescriptions are provided at no cost. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and volunteer counselors are available but difficult to see during their limited hours, especially for inmates holding down weekday jobs. In the health-care center, a padded strip cell is used for women prisoners deemed suicide risks or mentally erratic, and sometimes they're kept there for upwards of 72 hours.
Lately, prisoners have had trouble getting diagnosis and treatment for hepatitis C. Inmates who volunteer as peer educators try informing about hep C, but the materials are years out of date. There are only certain hours and locales (no offices) to meet with prisoners, and educators receive no pay or good-time credits. The Department of Corrections has steadfastly refused to fund peer-education efforts about hepatitis at Valley State Prison, saying that it authorizes such programs only in prison populations where HIV is rampant, suggesting that hep C doesn't overly concern them.
"There are women who have it, and the doctors diagnose it but then don't tell [the inmate]," Dee told me awhile back. "Meanwhile, they've been getting tattoos and maybe spreading it around. There's a lot of instruction about AIDS but nothing about hepatitis. It's really scary."
Inmates must take jobs at the prison to get basic privileges like phone rights, though they're paid as little as eight cents an hour, with minimum-wage gigs paying less than $6 per month. Yet the prices charged at monthly commissary trips are often twice as high as those charged outside, especially for basic hygiene products. The high prices versus low wages make women dependent on outside aid, which is often not forthcoming. This leaves many vulnerable to exploitation, and some end up bartering sex or other acts just to keep themselves in necessities.
I can send Dee money via postal money orders only, and this goes into her inmate account. The state takes restitution as part of her sentence, 44 percent, starting January 1, of every dollar I send. She can get four packages a year containing personal property, under strict guidelines and weighing no more than 30 pounds per box, but beginning in 2004, the women must order from a prison-issued catalog, and we pay for the prepacked shipment via credit card or money order, rather than personally shopping for our loved ones.
I really miss choosing perfume and shopping for Dee's panties, nighties, and everyday clothes, even if only certain colors with no lacy frills were allowed. She acted almost embarrassed to ask me for intimate girlie stuff -- I think she thought it sucked for me to buy lingerie for one of the most gorgeous women on earth when all I'd get to see of it was the occasional flash of a bra strap in the visit room. But it comforted me to select intimate apparel to be warmed by her skin. Her 34C bras were required to have no underwire, a style I could usually find only at Victoria's Secret, always a pleasant place to shop for a lady. Even prison visitors aren't allowed to wear bras with underwire, as these have apparently proven deadly weapons in the past, much as that sounds like a bad Russ Meyer movie.
Dee can get quarterly "special purchases" from catalogs other than the prison-issue one, most recently a JCPenney order where she chose personal clothing with far more flair than was otherwise available (yes, JCPenney fashion is their high-water mark -- my poor babydoll!). Last year, I finally managed to buy her a TV set, which has really brightened up her bunk. More than half of her roommates have TVs, and she can finally program her own viewing choices and hours. The TV even came with headphones, though the antenna was deliberately broken off -- another potential weapon, dontcha know.
As far as phone calls go, Global Nextel has established a monopoly in California prisons. The inmate can use only the Global hookup. I pay around $75 monthly to receive four or five 12-minute phone calls. The fee is $1.50 just to connect, and per-minute rates and surcharges for someone living out of state amount to over a dollar a minute for the rest of the call, which is abruptly terminated after interruptive two-minute and one-minute warnings.
The $26 million annual franchise fee that California receives from Global goes directly into the state's general fund and not into the Inmate Welfare Fund.
Dee has used her time so far to go to school; learn a couple of trades; become certified in sign language; read countless books, including classic literature, which she first discovered in a Youth Authority class years ago; and, most promisingly, to blossom into an exceptional writer.
Our relationship has drifted somewhat due to enforced distance, as I've been required to stay near faraway family members for health-related reasons. For a while she had a lover, as did I, and we were nearly settling into separate albeit parallel grooves, writing and talking to each other on the phone constantly, being part of but separate from each other's day-to-day lives.
I'm working on getting to her side more often. I plan on standing by her and greeting her with open arms on her release, no matter what circumstances occur between now and then. It's not as though she needs me -- she's tough enough to not actually need anything or anybody. But I daresay we'll always want each other's company, now and forever, no matter what or when. That's just how love works. At least for us.
HOW I ENDED UP WHERE I AM TODAY – Danielle Barcheers (www.myspace.com/juvielaw)
We didn't intend to hurt anyone, yet someone died. I don't know if I can sat exactly WHAT I intended or why, and I won't try to justify it. Somehow, though, a girl just four days past her 15th birthday took part in a heinous and thoughtless crime. That was almost 11 years ago. The girl? She was me...
Although some people would say I don't deserve the chance to be heard (and the old me quietly tempts me to agree – my victim doesn't have a voice now, so why should I?), I feel compelled to explain a little about myself, in the hopes of being considered a little closer to human. I hope you'll be open-minded enough to hear me out. These aren't excuses and in no way does this lessen my part in the crime – it's just my story.
The first two years of my life were Hell. As close to literally as one can get on Earth. I wasn't just physically and sexually abused, I was tortured. So much so that, once my grandparents got temporary custody, I was prone to night terrors. I wet the bed and often slept UNDER the bed or in the closet.
At times, I would wet myself while awake, out of unbridled fear caused by some memory or another. I was afraid to eat in front of anyone, so I stole food from the dinner table while it was being set. Like a squirrel, I hid it in my room where I could eat it safely later.
When my grandmother would cook with baking soda, I would scream and cry, begging not to have to eat it because "it makes me feel funny."
I was terrified of people, but of Men especially. My grandfather was the only man that could come close to me without outright panic. Thanks to my grandparents' gentle, kind, nurturing and patient love, I gradually came out of my shell. They endured much to bring me out of myself, of my pain and fear.
When I was almost five years old, the courts decided that my supervised visits with my mother were showing improvement and that she had met all of their requirements. I was well enough and she was stable enough (after a lot of HARD work on her part) that I was returned to my mom.
Eventually, we moved from Oregon to California and finally settled down. I had been born in Florida and my mom and I had done a lot of traveling in my little life, so settling down seemed to be a move in the right direction. Things were looking good and we were doing well, my mom and I. But as fate would have it, nothing good last forever. My mom had a boyfriend that I adored. His daughter was close to my age and I was really HAPPY!
One hot summer day (that's how I remember it) when I was about five and a half, my mom's boyfriend was asleep on the couch while his daughter and I were supposed to be napping. His friend had other plans. He molested us both, forcing one to watch the other as he took turns with us and so much more.
Long story short, we told and actions were taken, but that did nothing to burn the images from out minds.
Right about now, you're probably thinking "Here we go, someone else using the 'abuse excuse,' or you've been thinking it all along. That isn't the case. What I'm telling you ISN'T an excuse. It's my life, my reality, and I feel that it molded me into the child I became.
Besides, it wasn't always bad, and I didn't always do bad, either! In fact, I did exceptionally well for awhile. I was in a G.A.T.E. class (for advanced students) in the 5th and 6th grades. I was co-president of my school in the 5th grade, was in the Science Olympiad (an after-school science club), I was in the band and I played softball. I spent a lot of my free time reading at the public library and my grades were A's and the occasional B.
I was respectful of my peers and elders and liked to help other kids in my school. I was in a tutoring program that helped younger children with learning disabilities or who were studying English as a second language (ESL), to learn to read.
Although we weren't well-off at home, we always had enough. My mom got married to a great man who had two young daughters of his own. Looking at me, no one would have suspected the turmoil going on at home – or inside of me.
By the end of 5th grade, my mom and (step)dad decided to move my two younger sisters and baby brother and I out of the "neighborhood." The area we moved to was much nicer and the house much larger. I was almost 13 and was about to get a room of my own, after sharing a tiny space with both my younger sisters for the last three years. You'd think I'd be excited, but I wasn't. I didn't want to go.
My new school was filled with kids who had no idea what it was like to have a family struggling financially. I felt like an insect under a microscope, and they all had to have their turn to look in disgust. My secondhand clothes were taboo, along with everything else about me. As an adult, this sounds petty, but as a young teen…it's everything.
That, of course, isn't what broke me – more like it was the last straw. I don't think it was the escalating violence at home either, although it was getting pretty bad. I don't even think it was the fact that I believed my own mother – my mother! – had allowed a mad to all those terrible things to me. I believe it was all of these things, combined with my own inability to deal with or understand any of it. I had a very real mental illness that had yet to be identified, diagnosed or treated.
I started using drugs, drinking, acting out in rage (more often than not towards myself), and spending more and more time "inside" of myself. I was ditching school and I was even trying to kill myself. My mom, not knowing what to do with me, became more violent.
I ran away from home often, or was kicked out. By the time I was 14, I knew what it was like to literally live on the streets, with no food or shelter. Some time during all of that mess, I was diagnosed with several mental disorders, including bipolar disorder/manic depression and borderline personality disorder.
Hospitalization and medication were recommended, but my mom was only told about the need for medication, which she refused to get for me at the time. I was also expelled from school for possession of diet pills, prescribed to someone else on school grounds.
Eventually, my mom did get me on medication, Prozac, which I took every day, even when I wasn't at home. I took it, not because they told me to, but because I WANTED to. I was scared, and tired of seeing and hearing things no one else did. I was tired of Charlie, the "other me." The bad me.
About two months before the senseless, awful crime, I was introduced to one of my soon-to-be co-defendants. Sure, I'd known who he was for years – who didn't? But I never thought we'd even talk, though we hung out with a lot of the same people.
We were drawn to each other like moths to flame. Within weeks, I was "in love," willing to die for this boy only a couple of years older than myself. As, as sick as it was, eehe loved me too, or so I thought.
He showed me what I'd been looking for my whole 14 years on Earth. Love, without restriction, judgment, limits or expectations. He made me feel wanted, loved, beautiful and important. Most of all, he made me feel safe. I knew he'd never let anyone hurt me, never again.
So, when my mom hit me for the last time, he was the one I turned to. Instead of looking at my red, bruised and tear-stained face and my battered body with pity, disgust or horror, he was angry. Angry for me, so angry that anyone could hurt this precious little girl! He vowed to protect me from that day forward, from the world…and myself.
I stopped taking my medication not long after that and, although I didn't see it, my mental state was deteriorating at frightening speed. I continued using drugs, although not as badly as I had previously, and I drank all the time. Within weeks, I was sitting in Juvenile Hall first the first time - - charged with first degree murder.
I was just four days past my 15th birthday, and I was a mess. Cold, bitter, angry…and scared. No matter how "bad" I thought I was, I was still a scared child, and had been for my entire life.
That was September 1995. In early 1997, I was convicted of first degree felony murder. The Felony Murder laws state that any time bodily injury occurs during the commission of a crime, all parties involved in the crime are equally guilty, even if they didn't cause the physical injury. So why did they think I was there to commit a crime? Because I told them I was. PLEASE let me explain - -
After the crime took place, I was a passenger in a car that crashed TWICE in one night, both times at high speeds and once in a police chase. I was apprehended by a K9 dog and received several bites to my right upper arm, inner right thigh and right ribcage (which is what the K9 grabbed with its teeth to drag me along the ground). When the arresting officer got there, he pulled the dog off me and placed a gun at my face, yelling obscenities.
The K9 was able/allowed to bite me again, in the buttocks, before being taken away.
I was read my rights and I requested a lawyer, having seen that on TV. I was taken to the hospital for treatment, where I was immediately questioned, wearing nothing but a hospital gown and cuffed to a gurney. Scared, confused and in pain, I was interrogated by to male cops. After invoking my right to silence up to 27 times, I was finally intimidated into telling them that I went to the house to rob someone.
Even though that statement was taken in violation of my rights, it was able to be used against me, after much legal maneuvering. I believe this is technically the reason they were able to convict me.
After the conviction, I was sent to the California Youth Authority for a 90-day observation, pre-sentencing. All the staff counselors and psychologists felt I would be amenable to rehabilitation, and it was recommended that I be sentenced to "Juvenile Life" (incarceration until you turn 25 in CYA, and then paroled).
The judge denied the recommendation and gave me an adult sentence of 25 year to life. My earliest possible release date is 2017, which is 85% of my 25 year sentence. Mind you, that's not a release date, it's just a suggestion to the C.D.C. (California Department Of Correction) as to when they can begin considering my eventual release.
I was told that I could only stay in CYA until my 18th birthday, when I'd be shipped off to an adult prison.
That may not seem like such a big deal to someone who's never experienced the difference, but believe me, they're worlds apart. CYA offers one-on-one counseling and group therapy for things like victims awareness, substance abuse, commitment offence, parenting, gang awareness and changing directions. They have educational classes unlike any other place I've ever been.
Had I been able to stay, I would have been able to finish earning my A.A. degree and had continual therapy.
They also have great vocation programs and jobs that give you real-life experience. They have programs where you can do community service from the inside, by doing things like putting together educational books for local schools, organizing pamphlets and such. In just a year and a half, I took so much away with me. The whole focus at CYA is on rehabilitation and education.
Prison, on the other hand, is based on punishment and housing, no matter how they dress it up. It's a place to cage the animals and nothing more. Granted, you can take something good away from some programs they have in prison, but they're more limited and harder to get into.
Had I stayed in CYA, I would have been paroled by now. I'd have a chance to be part of a family, something I've never really experienced. I'd be able to give back to the community, not what I've taken but a little bit at a time. I could help other kids who are in a bad place, and help prevent them from ruining their own lives or the lives of others, before it happens to them. I'd be able to give my life to helping others in need.
I have earned my G.E.D. and a high school diploma, I've trained in several vocational area and I'm currently working on a college degree. I'm taking advantage of everything prison has to offer, as well as doing things to better myself on my own. I'd like the chance to put these things to use, to be able to give back.
I'm not telling you this to shade over the truth. I took part in a very terrible thing and, no matter what I did or did not do, I am responsible for someone's death. Just as responsible as anyone else who took part in that crime.
Every day, I think about it. I think about HER, the victim. She weighs heavy on my mind when I am falling asleep, and she's there when I wake. I am aware that she can never enjoy the simple pleasures of life again; the sunset and sunrise, watching rain fall from a warm room's window, ice cream on a hot summer day or the smell of the morning mist.
I know that, in destroying her life, I've destroyed the lives of her loved ones. And my own. I've denied the world of a beautiful human being who had so much to give, blotted out a bit of light in such a dark world.
For that, I am extremely and terribly sorry. I know "sorry" will never bring her back, or heal anyone's pain. But I still want to do my best to help make the world better, helping one person at a time, and hopefully – if I get the chance – I can help some of the other scared children. Before it's too late.
Danielle Barcheers #W85459
VSPW D1-07-02 LOW
PO Box 92
Chowchilla CA 93610
TURN AROUND - by Danielle Barcheers
but you aren't here to see it.
Becoming more of what I want to be,
and should have been.
Patience that should have been spent on you,
used now waiting for you to come back.
My smile screens the hard things I've learned,
and am learning,
but I've pushed you too far away to see.
I can only imagine how hard it would be
to see me with your back turned.
You can't see me leaving behind the fears
of an unloved and abandoned child,
or making room for the slightly new way of thinking.
You are missing the transformation of a woman/child
becoming a woman who knows how to be a lady.
Tomorrow - if it comes - will bring so much more,
but I've learned to deal with tomorrow...
I'm still learning to let go of yesterday,
but it's starting to look further away.
But you aren't here to see it.
Becoming what I should have been,
but never will be to you again.
ONLY I KNOW WHY – by Danielle Barcheers
The wind howls into the empty night,
waves crash angrily onto the shore,
the heavens cry upon my head,
the sun no longer shines.
And only I know why.
I know why the willow weeps,
and hangs its head,
why a robin's blue,
though it's red.
Why water freezes,
and turns to ice.
It seems only I know why.
I know why love burns,
then turns to dust,
why children who believe
grow to distrust,
why the sun is shining
but the sky is grey.
And I believe only I know why.
The cave is hollow,
islands stay deserted,
the ocean is always calm
before the storm.
I am all of these things,
a shell of broken dreams,
and only I know why.
Only I know why.
PALSY by Danielle Barcheers
Beyond my window,
the world waits.
And I sit not so patiently,
waiting for the world,
longing for its embrace
that is always just out of reach.
Memories so real to me,
until the moment slips between
my weak fingers,
and shatters on the floor.
I look back carefully,
trying not to cut myself
on the jagged edges of rememberance.
Years ago can cut just as deep today.
Tomorrow is as dull as
the day that follows.
I am like the wayward wind,
searching for the smallest crevices,
unable to find what I seek.
I cannot go where I need to be.
So I sit and look beyond my window,
and wait for a world
that waits for me.
ROCKIN’ THE LAW: CLUBS IN COURT
Operating a nightclub or running any event open to the public can keep you tied up in constant civil litigation. This is backed up by local insurance reports and court records. Most filings allege “personal injury,” “negligence” and “battery” --- most suits, tho not all, are settled between plaintiffs and defendants before ever reaching court.
High profile chains like Moose McGillycuddy’s have learned hard lessons about this inevitability. Of their seven locations, “PB actually had most of the problems in the early nineties,” acknowledges their Corporate Counsel David Osborne. The PB club faced over a dozen personal injury or assault suits between 1989 and 1995. “I think these are some of the problems that actually brought some of the major nightclub chains down, these lawsuits. And really associated with them are all the regulatory problems, department of ABC actions, vice complaints.”
One judgment against Moose’s amounted to over $78,000.00, awarded to well-known local radio DJ Michael Halloran.
“He was working at the club as a guest DJ,” says Osborne. “That was a situation where he was alleged to have been assaulted by a patron.” The assailant was supposedly on an “86’d” list which should have caused him to be refused admittance at the door, but he was mistakenly allowed in by bouncers.
Halloran claims the intoxicated patron, a large Samoan named Rodney, “harassed and threatened” him for around a half hour, and then tried to force open the door to the DJ booth.
“Nobody from Moose’s did anything about it,” alleged Halloran. “Bouncers normally present on the dance limbo floor had been sent home earlier.” He says Rodney punched him in the face hard enough to knock him back into the booth, fracturing his nose and injuring his jaw.
“That was one of the main cases that opened up [our] eyes to the problems associated with that part of the business, that risk,” says Osborne. He says the chain then became “very proactive in trying to deal with these types of situations, by offering rigorous training, from management on down, mostly in customer relations. Our lawsuits [dropped to] probably less than ten percent of the lawsuits we had back then.”
Assault by a fellow patron was alleged after a Cardiff Reefers show, in a suit filed against The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. Cody Chytraus, a carpenter and construction worker, told me in a phone interview “I was stabbed in face twice with a beer bottle by somebody else who was there.”
He says the attack was unprovoked and that he was simply talking to a girl when someone shouted “Hey” and then struck him as he turned. “I just thought he’d hit me. I just felt two jabs to the side of the face.” His attacker was convicted and imprisoned, but Chytraus filed a personal injury suit against the club.
Chytraus was unable to pursue the matter, he says due to the expense involved. “I’ve still got permanent scars to my face. I basically just wanted my doctor’s bills taken care of. I still have plastic surgery bills.”
He estimates $35,000.00 in medical expenses, which he paid himself. “They actually ended up getting some pretty high priced attorneys and my attorney wasn’t all that good...I felt real discouraged that there was no way I could really collect or be covered through them [The Belly Up] and it all happened in their establishment.”
Eric Leitstein, longtime operator of ‘Canes in Mission Beach, has also run clubs like Schooners and Moose’s. He told me that lawsuits are inevitable, but that he prefers to fight them rather than settle.
“There was one where we just had to pay a guy thirty grand...Sometimes the companies settle.”
How many times a year was the club facing litigation? “A half dozen. My insurance [was] a little under thirty grand a year and, you know, we get these lawsuits. Is it standard in the business? Yes.”
“I mean, one lawsuit can cost you fifteen, twenty grand. We’re in the middle of one now where a girl’s suing us because she cut her leg on a piece of equipment in the club.”
Multiple defendants are often involved in a single lawsuit, such as when an event patron sues both a host venue and others who they feel are somehow liable for civil damages. Hired security companies are often included among the defendants.
Hans Jensen of the band Collage Menage filed a civil suit for assault against both StaffPro Security and UCSD’s Outdoor Amphitheatre, though the case never went to court and no judgment was ever filed. “I was basically forced to settle,” he told me. “I had one lawyer and they had six on the other side of the table. I couldn’t afford to pursue it any more, I had to take an offer that I felt wasn’t anywhere near what they should have had to pay.”
“I was watching Stone Temple Pilots. It was a general admission show, and I was about fifty yards from the stage when a guy barreled through the audience and insisted that I had a video camera, which I didn’t. He wasn’t wearing anything that said he was a security guard, just a backstage laminate hanging around his neck. He grabbed me and wrestled me around, and I tried to protect myself. He took me out of the audience and never identified himself the whole time, so I didn’t know why he was beating on me.”
Jensen says he was taken to SDSU's backstage, while several friends watched in disbelief. “As soon as I said that I wanted to press charges, he switched it all around and said I attacked him. And the cops told us that they’d have to arrest both of us, it was my word against his, so neither of us pressed any charges. I gave a report, and then I got a lawyer.”
Others on the stage besides performers can get the venue and themselves in civil hot water.
One-time 4th & B owner Bob Speth told me his club was not responsible. “What happened was we informed the promoter and the clothing company not to throw anything off the stage because it creates chaos as they’re trying to get to the item. And they, being youthful type of people, said ‘these guys don’t know what they’re talking about,’ and so they snuck up on-stage and against our wishes and instructions threw it [the snowboard] out anyhow, to be cool, so the guy got hurt...that’s why it’s pushed back to Third Rail because they’re the ones who did it after we instructed them not to.”
A potential plaintiff doesn’t even have to step into a venue to end up involved in litigation.
Gilbert E. Ortega, Jr. alleges he was on the sidewalk in front of Moose McGillycuddy’s in PB, handing out flyers for a benefit event, “Santa’s Funky Toy Drive.” “We were in suits, we weren’t making a nuisance and we were very cordial with people as we always are.”
“The manager came out and said ‘We don’t want you to pass out flyers here.’ I said ‘Well sir, this is for a toy drive, a benefit for children, it’s no conflict with your nightclub.’ It kind of ended there, he said okay.”
“Next thing I know, I’m talking to this woman I kind of know, and my peripheral version caught this man coming at me. It turned out to be one of the bouncers, and he just cold-cocked me. Laid me out. My flyers looked like a bunch of feathers just ruffling up in the air.”
He alleges that a second bouncer joined in. “These guys flat out came at me with everything they had. At one point, they ran my head into a wall! After I was pummeled for a good minute or two, the manager came out and said ‘Are you going to leave now?’ When I realized that he had authorized this, I lost it and I cold-cocked him. Then the bouncers start working me again!”
Ortega summoned police and was told that, since the manager also had blood on him, it was a case of “mutual combatants” and, if either of them wanted to press charges, then both of them would have to be arrested.
Ortega says he settled out of court when the cost of pursuing his lawsuit increased to alarming levels. He claims a third of his settlement went to cover his medical costs, including treatment for an injured jaw and twisted neck and extensive physical therapy, taking place over several months.
As if customers don’t find enough things to litigate with fellow patrons and bouncers, sometimes a bartender is the offending party.
Greg Wellong says he was celebrating his birthday at Buffalo Joe’s and was “severely burned when defendant bartender on his own initiative gratuitously served [151-proof rum] which [the bartender] intentionally set on fire.”
Wellong says he was told by the bartender to drink the beverage while lit, which resulted in facial burns.
Some civil suits originate with venue employees.
Carin Bell bartended at 4th and B for about a year and alleges that she was often threatened and even robbed by patrons. Reached by phone, she told me “We had voiced our opinions several times that the club was not safe, and that we needed more security. This one girl told me she was going to wait outside and kill me. I think that was a comedy night.”
Why did the girl want to kill her? “She didn’t pay me with enough, and I told her she needed more money. Another time some guy, called me a c-m-sucking whore because I cut him off. There was no bouncer that time, and another bartender had to go out there and escort him to the door.”
Bell’s friend Moletta Wick agrees. “I was one of the original bartenders hired on [at 4th & B],” she told me. “We ended up with eight out of twenty something bartenders that actually stayed there.”
Wick says the club had rowdy shows unlike anything she’s ever seen, and her resume includes several biker bars. “I mean, [co-owner] Don Ferguson, in our first week, got a bottle cracked over his head. It knocked him out, and we had to take him to the hospital!”
She says one of her worst nights was when the club booked the Long Beach Dub All Stars (former Sublime members). “I was working by the stage, and they came out of the dressing room and demanded alcohol from me...they told me ‘You’re gonna serve me now, bitch,’ just like freaked out on me. They pushed my bar away from me, it was a portable bar, and one guy pushed me up against the beer cooler and another guy started grabbing my liquor. They were saying ‘If you don’t serve me now, b-tch, I’m gonna have to kick your -ss and we just won’t play this concert and f-ck you’... my husband had to come down from our house to stand by the bar and protect me, because there was no security.”
Wick mentions a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy show where she and Bell became fed up. “We were training a new bartender, and she had gotten verbally assaulted. Then this guy physically tried to grab her and yank her across the bar, and grabbed me because I got in between them. I mean, there was this girl sitting on my bar and taking ecstasy...there were people having sex in the balcony.”
“When the show was over,” Bell says, “we spoke to the manager, and the owner came in and asked what the problem was. We told him that we didn’t have enough security, and that this wasn’t the first time we had brought it up. Apparently he [Speth] took Billy [the manager] upstairs and told him to fire us.”
Bell says she didn’t realize they’d been fired until the manager called her a few days later to leave a message. “When I called the club, he said ‘you haven’t to talked to Moletta? Oh, well, I had to let the two of you go.’ ” She says neither she nor Wick ever received a written warning or suspension and that they were told they’d been fired for insubordination.
Bob Speth, who owned 4th & B at the time, insisted to me that the women quit.
“They were yelling at my manager, calling him obscenities when I walked in the door. I said ‘It’s obvious that everyone’s really upset.’ I just took Billy out of the Vault to diffuse the situation. I never said anything to the girls. Then I told Billy I was going on a vacation, and to take them off the schedule until I come back. Give them a chance to cool off, to think about what they’d just done, and also I had my vacation so I didn’t want to deal with it. I wasn’t going to stay here when I had plane tickets to go to Idaho to go trout fishing.”
So when, according to Speth, did the women quit? “When I got a fax from them about a month after [the incident]. I immediately called them and said ‘what’s the problem?’ And they said ‘Oh we’ll get back with you.’ And they did, two months later, with a lawsuit. To this day, and you can quote this, I don’t understand!”
The jury at the civil trial was asked to considered “wrongful termination,” but the women had originally also filed for sexual harassment.
Speth and the club’s co-owner at the time, Don Ferguson, were singled out in the allegations. Wick says “They one morning made me stand in front of them and turn around so they could inspect my body because I had lost ten pounds and they thought it was remarkable. Like, threatening. I tried to walk away from them a couple of times, and they go ‘Get back down here now.’”
Speth points out that the sexual harassment portion of the suit was dropped, before the case ever went to court.
“The original [statement] was that the air molecules from the fan bounced on the floor, thusly bouncing up her dress and physically attacking her buttocks. That was the original one, and they amended it because everybody was laughing.”
“I’m a married guy, and they’re making these accusations, which of course they dropped before the trial ever started...they filed for everything, they said we were the dirtiest people in the world. Then, when we got to court though, then everything changed.”
Wick claims the club’s lawyers intimidated her by threatening to discredit her character.
“They tried to get Don Dokken to say that I had oral sex with him. I don’t know where the h-ll that came from, I was totally insulted when I heard about that. I’ve met Don Dokken, but I’ve never slept with the man.”
Asked about why they dropped the sexual harassment suit, Wick says “My lawyer I guess just didn’t feel like it was, I don’t know. I really don't know. I kind of wonder about that myself.”
Back when Speth was still running 4th & B, he told the Reader “I own the place, one hundred percent of it, and I live in a one bedroom apartment, $650.00 a month rent. Now the people, because of the size of this venue, perceive me as being wealthy...so what happens is, when somebody has a problem, they find an attorney and the attorney says ‘Oh, 4th & B, I went to a concert there, sold out, this guy’s got bucks. Let’s go.’”
ROCKIN’ THE LAW: LAWYERS, SONGS AND MONEY
Lawyers love the music industry. Someone’s always suing someone else and the financial stakes can be substantial. Sometimes musicians sue each other, such as the royalty squabble between Beach Boys Mike Love and Brian Wilson.
Sometimes performers are sued by family – the late James Brown’s two daughters sued him over royalties they said were owed them via an agreement the singer refused to honor after the two women had him committed to a psychiatric hospital to be treated for painkiller addiction.
Sometimes, bands are even sued by fans. Creed singer Scott Stapp was at the center of a class action lawsuit because he was said to have put on a “lousy performance” in December 2002, in Chicago - fans wanted their money back plus two million dollars in damages over getting their hopes up for a great show only to be bitterly disappointed.
Anaya Suarez attended an Ozzy Osbourne concert at the San Diego Sports Arena in October 1995, during the singer’s “Retirement Sucks” tour. Nearly a year later, she went to the county courthouse on West Broadway and filed a personal injury lawsuit against Osbourne, Bill Silva Productions (promoter) and others associated with putting on the show, claiming that her close proximity to the stage resulted in her being seriously hurt.
Suarez’s lawyer contended that “Mr. Osbourne incited the crowd to the point of a near riot, waving his arms and encouraging the audience to ‘get out of your seats and show me what you’ve got.’ In the resultant activity, audience members were standing and jostling each other and pumping their fists in the air violently…Miss Suarez was so roughly accosted by the crowd that her head was struck repeatedly, she fell down, was kicked and received a serious brain injury.”
Her attorneys spent many months and filed over a dozen motions trying to subpoena the U.K. born Osbourne to come to San Diego to testify but, this being years before “The Osbournes” TV series featuring the singer’s residence in Los Angeles, his non-citizen status made this difficult. Suarez provided to the court a newspaper article mentioning that the singer owned a home in L.A. (he also had houses in England and Northern Ireland at the time), but in the end the subpoena could not be served.
Suarez ended up accepting a settlement offer from Osbourne’s attorneys, the terms of which are confidential and sealed by the court, and the entire matter was dismissed including the allegations of negligence against the promoters and security firms named in the original suit.
In one of the responses to the original filing, Osbourne’s legal counsel noted “If performers such as Mr. Osbourne were to be held legally liable every time they entreat audience members to rise from their seats, the concert industry would consist of little more than the occasional performances by John Denver, Kenny G and Yanni.”
Huntington Beach ska band Reel Big Fish performed at Soma in August 1997 and subsequently found themselves, along with Soma Productions, named in a negligence lawsuit filed by the father of sixteen year old Tessandra Reaume. According to a brief filed June 18th 1999, the girl was struck by a crowd surfer, causing her trauma which resulted in her knee buckling, whereupon she fell down and was further injured by the “rowdy crowd.”
Her father Timothy F. Reaume originally asked for a half million dollars in damages, naming Soma in the suit for “failing to prohibit or take any action to discourage crowd surfing.” The lawyer representing Reel Big Fish took exception to their being named in the suit and cited the sixteen year old’s own testimony in an attempt to have the band removed from the list of litigants. “She herself described [the band] as being ‘relatively clean cut, with more subdued music than similar bands.’” The judge agreed to drop Reel Big Fish from the suit and eventually a settlement was reached between Reaume and Soma Productions, the terms of which are confidential.
Poway’s own blink-182 were no strangers to lawsuits. In September 2002, they were the subject of a personal injury case nearly identical to the crowd surfing incident which landed Reel Big Fish in a hot skillet. Alexandra Cassie, a minor residing in northern California, is at this writing pursuing a lawsuit at the behest of her mother Janet Cassie, blaming the band, Clear Channel Entertainment and the Sacramento Valley Amphitheater for injuries sustained during a concert at that venue earlier in the year. The case has yet to be tried but the band has faced potential litigation since the release of their first official album.
Originally called simply “Blink,” the group’s origins date back to fall 1991, when Tom DeLonge met Mark Hoppus (Hoppus’ sister was dating one of DeLonge’s friends at the time). Hooking up with drummer Scott Raynor, they began playing local clubs and in 1994 they released “Buddha” on a small label run by friends in a band called the Vandals. They were signed to a one-album deal for Cargo Records and released “Cheshire Cat” in 1995. That’s when they came to the attention of a techno-industrial band from Dublin Ireland also named Blink.
The Irish Blink are comprised of guitarist/singer Dermot Lambert, bassist Brian McLoughlin, drummer Barry Campell and keyboardist/guitarist Robbie Sexton. They were just preparing to release their first album (which would go on to spawn four top-ten Irish singles) when someone sent them a copy of the Cargo “Cheshire Cat” record. In an interview posted at www.extreme-online.com, Travis Barker, who quit the Aquabats to join San Diego’s Blink after the departure of Scott Raynor, said "Blink was the original name of [our] band. But when we started getting exposure we nearly got sued by an Irish tech band so we added the 182 to keep the name.”
The threat of litigation is denied in a statement posted by the Irish Blink at irishsongwriters.com. “Contrary to anything you might read elsewhere, Blink`s manager simply phoned Cargo Records and asked them to inform the San Diego Blink that a band of that name already existed. We never sued the San Diego Blink and there was no court case. They simply agreed to change their name and an agreement was drawn up to avoid confusion. They became blink-182 and we continued on as Blink. Apparently there was also a Danish band called Blink but they changed their name voluntarily before we even heard of them. They are now called BL!NK.”
As to the “182,” members of the San Diego band have said in interviews that the number was chosen at random and at other times have claimed it represents "the number of times Al Pacino says everybody's favorite f-word in Scarface."
In 1997, blink-182 released "Dude Ranch" on MCA Records, which reached gold status in both the United States and Canada, and in July 1999 “Enema Of The State” sold over 100,000 copies within the first week of being in stores. Meanwhile, Dublin’s Blink released their second album “The End Is High” in the U.S. in March 1998, earning a “Spotlight Album Of The Week” profile in Billboard magazine and a subsequent American tour deal which saw them playing 113 gigs in 32 different states through 1999.
At least three booking agents filed lawsuits against the Irish techno band and their promoters during this tour, claiming they thought they were getting radio favorites blink-182 only to wind up with a numeral-deficient “Blink” and being faced with demands for refunds from angry patrons.
Stone Temple Pilots came together when Scott Weiland met New Jersey-born bass player Robert DeLeo at a 1986 Black Flag concert in Long Beach. The two Point Loma residents found they were dating the same woman but, rather than fight, they decided to form a band and ended up living together in the woman’s San Diego apartment after she moved to Texas. DeLeo’s brother Dean joined on guitar and Eric Kretz (who was born in Santa Cruz – as was Weiland – but was also living in San Diego at the time) became their drummer.
In their San Diego days, from 1987 through 1990 (when they moved to Los Angeles), they called themselves Mighty Joe Young. Bandmembers have claimed the STP motor oil logo inspired them to change their name to Stone Temple Pilots, because they could get STP stickers for free at gas stations and use them as promotional giveaways (rumors that the STP motor company filed a lawsuit over the band’s initials appear to be unfounded). After being signed to Atlantic Records in 1992, their first album “Core” brought fame, fortune and, in the case of drummer Eric Kretz, an acrimonious and expensive divorce.
On August 6th 2001, Kretz’ wife Shari sued the drummer for divorce in Los Angeles Superior Court, demanding $1.6 million dollars, or half his earnings, as well as financial support. She claimed Kretz had demanded she quit her “career in fashion” and that she’d gotten an abortion in 1992 because “Eric promised we could have another child when he was more financially able to do so.” She also claimed to have "discussed and added ideas portrayed through Stone Temple Pilots music, cover art, and video," contributing lyrics to the “Core” album and “providing inspiration for [the song] ‘Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart’” by "introducing Eric to subjects which expanded his creative abilities."
She also insisted she’d "designed Eric's clothing and his 'rock 'n' roll look'" and had improved his "physical image" because she "recommended that Eric look into surgical liposuction," and "nursed him" after the procedure took place.
The suit aimed to prove that, even though their legal marriage only lasted four years, ending in November 2000, their decade-long relationship had long been “business related’ as well as “quasi-parental,” with her being the parent to her husband’s perpetual rock ‘n’ roll childhood.
Also in her filing was the claim that Kretz had promised her “a large house on a large piece of land” and that he’d give her “lifetime support, and share his earnings” with her, to “provide a lavish lifestyle." Her request for divorce was granted and a confidential financial settlement was reached in early 2002.
Inga Vainshtein says she discovered Jewel Kilcher “playing in a filthy coffeehouse” and began managing the career of the then-homeless performer in 1993, introducing the future superstar to San Diego venue owners and lining up gigs. This continued after the release of Jewel’s “Pieces Of You” album in February 1995, and on through the period when the record suddenly picked up steam and shot up the charts almost a year later. She says she was fired by Jewel in early 1998, when Jewel’s mother Lenedra J. Carroll supplanted her role as the singer’s manager.
Vainshtein filed a lawsuit against Jewel and her mother at Los Angeles Superior Court in December 1998, seeking $10 million dollars for “breach of written contract, breach of covenant of good faith, declaratory relief, accounting” and “interference with contractual relations.” The writ also stated that, while Vainshtein was still supposedly in charge of the deal-making, Jewel’s mom solicited business advice from a psychic name Jackie Snyder, who channeled this wisdom “by communing with some entity referred to as Z.”
One of Vainshtein’s lawyers, Caryn Brottman Sanders, said “It's difficult to manage someone when your business decisions are being made by an ancient spirit. Let's just say that my client believes she has been very wrongly treated. She discovered Jewel when she had nothing. Jewel has risen from obscurity and abject poverty to become one of the most famous and successful recording artists of the decade. Her commercial success is thanks to my client.”
At the time the suit was filed, Jewel and her 48-year-old mother were sharing a 2.5 million dollar mock-Tudor mansion in San Diego. Just weeks later, Jewel's “Spirit” album debuted at #3 on the Billboard album chart, selling 368,000 copies during its opening week of sales.
In January 1999, Jewel filed her own petition in response to the lawsuit, declaring that she and Vainshtein never had a legally binding deal and that the contract with Vainshtein's company Cold War Management should be rendered void because Vainshtein acted as an unlicensed talent agency, in violation of California Labor Code Section 1700.5.
On May 30th 2001, the CA Labor Commission agreed, in a twenty-eight page written decision, stating that Vainshtein violated the California Talent Agencies Act and used “illegal booking tactics” while managing the singer. The ruling went on to declare the original 1994 management contract between Vainshtein and Jewel unlawful and void ab initio, meaning that the former manager had no enforceable rights under the contract. "With this ruling, the lawsuit no longer has any basis and should be dismissed by the court," Jewel’s attorney Larry S. Greenfield said at the time.
One of Vainshtein's attorneys, Dave Koropp, said the Labor Commissioner's decision has "no bearing whatsoever" on the suit and that the California Superior Court will determine whether the management contract was valid. Vainshtein filed an appeal to the Labor Commission decision on June 7th 2001, along with a request that the Commission force Jewel to pay her $1,843,450 in unpaid commissions. The appeal was denied and the California Superior Court has, as of this writing, yet to review Vainshtein’s still-pending original lawsuit.
In June 2003, the newswire service Reuters carried a press release stating that Jewel had signed a new management deal with Irving Azoff, former president of MCA Records and manager of the Eagles and others. Lenendra Caroll “will now oversee Jewel's charity endeavors,” according to the release which also quoted Carroll as saying "I have watched my energy and interest move more in this direction and away from management. With the crisis the industry is in, things have become much more difficult for artists . . . a high level of expertise is needed now."
ROCKIN’ THE LAW: PAIN AND SUFFERING
San Diego’s civil court dockets are filled with lawsuits where “pain and suffering” is alleged by patrons and participants at area music events and nightclubs. Litigants seeking compensatory damage awards achieve varying degrees of success and failure: in general, settlements of course favor the accuser, while actual trials can go either way.
Filipino-American James Maddelana was 23 years old in June 1999 when he says he was assaulted by “three skinheads” at Vans Warped Tour, held that year in Del Mar and featuring Suicidal Tendencies and Eminem. As he explained it to me, “My friends and I were hanging out in the middle section, listening to a whole bunch of bands, and in the middle of it a mosh pit broke out, I think [during] Limp Bizkit or Suicidal Tendencies.”
“All of a sudden, I was jumped by three skinheads. I was in it [the mosh pit] for a couple of seconds, I got hit by one guy on the side and another guy jumped on my back and my knee snapped and collapsed on me and I fell on the floor. I don’t want to say it was a racially motivated attack but all my friends who saw it said it was! Either that or it was just three guys who were really good friends who just didn’t like me for one reason or another.”
“The thing that upset me was that the intensive care unit didn’t do much, they put a band-aid on me, had me sign over waiver that said everything was okay and then let me on my way.” He says he never read the waiver. “It was a little yellow form that they had everyone sign, they said it was mandatory for me to get help there.”
Maddelana says he went to a doctor over the next few days, who confirmed that serious damage had been done. “I tore the muscle that binds the knee together and there was a 3cm piece of bone that cracked, it was a major tear. It took nearly two years, three different surgeries, to get it fixed.” A computer technician at the time of the injury, he claims to have incurred $15,000.00 in medical expenses, which his personal insurance covered.
In February 2000, Maddelana filed a personal injury lawsuit in El Cajon district court, for negligence on the part of Universal Studios Inc., Vans Warped Tour, (security firm) Elite Show Services and promoter Bill Silva Presents. “Everyone kind of passed the buck. Del Mar said it wasn’t their fault, Universal Studios pushed it off to [promoter] Bill Silva Presents, the security people [Elite Show Services] said they weren’t responsible for it, they only work for the event and I was at risk because I was down there anyways watching the concert. At the hearings, they all had lawyers there. You have to take time out of your day and you sit in a room…I was facing five lawyers there, not including my own.”
His lawyer warned him the case wasn’t winnable, and he might even have to pay the opposing lawyers’ fees. “In the end, I ended up settling out of court, for the minimum amount they could give just so I could kind of move on.”
The terms of the settlement are confidential, but he makes it clear that he considers the amount insignificant compared to his pain and suffering. “The injury really stopped my life. I used to love playing basketball, I was really active in sports and I can’t do any of that stuff now. I still like going to concerts, I love music, but some things I won’t be a part of. I’ll make sure I don’t get in the front. Even at the Belly Up Tavern where, you know, you don’t think of a mosh pit, but when one breaks out I kind of scurry over to the side, I’m scared as Hell, you know?”
71 year old Gilbert Miller admits that his pain and suffering stemmed from an April ’99 altercation where he threw the first punch at bartender Stephen King, at downtown’s Hard Rock Café. This didn’t stop Miller from suing the club and their employee for “negligence,” a lawsuit he lost with humiliating finality.
Reached by phone, the native Oklahoman told me, in his laconic southern drawl, “Well, I was in the bar and I had a few drinks. I had some money on the bar, twelve or fourteen dollars, and the bartender just picked it up and put it in his tip jar. I didn’t give it to him, he just grabbed it…he probably thought I was intoxicated, and I probably was.” Miller admits to drinking earlier that day, in the Grant Grill, at downtown’s Star bar and the Corvette Diner in Hillcrest, telling me he was on his first or second single malt scotch at the Hard Rock.
“So I sit there and I thought about it awhile and I said ‘well that’s not right.’ And the [bartender] kept looking at me…he was avoiding me and I thought ‘well, I’m not happy with that, that’s not the way it should be.’ When he came back up on my end [of the bar], he got close to me, I reached over and I punched him in the forehead.”
He says some shoving ensued before he turned to exit the bar. “I didn’t want to get into a knock-down drag-out fight so I started for the door, I said ‘well I’ll just leave.’ And he came across the floor following me and he hit me, in the back, just as I reached the doorway…I ended up laying on the sidewalk, in pain.”
He says police were summoned and the bartender threatened to charge him with assault and disorderly conduct. No arrest was made, however. “They handcuffed me to take me down to detox, and I told them ‘I hurt, my rib’s busted, I know it is, I can’t move my arm,’ but they handcuffed me and put me in the car anyways and took me downtown. I was in pain, they kept me there for four hours and wouldn’t let me see a doctor…the next day, I woke up and I couldn’t breathe.”
67 years old at the time, 178 pounds, he says he went to the emergency room at Mercy hospital. “They did the X-rays and said ‘yeah, you got your ribcage busted, you got four busted ribs and your lung is getting fluid and we’re gonna have to drain it,’ so they run a tube through me and I was in the hospital for three or four days.”
He claims $3,600.00 in medical expenses, mentioning that Medicare and his HMO covered his costs. He found a lawyer willing to help him sue the Hard Rock Café and bartender King, even though the incident had started with Miller punching the bartender in the head, with no warning. I asked how the bar’s negligence had caused his injury.
“I mean, the guy hit me in the back when I went out the doorway.” I mention this wasn’t included in the police report. “Yeah, it didn’t mention anything about there having been a fight, it just said they had found me there on the sidewalk, which they did, and about them taking me to detox. That made it hard to prove my case against the guy. If I could have found a witness, I could have nailed their asses.”
In May 2000, a judge ruled that Miller and Hard Rock attorneys had to meet face to face for administrative mediation, in order to reach a compromise or settlement rather than going to trial. “We asked for $40,000.00 and the arbitrator ruled that we get nothing. I wanted to go to court, I wanted a jury trial, I would have loved to get up in front of the jury, but my lawyer was a lady, Elaine I-can’t-remember-her-last-name, right downtown in the chamber of commerce building, she says ‘I can’t go to trial on this, you’ll have to get you a new lawyer.’”
“The way it ended up going was the Hard Rock’s insurance company lawyers agreed to not charge me with court costs or anything if I agreed not to pursue the case any more, and if I promised not to go near any Hard Rock Cafe, anyplace in the world, for what they had at first written up as within thirty or fifty feet of the place!”
The actual ruling states “Plaintiff Miller hereby agrees to not contact, molest, harass, attack, strike, threaten, batter, telephone, send any messages to, follow, stalk, destroy the personal property, disturb the peace of, keep under surveillance or throw affairs of any and all Hard Rock Café Restaurants in the world. Further, Miller hereby agrees and shall stay at least 5 yards away from any and all Hard Rock Café Restaurants in the world.”
The former rate clerk for a motor freight company (he retired from a local trucking firm in 1991) says he still can’t believe how badly he lost. “I wasn’t happy with it at all. I was very disappointed that the arbitrator didn’t award me at least a nominal $10,000 or $12,000 for pain and suffering.” The issue of whether the bartender actually stole his money never came up in any of the filings or court dates.
Miller says he’s now fully recovered from his injury [“I fast walk, I play golf and I walk up and down fourteen flights of stairs in the building I live in”] and that the Hard Rock incident is the only time he’s ever been in a bar fight. “I never get 86’d.”
Lawsuits alleging pain and suffering don’t always involve physical injury. Sometimes, the pain is to the psyche - with these civil filings, the keywords are usually “emotional trauma” or “distress.” San Diego lawyer Robert Glaser claimed to have suffered “embarrassment and emotional distress” when he discovered women were using the men’s bathroom at a 1995 Elton John-Billy Joel concert, at what was then called Jack Murphy (now Qualcomm) Stadium.
The women had apparently resorted to the (surely less desirable) men’s facilities because of long lines outside women’s restrooms. In March 1995, Glaser filed a $5.4 million lawsuit against the city of San Diego, claiming that, upon discovering that women were using the men’s bathroom, sometimes squatting over the urinal troughs, he was ''angered, upset, embarrassed, distraught and (feeling) violated.’” He said his “civil rights to privacy” were violated by having to urinate ''in front of women in the men's bathroom.''
Glaser said he checked “six or seven” other men’s rooms, finding women present in all of them, and that he “had to hold it in for four hours” because he was unwilling to urinate with women present. He also named the beer vendor in his suit, claiming their irresistible product, prolific presence and superlative salesmanship had contributed to his eventual discomfort.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Glaser’s claim was unreasonable, ordering him to pay $2,000 in fines to the city for filing a frivolous lawsuit. He and his lawyer were also required to pay $2,000 to the concessions company Glaser had blamed for selling him the beer. Glaser took his appeal of this ruling appeal all the way to the California Supreme Court which, in December 1998, denied Glaser's appeal without comment. Glaser did not respond to emailed requests to be interviewed for this piece.
Rancho Bernardo High School band student Trevor LeBlanc presented a much more convincing case for his own “emotional distress.” In his civil lawsuit against the Poway Unified School District and RBHS band director Tom Cole, LeBlanc contended that Cole yelled at him and assaulted him for wearing the wrong color socks at the 2001 Tournament of Roses Parade, reportedly pulling him out of formation and saying "I ought to wring your [expletive] neck" and "I want to bash in your [expletive] face."
Then 16 years old, the student claimed the band director grabbed his throat, shaking him back and forth and pulling his instrument, a baritone horn, out of his hands. After the incident, LeBlanc quit the Rancho Bernardo High School band.
During the civil trial, associate RBHS band director Gary Horimoto testified that he saw Cole shake LeBlanc’s shoulders and pull the boy from the line formation, but he hadn’t seen Cole grab the student’s neck or swear at him. In November 2002, a jury found the youth’s “emotional and physical distress” to be worth $25,000.00 in damages, because Cole was negligent when he grabbed LeBlanc and yelled at him for wearing orange socks.
The actual band colors are blue and white.
INSECURITY: - Local Firms Fight for Rights to Bounce You
Your average concertgoer rarely pays much attention to event security. Most of what they do goes on out of our view, at least if they’re doing their job right. Sure, it’s nice to know they’re around, just in case someone falls down, something blows up or all hell breaks loose. If you ask them nicely, they can even help wrest your seat back from surly trespassers.
However, unless you’re trying to do something you’re not supposed to do, such as take pictures, smoke dope, sneak in, stage dive, expose your naughty bits, or fight with fellow patrons, you’ve not likely worried much about the (usually) big guys (and sometimes gals) standing (or prowling) around (or behind, or overhead, or sometimes beneath the stage risers…) .
Two newer firms, Omni and Elite Show Services, were initially run by former Staffpro employees who chose to go head to head with their previous bosses, vying for their own slices of the San Diego event pie. The competition and rivalry has been, at times, as messy and bruising as any mosh pit encounter, especially between Staffpro and Elite.
“I was locked out of my office. When I showed up for work, I was not allowed into my office by security guards.” Kontopuls would go on to purchase, along with his brother, a small existing security company called Elite. Within a short time, he transformed Elite into Staffpro’s main competitor in the local security game.
I asked Kontopuls what prompted his initial departure/ousting from Staffpro. “I had huge philosophical differences with my partner [Cory Meredith] about how the company should be run, from an operational and ethical standpoint. I also felt that having the majority ownership in Los Angeles wasn’t serving my San Diego clients properly. The San Diego branch was in total disarray.”
At that time, Kontopuls’ office was at the Convention Center. “I was kind of exiled there, put out to pasture for the most part. He [Meredith] just wanted me out of the way, and once they did that, the company started falling apart. The concert, hotel and the entertainment divisions.”
Subsequent to his departure, Kontopuls fired the first legal salvo. “The advice from my attorney was to initiate a lawsuit for breach of my employment contract. I was a stockholder in the company, so there was also a breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit. I didn’t have any income, they cut off my paycheck, and I was pretty much left sitting with what I had in my savings account.”
“I filed for unemployment, and Staffpro basically lied to the unemployment people as to what the circumstances were. They said I quit to start my own company, and I said I was locked out. At that point, my future was uncertain because I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Kontopuls’ contribution to Staffpro’s growth and success is a major point in the suit he filed against Staffpro at El Cajon Superior Court. “I acquired 90% of the San Diego business for the company, like the Convention Center and Bill Silva Presents.”
Kontopuls’ relationship with Silva, in fact, predated his employment with Staffpro. “I brought Bill Silva along when I went to work for Cory at Event. I’m the one who negotiated everything, went to all the meetings.”
When asked about that lucrative Silva contract, Staffpro General Manager Hugh Kollar told me “I don’t know if he [Kontopuls] was the guy or if it was Cory Meredith. As I understand it, Cory was the one who started the company, and Gus just happened to be the guy who worked for Cory down there.”
After Kontopuls left Staffpro, Kollar moved from Orange County to San Diego, to bring the branch “solid, stable management.”
Kollar did acknowledge to me that Kontopuls had “a great deal of savvy and knowledge about our operations” and that Staffpro was “concerned with the prospect of him [Kontopuls] using those trade secrets in a rival operation.”
Kontopuls is emphatic in his claim that Staffpro made it impossible for him to get work from other security firms. “I went to talk to a couple of companies about working for them, and they treated me like I was radioactive. Cory was telling people that anybody who hired me was going to get sued, because he pretty much had an exclusive on my life.”
“It’s all in the contacts,” said Kollar at Staffpro, “and when someone has the contacts, they’ve got the inside track on getting the job. If someone else is signing your paycheck while you get those contacts, how fair is it to try and take that business with you when you start up a competing company?”
Kontopuls said that going into business for himself became his only option, and several Staffpro employees came over to his new company along with him, including Director Of Operations Brian Mulder. Many of the guards at Staffpro were initially willing to work for Elite as well, some quitting Staffpro to do so, but Kontopuls said this caused Staffpro to throw another roadblock in his way.
“They did file a lawsuit against me, to try and shut me down but they were unsuccessful,” said Kontopuls. Court papers show that Staffpro attempted to place a temporary emergency injunction against Elite, forbidding them from conducting unfairly competitive business. The injunction was filed just days before the start of the baseball season.
“The judge just looked at them and laughed,” said Kontopuls. “He said their case had no merit, ‘take it to court and fight like adults instead of trying to shut this guy down on the eve of his first big event’.”
“Absolutely. They actually sent supervisors out to the Pacific Beach Block Party, which was one of the first events I did. They had their supervisors tell people ‘If you don’t quit and walk off the post right now, you’re fired from Staffpro.’ Then they’d allow their employees to work for other companies, just not mine. If they called and said they wanted to work for Omni at Street Scene, or something like that, they were allowed to do it, but if they asked to work for Elite, they’d get a no.”
Kollar did indeed back up Kontopuls assertion, but only somewhat. “Sure, Omni and I are friendly competitors. We communicate and we talk, we help each other.”
In fact, Staffpro and Omni were subcontracting work back and forth at the time. When Staffpro manned a local U2 concert, several Omni employees were hired for the evening. Omni put several Staffpro employees on the payroll to help with at least one San Diego Street Scene.
About the exclusivity agreement Staffpro employees were required to sign, Kollar admitted to me “Yes, that did happen. Because of the situation that existed at that time, Staffpro was forced to do that. There was a lot of company information being taken.”
Though Kollar could not be more specific about the information he was referring to (“I don’t think that’s important now”), he did say that he didn’t support the decision.
“The management didn’t feel that it was healthy to let people work for other companies. But, the day I went down there, that changed.”
Kollar said he instituted a policy making it clear that Staffpro employees were welcome to also work for other security companies, if they wish. “In fact, I encourage it. We don’t have a problem. A lot of these guys are part timers trying to make some extra money, and we’re not going to stop them from making ends meet.”
Kontopuls laughed off Kollar’s statement, and said this hasn’t been the case. “Not at all. I’ve never heard of a letter being circulated saying that the policy has been dismissed. I still talk to people who say they’d love to do some work for me, but they know they’ll get fired from Staffpro if they do.”
When asked about his own relationship with Omni, the other Staffpro spin-off, Kontopuls didn’t exactly scramble for superlatives.
“They have their little niche. They do small club shows and they do Street Scene. Omni did refer some work [to us] during the Republican Convention and, I don’t want to get into details but I’ll never conduct business with those guys again. They’re just a competitor, as far as I’m concerned.”
Much of Elite’s eventual ascendance was attributable, said Kontopuls, to the operational differences between his company and Staffpro.
“We really stress the customer service aspect of the industry, and we treat the fans as guests of the event instead of going in there with a Nazi stormtrooper attitude. We’re not attracting your basic, I don’t want to say thug, but you know the kind of guy who can lift a ton but can’t spell it? We only hire about one in eight people who walk in our door.”
He added that Elite employees take a four hour customer service class, several hours of first aid and CPR certification, and particular attention is paid to training in alcohol awareness. “I tried to do this [at Staffpro] but was unsuccessful at it.”
What, in his opinion, most set Elite apart from his main competitor? “I’d say the honesty and integrity of senior management. And the fact that we’re locally owned and operated.”
When I relayed those quotes to Kollar, he wanted it known that Staffpro’s people receive much the same orientation. “They’re trained in techniques of alcohol management. They’re supervised, they know what to look for. One of my competitors once said that if you pay your people peanuts, you get monkeys. I don’t believe that. I believe if you supervise your people, treat them good, they’ll provide a good service for you.”
Kollar confirmed that. “There’s plenty of work in San Diego for everyone,” he said, with a thoroughly convinced (if not entirely convincing) tone of finality. “As long as supervisors are loyal and do what they’re supposed to do, it’s not that big a deal.”
Another competitor entered the local Bouncer Wars in 2000. XL Staffing And Security has around 220 staffers dressed to the nines and working around town at about two dozen venues, including On Broadway (the company’s first client), Aubergine, Stingaree, Ole Madrid, and 94th Aero Squadron.
Last year, XL became involved in a proposed reality TV show about the firm. Footage was shot at Mardi Gras and several clubs downtown from February 19th through the 21st of ’07. XL Staffing And Security owner Joe Mackey told the Reader “[The show will] mostly focus on our staff, and how they command in suits and ties instead of windbreakers and tattoos. As far as patrons go, we’re still working out how the releases [to appear] will go…people being confronted or asked to leave will probably end up in the show, provided they sign the release.”
Mackey says his family-owned company owns a portion of the program, along with MTV/VH1 producer Rob Cohen. “I wanted to make sure I get something close to final say over what airs. I don’t want them to shoot three months’ of tape and then they accidentally catch someone doing some little thing wrong and that’s the whole show.”
Before the reality show deal was signed, Mackey says several other TV programmers expressed interest in working with XL.
“Court TV contacted us about doing a show. ‘Wife Swap’ wanted to have one of our female guards do a show for them…around ten percent of our staff is female. Fremantle Media, who do American Idol, they wanted us to do a show called ‘Bounced,’ where every episode ends with someone getting physically booted from someplace. We told them that’s not what we’re about.”
“I didn’t want to handle a bunch of thugs…our staffers specialize in communication, not intimidation. They go through forty hours of training covering everything from powers to arrest, club drug awareness, verbal Jujitsu, handcuff training, CPR and first aid, and there are monthly classes that are mandatory to attend. We do background checks going back ten years with the Department Of Justice and the FBI and, before they’re hired, we do a psychological profile to ensure they’re not prone to violence.”
XL Staffing and Security reported earning over four million dollars in 2005. More recent figures were, at this writing, unavailable.
WORST IN ROCK: CELEBS IN SD FIND TROUBLE IN PARADISE
STEPHEN STILLS August 14, 1970 In late 1970, ex-Byrd David Crosby, former Hollie Graham Nash and Buffalo Springfield singer Stephen Stills were joined by periodic fourth voice Neil Young, as they prepared to promote and possibly tour behind their live LP “4 Way Street.” Stills eponymous first solo had spawned a hit record “Love The One You’re With” and his second solo disc was slated for the following year. Then Stills was arrested one hot August night at a La Jolla motel, reportedly incoherent and combatative with police. He was charged with “possession of dangerous drugs,” cocaine and barbiturates, and released on $ 2,500 bail.
(Hey Stephen, is that your face melting, or are you just peaking??)
In April 1971, Stills returned to San Diego for his court date. Rolling Stone #83 [5-27-71] said it was “to get his wrist slapped with a $1,000 fine (plus probation) for his not-often-celebrated coke bust.” The charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and band manager Elliot Roberts, in the same issue, refuses to elaborate on just how this major legal coup was pulled off. “It’s over now, so we don’t talk about it.”
Only recently have viewing-copies of Robert Frank’s long-suppressed documentary “C---sucker Blues” surfaced. The movie famously chronicles the Stones’ infamous 1972 tour, timed to promote “Exile On Main Street” [released April 12] and the group’s first time playing North America since the deadly 1969 Altamont concert. In the film, the San Diego International Sports Arena date isn’t so much a scene of decadence as indifference.
Backstage, Mick Jagger can be seen deciding what to wear over his purple jumpsuit – a silver lame’ jacket, black leather coat or raspberry polka dot shirt, his three main sartorial accessories for the tour. He ends up shrugging his shoulders to don a plain denim jacket that looks small even on his thin frame, muttering “I don’t care, it’s only San Diego.” The set was reportedly fair – it’s one of the few occasions they’ve performed “Honky Tonk Woman” live. The real show was happening outside, in the Arena parking lot.
The Bill Graham-produced event had, like the Stones themselves, sold out. Unreserved seating cost $6.50, among the year’s highest ticket prices (even aside from the free parking) in an era when Pink Floyd, Traffic and Chicago tickets cost local patrons $4 - $5. Around three hundred apparently ticketless youths milled around the Arena parking lot as someone, perhaps several someones, worked their way through the crowd, selling dozens of counterfeit tickets for anywhere from $10 to $20 each.
The actual tickets had been imprinted on a beige fiber cardstock with slightly raised ink – the counterfeits were offset printed with thick raised ink, fairly convincing except printed on a yellow-orange cardstock. Had the color been closer to the genuine tickets, most of the counterfeits might have gone unnoticed.
Hapless scam victims were refused admission and soon the crowd of angry, ripped off Stones fans and rowdy ticketless bystanders were moving threateningly en masse for the row of entrances.
Guards (one of whom later characterized the scene as “a riot”) were overwhelmed, dozens of people stormed the gates and ran into the hall and police were helpless do anything other than summon medical aid for a handful of mildly injured gatekeepers.
When it was reported that most rioters appeared underage, a Juvenile Delinquency and Crime Commission was set up to investigate whether local rock concerts in general and Stones concerts in particular should be restricted to only adult patrons (no city measure ever materialized). The scene was eerily repeated in July at a Montreal Stones show, where 3,000 victims of ticket forgers rioted in the streets. At the same concert, one of the band’s equipment trucks was dynamited by French separatists, making the San Diego date seem more rowdy than riotous by comparison.
Surviving counterfeit tickets from the Sports Arena show are highly prized collector’s items, sold and traded with certificates of authenticity signed by purported experts in rock and roll memorabilia. One eBay auction in late 2003 for an untorn San Diego 6-13-72 bootleg ticket, “certified authentic” (an authentic counterfeit?), attracted over 3,800 hits, drawing 65 bids and closing at $251.00, plus $7.50 insured shipping.
BRIAN WILSON June 1978: In late 1976, the mercurial Beach Boy was complaining about round-the-clock “treatment” administered by Beverly Hills shrink Dr. Eugene E. Landy, a controversial mental health guru who, with his staff, essentially dictated and controlled his subject’s every move.
Landy was fired by band management in December 1976 after it was discovered the doctor’s $90 hourly/$10,000 monthly salary had doubled. However, Wilson's new therapist Steve Schwartz was soon killed in a rock-climbing accident and before long the songwriter’s delicate mental and emotional equilibrium was, as Landy might say, “disharmonious.”
Wilson, without telling his wife or fellow bandmembers, inexplicably decided to escape his life entirely and hitchhike to Mexico. He wound up in San Diego a few days later, according to Steven Gaines’ biography “Heroes And Villains,” which describes a mentally fogged pop star millionaire wandering around the city for days, “barefoot and unwashed.”
“He was on a binge," according to Stephen Love, brother of Beach Boy Mike Love and sometime-band manager (he kept getting fired and rehired). Wilson’s wife since 1965, Marilyn Rovell, referred to the incident in later divorce papers as the beginning of their marriage dissolution, saying “He told me he wanted to know what it feels like to be a bum…[he was] playing for drinks in San Diego bars.”
Someone from a local recording studio recognized Wilson and attempted to get him to record a track, apparently unaware that Wilson was at the time basically living under a tree near the entrance of the Laurel Street Bridge in Balboa Park. That’s where he was discovered one afternoon, passed out and nearly comatose. "The cops found him in Balboa Park under a tree with no shoes on, his white pants filthy, obviously a vagrant, with no wallet, no money," according to another Love brother, Stanley. Wilson was taken by ambulance to nearby Alvarado Hospital and a doctor called Mrs. Wilson to inform that her husband was being treated for alcohol poisoning. She had already approved sending a private detective to San Diego to search for her missing husband, after a phone call from someone at the local recording studio who called CBS, the Beach Boys’ one-time label, with news of Wilson’s vagrancy.
Marilyn, with Stephen and Stanley Love, came to San Diego to take Wilson home but decided to leave him at the hospital a few extra days for treatment. Wilson’s mental and physical health was precarious and the Beach Boys were scheduled to begin sessions for a new album in Florida soon. Wilson flew to meet rest of the band straight from treatment, to record the group’s debut for Caribou Records at Florida's Criteria Studios. He was quickly supplanted as producer by Bruce Johnston when it became evident that Wilson was incapable – or unwilling – to do the job
Wilson and his wife filed for legal separation in LA Superior Court July 15.
Alvarado Hospital is also where, in August 1999, Brian’s daughter Carnie Wilson underwent her highly publicized laparoscopic gastric bypass (weight reduction) surgery, performed live on TV and the internet.
FRANK ZAPPA FANS December 13, 1979: Tickets for Zappa’s first eighties appearance in his one-time hometown [April 4, 1980] weren’t even on sale yet when several people were arrested for larceny, drugs, vandalism and indecent behavior. On the night before seats were due be released at 10am, about a hundred people were camped out on the pavement in sprawling lines, all leading to the Sports Arena ticket windows, Zappa fans (and a few scalpers) wholly intent on getting the best seats for this highly anticipated performance.
I was among the throng with apparently little to do besides napping in lawn chairs, playing Zappa bootlegs on car stereos and passing around joints with other likeminded layabouts all night long. Some friends and I talked others into holding our spots in line while we snuck into the nearby Midway Drive-In to see the new Star Trek movie. Returning to the Arena parking lot, we were amazed to see silver beer kegs lined up on each of the ticket window shelves, all tapped and flowing!
Everyone was standing around, filling plastic cups, passing them out – partytime, excellent! More kegs were being wheeled out of the wide-open Sports Arena doors and down the steps on handcarts, while other people were coming out of the building with gigantic bags of pre-cooked popcorn and garbage cans full of other snack bar goodies.
I never was clear on who first used a coathanger to pull the leverage bar inward from the other side of a set of glass Arena doors, opening the place up to be invaded by anyone brave enough to enter (which included most of us – er, them).
This was only the beginning of the bacchanalia. Everyone lined up at the pay phones to call friends and invite them down to what was quickly becoming a drunken overnight orgy and eventually about three hundred people were there – amazingly, no cops showed up. At least not yet.
The ticket clerks who threw open the windows of their booths at 10AM were greeted by the sight of precariously balanced (and completely emptied) beer kegs on the window shelves, a mountain of plastic cups and snack bar trash littering the parking lot and a subdued crowd of hungover young adults barely ambulatory enough to stumble up to the windows and pull out our wallets to mumble “gimme yer best seats.”
Various suspicious types and presumably frequent offenders were pulled from the crowd and questioned but I never heard about anyone being arrested for actually breaking into the Arena. One guy was busted for attempted larceny, for trying to pry open a ticket window gate, and a hippie looking guy who made a chair of one of the empty kegs was cited for possession of stolen property.
Several others were handcuffed and hauled away for being intoxicated or in possession of drugs (one guy had weed out in the open, another was passed out with a cocaine-covered mirror next to him when police approached).
A willowy redheaded girl, still inebriated, got into trouble by refusing to put anything on over her see-through panties and bra and the cops took her away. She’d been very popular all night, performing oral sex on several guys who shared cocaine with her, usually in full view of everyone in line and sometimes earning cheers from nearby voyeurs for her efforts, though she blew a couple of guys under blankets.
WE, of course, cheered her every erotic endeavor, and the morning near-nudity was a welcome respite from all the blue uniforms milling about. I heard the cops tried to charge her with public indecency but most of us found her pretty decent and I can find no account of her actually being charged in any newspapers.
Everyone I know looked for her at the concert itself (we were eventually allowed to buy our tickets) but subsequent sightings of the cokehead-redhead-who-loves-head are unconfirmed and remain the stuff of local urban legend.
GRATEFUL DEAD July 1, 1980: Dead fans, however believable their addled faculties may be, usually cite the band’s 1980 album “Go To Heaven” as the nadir of their recording career, though "Alabama Getaway" and "Don't Ease Me In" became later concert staples. That year’s tour still managed to bring out the tie-dyed and squinty-eyed in big numbers for an appearance at the Sports Arena. Advance press reports made it clear that local police were “on guard” for the expected influx of illicit drugs and illegal activity in the parking lot and audience seats.
Even before the show started, several people were arrested for smoking pot. One bust was witnessed from alongside the stage by Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and band manager Danny Rifkin.
The trio tried to intervene, cajoling onlookers to join them in separating the young potsmoker from police offers trying to effect the arrest. Cops pulled out additional handcuffs and arrested Weir, Hart and Rifkin for “suspicion of inciting a riot.” The three defendants had to return to San Diego several weeks later to face charges.
Their offense was reduced to a low grade misdemeanor, fines were paid and everyone walked out of the courtroom with a grudge against the SDPD that lingers to this day.
“We couldn’t believe what fascists they are down there,” Weir told Golden Scarab, a Dead fanzine, in 1999. “We almost never went further south than Irvine after that. We didn’t wanna set the kids up to be busted by a bunch of gorillas with no education, who hate rock and roll music.”
Based in Riverside, ska band the Skeletones have been around since 1986, earning frequent spins on 91X (who called them "the #1 ska band in California and perhaps the world") and steady gigs at Soma and elsewhere around town. On the occasion they played 4th & B, the band just about blew up the place, and that’s not a euphemism for a strong performance.
“The way 4th & B is, being a licensed establishment,” explains security guard Joel Meriwether, who’d worked at the club since its inception, “you can’t take liquor outside in open containers. So we told them ‘You can’t walk outside with your beer.’ It was one guy [he’s unclear whether a bandmember or roadie] and as they got their van loaded up, as they were leaving, I was at the back door where I usually am. I got called in to break up a fight, and so [co-owner] Bob [Speth]’s wife went to the back door to spot me while I was inside."
"The guy that was being a dick opened up the [van] window and threw what we thought was a cherry bomb at her. It hit the wall and exploded, kaboom, it echoed off the building.”
“Right as he did that, a cop was sitting up the street at 3rd and B and he looks over and sees the flash and everything and stops the van.”
“He’d actually thrown an M80. They called out the bomb squad, roped off the whole parking lot, the customers’ cars; they [the band] couldn’t leave. They had tweezers out there and were picking the stuff up for hours.” Meriwether says he recalls an arrest being made but can offer no further details. “I think he did some time. He was already on probation for some other stunt.”
The opening night of Snoop Dogg’s “Puff, Puff, Pass” tour ended early as the rapper left the Coors Amphitheatre stage after only 45 minutes. When he pulled the plug, Dogg had already been hit in the chest with a thrown red visor and members of his entourage standing onstage were being pelted with bottles and other debris. Someone from the audience tried to climb onstage and alleged gangmembers were pulling speakers from the stage and trashing them.
According to witnesses, it had nothing to do with the music - the people onstage were wearing blue colors. Offending/offended audience members were wearing red.
Suddenly it was Dr. Suess with tattoos as starbellied sneeches and barebellied sneeches threatened to go head to head in a violent confrontation. According to the Union-Tribune, a security guard suffered a minor injury after being struck by an unidentified object during the “disturbance” but no arrests were made other than a woman under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
As Dogg left the stage and house lights came up, the sound of microphones being slammed to the ground while still amplified was mistaken by some to be gunshots and a minor panic ensued. Chula Vista Police took the stage in what police Lt. Dan Linney called a “skirmish line,” as a show of force, but audience members quickly regained their calm and left the venue compound peaceably.
After the concert, Snoop’s tour bus was pulled over in Temecula. The police smelled marijuana smoke, searched the bus and found 300 grams of pot. A member of Snoop's entourage claimed possession of the herb, was cited for misdemeanor possession and released.
On October 19, two of the rapper’s tour busses were pulled over again, this time in Cleveland, for speeding, and six more bags of weed weighing 200 grams were found. Snoop and two fellow passengers were arrested for misdemeanor possession, making the “Puff, Puff, Pass” tour one of the most aptly named in recent memory.
ANTHONY KIEDIS June 26, 2001: The 38-year old singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers was “rescued” by lifeguards at La Jolla cove, along with the lead actress from “Felicity,” 25-year old Keri Russell. Lt Rick Wurts, spokesman for San Diego County Lifeguard Service, told San Diego AP that lifeguards responded to a call about six people in the water who were “in distress and caught in a rip current” and four of them were “pulled to safety.”
Kiedis denies that he and his companions were in any danger. “Those [lifeguards] down there think they’re rock stars or something. Four or five of us were swimming not too far out [from shore] and this lifeguard comes cruising up on a surfboard and says ‘there’s a riptide, it’s gonna be really hard to swim back in.’ We were in absolutely no danger but he had us grab his board and pulled us in and then the beach was full of these Baywatch wannabees and reporters were calling me and it became a big deal that made all the papers.”
Russell’s publicist told reporters her client and Kiedis were in San Diego “visiting friends.”
In an interview posted at TV Guide online, Russell also accused the lifeguards of overreacting. "There was no drowning. I'm actually a fabulous swimmer…[we all] could have swam back in.” She took the press to task for post-rescue insinuations that she and Kiedis were some kind of item. "He was just a friend of someone who was there," she says. "He's not my friend ... I think he has a girlfriend."
RICKIE LEE JONES, lyrics from “Drunk On The Striped Table”
“I abandon the old way when I first got to San Diego.
I f----ed anybody I wanted to.
I was, however, gang raped by a blues band in an old school bus.
That was pretty horrible. There were only three of them.
I can't remember if I got the third one off me.
I think I did. I was so ashamed.”
I FOUGHT THE LAW: Roundup of local music-related lawsuits & legal actions
1-17-08: Local music lover Stacie Somers is so mad about her iPod, she’s suing Apple. Her lawsuit seeks class-action status, contending that Apple monopolizes the music player industry because iPods and the online iTunes music store are not compatible with devices made by other companies. Somers, who says she owns a 30 gigabyte iPod, filed the 24-page suit on December 31.
According to the filing, "Apple has engaged in tying and monopolizing behavior, placing unneeded and unjustifiable technological restrictions on its most popular products in an effort to restrict consumer choice, and to restrain what little remains of its competition in the digital music markets."
Somers is seeking a court order forbidding Apple from continuing its allegedly anticompetitive business practices. She cites consumers’ "lack of options," which violates the Cartwright and Sherman Antitrust Acts. Because of this, she requests “permanent injunction against the reported behavior in addition to damages." The “damage” amount is unspecified.
She also accuses Apple of shipping its products with "crippleware,” which “forces” consumers to purchase all their digital music through iTunes.
According to the complaint, "Apple's crippleware operating system software prevents the iPod Shuffle from playing WMA [Microsoft Windows] files…Apple's iPod is alone among mass-market Digital Music Players in not supporting the WMA format."
At 99 cents per song on iTunes, it would cost around $40,000 to fill up a new iPod from Apple’s online store. Somers paid a $350 filing fee to initiate the lawsuit.
According to a recent article posted at ArsTechnica, an estimated 36% of people currently get much of their music from illegal file sharing, which can often be played in any number of devices and formats, as opposed to buying songs on iTunes that only work with Apple-supported devices and software.
Apple spokeswoman Susan Lundgren has declined to comment on pending litigation.
11-22-07: Record labels and music publishers owned by EMI are suing local-based MP3tunes for internet copyright infringement. MP3tunes owner Michael Robertson is also named in the suit, which accuses MP3tunes’ sideload.com of illegally providing free access to thousands of playable songs online.
The lawsuit, filed November 9, alleges that MP3tunes “does not own the music it exploits, nor does MP3tunes have any legal right or authority to use or exploit that music." The complaint also contends that Robertson "ultimately started this [website] as a vehicle to achieve a comparable infringing purpose" as Robertson’s previous endeavor, MP3.com.
That website was sued in 2000 by record labels and music publishers, paying an eventual settlement of over $100 million.<p>Sideload.com was launched in early 2006, offering users access to “29,000 songs from more than 7,000 different artists,” according to its initial press release. "No music is actually stored on Sideload.com...only links to files that are publicly available elsewhere on the net are collected." New links are frequently added, with the site’s current list containing approximately 70,000 songs.
"It's possible some of the tracks may be unauthorized," Robertson told the Reader last year. "But the difference between Sideload and [the original] Napster is that we're simply a search engine; we're no different than Google. You can type that song name into Google or MSN or Yahoo! and chances are you're going to find the same song [link]…all we're doing is providing a nice interface where you can play it, download it, or sideload it into your Music Locker [a pay-feature of MP3tunes]. "
Robertson has also incurred record industry wrath with MP3tunes, by offering downloads free of DRM/Digital Rights Management software, allowing the songs to be played any time, on any player. As a result, many major labels refuse to allow distribution of their music on the website.
10-18-07: Marcel Khalifé - sometimes called "the Dylan of Lebanon" – was supposed to perform at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center last month. However, the concert was cancelled after venue operators decided Khalifé and the presenting organization al-Awda are too controversial. Many of Khalife’s songs are about the Israel-Palestine debate, such as the plight of Palestinian refugees.
The Theater is owned by the Salvation Army, a Christian organization.
Khalifé says the Salvation Army considered letting the concert go on, if an Israeli performer would also appear. “[It] never occurred to us that our show of clean, innocent entertainment, free of ill intentions, would be judged, in absentia, contrary to our intentions,” says Khalifé on his website, “and that Defenders of the Faith, protectors of morality and public decorum, would interpret our work as a violation of Islamic law and public morals…What is being targeted is the culture of liberty itself, that refuses to be acquiescent.”
In a written statement, the Salvation Army said the booking was denied because al-Awda, a pro-Palestinian group, is "divisive and unbalanced,” and they were worried about angering local Jewish organizations. The Birch North Park Theater agreed to host Khalifé’s concert at a later date, reportedly selling out all tickets for the October 14 performance.
Born near Beirut in 1950, Khalifé has aroused the ire of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. His music was denounced by the Bahrain parliament, banned from state-controlled media in Tunisia, and he once stood trial in Lebanon for quoting a passage from the Koran in one of his songs.
10-11-07: “Our last drummer disappeared and was discovered in jail for art theft,” says Tim Malley, guitarist and singer for Tim and the 23s. “After our second practice with him, we couldn’t get a hold of him. It seemed really strange because we thought he liked the music. After a few weeks, we just figured he flaked, and just split without returning our calls.”
The missing drummer finally contacted the band. “Dave said he had to lay low for a little while, but wasn’t too specific. It eventually came out that he was being tried for art theft. He worked at a gallery that sold hand-painted replica artwork. They were the paintings that you see people copying from the museums around the world; Van Gogh, Monet, Munch, the classics. He was stealing them from the back, and then selling them on his own. It turns out art theft is pretty common.”
In 2001 and 2002, a ring of art thieves broke into several California galleries, including a smash-and-grab in San Diego where a $45,000 sculpture was stolen.
In 2004, a religious painting by San Juan Tepemazalco (1728), stolen in Mexico, turned up at the San Diego Museum Of Art, which immediately offered to return the artwork.
Malley says auditions earlier this year indicate a shortage of capable local drummers. “We tried whatever we could, going to bars, recruiting at parties, and placing ads on Craigslist. At one audition, we got a Katrina victim who spent all his FEMA money on a drum set. I felt kind of bad for the guy, because he couldn’t play that well. There were a couple of good players, but they wouldn’t do anything unless we guaranteed them big pay at every gig.”
6-21-07: Ike Turner filed a $5,000 lawsuit against the LAPD for falsely arresting him last month, due to a 1989 narcotics warrant that later proved invalid. The 75 year-old spent around fifteen hours in jail.
“Ike has gotten a bad rap over the years because of the sensationalism of the movie What's Love Got To Do With It,” blogs local drummer Bill Ray, who has played with Turner since November 2001. “When I encounter people that speak ill of the man without knowing him as a person, I ask one question. ‘What would you do if someone took your darkest moment in life and made a d-mning portrayal of your misdeeds in the form of a movie, and that movie will be played on major network media for all of eternity?’”
“Look at what he did for music. He officially wrote the first rock-n-roll song, Rocket 88, he was there when Elvis was just getting started, [and] he defined a whole style of popular music.”
Ray describes the Turner band’s thrice-weekly rehearsals as “akin to leaving your skin at the door and walking in a seething mass of nerve endings, with Ike sitting in his chair throwing salt at us when we would make a mistake.”
Locals Ryan Montana, Seth Blumberg, Leo Dombecki, and Kevin Cooper, Sr. have also played with Turner. “Sure, he's been no angel at times,” according to Ray, “but deep down, he is the most wonderful person that I've ever met…I like Ike. Very much.”
4-5-07: Famous former neighbor Scott Weiland and his wife Mary will face charges for allegedly wrecking their room while arguing at Burbank’s Graciela Hotel March 24. The couple is alleged to have “ripped alarm clocks and phones from their sockets and threw them, made dents and gauges in the walls…there was even blood found on some of the linens afterward,” according to TMZ.com. “The police were called, and the hotel is pressing charges for the damage caused.”
A few hours after being booted from the hotel, Weiland’s wife was arrested for burning her husband’s clothes in front of their Toluca Lake home. She posted $50,000 bail and was released. Online reactions to the story posts include:
“Don’t they live in L.A.? Why would you be checking into a hotel in [nearby] Burbank unless you were going to do drugs.” SouthernCaGurl4Opri
“I’m getting this vision in my head of Mary getting a phone call, tipping her off to the place she can find her husband.” JaneSays
“Hope they put them both to cleaning toilets for the next six months.” Katie
“She needs some ghetto lessons…put [his clothes] in a big garbage bag and pour a bottle of Chlorox in the bag.” mybestguess
“Since when is it illegal to burn clothes?” Just A Thought
“I was thinking of Scott today. I was wondering why he is alive and Anna Nicole and her son are dead, he’s taken so many more drugs.” Michelle
3-8-07: “I heard the sirens but I had no idea that she’d just been [allegedly] murdered by her son,” says Clay Colgin of Sagebomb and Clownsitterz. His Chula Vista neighbor Diane Carpenter, an assistant principal at Eastlake High, was killed in her home January 12. “The youngest son [allegedly] took a knife to his mom, several times, from what I understand. They happen to be a black family…I used to be the manager of two of her [other] sons in a hip-hop unit I was producing for four and a half years. They were doing quite well but then they were too busy being fancily dressed and playing with the girls.”
Colgin - who in 2005 won Songwriter’s annual Song Of The Year award for Best Electronic Dance Song (”Step Into My World”) – says he’d fallen out of touch with the brothers. “We would often fight because, if I produced something didn’t sound really hardcore black, they would get upset and say ‘We don’t do that, we just do attitude and blackness.’”
Carpenter’s son, 27 year-old Kaijamar “Kai” Dion Carpenter, was arrested for the stabbing death, reportedly telling officers that bleeding cuts on his hands were from a burglary he’d committed earlier in the day. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held on a $1 million bond, with a hearing set for April 11.
His public defender lawyer Kate Coyne informed the court that Carpenter is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who, until recently, was living at San Bernadino’s Patton State Hospital. “I guess he was having trouble dealing with reality,” says Colgin. “Who knows what Kai was into…I think Kai could have tried to be an individual and at some point try to shrug off some of his blackness.”
1-4-07: Frank Palumbo, a music teacher at Helix High School, was arrested December 26 and charged with having sex with a student. “We were alerted about a possible sexual relationship by the father of a seventeen year-old [Helix] senior,” says La Mesa Police Detective Bryan Jacoby.
The twenty seven year-old teacher was arrested at his Boundary Street home and booked on three counts of oral copulation with a minor and three counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, with bail set at $130,000.
Investigators say the victim indicated that sexual interaction with Palumbo began December 15, which happened to be the day the teacher officially resigned from Helix to take a job as Head Director at Kempner High School in Sugarland, Texas, where he was moving in January.
A congratulatory notice about the new job posted on the Helix Instrumental Music Association website was removed the day after Palumbo’s arrest.
Contacted by phone, Kempner High Principal James May said “This is the first we’ve heard about this situation…[Palumbo] is not yet a member of this faculty.” Palumbo begin teaching music classes at Helix in 2005 and also served as an assistant band director. He previously taught at middle and high schools in Chula Vista.
A Middle School teacher in Ja Lolla is facing child pornography charges. When FBI agents raided the home of 48 year-old Eric Don Standefer, they found him standing naked outside his bedroom, having just smashed his laptop computer to pieces with a hammer.
Standefer said he destroyed the equipment because he feared he was being arrested for illegally downloading music files.
Another computer in the home yielded 3,500 pictures “involving children in sexual situations,” according to statements from the FBI’s Cyber Squad. Standefer – currently free on a $50,000 bail bond - is on extended leave from his teaching post and is attending graphic arts classes.
A judge ordered him to wear an electronic monitoring device while awaiting trial and he’s forbidden to use the internet or to frequent places where children gather.
11-16-06: “In the midst of setting up our equipment, Travis [Du Bois, bassist] was being escorted outside by a campus police officer,” says Suffer The Heat singer Brandon Barclay of their Halloween party gig at Mira Costa College’s Student Center.
“Travis had and still has no idea why he was being arrested, so he asked the officer ‘why’ about twenty times and never got a response. A second cop comes in and starts yelling at the crowd gathered around the scene to disperse. They end up telling Travis that they want to check him for weapons…as soon as they cranked his arm up behind his back, he flinched due to discomfort, and was body slammed to the ground and taser-gunned several times. As they held him down, they restricted his arms from any movement and kept tasing him, because he wouldn’t put his arms behind his back.”
Campus officials declined to comment on the incident, but did provide the preliminary police report which states that MCC campus police officer Benny Perez initially approached Du Bois because he “smelled marijuana smoke.” Perez says Du Bois “drew attention to himself” by walking away from the officer. Perez followed him into building, whereupon he “detected alcohol” on the bassist and decided to “conduct a weapon and/or alcohol search.”
Noting the campus’ “standard procedure” is to put handcuffs on suspects during such searches, Perez says Du Bois “refused to cooperate.” When a second officer arrived, Jim Beckman, a struggle began and Beckman “discharged a taser into his [Du Bois’] back.” Du Bois (27) was taken to a police car and charged with public drunkenness, resisting arrest and possessing alcohol on school grounds (“a bottle of Blue Vodka”).
“The bottle was a mini two-ouncer, and it was still sealed,” says Barclay. “It was for after the show. But because he also admitted having two beers before the show, during dinner, off campus, they say he was breaking the law. What about burning nine inches of taser marks onto an innocent guy’s flesh? He didn’t deserve to be punished the way he was.” The MCC campus has a “zero tolerance” alcohol policy.
10-26-06: “We got robbed during the concert of around $2000,” says a local promoter of an early September event held in an increasingly urbanized part of the city. “And if you have in mind a stereotype of the profile of the most likely type of person to do that, you'd be exactly right…someone walked into the venue halfway thru set one, walked up to the ticket table, grabbed the box of money, and raced out and up the alley, jumping in a getaway car waiting for him.”
The promoter – requesting anonymity – says “The concert started with a large group of young people -- looking exactly like the media stereotype of a gang of a certain ethnic persuasion -- drinking heavily right in front of the venue at 4:00 in the afternoon! As I was setting up the equipment inside, at least two of them were puking on the stairs leading to the main entrance and in the street immediately in front of those stairs. The performers were so concerned with this scene when they arrived that they delayed entering for quite awhile, during which time I discovered the mess the ‘gang’ had made and got it cleaned up.”
“To have it then end the way it did, with a [robbery by a] guy from a different ‘ethnic persuasion,’ so to speak, causes an old white guy to again think that stereotypes wouldn't come about if there wasn't a huge body of history that led to those stereotypes.”
8-31-06: Elan, a female Latin performer based in San Diego, has filed an eleven-count lawsuit against Wailers singer Elan Atias, who recently began using just the name Elan for solo recordings. “This is the kind of thing that made my brother and I start our own company,” says the local Elan. “They don’t care about music or who they hurt.”
The lawsuit alleges "craft, yet overt maneuvering" to take over local Elan’s given name (which she trademarked and has always recorded and performed under) by defendants Atias, Interscope Records and public relations firm the Mitch Schneider Organization.
The PR company USED to represent local Elan, and in fact a link on their website that formerly led to local Elan’s site now sends users to Mr. Atias' webpage instead. Interscope Records told the L.A. Times’ Calendar section in 1999 that signing local Elan was their "second highest priority after Enrique Iglesias' new album."
“I am shocked that now, my former PR firm and a label that actually wanted to sign me, would try this,” says local Elan, who has released several records (including one with guest guitarist Slash), appeared on the 2004 MTV Latin America Music Awards and who won a Rolling Stone En Espanol People's Choice Award. “They thought they could just run us over and get away with it and we wouldn’t say anything. They were wrong!”
"If you take a look at the timing, you have to be very disappointed in how these music industry players behaved," said lawyer Matt Rifat of Manning And Marder, Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez LLP, who will represent local Elan in San Diego Federal District Court. “The sequence of events is unbelievable. Interscope and the Mitch Schneider Organization deal with Elan one day and the next they are slapping her name onto Atias, who never went by the one name until this year…it is as unseemly as it is illegal."
8-24-06: “They didn’t knock, my girlfriend and I were still in bed when around twenty cops came busting in full-force with guns and a search warrant,” says Thicker Than Thieves singer Jamin Hazelaar of the recent 7:00 A.M. raid on his Alpine home. “I was read my rights in my boxer shorts…it was pretty scary. They took me to the Vista jail and charged me with cultivation, possession and intent to sell. Because they put a bail-hold on me, I ended up spending five days in jail.”
“I had a lot of time to reflect on the things that should never have distracted me from my music,” says the 33-year old. “My parents put up my bail money and got me out. Now, I’m just trying to save my house and my property and my life.” Hazelaar has no prior arrest record. Thicker Than Thieves are finishing a new album “Thru Thick And Thin."
8-17-06: “Chris Austin smashed up our studio and stole our stuff because we fired him,” alleges Willie Psycho of the Drapes in a lawsuit filed against their former soundman and part-time promoter. “He booked a few shows that brought no more that fifteen people, then he kept asking for all this money and we weren’t even making the rent. We paid him what we could, but he felt like he deserved boatloads of money. Which we weren’t making…I told him it wasn’t working out.”
Psycho alleges he saw Austin near the band’s rented Escondido studio and rehearsal space minutes before finding the vandalism and theft. “He drove right by us he was leaving the parking lot. We went inside and the place was completely f-cked up. He dumped piles of trash all over the place, kicked huge holes in the walls and shoved a giant brush in the toilet, blocking up the plumbing. He destroyed a $900 Power amp, took all my Shure mics, mic cords, a box of about a hundred band shirts and hoodies and a backup guitar that I had stored there. He also took a Marshall guitar cab and tagged up a substantial part of the bathroom.”
Psycho is seeking unspecified damages and Austin (former operator of Escondido’s long-closed Library Café) has yet to file a response with the court. At this writing, Austin has not replied to email queries regarding the allegations.
7-27-06: Megadeth’s sole permanent member Dave Mustaine has filed a petition for divorce in San Diego Superior Court, seeking dissolution of his marriage to Pamela Anne Casselberry, whom he wed in April 1991. No word yet on who might end up with the couple’s 1.2 million dollar house atop Rolling Hills Estates in an exclusive section of Fallbrook.
They have a son, Justis David (born 2-11-92), a daughter, Electra Nicole (born 1-28-98) and another son, Victor Gar (born 9-10-02), named after Megadeth mascot Vic Rattlehead and former band drummer Gar Samuelsson, who died in 1998. 14 year-old Justis plays guitar and has appeared in several local theatrical productions, including one where he played Elvis Presley. He has a MySpace page where cites as his heroes “my two parents,” “Jesus Christ” and “anyone out there that is a stud.”
6-22-06: An instructor with Sweetwater High School’s mariachi program was arrested on campus June 6 and charged with 25 counts of having unlawful sex with a 17 year old student. Carlos Ramirez Hernandez, 27, has been an hourly part-time instructor with the school district since 1999 and was also teaching music at Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista.
“The [alleged] victim came forward recently, and the [alleged] sexual contact happened several times last year,” says police Captain Guy Swanger. “They may have carried on a relationship over two or three months.”
During Hernandez’s arraignment, Deputy District Attorney Rachel Cano said a second alleged victim will be introducing testimony. Hernandez - a graduate of Chula Vista High School who lives with his physician mother - is also charged with supplying alcohol to a minor. He pleaded not guilty June 9 and his bail was set for $100,000. His school assignments have been terminated pending trial results.
32 year old Escondido musician Reginald Clews (formerly of the Hutchins Consort) has pleaded guilty to eighteen counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 14. Clews admitted that sexual contact occurred between him and the girl, a family friend, in 2000 and 2001, beginning when the girl was 13. Clews was arrested in September 2004 after playing a concert in La Jolla. His $1 million bail has been revoked until sentencing. Judge John Einhorn said in court that Clews will probably receive “no less than six years and no more than fifteen years in prison.”
Danielle Marie Walls (27), a former history teacher at Clairemont High School, was arrested June7 at her home in North Park and faces multiple charges of having sex a 16 year old male student two years ago. In addition, a Chula Vista High School English teacher who was arrested in January will stand trial for child molestation. Diego Davalos, 50, is accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with three minor relatives (none of whom are his students).
6-8-06: In mid-May, Chula Vista police arrested the operator of Chula Vista’s El Jibarito Music Studio, Walter Rivera, charging the 49 year-old with ten counts of lewd acts with a victim under the age of 14. The “inappropriate touching” was alleged to have occurred during a lesson with an 8 year-old student at one of Rivera’s two Music Studios in South Bay.
The alleged victim’s father notified police and the married Rivera was arrested May 18 at one of his studios and held on $500,000 bail. On May 22, however, the District Attorney’s Office said that no charges would be filed “at this time,” and Rivera was released before a scheduled arraignment.
Prosecutor Enrique Camarena says his office plans “further investigation” into the allegations. Chula Vista Police spokesperson Bernard Gonzales says “We feel there is enough evidence to proceed…a second victim, a 14 year old [girl], has come forward. We’re still interviewing potential witnesses, as are detectives from the Family Protection Unit…we will continue to pursue [the case] and we feel [the D.A.’s office] will revise their position and come aboard with this.”
El Jibarito Music Studio charges from $75 to $160 monthly for music lessons; its website touts their “carefully screened instructors (Live Scan at CVPD).”
7-13-06: Music Trader district manager Darren Fionda was arrested May 25 at the chain’s SDSU store, for allegedly selling “pirated music.” In an undercover operation orchestrated by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association Of America) involving seven agents, 195 discs were seized, most of them “mix CDs” featuring handmade compilations of hip-hop tracks.
Fionda was released on bail (provided by Music Trader’s parent company PrePlayed Entertainment) and faces up to a year in jail and a $25,000 fine. In a report issued in May, the RIAA cited San Diego among the top twelve “hot spots for music piracy.” Music Trader has reportedly pulled mix CDs from most of their locales.
The San Diego Record Show will henceforth contain less counterfeits than in past years. “There aren't many bootlegs at the show,“ says organizer Alan Garth, who spent seven years as Tower Records’ vinyl buyer. “All the vendors sign a form every time that clearly states ‘no bootlegs’ and places all the liability on the individual vendor and not the promoter and/or the venue, etc.”
He says this has been his policy since taking over the event several years ago from collecting king “Music Man” Marvin. “Honestly, I wasn't even aware of the arrests at Music Trader.”
LA JOLLA DRIVERS SUCK
“I used to deliver pizza for Round Table,” says Starcrossed singer/guitarist Mark Haemmerle, “and every time I got off freeway 52 and went into downtown La Jolla, there was either an accident or someone who almost caused one.”
Thus was born the band’s popular sing-a-long anthem “All the F---ers in La Jolla Drive Like S--t.” Sample lyric:
“ ‘Cause your car cost more, don’t mean you own the road
Best get off my ass, don’t make me lock ‘n’ load.”
“So I wrote a song about how sh---y people drive in La Jolla. It’s not just people that live there; it seems to be everyone. I think, when you get in that area, it just seems to happen. For a video, I started collecting accident footage from every time I drive down there…I caught some footage of a fire truck and a police car at a two-car accident on the side of the road. I also got footage of the crazy traffic when one of the stop lights went out.”
Starcrossed guitarist Bridgit Bardell died last September from a heroin overdose. Mark Haemmerle formerly played with local goth bands Sleepy Hollow and Winter Winds, and currently runs the audio/video production company Devil Town Studios. He’s hosting an open mic night tonight at the Skybox Bar in Clairemont.
More like this:
- RIP Reader cover artist and underground comix legend Spain Rodriguez — Nov. 28, 2012
- 25 to Life: In Prison Since She Was 15, plus I Fought the Law: 100 Local Music Lawsuits & Busts — June 13, 2008
- Painting Rock Stars, plus Behind the Scenes: Overheard in San Diego & Famous Former Neighbors — May 8, 2008
- 25 Local Musicians Reveal “My Favorite Twilight Zone,” plus Local-Produced Zone Comic Books — April 3, 2008
- Secrets of Overheard in San Diego & Famous Former Neighbors, Mojo & Zappa Comix, [Paint]Brushes With Fame — April 2, 2008