Larry Steckling 6 p.m., March 31
Celebs Talk About San Diego, Racist Rock, Concert Lawsuits, DJ Stalker
Celebs on the City, KKK Concerts, Lawyers Songs & Money, DJ Obsession
Celebs on the City, KKK Concerts, Lawyers Songs & Money, DJ Obsession
WHAT CELEBS SAY ABOUT SAN DIEGO
For around 10 years, almost every time I interviewed a celebrity coming to town, I asked them about San Diego. I wanted to elicit their memories of the city, find out about any local connections, query their opinions about San Diegans, and find out what places they like to visit while in town.
A few quotes ended up in various articles through the years, but the majority of celeb comments about San Diego have never been seen outside my interview transcripts. While archiving a bunch of old files to disc recently, I compiled some of the most pithy, pointed, and/or jes’ plain bewildering quotes concerning our fine city…
DAVE MATTHEWS remembered the time Jason Mraz drove a pickup truck from San Diego to Seattle, just to open for Matthews’ band. “That was the first day we met, his album had just come out or was about to,” says Matthews. “I caught his set from the sidelines…he was really good, and I ended up inviting him on tour the next year. I don’t think he ever got paid that day, he did it for free. That’s how he got the gig.”
I mentioned Mraz had recently had sold a baseball jersey on eBay that he was wearing that day, along with a Poloroid of their meeting which was published in Rolling Stone, for $800. “D-mn,” said Matthews. “He ended up making more than I did!”
OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN recalled the time she was scheduled to appear at the Mission Bay Roller Coaster (July 13, 1998) to perform a few songs live on Star 100.7 radio. “They wanted me there at 8 a.m. but my daughter was here and I was taking her to the airport, and I didn’t end up being able to get there until late, so they did their morning show at night.” This was in the midst of the 20th anniversary re-release of Grease and, of the three songs to be performed, “You’re the One That I Want” was among them. “I decided I’d do a duet with one of the DJs [Little Tommy Sablan] and, wow, was that scary! He kept trying to shake his shoulders and swallow the mike, and he was really scaring me there for a minute. I thought he was going to, I don’t know, either fall over or lick my face or something!”
Singer/songwriter JACK WILLIAMS once wrote a song about a San Diego venue, though it’s only been performed once. In 2002, after playing the vegetarian nook Big Kitchen on Grape Street (known for SRO Sunday breakfasts and ex-employee Whoopie Goldberg), Williams said “I liked the place so much that I ending up writing a song about it. I went down there the next day and told the woman who runs the place, Judy, and she brought everything in the room to a halt. They were packed for breakfast but she made everybody quit eating and sit and said ‘listen’ and I sat up on the counter with my guitar and played ‘I’m Goin’ Down To The Big Kitchen.’” Asked about lyrics, he said “Hold on while I check my guitar case” - a moment later, he was back on the phone, singing:
“Ah’m a-goin’ down to the B-i-i-i-i-i-g Kitchen, the B-i-i-i-i-i-g Kitchen, the B-i-i-i-i-i-g Kitchen, ah’m a-gonna play for Judy, the Beauty, on Duty, she’s a-workin’ down at the B-i-i-i-i-i-g Kitchen…” He laughed and stopped.
“It’s a sing-a-long, sort of a funky southern styled thing, I just improvised about the food they serve, kind of reading it off the menu and into the song. If I were to play it again, well, someone might have to get a hold of the menu again for me to pull it off.”
TERRI NUNN of Berlin enjoys San Diego’s cow-free cuisine. “I’ve been a vegetarian since 1979,” she said, “and one of the hardest things about touring is getting fresh fruit and things like that on the road. In San Diego, there’s so many vegetarian restaurants. It’s about the only place in the world besides India where I can go into a place and order absolutely anything on the menu!”
LIZ PHAIR likes a good parking spot. “Back in ’98 I think, my dad was gonna be able to catch me either [playing] in San Diego or L.A….when he asked me which city was best, I said San Diego, not ‘cuz I wanted us to go to the zoo or Sea World or anything but because I knew at least his car would be safe in the parking lot.”
MIKE NESS OF SOCIAL DISTORTION said he doesn’t have to go to the beach or a strip club to see lots of skin in our city. “People down there always show me their ink [tattoos]. See, the band and San Diego have the same initials, right, and guys have these cinderblock ‘SD’ tats…I don’t know if they’re big fans of the group, or just showing a lot of civic pride, you know what I mean?”
LITTLE RICHARD thought San Diego was “Too darned pretty! You heard me! Everywhere you look out there, everything’s just too dang pretty! I’m usually the prettiest thing! I swear that city wants to compete with me or upstage me or something [laughter]! So I gots to show her I AM the prettiest, don’t I? Well? Don’t I?”
ERIC BLOOM of BLUE ÖYSTER CULT recalled a show nearly 25 years ago, when the band tried to sneak into San Diego under a “top-secret” pseudonym. “We were coming straight off of [playing] stadiums and we agreed to this little club date, the Bacchanal [December 9, 1984], but all the publicity listed the band as ‘Soft White Underbelly’ [BOC’s original pre-LP name]. The idea was that only real hardcore fans would even be aware of our history with that name, and even then they’d probably think it was some other band, not Blue Oyster Cult. One of your local radio stations blew it the day before the show, I forget which one, whichever one wasn’t promoting the show [KGB with Fahn & Silva produced] but there were tons of people showing up and a lot of angry cops, I remember that much. Kind of a failed experiment. Tell San Diego we’re sorry we tried to fool them.”
ART GARFUNKEL credited San Diegan Stephen Bishop as one of his favorite songwriters. “A woman singer friend of mine gave me one of his demo tapes and I picked two of his songs to record [“Looking For The Right One,” “The Same Old Tears on a New Background”]. My first reaction was, ‘Here's a real good songwriter who's real commercial...a great combination.' I thought, 'I'm going to be watching this guy go through an interesting transition to success. Maybe I can even play a part in this.’” Garfunkel ended up lending Bishop the money to start a song publishing company.
BRET MICHAELS, about to perform at ‘Canes, was happy to hear the venue is a short walk from the beach. “Man, San Diego girls drive me crazy. All those hot ladies in their thongs…dude, I may just walk up and down the boardwalk before the show and round up a few honeys to come to wiggle around onstage. It’s not illegal there to have drunk girls onstage [wearing] thongs, is it? I’ll check their IDs first.”
BILLY IDOL, after performing at Viejas, observed of the audience “You guys really don’t dress for the occasion, do you…this is the only place in the world where people come in off the street in sandals and $100 sunglasses and start a mosh pit.”
KERRY KING, guitarist for Huntington Beach headbangers Slayer, said “Last time we were down there, it was sick, guys were coming up to us with ‘Slayer’ carved onto their arm by a friend with a busted beer bottle…someone followed us to a hotel and he ended up wrecking the place. Or maybe that was me. I play sober but I get sh--faced drunk after the show’s over.”
DAVY JONES shared fond memories of San Diego going all the way back to when Don Kirshner first made a Monkee out of him. “I was a jockey, so of course Del Mar was a big part of that life…when you see that ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ video, I mean in the [Monkees] TV show, that’s really Del Mar the train goes to, not Clarksville. On the day before the first show came on [September 11 1966], they had this big publicity train ride from L.A. down to Del Mar with 400 kids, they won a radio contest, and when they got there we [the Monkees] met them and rode the train back to LA with them. They called Del Mar ‘Clarksville' for the day, because that was the first single, see…it was really grand fun, even though nobody had really heard of us yet.”
JOAN OSBORNE frequently plays the Belly Up (“They invite me every year, I love that club”), but it was her Street Scene performance in September, 2002, that she wanted to talk about. “I was doing a song ‘Mean Woman Blues’ and there were a bunch of tough looking biker chicks up front, flexing their muscles and showing their tattoos…they came right up onstage during the medley and it was like an impromptu fashion show, it probably looked like we planned it but they were just there and being great.”
TIM ARMSTRONG, guitarist for RANCID, described the first time the Oakland-based punk band played San Diego. “I think we might have hit TJ first, but then we went back down and played this dinky little skate park the YMCA was running [5-1-94]. It was wild because it was all twelve year old kids and cotton candy and all these parental units in Bermuda shorts…and then the very next night, we’re playing a Déjà vu strip club in Ventura, with naked women hanging off the amps and lap dances between sets! We’d play anywhere they let us, man. We kinda still do.”
REGGIE SCANLAN, bassist with the Radiators for over a quarter century, can still recall the first time the New Orleans boogie band played San Diego. “That was a wild west city then [circa late ‘70s], I remember wall to wall tattoo parlors and porn shops. We played a hotel ballroom right downtown and everyone was dressed nice, had lots of money…I was wondering where they came from or parked because everything else downtown was like Times Square, or maybe Bangkok.”
B.B. KING, asked about other blues singers he likes, mentioned Candye Kane. “She has that big, brassy voice, [it] has a lot of authority and sass, the kind of thing that men like because it’s seductive and women like because it’s powerful. You put her with a player like, oh, say Walter Trout, you might have a real big thing going, hit records and everything.”
JIMMY BUFFETT: “I remember fishing off a pier in San Diego in the late 70s and having this really vivid hallucination of pirates coming into the harbor and I could see myself jumping into the ocean and swimming out to meet them…I always wanted to be a pirate. When everybody else was studying generals and American war heroes, Jean Lafitte was my hero.”
STEVE POLTZ’s self-written news column at www.poltz.com often makes cryptic pronouncements like “Ramona is the next Seattle” (and once “Seattle is the next Ramona”). Poltz says he was once recognized by a female nurse preparing him for a testicular ultrasound exam. “She told me to lay down and spread my legs apart and she proceed to put this warm lotion all over my testes…she started running the ultrasound thingymajig all over my privates and I felt helpless…she said ‘My son is a big fan of your music. He's eight years old and we saw you play at Jingle Ball’…she then proceeded to tell me her son’s favorite song was ‘Monkeys Coming Out Of Yer Ass.’ Then she asked if I would sign something for him. I have never been so embarrassed in my life.”
TONY BENNETT told NPR’s Terry Gross in 1998 “I used to play around when I did ‘I Left My Heart In San Francisco’ and substitute the name of the city I was [performing] in, which I thought would get a great reaction from the locals. But just the opposite happened. For some reason if you sing ‘I Left My Heart In San Diego,’ people walk away feeling robbed.” (www.npr.org)
DO THE WHITE THING
"Throughout history, music has been used to recruit and unify ultra-right movements. A lot of people think the Third Reich couldn’t have happened without Wagner. For Skinheads, who follow the concept of leaderless resistance, white power music is what binds them." (Carl Raschke, Professor Of Religious Studies, University of Denver)
"White power" rock music provides the rallying call which unites racists and Nazi-inclined "Skinheads" hoping to develop a common culture - or at least present the appearance of one. Bands like Ethnic Cleansing, Extreme Hatred, Grinded Nig and Angry Aryans expouse hostile ideology directed against non-whites, particularly anyone of Negro or Jewish descent.
Racist rock is angry, nihilistic music, advocating intolerance, if not actual violence, against minorities. The great-grandaddy of the genre is 1960s singer Johnny Rebel, who recorded songs like "Some N--rs Never Die (They Just Smell That Way)."
Later, pro-white rock was dubbed "Oi!" music, goosestepping from the skinhead and punk subcultures of the '70s ("Oi" was a common greeting in the British Cockney dialect).
Skinhead style - shaved heads, Doc Marten boots, thin suspenders, rough trade tattoos and reverence for weight training and beer - originated as the working class antithesis of the hippie look and philosphy.
Adherants were prone to violence and criminal hooliganism from the start but turned toward national socialism and racial issues in the early '80s. Not all Skinhead groups are racist but, for the purposes of this essay, the term is used to refer to white supremacist variety.
The first rock stars embraced by the Skinhead movement came out of England - Ian Stuart Donaldson (Skrewdriver), Ken McLellan (Brutal Attack) and Paul Burnley (No Remorse), for example. In 1982, Skrewdriver headlined the first of many "White Power" concerts, though the event was called "Rock Against Communism" to disguise its theme.
By 1987, band leader Ian Stuart Donaldson was publishing a magazine called "Blood & Honour," the same words inscribed on daggers issued by Hitler to the SS Youth Corps. America's entry in the hate sweepstakes came out of Minnesota with the album "Warrior's Glory," the first call to arms from Bound For Glory, and soon Skinheads and neo-Nazis alike were pogo-ing and pounding each other to the strains of similar U.S. based knuckleheads like the Bully Boys and Midtown Bootboys.
The Oi! Boys, a neo-Nazi skinhead club, established one of the first internet websites devoted to racist rock music. It makes constant reference to the music of Skrewdriver's Ian Stuart Donaldson, who died in a 1993 car accident, advocating violence even more directly than Donaldson's in-your-face lyrics.
The Oi! Boys site also includes a page called "BootParty," featuring people said to deserve being kicked in the head by Skins wearing steel-toed boots. "This here is N--r Nate. Him and his mama are holding a N--r hunting tag that was gave [sic] to him. This story made the front page in the newspaper 'cause his mama is in the NAACP. N--rs Are Always Causing Problems. The one thing that his mama doesn't know is that her son is a gangbanger and his getto-slang [sic] name is Chicago. Well if you see this N--r, kick him in the [expletive] head."
American hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Hammerskin Nation (a Skinhead enclave originating in Dallas in 1989) didn't take long to realize the potential of hatecore music, and of the internet, to attract and convert alienated, antisocial young people to the white supremacist movement.
White Aryan Resistance (WAR) is based in San Diego, headed by KKK poster boy and white warlord Tom Metzger, who refers to Skinhead followers as his "shock troops for the white revolution." The WAR website features crude cartoon caricatures of blacks and Mexicans intended to celebrate worldwide "racial and cultural separatism."
Metzer declares white skinned people as "Nature's finest handiwork...your race and only your race must be your religion." WAR offers not just ideological guidance but also tactical advice on how to use violence to squash minorities and non-white cultural influences. In 1987, he booked several Skinhead bands for an "international punk white power record album." That record was "The Spirit Of Oi," released on London-based White Noise Records.
Metzger, who is well into his sixties, went bankrupt after a $12.5 million civil judgment was levied against him for his part in encouraging behavior which resulted in the beating death of an Ethiopian man by skinhead followers. However, Metzger still manages to publish an inflammatory tabloid magazine (also titled "WAR") which promotes Holocaust denial and ethnic cleansing, targeting the Skinhead demographic with ads for mail order racist rock recordings and videos of hatecore music festivals. The magazine is distributed from vendor booths at white rock gatherings and concerts as well as on the internet by most of the supremacist record labels.
These white power labels became prolific between 1992 and 1997, many of them founded in Sweden (Ragnarock Records, Nordland Records) and elsewhere in Europe, benefitting from the fall of Communism and relaxed trade restrictions. U.S. labels specializing in hate-themed music also thrived, such as Tri-State Terror of Pennsylvania, whose roster includes Mudoven. The cover of Mudoven's CD "Aryan Vs. Alien" sports a photo of corpses in a German concentration camp.
Another Tri-State act, Blue Eyed Devils, has a record called "Murder Squad" featuring a cover photo of three lynched Jews. However, it is Michigan-based Resistance Records which has, from the start, been America's best-known racist rock label, even publishing its own propaganda magazine.
Resistance was incorporated in 1994 by George Burdi and members of WCOTC, a Canadian chapter of an anti-Semitic group calling itself the World Church of the Creator. "Music alone cannot save our Race," Burdi said on his website, "but our music is precious to us, and highly effective as a recruiting tool."
He says supremacist rockers had difficulty getting recorded until Resistance came along. "Suddenly, it went from a couple of white power labels to a couple of hundred...I let everyone use our stuff. After all, I was motivated by altruism." At the time, Burdi sang and wrote lyrics for the Skinhead rock group RaHoWa, an acronym for "racial holy war."
"The concerts were crazy," remembers Burdi. "Friends would beat each other up and then laugh about it afterwards, with their eyes swollen shut and their noses broken and picking their teeth up off the ground."
"Kill all the n--s and you gas all the jews.
Kill a gypsy and a coloured too.
You just killed a k-ke. Don't it feel right?
Goodness gracious, darn right"
(From "Third Reich" by RaHoWa)
Burdi's record label was soon selling upwards of 50,000 white power CDs annually. However, the company was thrown into chaos in 1997 due to an American tax dispute and prosecution in Canada for distributing "hate material."
At the time, Burdi was serving a one-year prison sentence for kicking a female anti-racism protestor in the face at a 1993 RaHoWa concert. The Resistance catalog had grown to over two hundred titles and the label reportedly shipped around fifty orders each day, grossing nearly a million dollars yearly.
Resistance moved its headquarters to California and changed hands in April 1999, falling under the ownership of William Pierce, one-time head of an American neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance.
Pierce paid $250,000.00 for the label and its assets. "All too often we turn [our anger] against ourselves," said Pierce. "We need to give a proper direction to that anger…[Resistance Records] will be the music of the great, cleansing revolution which is coming." Pierce also bought the Swedish hatecore label Nordland, including its inventory stock and American band contracts, for $50,000.00.
Pierce had previously outlined his views on the importance Skinhead recruitment in March 1995 on his "American Dissident Voices" radio show. "What we have to do is encourage in every way we can the growth of the racially conscious portion of the Skinhead community...we have to give young people back their sense of identity. We have to give them purpose and direction again."
Around the same time that Pierce took control of Resistance, Aggressive Force was emerging as Orange County's flagship white power rock band. Their songs bear unmistakably racist titles like "It's O' Kay To Be White."
"Our first gig was at a place here in OC about two years ago," says the group's singer Brian online, "and we played with Youngland and Extreme Hatred. Well, the lady who booked the show for us had also booked a show for Extreme Hatred a few years back...[that] turned into a riot and the place was totalled. Little did she know that she had just booked them again plus two other WP [white power] bands."
"You should've seen the look on her face when carloads of Skins started pulling up. All I know is I heard her screaming 'Oh no, not again,' waving her muddy arms up in the air, 'it's the Nazi's again!' Capitalistic mud wench finally shut her face when she saw all the people paying to get in and all the bar sales."
"Since then, we have gotten our own place that loves to have us play and splits the door money with us to get other bands out here to play. We have our own security team and they keep the muds [dark skinned people] out, for the most part. One time this beaner [Mexican] just happened to cruise in, talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We gave him a party and kindly showed him the door where a police escort was waiting for him that the owners had called...he was 'starting fights,' ha ha."
Regarding the racial climate in southern California, Brian says "There are n--rs here but the majority of the dung is Mexican and g--ks. The zipperheads out here have a town called Little Saigon, a name apply given to this large cesspool filled with ornamental written signs, g--k gangs, and dry cleaners. The beans are 'equal opportunity invaders' and pretty much ruin any place in O.C. they can get their greasy mittens on to. A common scene here is a pregnant bean pushing a double-stroller with a string of four baby beans being drug behind her on the way to the welfare office. We dig it because they do not use the crosswalks, are slow, and having such a large litter with them they equal more points!"
This statement refers to a game called "Death Race" wherein point values are assigned to pedestrians who can be hit with a motor vehicle.
By the late '90s, the U.S. was infested with the likes of Angry White Youth, Kick To Kill, Gestapo SS, H8Machine (formerly known as Dying Breed), Hatemonger, Final Solution, Mullet, Patriotic Front and The Brawlers. The latter band, from Kansas City, is known for their song "Dead N--r Storage Box":
"We're open for business and we're packing them in.
Got forty n--s in a garbage bin.
On the streets they're selling crack,
got ten more in a burlap sack.
Roll down the window, say 'What's up cuz?'
They reply back 'Not much, blood.'
Stick the shotgun out the window,
guess what, yo, you know where you're going to go?"
Though never signed to a hatecore label, the Santee based group InSanitee managed to earn some national press by provoking audience violence during performances.
Among their first gigs was a festival in Lake Havasau Arizona - not a racist event but promotors were apparantly unaware of set list titles like "Jewboy Roasting On A Fiery Cross" and "El Cajon Sand N--s." As the band played the all-age event, horrified parents hustled children away from the stage and delighted skinheads - many of them friends of the band - formed a rowdy mosh pit.
Anti-racist bystanders shouted angrily at bandmembers and were rewarded with beatings administered by Skinheads, seven of whom were arrested for assault. InSanitee also promoted itself as a "high school dance band" without disclosing their racist focus, instigating at least one teenage riot in Escondido in 1999.
Some concert events willingly announce themselves as racist gatherings. Using the Internet as a promotional vehicle, the Ku Klux Klan has staged successful hate rock concerts.
In May 2000, the Imperial Klans of America held a three day concert, Nordic Fest, in Powderly, Kentucky, co-sponsored by Panzerfaust Records (founded in September 1998 by former Resistance Records employee Eric Davidson). Around 500 American and overseas attendees accessed transportation and event information using the guestbook at Panzerfaust's password-protected website (guestbooks serve as electronic bulletin boards).
Another Nordic Fest was held in May 2001 and other recent gatherings include Peckerwoodstock, Skinfest '98, Oi Bash '99 and Oi2K.
Even skinhead extremists Hammerskin Nation now sponsor a travelling racist rock festival called Hammerfest. The Hammerskin website announces "The exact location will not be disclosed until the weekend of the concert...beginning Friday before the show. A cell phone will also be activated for people to contact, for directions."
The Eastern Hammerskins once had to cancel an event in Baltimore, Maryland at the last minute after local music venues became aware that the concert's theme was white supremacy.
Locally, hatecore concerts are difficult to stage, even with the James Bondian subterfuge. A "benefit" show sponsored by the California branch of Blood And Honor, intended to raise money for a CD compilation featuring neo-Nazi bands, was scheduled for August 19th 2001 at an Anaheim club called the Shack.
The bar was overwhelmed by angry phone calls from anti-racist activists, picket lines and negative media attention in the days before the event and it was subsequently cancelled.
Part of the Shack's reluctance to follow through with the concert stemmed from local reaction to an earlier event on June 24th, headlined by Brutal Attack, Aggressive Force and Extreme Hatred. Press reports had expressed particular outrage over the band Youngland, which performed a song called "Thank God I'm A White Boy" to the tune of John Denver's "Thank God I'm A Country Boy," followed by a cover of Johnny Rebel's "N--r Hatin' Me."
The Nationalist Observer and its website loves white rock and roll too. They provide links to other supremacist clubs and hatecore music distributors on their website, as well as offering daily propaganda via an old school telephone message line.
The Observer was founded by Alex Curtis, operating out of what used to be his family's laundry room in Lemon Grove. Curtis uses the website to promote cooperation between "White nationalists, White separatists, Skinheads, National Socialists, Ku Klux Klansmen and Identity Christians." His "Tribute to Jewry" is a doctored photo of what he calls "Jew York City," after being blown up by an atom bomb.
On the Nationalist Observer website, he nominated the teen-agers charged with brutally beating field workers in Carmel Valley as "Aryans of the Month"
Among the organizations championed by the Observer are the Hammerskins, The American Nazi Party, Wake Up Or Die ("Powerful [web]page for regaining our forgotten courage"), Vinland Records ("Source for foreign music"), S.S. Enterprises ("Racist record producer") and White Power Music Dot Com, as well as the ubiquious record labels Panzerfaust and Resistance.
While attending SDSU in 1997, Curtis was charged with using La Mesa Police insignia without permission on flyers he'd distributed which described La Mesa as a "nonwhite sewer" and urged citizens to work with police in identifying undesirable "criminal minorities" and "interracial couples."
Curtis once told a reporter, via email, about watching news reports about the Columbine High School shootout in Littleton Colorado. "I did not feel remorse. Instead I was ecstatic and prayed that the shooters were open racists."
On the other side of the battlefield, pointedly anti-racist bands are popping up, such as the Red Skins and International Jet Set. Many feature mixed-race lineups, called "two-tone" groups, and this sort of activism is music to the ears of an organization founded in San Diego known as S.H.A.R.P., or Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice.
Anti-Nazi fanzines like Zoot and Spy Kids have also raised their profiles in recent years, as more and more teenagers react against the incursion of Skinheads and other race-baiters in high schools and mosh pits all over America.
After his release from prison, Resistance Records founder George Burdi severed his ties with the white power movement. He joined a band which included two black members, and now looks back with wry amusement at his attempts to recruit Skinheads to help achieve white supremacy.
"A large percentage of Skinheads, especially in North America, are really hardcore alcoholics," he says now. "It’s too much to expect them to put fliers on cars, but they’ll jump at the chance to buy beer. There’s a real irony in the fact that Hitler would have exterminated most of these guys as social deviants."
Asked how he feels today about calling for racial extermination in songs like "Third Reich," Burdi says "I didn’t write the music or the lyrics for that song...but the people who bought it, they wanted to listen to it and probably already had those ideas in their heads."
Mark Noah's punk band Anti-Heros records for San Diego-based Taang! Records. In the '80s, the group wrote several observational songs about the Skinhead movement for their albums "That's Right" and "Don't Tread On Me."
"It's 'reality rock,'" he says, admitting that, at one time, Anti-Heros didn't mind the occasional audience riot. "We don't try to get all of our crowd to come out and smash things up, or kick people...but it does have a very strong anti-social bent to the lyric construction, or the texture of the music, and, you know, it attracts people that are angry."
But the band is adament about not being considered part of the Skinhead scene. New Line Cinema recently approached Taang! about using Anti-Heros music in a movie about Nazi skinheads. "They wanted to have the inside of this Nazi's room covered with Anti-Heros posters and lyrics, and have him listening to us, and I was like, 'F--- that! Who wants to be painted up like that?' That's the Hollywood version of what this music is, and it's wrong."
Hard rock hero Henry Rollins, who headed one of punk's original front line bands Black Flag, laughs at the notion that white people in America are being driven to extinction. "White people in this country have no clue as to what oppression is," he told VH1 for a Race Rock special.
"I do not know what it’s like to walk into a restaurant and have the staff go, 'Okay, skin color - dodgy. Make 'em pay before they get their order.' My whiteness gives me credibility. I can look low rent, but with this white skin, I will get served. I never understood why rap guys wore the gold on the outside until I started hanging out with some of them...they have to say 'see, I can afford my Grand Slam at Denny’s because I have enough gold. I’m good for the bill.' "
Rollins downplays the influence racist rock bands have on young people. "Let’s not overestimate the sway these corny bands have. They’re really bad. They got no beats, no chops, and just read text when they sing. Their music is like Jamiroquai. It sucks. At the end of the day, people go for better music, but these guys won’t become better musicians."
WHITE THING ADDENDUM
While visiting family in rural northern Georgia, I learned that Hammerfest, aka "The Racist Woodstock," would take place nearby. The event would include sometime-Fallbrook resident Tom Metzger performing karaoke between sets by Whitelaw, Kremator, and Definite Hate.
Metzger, onetime Grand Dragon of the California Ku Klux Klan, was one of the first people to recognize the recruiting potential of white-power music. He has released tape and CD compilations to raise money for his causes.
Hammerfest organizers kept the locale secret until Thursday, only telling attendees (via the stormfront.org website) to book rooms near Douglasville and Lithia Springs. A number of tattooed skinheads and bikers arrived and filled area hotels. When directions were posted online, they indicated that the show would take place Saturday and Sunday at the Georgia Peach Restaurant and Museum, which is run by a convicted sex offender. The museum's relics include black lawn jockeys eating watermelon, "Whites Only" signs, and photos of lynchings.
I hid my long hair under a beanie and drove to the concert site (at which the NAACP later protested). Police were milling around, and I could see people gathered in a field alongside a ramshackle barn building near the restaurant. A security checkpoint had been set up by "Hammerskin Nation Security Personnel," who wore red shirts and black armbands.
I could hear a band playing (badly) and I saw several dozen people walking in and out of the fenced-in area. I don't think there were more than 400 people in attendance, though I was unwilling to pay $35 to enter and see. I asked a guard when Metzger's karaoke session was scheduled.
"He's your hero, too, huh?" said the guard. I nodded slightly, attempting neither affirmative nor negative conviction. The guard assumed the former, possibly sparing my skull from being summarily split. "He's going on [stage] tomorrow, but he's here today; I heard he's walking around, talking to people and checking out the bands."
I returned Sunday to catch Metzger's act, but, near midnight, another band was abusing their equipment and nobody knew when he'd go on.
LOCAL DJ SAYS HE WAS STALKED - A REAL LIFE "PLAY MISTY FOR ME"?
The music industry is rife with stories of deranged celebrity stalkers. A VH1 special on the subject included excerpts from Madonna's court testimony against unwanted admirer Robert Dewey Hoskins (who was sentenced to ten years in state prison for making 'terrorist threats' against the singer), J-Lo's fear of fandom ("I have nightmares that I'll end up like Selena and be killed by someone from my fan club"), and the Bjork devotee who attempted to mail the Icelandic object of his obsession a live bomb and then videotaped his own suicide.
Rare, however, are tales of rabid radio DJ fans.
Of course, disc jockey worship was much more common in the years before automation revolutionized (or at least mechanized) the radio industry, reducing the presence and influence of the on-air personalities who once orchestrated the musical tastes and social inclinations of millions of listeners.
The dark side of audiological obsession formed the basis of the 1971 Clint Eastwood thriller "Play Misty For Me" (the actor's directorial debut). Portraying a jazz radio DJ for station KRML in Carmel California, Eastwood's character finds his life upended by a high-strung female fan who repeatedly calls his show to request her favorite song, the Erroll Garner classic "Misty." This seriously disturbed stalker, chillingly enacted by Jessica Walter, wages a campaign of seduction that instead results in her attempted suicide and eventual death, managing along the way to ruin the DJ's job, his relationship with a longtime girlfriend and ambushing his maid with a butcher knife.
"Hey, this is your psycho freako, don't come home, freakout, freakout person. Hey dude, you never served me with that restraining order…I'm waiting on you to serve your f-ing restraining order, --hole. Come on now, big boy, let's do it…have a good night, f-ing --hole."
The preceding isn't dialogue from "Misty" – it's transcribed from a recorded voicemail message left for DJ Todd Braun (on-air moniker "Todd Kelly"), allegedly recorded in December 2000 by a female listener in San Diego, Karolin Sickles.
The real-life psychodrama he claims to have endured at her hands resembles "Play Misty For Me" in many ways. Except for the part where the stalker falls off a cliff to her death, and ignoring the unlikely circumstance of a radio DJ who can actually afford his own maid.
Kelly says that Sickles "terrorized" him over several years while he DJ'd at three different radio stations. In December 2000, KGB owners Clear Channel Communications, Inc., his employers at the time, filed a restraining order request against Sickles, seeking to keep the former fan-turned-fanatic from contacting Kelly, either in person or over the phone, for a minimum of one year. "I am afraid that she will escalate her behavior, including possible violent conduct," stated Kelly in the request. "She appears to be highly delusional, believing that I am in a romantic relationship with her. She also appears to be stalking me, following me to my promotional appearances and monitoring my movements in and out of the Clear Channel broadcast studios."
Sickles first began calling in song requests while Kelly worked at KIOZ/Rock 105.3 from 1993 through 1997. He didn't come face to face with her until working for XHRM at their National City headquarters. "During the summer of 1998," according to Kelly, "Ms. Sickles came to the radio station late at night during my on-air shift and pressed her face up against the glass window of our studio. I did not know her but assumed she was a listener who wished to make a request. When I opened the door to see what she wanted, Ms. Sickles grabbed the back of my neck and tried to kiss me. I immediately pushed her away and told her to leave and closed the door to the studio."
Kelly became aware of the woman's identity after recognizing her at promotional events and connecting her to the increasingly disturbing phone calls which followed him to station KGB 101.5 in April 1999, after he took over the 7:00 p.m. to midnight slot. That's when he began recording his voicemail messages.
"You just can't give up. You just cannot f-ing just like let it go…you have your life, you have your strippers, you have everything that you possibly f-ing want and everything you're doing in my life and what you're doing with me and my kids, I don't understand. I don't get it and I'm really like tired of it, okay? I'm tired of like staying up 'til midnight and dancing. I'm tired of like doing all that crap that I do for you and I don't receive anything back…you're a big f-ing star now, okay?"
Kelly denies that he and Sickles ever had anything remotely like a relationship. "This is absolutely not true. I have never seen Ms. Sickles on a social basis, am not involved in any romantic relationship with her and have only seen her at promotional appearances I make for the radio station."
One of those appearances took place in March 2000 at the downtown Hard Rock Café. "Ms. Sickles became very angry that I was talking to other people at the bar. She walked over to me, was visibly shaking and began shouting at me. She then punched me in the stomach with her fist."
Returning to the disc jockey booth, Kelly informed KGB promotions assistant Erica Gonzales of the assault. Gonzales says "I saw Ms. Sickles following Mr. Braun [Todd Kelly] around while he was talking to other bar patrons, especially other women in the bar." She notified security to evict Sickles but, before guards could arrive, the woman tried to gain entry to the booth and Gonzales refused to let her in. "Ms. Sickles then angrily swung her arm at a group of glasses on a nearby table…I was hit with the contents of some of the glasses. After this incident, the security personnel removed Ms. Sickles from the bar. While this was happening, she was screaming 'don't come home' at Mr. Braun and was telling the security personnel that she was actually in a relationship with him."
"I don't want to be with you no more, okay, and I want to be let go and I'm serious and you might think I'm a psycho freak and you can tell your friends that I am, but you know and I know it's time to let it go, Todd. It's time to f-ing let it go…I'm not gonna f-ing hang on no more, there's no reason for it."
During a November 2000 phone call, Kelly says "Ms. Sickles stated that I 'had some explaining to do.' I told [her] that I did not know her, I have never been in any type of relationship, romantic or otherwise, with her, and that her behavior was disturbing to me. Ms. Sickles became very angry on the phone, began breathing heavily, growling and shouting at me. I told [her] that I was concerned and was considering getting some type of restraining order against her…[she] growled at me and hung up." He says that night he watched fearfully over his shoulder for Sickles as he drove home and that he couldn't sleep once he got there.
Early December: "I spoke with officer Doug Reinhart of the San Diego Police Department," remembers Todd Kelly. "Officer Reinhart informed me that Ms. Sickles had made a complaint to the police that KGB and I were stalking her by placing 'bugs' and hidden cameras in her home. [He] also indicated that Ms. Sickles had described my truck, including my license number, and she had also accurately described the car parked next to my truck in the Clear Channel parking lot that day."
On hearing this, Kelly immediately checked his voice mail, finding two messages from Sickles, including one where she shouted at him and called him an "a-hole" and a "f---er."
"I'm tired of like the thing that you've done to my work…when you know that you have bugged the place, we know that, you know that, everybody who knows you knows that and yet you don't f-ing let me go…you're not living by the border anymore, you're f-ing uptown, f-ing like just let it go, just let it f-ing just like go."
On December 11th, Kelly turned the recorded voicemail messages over to Clear Channel's attorneys, Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, and on the 14th the entertainment conglomerate filed a lawsuit (GIC759466 Clear Channel Communications v. Sickles Karolin) at the downtown county courthouse on Broadway, seeking to "prohibit civil harassment" on the part of Sickles. Monetary damages weren't an issue – the order sought only to prevent her from "engaging in the described conduct toward all Clear Channel employees" in the San Diego area and to ban her from "all promotional events conducted by Clear Channel radio stations."
The order was granted with no opposition filed by Sickles, requiring her to stay 100 yards away from Todd Kelly's workplace and home and from any public events where he appears under penalty of possible arrest and prosecution. Karolin Sickles has dutifully adhered to the court order, but this doesn't preclude her from responding to inquiries regarding the suit.
When I contacted Sickles by phone awhile back, she said the friction between her and Kelly began when she used to call the DJ at Rock 105.3. "I told him a joke and he said he'd take the joke [and repeat it] over the air and then he said that I was a racist. He had all these people calling in and saying that I was a racist and that's not at all what [the joke] was about."
As far as the restraining order goes, she says, "It was pretty unpleasant because it was based upon what one person who has a microphone can say about one individual…[he] said some things about me and when I turned around and tried to defend myself he got his attorneys involved and those declarations you find there [in the courthouse file] are all based on lies and hearsay. He then tried to say that I was crazy. They had a court appointed psychiatrist come out and visit me and even the psychiatrist and police officer that with me said that I wasn't crazy."
Sickles denies stalking the DJ and she tells me that statements sworn to by other Clear Channel employees should be discounted. "I hope that whoever was a part of all that [lawsuit], Coe Lewis and then there was another girl named Erica [Gonzales, promotions assistant] and just a whole bunch of people were involved, all those people signed those declarations under penalty of perjury. And every single one of them lied." She never pursued legal reprisal, however, neither disputing nor replying to the original complaint in any way.
"I had him, Jay, I really had him, I really could have took them all down…honestly, I believe that some people know the truth about what he said and know that he lied. He really committed perjury and I really could have had him, I really could have had him good, but I was exhausted. The attorney was free, it wasn't anything about money, I could have totally done it but I was tired…I just decided it was easier not to fight it, to let it go."
As of 2003, Todd Kelly was an on-air personality in San Bernadino. I asked Sickles how she feels about Kelly now. "It just didn't turn out to be a good thing and I wish Todd all the best…I feel like the guy has a lot of good qualities and that he's a good guy. I think also that he tried to sell himself as a person that he's not. He puts himself under all this pressure to be this person that he's not so that people like Clear Channel can make money and that's basically what it's all about…I've made it a really big point to stay out of his way."
LAWYERS, SONGS AND MONEY - LOCAL LAWSUITS
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, or George Harrison being sued over his 1970 hit “My Sweet Lord” for “subconscious plagiarism,” because the chorus sounded too similar to the Chiffons’ 1963 song “He’s So Fine.” 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 is 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 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."
PAIN AND SUFFERING LAWSUITS
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, with litigants seeking compensatory damage awards to varying degrees of success and failure.
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. Interviewed in April 2003, he explained “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.
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