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A Skeleton in San Diego’s Closet

Twenty-nine years ago this week (12/7/79), the city’s first punk venue, downtown’s Skeleton Club, reopened at 202 West Market Street. The original locale on Fourth Avenue, across from Horton Plaza, had been shut down the previous month due to zoning problems and what club owner Laura Fraser alleged to be police and municipal harassment.

The new Skeleton Club held 350 people and served only soft drinks and coffee, though Fraser hoped to open a bar and restaurant next door. On opening night, the Penetrators, Mature Adults, Non, and the Rick Elias Band all performed free, donating door proceeds to Fraser’s fund to keep the club operating. They sold 325 tickets at $3 apiece.

“I remember a room full of sweaty people that were crushed against the stage,” recalls former Penetrator Gary Heffern. “The lighting in the place was horrible, there were couches that were spread around, and the place stank. I was overwhelmed and shocked at the amount of people that showed up.”

However, fire marshals appeared and announced the room was 100 people over its capacity, even though the tables and chairs had been removed for the event. Owner Fraser took the stage and asked if any volunteers would depart in return for a refund. “Police are ticketing cars parked illegally on Market Street,” she announced, “so maybe those people should be the ones to leave.”

Fraser later told local magazine Kicks (January 1980), “Can you imagine? I’ve never done anything that ridiculous before in my life.” Fire marshals were eventually satisfied, and the show continued. The club would remain embattled on many fronts, until its eventual demise. To be continued.…

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Twenty-nine years ago this week (12/7/79), the city’s first punk venue, downtown’s Skeleton Club, reopened at 202 West Market Street. The original locale on Fourth Avenue, across from Horton Plaza, had been shut down the previous month due to zoning problems and what club owner Laura Fraser alleged to be police and municipal harassment.

The new Skeleton Club held 350 people and served only soft drinks and coffee, though Fraser hoped to open a bar and restaurant next door. On opening night, the Penetrators, Mature Adults, Non, and the Rick Elias Band all performed free, donating door proceeds to Fraser’s fund to keep the club operating. They sold 325 tickets at $3 apiece.

“I remember a room full of sweaty people that were crushed against the stage,” recalls former Penetrator Gary Heffern. “The lighting in the place was horrible, there were couches that were spread around, and the place stank. I was overwhelmed and shocked at the amount of people that showed up.”

However, fire marshals appeared and announced the room was 100 people over its capacity, even though the tables and chairs had been removed for the event. Owner Fraser took the stage and asked if any volunteers would depart in return for a refund. “Police are ticketing cars parked illegally on Market Street,” she announced, “so maybe those people should be the ones to leave.”

Fraser later told local magazine Kicks (January 1980), “Can you imagine? I’ve never done anything that ridiculous before in my life.” Fire marshals were eventually satisfied, and the show continued. The club would remain embattled on many fronts, until its eventual demise. To be continued.…

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Comments
3

Earlier chapters of the Skeleton Club saga can be found at:

and www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2007/feb/01/flour-power/

Mark DeCerbo of Four Eyes emailed this: "Ah, The Skeleton Club. Kinda dark and seedy, but not in a bad way mind you, it had a cool rock vibe to it. It was like San Diego's version of Liverpool's Cavern Club, I imagine, though I've never been to England. I remember it was started by a nurse, Laura Fraser, who was really into original music. Four Eyes only played there two or three times, because it was mostly a punk scene and we were more of a power pop band...I don't remember if we got paid but, if we did, it wasn't much."

Dec. 3, 2008

For years I've wondered where on Market it was, because that was our rehearsal space (The Rick Elias Band) for a while along with a great place to do gigs. I remember that opening night -- we weren't punk and I'm sure only three people liked us, but it had a giant vibe. There was an old guy who managed the place and whose office was out back, always had a gun sitting on his desk. Downtown rocked back then -- really seedy; not seedy as compared to big cities, but seedy for San Diego. Great memories.

Dec. 8, 2008

I hardly remember that night ... did Rick kick a trash can from the stage at FONO? It was all so new to me after having been in the band Listen for 7 years playing Beach Boys and Yes tunes and then finding myself amongst a bunch of punk rockers in sleazy downtown SD .. were the Naughty Sweeties there? Ah, the (sort of) memories ...

Sept. 5, 2009

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