Hit with a Beer Bottle at a Riot
I have this habit of forgetting that I’m not, in fact, John Wayne.
Nor am I Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood or Sonny Chiba. I am not an action star and I’m not a super hero. I’m just a guy that has traveled around, run his mouth, and continually has forgotten that he is not blessed with anything that will allow him to saunter into an altercation with the odds stacked staggeringly against him and walk out unscathed. It must be some kind of chemical imbalance.
“Clinically referred to as -I don’t give a fuck-”
So, this is why I can’t be surprised that things went so terribly south during one particular evening in 2003.
I ended up, through an acquaintance at the gym I was boxing at and working at part time, Tommy’s gym, accepting a security gig at a bar down the street. The occasion that warranted the security was a special TSOL concert. The lead vocalist, Jack Grisham, had decided to run for governor of California, and the show was part of his efforts to “drum up support.”
At this point, it would be a fitting maneuver to explain a little about TSOL and Grisham for those of you who don’t know, because without any knowledge, the need for security won’t make sense and the idea of Jack Grisham running for governor won’t be nearly as entertaining.
TSOL stands for True Sounds Of Liberty and had its genesis during the ’80′s hardcore-punk explosion in Los Angles alongside other well-known hardcore staples such as Black Flag, The Circle Jerks and punk mainstay Social Distortion.
Henry Rollins once said, on his paramount and fantastic Spoken Word Album Get in the Van, that what Black Flag had created was a soundtrack for a full-blown riot; TSOL is little different.
Some concerns should have set of alarm bells in my mind. I was working five nights a week at a big nightclub, The Shark Club, in Orange County and we had trouble regularly. I had worked at clubs all over Palm Springs, L.A. and O.C. but despite this experience, I walked into a very volatile situation like I was going to a picnic with my Grandma. Perhaps it was the 50 dollars I really needed so that I could eat. Or perhaps it was the chance to see TSOL live, or maybe it was both. But I learned quickly that when one adds TSOL, a load of ex-convict skin heads, Da Hui guys and Dennis Rodman, things can go well array.
“Eddie Rothman, one of Da Hui’s founders.”
The place was packed. I had arrived shortly before 1800 to help out and check things out and now, at 1845 it was already packed. Working the door with “Mark”, the guy masquerading as the security manager and who, a few months later, would violate his parole for possession and domestic disturbance, I was checking people out as they came in and was pleasantly surprised; lots of blondes, lots of beach bodies, lots of mellow looking cool people. With a proximity so near to New Port beach, this seemed to fit.
We weren’t doing pat downs like we did at my normal club because the owner of the bar had said it wasn’t necessary, and Mark clearly wasn’t taking this too seriously. I had already seen him put down three beers in the space of fifteen minutes. I convinced myself that this wasn’t something to worry about. Personally, I never drink when I work security or protection. It’s just a bad idea and it’s unprofessional. This isn’t as much of a hard and fast rule as one might think however, not with other bouncers and bodyguards I have discovered. Mark was proving that right in front of me by crushing another Budweiser can and tossing it into the bin near the front door.
The atmosphere started to shift, and clearly, at around 1910 when the skin heads started to arrive. They showed up in packs of five or six and were what you might expect with lot’s of tattoos, lots of grizzled faces and generally unpleasant expressions. They assaulted the bar immediately, although it was clear most of them had been drinking before they showed up. Their long jean shorts, wife beaters, wallet chains and the occasional swastika tattooed on deltoids or a bicep contrasted starkly with the fake palm trees and mellow cabana lighting inside the bar.
These guys raised my alert levels and I made a mental note of my fellow security guys. Mark was across from me shaking hands and letting people in and the Brit, “Scott”, an amateur boxer with a nearly impenetrable cockney accent, was floating around near the toilets smiling at the collection of tanned and beach blonde women mulling around.
Later, when all hell broke loose, Scott would actually be in the toilet with one of those bleach blonde women and hence, of no help at all.
Fairly dark thoughts were forming based on our lack of experience together and no real SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) in case of a throw down and I was about to step across the entry way and speak to Mark when the focus of the entire place shifted sharply and I turned and saw Dennis Rodman standing in the doorway.
I’m a big man, but Rodman dwarfs me. This wasn’t the first time I had met him though. I had spoken to him briefly at The Shark club six months early and we had talked about Mixed Martial Arts for fifteen minutes and he was a fairly regular fixture in the area. He lived in Newport beach, really just down the road, and his reputation and propensity for trying to “Keep in real” meant that he showed up at all sorts of shit he really had no business at.
Here I have to shake my head in disappointment at myself. I let Rodman and his wife showing up on that ridiculous moped distract me from what were the early warning signs of a storm brewing over by the bar. Bottles of beer being passed out and consumed. Narrow eyes looking passed thick lids just scanning the territory. A lot of scar tissue and calcified knuckles.
Shortly after Rodman and his lady moved into the bar is when the third part of this chemical explosion showed up; Eddie Rothman and the Da Hui boys.
Rothman came in and immediately gave a business card, and fifty bucks each, to myself and to Mark. I had no idea who he was, but I had heard of Da Hui, a team of pro surfers that travel the world essentially carving waves and getting in fights. He was well-built and was followed into the bar by between 5 to seven guys, all of whom were big, heavily tanned and muscular.
The tension between the skins and the Da Hui guys was immediate, but within ten minutes the show started.
“Surely this man would never incite a riot.”
TSOL was immediately and intensely off the chain. They rocked. Hard. It was a really heavy show and they were going for it. Grisham’s vocals were awesome and the entire bar was alive in a huge, huge way.
In the center of the floor, in front of the small stage that was set up, a mosh pit had quickly formed. The action inside was rough but nothing over the top. I’ve been in some brutal pits over the years, the worst ones back in small town no-where-land when cranked out skins were literally head butting chicks in the face and then brutally kicking the shit out of their boyfriends when they tried to step up and on their way out they would smash car windows; just because. This pit was rough but contained, and in retrospect this should have clued me in. This wasn’t an MXPX concert, and skin heads don’t come to these for exercise and networking. They come to fuck shit up. The fact that they hadn’t yet was disturbing.
The skin heads were going round and round, but weren’t physically making much contact with other people. It was like they were just ramping up their vibration for an onslaught and there was a clear and unmistakable hum of menace to the entire place. This all went nuclear when TSOL finally played Code Blue.
Within thirty seconds of the songs initial cords it was like the skin head guys had decided to let the battle begin and the mosh put doubled in size and everyone was getting crunched. Girls, guys, big people, little people. Didn’t matter. The entire bar was beginning to get razed. Rodman grabbed his wife and they were out within a minute. It looked that bad.
Mark and I tried, truly in vain, to get these guys to calm down but we might as well have hopped into the Gorilla inclosure at the zoo and asked the boys there to let us just “hang out here for a while.”
I had to grab two girls that got planted by the rotation and current of the pit and I pulled them toward the door. It was right about when I reached the door and saw Mark gesturing for people to go through, most of the “normal” patrons had decided to call it a night, that the band said “Thank you, we’re fucking out.” And on hearing that, Mark and Iwent outside to try to clear a path for all the other patrons to exit.
Rodman was standing out there and we all started talking to him. He was on fire. “Holy shit those motherfuckers aren’t kidding!” And we were all laughs and joking until this very petite little blonde woman came up to me and asked, “Uh, are you guys like, the security?”
We all stared at her and Mark and I both said together. “Yeah.”
“Well, they’re fucking destroying that place in there.”
We looked at each other for a second and then both took off for the door and into the bar.
Inside it was absolute and utter bedlam.
There was no longer “a bar”. Within the space of 3 or 4 minutes, they had completely torn the bar out of the floor. Two windows at the back of the place were shattered. No table remained standing. Someone had lit a fake palm tree on fire. I had five seconds or so to take in the scene and it was fights wall to wall. A massively built, brown Da Hui guy effortlessly slammed some skin heads face directly into the pool table to my left with such velocity that the guy bounced off it and landed completely motionless on the floor.
Then, across the room I saw it; a group of guys, at least six of them, surrounding one body that was in the corner, on the floor between the wall and the stage, and they were completely kicking the shit out of him. I grabbed Mark’s T-shirt and yelled “Stay on my back!” and I bound forward across the club. I would later learn that Mark, who had spent a couple of years in prison, had extreme survival instincts, took one look at the situation and said “Fuck this,” and had turned around and walked out. Thanks.
Well, I reached the group just as some other guy, neither a skin head nor a surfer grabbed my neck, as if to shove me, and I simply smashed my forehead into his face and chucked his head toward the opposite side of the room and he went flying into some turned over tables.
I stepped up to the group and could see nothing but boots flying into the prone body on the floor. I dropped my right hand low and shot a hook into the kidney area of the guy closest to me. I hit him really hard and this stood him up straight and I grabbed his chin with one hand and covered his eyes with the other and snapped his head back sending him slamming heavily into the ground. The next guy in the group I just fish hooked, turned him and then bodily shoved him away. Amazingly, the group had somehow cleared and I saw the guy on the ground, his face covered in blood and I moved to kneel down to help him up when I got rocked.
Whatever hit me felt like it was a lead pipe. It propelled me six feet to my left and turned my body 45 degrees. I must have blacked out on my feet for a moment, because the next thing I remember is that I was leaning, my hands holding me up, against the low stage, looking up I saw two really attractive girls, one blonde and one brunette on the stage, holding each other, terrified. In the next moment I felt my head bobbing forward and realized that someone was punching me.
I spun around in time to get a fist directly in my mouth. Then another in my shoulder, one in my head, another in my collar-bone area. Three skin heads were standing in front of me having a workout. The visual woke me up and I started swinging wildly, still getting hit, and mostly hitting them in areas that didn’t feel important but I knew that if I went down I’d be sleeping in the hospital that night. This wild barrage gave me enough space to roll up onto the stage, pick up the mic stand and drill the heavy base directly into the lead guys teeth. I was dizzy and the entire right side of my face felt wrong. The blonde that was on the stage grabbed me and screamed, all sense of culture or control or civility now gone “Get us the FUCK OUT OF HERE!” She had a crazed, dangerous look in her eye’s and spit and drool was coming out of her mouth.
I took in the scene again while trying to ward off two angry skin heads from on top of the stage. The room a swarm of violence. Several prone, motionless bodies on the dark floor. Music equipment all over. Just then some little guy came dashing toward the stage, past the skin heads and leapt, head first over the stage and out a back door that I hadn’t realized was behind me, that was blocked by sound equipment.
The girls and I moved to the far end of the stage and in the process lost the remaining skin heads, jumped down and pushed through the crowds to the front door and out into the parking lot. The parking lot was no better. People were all over, two fighting between two cars to my right. I grabbed the brunette girl and asked her, roughly “Look at my eye, is it OK?” She was sobbing. “What do you mean?” I lost it. ” I mean is it in my fucking skull or hanging out of it?!” I screeched at her and she just sobbed uncontrollably. I couldn’t see out of my right eye, and I couldn’t feel anything on that side of my face and had assumed the worst.
I then saw Mark by the front door and just then a girl, stereotypically blonde, cute, wearing a tight white t-shirt showing off her 24-hour fitness body with little jean shorts came stumbling out of the bar covered in blood. Her nose was clearly broken and gushing crimson and she had a wicked black eye.
I then went completely mad, walked back into the bar. Mark tried to grab me and I shoved him back, I picked up a pool cue off the table, took a step forward and hit the first skin head type that I saw, some guy who was actually trying to leave the bar, squarely in the face. A second later Mark, and a few other people were dragging me out of the bar and I was screaming and cussing and completely losing it.
A few minutes later I had calmed down and saw across the street, four police cruises parked, engines idling. The cops had been called by the owner of the bar, and they came, but they decided not to do anything. Fights went on for a quarter-mile in both directions up and down the street.
Forty Five minutes later, the Da Hui guys were gone having escaped in some piece of shit little sky-blue van someone had. Rodman was gone; he and his wife had taken off on their bedazzled huge white moped. TSOL had been the first to split when they realized that this show to drum up support for a bid at governor hadn’t worked out as planned, and finally the cops came strolling in.
I was sitting on the pool table by the door, a bag of ice over the right side of my face when the worst case scenario came waddling up to me; a short, offensively fat cop, balding, stupid mustache, white as a ghost and then said with a snarky little laugh “So, what happened to you there, buddy?” I tried to say nothing and failed horribly. “Just doing your job officer.”
His smile vanished. “What did you say?” I removed the ice from my face and looked at him. “I said, good work officer.” He was now a shade of red. “Watch it son, you really need to watch—” I cut him off. “You’re a real fucking hero. Thanks for the help.” And with this totally unnecessary jab, I got off the table, went and found the owner, who was in bad shape and totally distraught about everything and told him to give me my money because I was leaving.
“Jesus, can you drive? I think you need to go to the hospital.”
I sighed. “Just pay me man. I’m outta here.” I lightly touched the swollen, misshapen right side of my face and said, nearly a whisper. “I am totally fucking out of here.”
And he did. Actually he gave me 100 dollars, double what we were supposed to be paid. Then I walked down the street to the gym in the dark where I had parked my truck, got in and with a high level of difficulty drove home.
When I got to the apartment in Dartmouth Court, right next to the UCI campus, I walked in passing the big pool glowing yellow and gold and blue in the center of the attractive apartment community, got out my keys, went inside, ignored my girlfriend, drank a half a bottle of NyQuil, took several Ibuprofen, put a bag of frozen peas over my face and passed out for 13 hours.
Long night, but at least I made 150 bucks. Less than six months later I would be getting off the bus from Narita Airport at the West Exit of Shinjuku station knowing nobody, with two bags and a thousand dollars to my name and I’ll never forget what the city looked like. Different.
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