Panic In Detroit

greystone

I posted a blog earlier about my recollections of an incident at the Greystone Hall in Detroit on July 4th, 1987. At the time the event just seemed like part of the fabric of the odd world of punk rock touring. Recently I was asked about the blog posting by someone doing a documentary. But was my recollection the truth? Considering this was over 30 years ago, I went back to primary sources for another experiment on the accuracy of memory. And as always with Tom and Greg, hilarity ensues:

C: (starting off with my memory of the incident) For me, I was upstairs so all I heard was the bang, and the building kinda shook, and then you (Greg) ran upstairs.

Tom: First of all, were you (Carmela) getting or giving someone a haircut?

C: I was giving one of the guys from the Electric Love Muffin a haircut. He had curly hair. And when the car hit the building, we didn’t know what was going on cause we we upstairs. But it was either the sound or the shake that scared me so much that I stabbed myself in the hand with the scissors.

T: Really?

C: Cause I was cutting his hair and I was holding out a curl, and BAM !!… it startled me. I had a fucking hole in my hand for a while. And then I think it was you (Greg) who came upstairs. And you were like “Oh my God, have you been up here the whole time?” And we’re like “Yeah what’s going on?” And you said “You missed everything!” And then you told us the story of what was going on downstairs. I think maybe some of the other Muffins ran upstairs with you because they were looking for us, or their guy.

MI0001404477

(The Electric Love Muffin, back in the day, note the guy with curly hair behind the front-man)

T: Do you want to start back earlier in the day?

C: Yeah let’s start earlier. I think the whole day was kinda a trip.

T: I don’t remember anything about the building, but I remember us showing up and getting in there. And there was Big Scary (the club promoter) and a smattering of little punk rock kids that were hanging out, all seated on the floor. And he was like “Bad news, The Descendents blew the P.A. last night”. We had been playing a lot with the Descendents so we were like “Oh man, kicked in the face by them again”. So there was gonna be no show. We were disappointed, and we had nothing to do but hang out with him all day. I do remember he said, “Oh you guys are supposed to have food, and we don’t got any food. What are you? Fucking Californians? And eat avocados?” And he was making cracks like that.

C: He called us “California Faggot Vegetarians.” Is that what you remember?

T: Yeah “Faggot vegetarians”

G: Didn’t he have salad for us?

T: He had something.

G: And wasn’t he cooking? The thing that I remember, the first memory I have is “Wow the show’s off, but it’s kinda cool the guy’s here. And he did have, I’m almost positive, some salad. Cause I remember looking at it, and it was the weirdest salad ever. Because there was like, tin foil, on this table, with salad spread out over the whole table. And there was dressing on it, and it was like, baking. Like drying. And I was vegan at the time. Weren’t they cooking meat too?

C: I thought when we pulled up, he was barbecuing.

T: He was barbecuing

C: We got out of the van, and he told us the bad news. And he was barbecuing.  And he said “ I hope none of youse are a bunch of California Faggot Vegetarians because we’re barbecuing.”  And we were all sorta like (looking at our shoes) “oh, yeah, uh….”  Nobody said anything but we were all thinking like “Oh my God…..” And I think later on you (Greg) said “Yeah, we’re all California Faggot Vegetarians”. And he said “I knew it!! I knew you would be faggot vegetarians! And that’s why I got this salad for you!” I remember there was salad.

T: There was….. quite a spread!  And immediately he’s like “We need beer for the band.” And he literally picked one of the underage punk kids up, and shook him upside down by his ankles until the change fell out of his pockets.

C: I don’t remember that.

G: That’s great!

T: So, he literally shook these kids down for money. Then we got the money. Me and Kary went in his car to the liquor store. It was my only foray into Detroit. I had a little bonding moment with him, and he was telling me like his history, and weird biker shit. And we got to the liquor store. And I remember going to a KFC, but I don’t know…..maybe that’s blurring in my brain.

G: It sounds like that would be a delicacy, if you went to KFC!

All laugh

G: And we’d be pissed.

T: Well the liquor store had the big, thick 4” glass, which you kinda see now a little more often. But then it was like, whoa, I’m not in California. “Holy Crap, what kind of war zone is this?” He was telling me how bad ass and dangerous Detroit was, and all the craziness.  I was like, simultaneously impressed and thinking “is this guy some kind of a blowhard?” at the same time.  And when we got back and later in the evening, I was like “Holy shit, this is Detroit!”

G: I just remember thinking, it was kinda of nice of him to do all this.  We could have shown up, and just been told that it was canceled. I always like it when they blame the P.A. on the band. Um, you’re twiddling the knobs there.

T: It probably was the big fucking skinhead road manager that the Descendents had. Remember that dude? That big ginger guy we had to kiss ass to all the time. He hated us.

G: I thought the club name was Graceland.

C: Oh, I didn’t even remember the name of the club until I wrote the first blog.

T: Yeah till this happened. Well, what else I was gonna say about his weirdness? I can’t remember. God it’s terrible being me.

C: It’s ok, we’re all in the same boat. This was 30 years ago.

T: Well anyway, we come back (from the liquor store). So there’s beers.

G: There wasn’t a lot of people, right?

T: No there were just kids hanging out. We don’t know if they were left over from the previous night, or they showed up every night. Or they came to see us. They were young, punk rock kids and there was this big, fat biker. It was weird. So you (Carmela) started doing haircuts, and I was happy about it too. Like, this was kinda nice.

G: Yeah. It was a break.  I remember that.

T: I’ve been around some dangerous people. You know some people, when they are dangerous and drunk, you just kinda feel like anything could happen? I did not get that.

G: No,  I didn’t get that either.

T: I knew he was a bad-assed kind of guy.  I didn’t get a bad vibe from him, like it was going to go sour. Like Bob Noxious or someone like that. Like, this could get weird any second.

G; Like pulling out the knife and stabbing the air conditioner.

C: He seemed more like a Monterey Mark. A very tough guy but underneath was nice and kind.

T: Ok here’s my thing, so you guys are upstairs giving haircuts and I was downstairs. I remember sitting in a room, and I think I was against a wall. And hearing the slam, and really not knowing what it was. But for some reason, in hindsight, I knew what happened. But my memory thinks I saw the wall come in. I don’t know if that’s a false memory or not. But what I do remember is this:

BOOM!!!!!! And somebody running to the door, looking out, and coming back in and saying what happened and Kary doing this (Tom mimics someone pulling a gun out of a holster and pointing and firing.) And I don’t know where the gun came from, but he stood up and drew it like “HUZZZZZAAAAAAAHHHHH” Like a pirate that pulls his sword.

And all those the fucking Detroit kids hit the ground like they’d been practicing it, you know.  Greg and I still had beers in our hands, because we were a little hammered by that point and we’re like “What is going on??” Not knowing whether it was a joke. Later in the evening I understood there was some sort of previous friction between the guy who drove through, but I thought it was just an accident. Big Kary talked a like a bad ass, but he was a lovable guy, and now he’s kinda my new friend…..and OH MY GOD… he’s pulling a 45 or whatever that big hand cannon was. Holy cow, the kids hitting the ground was awful.

G: Do you remember the aftermath of that at all?

T: I don’t think there was much.

G: I don’t either

C: Did he fire the gun?

T: No

G: No

C: (To Greg ) Is that your same recollection (of  Tom’s account) ?

G: No.  My recollection is that I was on the main floor, it was almost like a rec hall type place, in a rectangle. I just remember a few people came running through the door, from the front door, and you could see fear on their faces. You know what I mean. And they spread out and went to the sides. And so, I ran, or we ran, or whatever. The guy (Kary) was there and he was kinda running, but like walking, and he says “Get my gun.” And he went to the office, that’s where his gun was, and he came back with it.  The car came through, but I thought someone was coming inside with a gun.

C: So, you didn’t see the car?

G: The car came through.

C: You saw it?

G: I heard it when I was running. But I thought it was a person.

T: But you never saw the car.

G: I did see the car.

T: See, I just thought I saw the wall move, get shoved in.

C: You saw the wall move, and did you know what had happened?

T: Not until the kids went out and checked, or came running in like Greg said. And they said “someone ran into the place”. I don’t think anyone knew what was happening. I didn’t realize he went to the office for his gun. I thought it was in his belt or something.

G: I remember him saying that “Get my gun”, summoning somebody, ya know?

T: Those kids were his minions.

G: But I think the false memory is that it (the car) actually came through. But, you heard it, and the fear, you could see the fear in the people. Except for the guy with the gun.

T: Cause when I learned it was a car, my brain was still trying do the Canadian thing…. “No one’s upset, there’s no trouble here. There’s an accident. Someone accidentally drove through.”  I still wasn’t wrapping my head around that somebody was vengefully trying to fucking drive into the club. I thought it was just another screw up.

Imagine if that happened, if we had the show. And.. (of course, talking about false memories)….and the club was full. There probably would have been 8 more people then were there.

C: Imagine if that happened now?? He probably would have shot somebody, right? Cause nowadays if somebody was barging into a club like that, you would think it was a terrorist attack.

T: Well if it happened nowadays, Kary would have gone to jail for having a gun.  There would have been SWAT teams there for the club. The police response for anything now is so over the top then it was then. You know what I mean? It’s crazy.

G: Yeah, it’s a cliché but no fries, it’s the way we go about certain things, we come in heavy now.

T: Yeah, like helicopters

C: Did either of you guys see the person in the car?

G: No

T: No

C: Did the guy get out of the car and run away?

G:  I never saw him, …uh

T: Did the guy even leave the car? Did he pull the car out, and drive away?

G: He probably pulled it out and drove.

T: Yeah, I kinda feel like that’s right.

G: But I think we left really quickly.

T: Left? Where did we go?

C: So, after the car hit, and you saw him (Kary) pull the gun out, and everybody dropped… I guess the guy left?

G: Yeah, we went back , and he (Kary), with the gun, was walking towards the car. So you wanted to be away from that.

T: Yeah, so that’s why we went upstairs

G: Did we leave quickly or did we stick around?

T: Go where? I thought we spent that night in the club?

G: Did we sleep there?

C: I have no memory after you coming up and telling me about it. As a matter of fact, to be honest, I thought we played. I thought this all happened after we played. I don’t even remember that there was no show that night.

T: I seem to recall, just that feeling of, you (Carmela) being really upset because there was a gun involved, and this is clearly not safe because we’re in Detroit and people are driving their cars through walls. And the owner is pulling a gun out. And being bummed because I was drunk, a little buzzed, and wanting to continue on with the evening. Like, “the guy’s gone now, the gun’s away, everything’s fine. Let’s go back to normal, we still got some spaghetti! Everything’s fine now.  Everybody be happy again. Don’t trip”

G: “There’s still beer left!”

T: “We’re not driving to Wisconsin!”

G: Where would we have gone?

C: (To Tom) Did you come upstairs?

T: We may have both come upstairs. I remember the guy on the stool and you cutting hair.

C: I remember you being just blown away that we were upstairs the entire time, and we missed the whole thing basically. And you were really excited.

G: I mean….a car coming through… a guy with a gun……ya know

T: That as big excitement! That was the most….

G: Isn’t tour all about distractions?

T: A distraction from the fact that all you got paid for this night was some dried out lettuce and some hotdogs!

G: I have to say, which is really pitiful too, is that I have a fond memory of this.  I think part of it was 1) we got a break and 2) we got to hang out together in this weird scene and 3) (pause)….. there was food.

C: And beer!

G: Yeah and that was something you struggle with all the time. And so, it was nice.

T: Yeah like whenever we have food and beer, its like, we’re in the motel, we’re in our happy place, let’s stay there.

G: Let’s stay there and enjoy this as much as we can.

T: Cause we were really good with having fun…..with beer.

G: Yeah

C: Well, I had had a really bad experience with a gun probably 2 years before that, so I could see me…

T: oh, yeah , over at Dogee’s (a friend of ours)

C: Yeah, so I could see me freaking out and not wanting to stay there, if there was a gun there.

G: I think we left

T: But where did we go?

G: I don’t know but I think we left

C: Did we go get a motel?  Motel 6?

T: I do remember that it was in Michigan that you (Greg) found out that Burger King had vegan grease. So we’d buy their French fries, we’d all eat their French fries and all our farts would smell the same. So no one could tell “Who did that?”. (everyone laughs) Michigan was where George first went off the vegetarian bandwagon and had McDonald’s, remember? And we were like “Don’t do it!!” And he ended up getting so sick.

C: I remember him having the bag, and Greg said something like “I’m not judging you George, but I just have one thing to say”.  And he said “What?” and you said “Rainforest.” (everyone laughs)

And then he opened the bag and started eating, but I could tell he felt bad about it. But it was too late.

T: It’s like, “I’m eating the Rainforest.”

C: So did we stick around? Did the guys in Electric Love Muffin go with us? Or did they go back home?

G: Were we heading towards Michigan? Or were we heading towards the East Coast?

T: I think we were heading towards Wisconsin.

G: Wisconsin, so we might have gone up 40, or whatever it is, and found a place there.

T: Just grabbed a motel?

G: Yeah

C: Was George with us?

T: I’m still having that feeling like “I’m bummed we didn’t stay at the club! We can’t give up on Kary like that!”  I think we stayed at the club, but I could be wrong.

C: Did we have George with us?

T: Yeah, that was a George tour.

C: Where was George?

T: George was there.

C: Was he downstairs with you guys?

T: I don’t know. Where was he? In the room?

C: Was he off with some girl?

T: George got laid more than anybody.

C: Remember he slept a lot? He might have been asleep in the van the whole time.

T: I think he was either upstairs with you or downstairs with us. He was there. God, I wish we could ask him.

C: I know. I don’t remember him running up the stairs with you. So maybe you and he were still downstairs.

(we all discuss how great George’s drumming was, especially as he was so young)

C: This is the picture that I found (shows the pic of the front of the club bashed in)

G: Oh, is this the place?

T: See how Carmela does it? She gets the story then she feeds you a little actual memory

C: Does that look like anything you remember? That was obviously the front and we came in around the back. I remember being in the back of the club.

G: Yeah I don’t remember the front at all.

T: These are fun, because what I remember about that room is that there was a lot of red. Red carpet, red walls. That’s all I remember

C: Kinda like the On Broadway? (a club in San Francisco)

T: I remember the upstairs room was painted like grey and blue, where you were giving the haircut, but that’s all I remember. I don’t remember anything like this.

C: I don’t remember that, because I don’t think we were ever outside the front. I think we pulled in around the back.

G: I don’t even remember the front being open. I just remember it like being locked, and everything was based around that.

C: The back door was open and we parked in the back.

G: And that might have been it, the person might have gone through the front door because it was locked.  Meaning nobody was out front.

T: It’s interesting to think that the reason this is boarded up is because of that night . I don’t think that that is the case, but it’s kinda nice to think that.

G: And it looks like from that that a car, even going a slow speed, would go right through that.

T: But the guy wasn’t, you know what I mean, He was like “Fuck you man”, he wasn’t throwing a punch, he was shoving, If he wanted to drive the car through, he could have done it.

C: So it was just a warning? Somebody was mad at him? (Kary)

G: “So I’ll fuck up this car a little bit, but dammit I’m gonna be able to pull it out!” He must have pulled it out, just backed up and left.

C: My memory is that the car was still there when I came downstairs, and the guy wasn’t in it.

G: That’s mine too but I don’t know if that’s true.

C: But you don’t remember that? (to Tom)

T: What?

C: I thought that the car was still there when I came downstairs.

C: (Reading the article found online about the club). So FYI, Scary Kary his last name was Safarian, like Rastafarian.

T: Ha

C: It said he took over and was booking bands there , it mentions Boom  (a friend of ours from Detroit who was in bands there), and it says “In the end Sagafarian was on the way down , deeper into narcotics deals and by 1988 the club was falling apart and was mismanaged . Not long after, an angry drunk smashed the front doors of the hall in with his car.”

T: Wow so it was a big incident then.

C: “Safarian left the Greystone and it closed for good. In 1990 Safarian found himself facing 54 years in jail for robbing a pharmacy. He has been in jail since, for almost 22 years”

G: Jesus

C: But the guy who emailed me said he had just gotten out recently.

T: I thought he died.

C: I thought he died too.

T: I will say this about the car. I think the car pulled away. I feel like the car pulled away. But I still have in my brain I see the big, squared off, old 1980s chrome bumper, light brown, like sedan, Dodge Dart kinda shape car.

G: That’s what I think too. 4 door.

C: A big American car, I was going to say, kinda of a dirty mustard yellow.

G; Yep that’s it. Brownish.

T: Wow maybe it was still there then.

G: That’s the color that I have too.

T: But I also remember this : Being perfectly ok with staying there, and partying on, and drinking beer and there being a gun on the premise, and big Kary swinging it around. But I didn’t want to go out the front door. That’s the front lines where all the guns and car guys are shooting each other. I don’t want to stick my head out there and see. When we went to the store, me and Kary talked about drugs. And he sort of played it off like he was an ex-Junkie . Like all drug addicts do. Like “I used to, and I’m not into that anymore. But let me tell you what a badass I was, and what it was like to cop heroin in Detroit.”  And that was like a bonding thing, because I was a drug user, and we had that conversation to the store. I do remember that and sort of thinking about his crazy drug addict Michigan life. As opposed to telling him about California. Like “we just call Mexicans, and they come to the door and deliver!” But apparently out there you had to rob pharmacies.

G: With a guy like that, you can see, there were huge cultural differences with us . But there were huge cultural differences with us everywhere we went . We were just, kinda feral. We had an accent. We looked Californian .

So it didn’t open after that? That was the last show? Last non-show?

T: That never occurred to me, it was just another night.

C: I asked the guy who contacted me.  He said, “Kary went off the deep end and robbed a store, went to prison. And he only got out a year and a half ago. “

I said “wow that’s a long time to be in prison. Were there any shows after the crash?”

And he said “I’m trying to figure that out. I believe there were some shows after, but I wasn’t going to shows that year.

T: “I’m giving up shows for Lent!”

C: (corrects) “I wasn’t going to a whole lot of shows that year.”

(still reading) “My buddy and I were going to put on a show there in 1988. We had to scramble and get a hall in Hamscramick (or something like that) because the Graystone was closed by then.

He said “that story of the guy hitting the building and knocking the wall back is extraordinary, even for this crazy town “ and he sent me the pic as well.

T: It didn’t seem that crazy at the time.

C: At the time, I don’t remember it being that weird.

T: It’s another example of thinking we’re a tiny ripple, and it turns out that we’re a splash in the puddle.

Update: After looking at our tour calendar, we played in Minneapolis the night before Detroit and Chicago with the Descendents the day after, so we likely headed to Chicago after the show and stayed with our friend Motor there. The Doughboys and MIA played with Descendents at the Graystone on July 3rd, so hopefully the Doughboys got to play before the P.A. blew. Today the club is a laundromat.

greystone today

There are some videos of shows at the club. Hard to see what it looked like in it;s hey day, but this one of Black Flag from 1986 at least has some good sound quality:

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Guns N’ Salad: Detroit Rock City

Detroit to me is…….punk rock, Hell’s Angels, guns, and salad.

Brian, the bass player from Electric Love Muffin, reminded me recently on this blog of the crazy time we played together in Detroit. What follows may read as fiction, but most of this is actually true. Brian- feel free to correct and/or corroborate.

This was Short Dogs Grow’s first time in Detroit and we were booked to play the Graystone. Tom had booked the show, and in our tour phone book he listed the promoter as “Scary”, complete with quotation marks because we weren’t really sure if he went by “Scary” or if he had some foreign name that just sounded like “Scary.”

We were booked for the 4th of July, and “Scary”said we should come by early because he’d be barbecuing in the back . We didn’t eat meat at the time, but it never hurt to get to a club early to try to find a place to stay for the night.  “Scary” (also known as Cary) turned out to be a big guy somewhat like a typical Hell’s Angel.

Scary’s first words to us were, “I hope you’re not a bunch of California Faggot Vegetarians!” followed by laughter. We all squirmed and shuffled and looked at our Converse. Certainly we would need to defend our gay brethren, but I don’t know if I  was more nervous about the homophobia confrontation, or whether I would have to eat meat to keep this guy from kicking my ass. After an uncomfortable silence, Greg Foot smiled and gestured to all of us. “Yeah,” he said “we’re all  California Faggot Vegetarians.”  Scary laughed again and hit Greg on the back. “I knew you would be, so I made you guys a big tray of salad and vegetables.” And he pulled out a big meat pan full of salad and cut veggies and proceeded to grill our lunch.

There were a lot of young punk kids hanging out and he was feeding them too. I started to think that his nickname was just a tease, and that he was a just big ol’ teddy bear at heart. I didn’t hear anything homophobic or derogatory from him the rest of the time we were there.

electric love muffin

(Electric Love Muffin in Philadelphia)

The Love Muffins arrived later and we made friends pretty quickly. I was on some kind of hair-cutting jag (I think I was exploring being a stylist) so I offered to cut their hair. Having absolutely no training whatsoever except cutting my own hair (which looked pretty bad) only one of them was brave enough to take me up on it- Brian, who had short curly hair, so it was pretty easy to clip the ends of his curls. We went to a little upstairs room so he could sit down, and I could have some space to work. At some point while I was cutting, there was a loud bang and it startled me enough that I stabbed my hand with the scissors (luckily for Brian I didn’t stab him in the head). It didn’t bleed but I wondered if I would be the first SDG band member to go to the hospital for lockjaw.

A little while later  Greg ran into the room, pretty breathless. “Have you guys been here the whole time?” he asked. We said yes, and we were just about to come downstairs. “No way you guys missed the whole thing????!!!!!!!!!!!” And we were like What? What happened? Greg then recounted the incident:

“We were all hanging out drinking beer with the Detroit punk kids and Scary. All of a sudden we heard a loud bang and we’re like WTF???? I look at the front of the club and the doors are just gone. It turned out this guy drove his car into the front door of the club. When this happened, all of the punk kids dropped immediately to the ground. The only people left standing were Scary, me and Tom (I can’t remember if Greg mentioned where George was). Then Scary pulls a gun out of his waistband and starts firing at the guy. So Tom and I dropped to the ground. The guy put the car in reverse and pulled out.  I don’t think Scary got him. I can’t believe you guys were up here the whole time and missed it!!!!”

greystone

(I found this pic of the club on the web, I think it’s fairly soon after the incident)

Brian and I looked at each other, and I realized that I was busy stabbing myself while the punk kids were ducking and covering. We didn’t really believe Greg,(because…well…sometimes he does embellish) until we went downstairs a bit later (when the coast was clear) and saw the damage. I don’t remember any police coming. The punk kids told us that stuff like that happened all the time.  They told us that the club didn’t make any money, and that Scary was involved in some illegal activities which helped pay the club’s rent and feed all the kids. He was a punk rock Robin Hood apparently.

I was just wondering what happened to ol’ Scary so I googled him and found this on the web- an article from 2012. The year the article mentions is 1988, but we were there in 1987, so it’s possible that more than one thug drove into the front doors:

In 1986, after the closing of the all-ages punk venue the Hungry Brain in Delray, the Graystone soon filled the void as Detroit’s main destination for all-ages punk shows, this time under the management of Corey Rusk of Touch and Go records, then based in Dearborn. Rusk and company brought in such bands as the Descendents, the Meat Puppets and Big Black.

But after a local skinhead gang broke Rusk’s jaw, he handed the keys over to Cary “Scary” Safarian, a Bluto-like fireplug of a man who couldn’t be intimidated by local toughs.

But Safarian was also a pretty smart promoter, working out deals that brought in Die Kreuzen, MDC, DRI, the Crucifucks, Bad Brains, Corrosion of Conformity, Dr. No, the Cro-Mags and many more, for all-ages shows with low ticket prices. But even for Safarian, it was tough going. He had to guarantee vegan meals for fussy national punk acts while trying to keep the hall under control, protecting it from the cops, the neighbors, the patrons — and sometimes the bands. It was here that such “outside” punk acts as Boom & the Legion of Doom and Slaughterhouse played sets, the former throwing roadkill and animal parts out into the audience, once upsetting the straight-edge, vegetarian singer of Seven Seconds so much he allegedly burst into tears.

In the end, Safarian was on the way down, getting deeper into narcotics and illicit deals. By 1988, the club was falling apart and mismanaged. Not long after an angry drunk smashed the front doors of the hall in with his car, Safarian left the Graystone and it closed for good. In 1990, Safarian found himself facing 54 years in jail for robbing a pharmacy in rural Calhoun County. Safarian has been in jail since, for almost 22 years.

Though the memories live on, the hall itself is no more, the space having been taken over by a coin laundry several years ago — making it the best place to do laundry while soaking in punk rock history.

Poor Scary, if he’s still in jail -that’s 25 years for armed robbery. I don’t know the details of his case but most people get less time for killing someone.

Here’s a link to an interview of Scary. You can form your own opinion of the man: