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:

 

 

 

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