Its Sunday, September 2, the day before Labor Day 2001, and inside the Shack, neo-Nazis are setting up band equipment and literature tables for another Sunday show of racist rock and recruitment.
Outside the north Anaheim rock club, the scene is like the red-carpet runway at a Fascist Academy Awards. Reporters, placard-waving demonstrators and a stream of Nazis mingle at the entrance.
Owners John Terbay and Bob Gibson, after two years of denials, are now beginning to acknowledge that their club has hosted a series of Nazi get-togethers.
But their candor isnt complete. Club staffers tell observers that theyre preparing for a wedding reception -- or that they know nothing about whats going on at the club. When Terbay emerges to talk to reporters, he says, I dont know what kind of bands are playing tonight. a
Has he had White Power shows in the past?
Yes, weve had them, he admits. But Im Lebanese. If I was supporting Nazis, my whole family would be out here, he says, pointing to the 35 or so protestors waving signs (NAZIS TO THE NUTHOUSE! HONK IF YOU HATE NAZIS!) and chanting (NO NAZIS, NO KKK, NO FASCIST USA!).
The libertarians are out here, as is the Jewish Defense League. And so are the Nazis, the Klan supporters and the skinheads. By 7 p.m., security is patting down customers at the front door. The fashion sense is what youd expect -- shaved heads, sleeve tattoos, tank tops or Skrewdriver T-shirts for the men, vaguely punk or Bettie Page looks for the women. A couple of guys arrive in uniforms -- black pants, black neckties and white dress shirts with Confederate-flag patches on the shoulder (one pauses just before entering the Shack to give protestors the Heil Hitler salute). A woman with Tragic Kingdom--era Gwen Stefani blond hair, a white tank-top and blue jeans rolled up at the cuffs pulls up in a Saturn, unloads a guitar case, glares at a protestor and says, If I wasnt pregnant, Id kick your ass.
As darkness falls and the 8 p.m. showtime nears, a muscled, tank-and-tats-sporting skinhead comes to the door to talk with reporters. His tattoos are pretty elaborate, but the SS emblems are unmistakable. He says his name is Tommy Romero (which may or may not be true -- many of todays neo-Nazis are stingy with their last names) and that hes promoting tonights show.
Romero, who says he represents the skinhead movement, tells the reporters, We have a right to free assembly and freedom of speech just like everybody else. The Shack, he continues, has hosted from eight to 10 shows here, and there has been not one single incident.
He hands out a statement titled The Fascists Amongst Us. It is difficult to imagine that at the dawn of the new millennium, censorship is rearing its ugly head once again, the statement reads. It goes on to complain that the protestors outside the Shack are the real fascists, trying to stop neo-Nazis from exercising their right to peaceably assemble. We will not allow ourselves, as freethinking individuals, to conform to their McCarthy-era style of Fascism . . .
Clandestine White Power shows arent unheard of in Southern California. Whats weird is that a commercial venue like the Shack would host one -- or rather, several since the club underwent an ownership change in February 1999.
Terbay and Gibson have offered evolving responses: 1) they have denied such shows ever took place; 2) they have said they are not sure White Power bands perform at their club because theyre not much interested in the politics of the bands they book and cant understand the lyrics; and 3) they have said the shows have gone on, but hey, its a free country, even for Nazis.
For two years, the Shacks owners worked assiduously to keep the Nazi shows top secret, staging most of them on unadvertised Sunday afternoons, referring to them as private parties. And until recently, they succeeded in maintaining a low profile. Word that the Shack had become Orange Countys Nuremberg-rally center got out just last month when an email announcing an August 19 Nazi fundraiser fell into the hands of anti-racist groups. Mass-mailed by Blood & Honour and the Costa Mesa chapter of Women for Aryan Unity, the email claimed the Shack would host supremacist bands Youngblood, Hate Crime and Warfare88 (H being the eighth letter of the alphabet, 88 is skinhead slang for Heil Hitler). The show would raise money for a compilation CD featuring like-minded pro-Nazi groups and, as the email stated, recruit all whites who are not already part of our great movement. Included with the CD will be literature and information to get these young white kids on the right track to discovering the truth. The email suggested that people supporting the racist cause would be flying in from other states to attend.