By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Party crews can make up to $4,000 a night by charging admission and selling beer and other party favorites, including happy balloons, which give the recipient a mild, dizzy high and generally cost $3. Some party crews advertise wet–T-shirt and G-string contests or hot women and half-price drinks. Whatever it takes to bring in the crowds. Basically the parties act as nightclubs, though without fire codes, security checks and that pesky doorman asking for identification.
For party crews, the parties are entrepreneurial endeavors, but they are also about gaining a reputation and bragging rights. "It is about who throws the best party," said 18-year-old Martha Sanchez. And word spreads fast.
Fliers come in all shapes and sizes but are typically 8-by-10-inch Xerox copies or 3-by-5-inch glossies. The fliers list the promoter and the date of the party, as well as a phone number to call for the location, which is generally not in service until an hour or so before the event. Sometimes the party location is not provided right away. In such cases, partygoers are sent to a central screening location, like a street corner or fast-food restaurant, where they will be sent to another spot if they pass the screening. It goes on and on until the partygoer eventually arrives at a location where there is a DJ. A flier party can easily draw 300 to 500 partiers from all over the city almost instantaneously.
These types of parties have been going on for years. In fact, a memorable mid-’90s episode of Beverly Hills 90210featured Steve Sanders’ hapless attempts to navigate the clues and codes needed to gain access to one. Unfortunately, the parties have become more dangerous than that show’s innocent portrayal of them. LAPD detectives acknowledge that throughout the city there has been an escalation of assaults, shots fired and homicides at flier parties, which they say attract a deadly combination of underage drinking and gangs to locations where there is usually no adult supervision and very little security.
"When I was growing up, the parties weren’t as bad. There was a different vibe. Now the kids break up into dance circles and they do moves against each other," said Jerry Miller, a DJ who says he used to throw flier parties back in the ’80s with his uncle in Pico Rivera. "That has led to fights. Sometimes the music can dictate. When you start getting aggressive and you put on gangster rap that is talking about other crews, guys will throw up gang signs. In high school, gangs will throw parties. I don’t feel that is the kind of environment that is beneficial to me."
Miller said he mostly turns down offers to work at flier parties and deejays mostly at corporate or sanctioned high school events. Local DJ Richard Barry has worked the underground rave scene for the last year but said he won’t accept work unless he knows the promoter. "A lot of gangs are into drugs, and what better way to sell them than to throw a party?" he said. "With computers and printers, you can make fliers look nice and professional, and there is no way to know the difference before you get there. It is a moneymaker, and with the money comes responsibility, and these people have no ethics. It is buyer beware."
The middle son of divorced parents, Peter Cobian grew up in Highland Park and attended Marshall and Eagle Rock high schools, eventually getting his GED from Franklin Adult School. While he was in high school, Cobian, his older brother and friends formed their own party crew, called 12-inch Entertainment.
"Most of the time we would put in more money than we made," said Cobian’s friend Bobby Diaz, who served as the crew’s DJ. "We never dealt with abandoned homes. We would find houses and get permission from parents."
For the last year, Cobian sold cellular phones at a kiosk in the Westfield Shopping Town. But business was slow. He was hoping to get a part-time job at Staples in the warehouse. He was also talking about joining the Marines.
"He was trying to make it on his own," said his father, Jose.
In the evenings, Cobian would hang out with neighbors on his tree-lined street. His friend Martha Sanchez said everyone could hear him coming down the street in the souped-up gray Acura Integra he called his stallion. He was the neighborhood hunk.
Cobian knew going to flier parties was dangerous. He had heard about shootings, and gang members had picked on him before. "But he was a big kid at heart," said Jose. When his family voiced its concern about going to the parties, he assured them that nothing bad would happen to him. "My son was really tall. I don’t know what it was about him that would attract people who want trouble," said Jose. "I don’t know what these individuals see and decide this is going to be my victim. Why him out of all the people?"
After his death, more than 25 neighbors and friends had a car wash at the Highland Park Recreation Center, raising $1,300 for his family. On the sidewalk, down the street from his home, is a makeshift memorial erected by neighborhood friends, with a photo collage, a Camel cigarette (his favorite brand) and half a dozen Jesus candles.