The backyard of the white, stucco house has been transformed into a packed dance floor. Teenage girls wearing snug jeans and tank tops are freaking with teenage boys who grind away to the rhythm of the reggaeton beat. The smell of marijuana is thick, and a small line to fill balloons full of nitrous oxide forms in front of a large tank of the gas. A balloon’s worth of “nozz” is good for a 20-second, dizzy high. A group takes turns krumping, the spastic, body-contorting form of dancing that originated in South Los Angeles, while two bald-headed boys watch and nurse bottles of Budweiser.
On the upper deck, a girl flails and gyrates like a go-go dancer. She wears black daisy dukes and black Converse sneakers. On the back of her tank top is written “Vicious Ladies.” “Bucky,” her party-crew name, is written on the front.
“We come and have fun and battle,” says Bucky, 17, about competing with other krumpers. “I just want to party. Teenagers need a life too. Some parents think it is bad. I am really open with my mom. I didn’t kiss a boy till I was 17. I don’t drink or do drugs. I like to dance.”
It’s a crisp December 1 night, and the mostly Latino teens crowding this small house on Poplar Street in El Sereno — a working-class Eastside neighborhood yet to feel the effects of gentrification — are dedicated followers of the underground flier-party scene, a scene in which the Vicious Ladies have gained considerable notoriety in a short time. It is a world where prestige is earned by throwing the best party and bringing in the biggest crowd. It is a world where puberty, drugs, alcohol and even gang politics are joined at the hip.
Tonight’s “Make You Holla For $3 Dollaz” party is about the Ladies reaffirming their status as one of the best all-girl party crews in East L.A. It is not easy to stay on top. There is lots of competition. In East L.A. alone, there are at least a dozen all-girl party crews. There are even more all-male party crews. Most throw parties regularly. It doesn’t help that the Vicious Ladies have had some major setbacks this year. A handful of crew members dropped out. Most left over “drama.” Others became bored with the scene or were thrown out for being “hos.” Attendance at flier parties in general has been subpar lately. Crew members blame the drop on rival interference, police pressure and the possibility of gang violence.
Since 2004, more than 20 people have died at flier parties in L.A. County alone. In 2006, there were eight flier-party-related deaths in East L.A., among them Emmery Munoz, a 14-year-old Vicious Ladies crew member who died last January. Her decomposing body was found in a warehouse district in Boyle Heights — a popular location for underground parties. Police suspect that someone close to the party scene is involved in her death, though her friends say Munoz was pulling away from them and, had she stuck closer, she’d have been safer. The party scene is alive with gossip, and finger-pointing. A small group blames the Vicious Ladies for Munoz’s death.
But tonight the Vicious Ladies are amped. It’s their first party since their one-year-anniversary event ended in disaster two months earlier. Within the first hour, a fight almost broke out, then the middle-aged owner of the house, who was promised $100 for the use of his backyard, shut the party down at 11 p.m. after he found a drunk teenage girl passed out on his front lawn. He was afraid that the spectacle might cause a neighbor to call the police. Tonight, the pressure is on for the all-girl party crew to make this party last.
Wonka and Rose stand in the driveway and collect entrance fees as if they were door staff at a nightclub. Wonka, 19, is the head of Vicious Entertainment, the male party crew closely associated with the Vicious Ladies. His girlfriend, Cherry, is the Vicious Ladies’ founder. Rose is a 36-year-old, voluptuous platinum blonde Latina wearing a tight T-shirt and jeans. The fee is $3 before 10:30 p.m. and $5 after that. Girl crew members get in for free. Two large teens check for weapons and bottles. Rose appears to be in charge.
“I go to all their parties,” says Rose. “I have security everywhere. I have been to 10 parties. Kids have nowhere to go. They just like to dance.” And, apparently, do nozz, drink alcohol and smoke weed, but it is not as if Rose is lobbying for mother of the year or anything.
In the backyard, any lawn furniture has been removed, and in its place is a large vat of jungle juice — a mix of vodka and grape juice — on sale for $1 a cup. The surrounding 8-foot-high fence is modestly decorated with small white lights. The railing leading to the empty, kidney-shaped pool is decorated with pink birthday balloons in honor of Binks and Titi, two Vicious Ladies. Binks, 15, is Rose’s youngest daughter, and a recent addition to the party crew. The girls wear badges around their necks, a variation of star earrings, and glow-in-the-dark rings on their wrists, waists and necks.