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.
L.A.-based Anti-Racist Action got hold of the email and sent out a call to demonstrate, claiming that white supremacists have been showing up at the Shack . . . for some months and laughing about the lack of opposition.
But on August 19, there was no Nazi show, just a group of about 50 sign-waving anti-Nazi demonstrators, a TV camera crew, and a sizeable fleet of marked and unmarked Anaheim Police cars. There were no Nazis, skinheads, fascists, brownshirts, Klansmen or bigots -- though the driver of an SUV sped past, waved an indistinguishable banner and shouted, White power!
A sign posted on the Shacks front door read, Sorry for the inconvenience. The Shack would like everyone to know there is no show of any kind scheduled for August 19, 2001, private or otherwise, and never was. We were not aware, nor can we control, what people put on the Web page. By late afternoon, someone had written on that sign, The Shack supports Nazis.
In fact, the Shack was well aware that a White Power show had been scheduled for that day. Anaheim police say they called club management. Anti-racist activists say they did, too. Michael Novick of People Against Racist Terror says he spoke directly with a Shack owner who identified himself as Bob.
He was real evasive, says Novick. He said [the Shacks owners] couldnt be racists because he was married to a Mexican woman and his partner was Lebanese. He claimed that the show had been set up without their permission. When Novick asked Bob if the club had ever booked White Power shows, Bob pleaded ignorance, saying he doesnt understand the lyrics to most songs and that the bands he books are simply popular with the kids.
Until it was canceled, the August 19 White Power fund-raiser was also all over racist Web sites. A July 29 posting on supremacist Tom Metzgers White Aryan Resistance Web site, www.resist.com, said Shack concertgoers should be wary: Public gatherings are risky both physically and the fact that all such events are infiltrated heavily by Jew law enforcement both local and federal [sic].
(Metzger himself was a special guest at the Shack during a June 24 White Power fest. According to one review of the show, Youngland dedicated their song Thank God Im a White Boy to Metzger, who couldnt resist running through the mosh pit with us and knocking into everybody for a few songs. He has also appeared at least one other time at a Shack White Power show).
Despite the calls and publicity, the Shacks denials continued until September 2. Some Shack employees said Terbay and Gibson had often misled them. A freelance technician (who spoke on condition of anonymity) told the Weekly that one of the Shacks owners asked him months ago to work a Sunday White Power show but didnt explain what the situation was and stuff. He was kind of evasive, but I took it anyway. When the show was going on, I remember a line of people in front of the stage who were sieg-heiling. There were also KKK guys wearing white shirts with KKK emblems.
Another worker hired by the Shack (who also requested anonymity) was more turned off by the sight of children at the White Power shows. There were kids, some who looked about 10 years old, up on the stage sieg-heiling, he recalled. That really made me cringe.
These days, Terbay and Gibson have dropped the denials. Now they say White Power shows are merely good business and evidence of their commitment to free speech. So why cancel the August 19 show? A band didnt make it, Terbay says. Or One of the girls putting the 19th show on was recruiting, and were not gonna make the Shack a recruiting place.
The Shack, just north of the 91 freeway on Kraemer Boulevard, is almost hidden in an unassuming Anaheim neighborhood of small-industry warehouses and business parks. On its best-publicized nights, the place is alive with the sound of music for people who never quite got over the demise of radio stations KMET and KNAC. Before Terbay and Gibson took over in 1999, local bands played the club; since their takeover, the Shack has acquired a rep for hosting two kinds of bands: C-grade 80s hairspray acts tumbling deep into obscurity (think Bang Tango, L.A. Guns and Enuff Znuff) and campy tribute bands like the Atomic Punks, who specialize in David Lee Roth-era Van Halen.
And now Nazis. Go to the Web site of West Virginia-based Resistance Records (owned by The Turner Diaries author William Pierce), which bills itself as The soundtrack for white revolution (www.resistance.comshowssocalshow.html), and youll find a review of the Shacks June 24 White Power show, headlined by Brutal Attack. The show took place, it says, in Orange County, California, the Skinhead capitol [sic] of the world. The event was put on by American Front with the help of Vinlands Viking Security team. Resistance Records, Panzerfaust Records and Vinland Records all were present with merchandise tables set up. White kindred from all over the world came to witness what was possibly the greatest show the U.S. has ever seen.
The accompanying photos show that most of the men in the crowd sport the standard skinhead uniform of close-cropped Marine Corps hair, while the women appear attentive and rather shocking in their ordinariness; any one of them could be that sweet-smiling woman who checks your groceries at Albertsons.
The earliest evidence of a Shack White Power show is a review of a December 18, 1999, show on the Web site of Youngland, an O.C.-based rockabilly band (www.whitepowermusic.comyounglandmain.html). Like most struggling acts, the review acknowledges, White Power bands have a tough time landing paying gigs; unlike most struggling acts, White Power bands have the additional burden of Adolf Hitler. For this reason, the review says, What has to happen is plenty of logic and deception on the part of the bands to get on the stage. What sort of logic and deception? The way this show was booked was to frequent the club, make friends with the person booking shows, then call him up and say . . . Hey, Bro, I got a couple of bands that want to play; do you have any open shows? On this occasion, the guy feel [sic] for it hook, line and sinker! He put all three bands on Saturday night as the headlining acts! . . . I think there was a look of concern on the promoters [sic] face when he saw 100 skinheads in his club.
We dont call them White Power bands, just rock bands, Gibson told the Weekly. Its all just rock & roll. We dont cater to any specific group. I hire bands to entertain, not push their views. Our goal is to provide entertainment. Were accused of being racist. Were not racist. I dont put labels on people. You dont know what kinds of bands you got until they get here. We would say no to any group that causes problems.
And the White Power bands dont cause problems? People are real respectful, he says. Weve had more compliments than complaints.
Weve been doing those kinds of bands for two years now, says Terbay. (He also says he has been present at every White Power gig the Shack has put on.) We dont believe everything that the people who come into the Shack believe. But its all about music. We give everybody a chance. We got black rap shows on Thursdays. We got an Oriental fraternity from U.C. Irvine come in. We never turn anybody away. Its all about business. Well put on a show by anybody. Hell, Id even give the people who protest us a show. And were not racist. Im full-bred Lebanese. Im a brown man.
The local racist rock scene exists outside the Shack, of course. Theres Radio White, the Orange-based Internet music Web site that claims more than 100,000 hits (www.radiowhite.com). And there are local bands, including Extreme Hatred, whose Have a Nice Day album features a World War II--era photo of a German soldier shooting a man in the back of the head; superimposed on the soldiers head is a yellow smiley face. O.C.s Aggressive Force plays, Its Okay To Be White and O.C. Belongs To Me. And Youngland have this to say on their Web site: O.C. is kind of unique because there are a lot of racialists here that arent skinheads. We have supporters among the surfer, skater, rockabilly and punk scenes. Although most are not active in the movement, they are always willing to lend a helping fist in time of need.
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Whether Terbay and Gibson want to admit it, the Shack is now playing a major part in getting out the White Power message. Because of the steady White Power gigs, Nazisupremacist types have shown up regularly at the Shack on other, non-Nazi nights, giving the impression that outsiders arent welcome. One young woman says she was at the Shack on a recent weekday night and bolted out of there once I saw the kind of crowd that was hanging out.
That might promise serious business trouble for the club.
Theyre going to have to face the fact that theres probably going to be an extensive boycott of the club, says Novick of People Against Racist Terror.
Abandoning denials for the higher cause of free speech and free markets, Terbay and Gibson offer no sign of surrender. Ditto for their skinheaded guests. The review of the June 24 Shack show ends with the ominous promise that Everyone in attendance seemed to understand how important it is for us to be able to leave behind our confrontational mindsets once in a while for us to come together with our people and celebrate the continuing success and growth of the White Racialist Movement. We look forward to the next show in O.C.