IN AN UGLY INCIDENT THAT EVOKED MEMORIES OF SOUTHERN California's often-violent suburban hardcore punk rock subculture in the early 1980s, a doorman at Mr. T's Bowl was stabbed six times and seriously injured as he tried to break up a fight at the popular Highland Park nightclub.
Doorman Frank Armenta was stabbed twice in the face and four times in his torso last Saturday night. After two surgeries, it is unclear if doctors will be able to save his damaged eye. He remains in serious condition at L.A. CountyUSC Medical Center.
According to Mr. T's booker, Rick Collins, and several witnesses, the trouble started when three young men began throwing trash at patrons in the club's bar. When a customer asked them to stop, the three youths jumped him and began brawling with the man and his friends. Armenta and Collins rushed over from their post at the club's back door and broke up the first fight. However, as Collins restrained and attempted to calm two of the youths near the bar, Armenta wrestled with the instigator of the attack in the parking lot, where the youth pulled a long knife and stabbed the doorman six times. In the chaos, the two other young men threatened to stab Collins before all three managed to escape, running down Figueroa Avenue.
Most of the club's patrons were unaware of the attack until soundman Arlo Adhel turned on the house lights and ended the show halfway during a set by the last band on the bill, the Humpers. The club's staff ushered customers into the blood-splattered parking lot, where paramedics tended to Armenta and police tried to figure out what happened.
Although such random violence was not uncommon in the early years of the local punk scene, it seems almost anachronistic now. The two headliners, the Humpers and the Crowd, are longtime SoCal punk bands, yet both play an exuberant, fun-loving brand of punk rock that generally doesn't attract the kind of militant hardcore-punk crowd associated with '80s violence.
“I've been running this place for 36 years, and this is the first time something like this has happened,” says club owner Joe Teresa, a.k.a. Mr. T. The brawl at the typically laid-back nightclub perplexed Collins, who says he didn't recognize any of the three youths as either club regulars or locals from the neighborhood.
Witnesses described Armenta's attacker as a Latino in his early 20s, about 5-foot-7, 150 pounds and wearing a black Necromantics T-shirt. His friends were about the same age, one Latino and wearing a Swingin' Utters T-shirt, the other white with dirty-blond hair, a big web tattoo on one of his arms, and wearing a Rancid T-shirt. They may have arrived at the club in a big 1950s-era car with faded red primer.
The Los Angeles Police Department's Gang Unit in the Northeast Division has made no arrests. Anyone with information can call detectives at (213) 847-4263.
Collins invites scenesters to call Mr. T's hot line at (323) 692-3136 with any tips or to contribute money for Armenta's medical bills. Armenta, who was paid $50 a night to watch the door at Mr. T's, has no medical insurance.
Mr. T's Bowl remains open for business, though Collins is so demoralized by his best friend Armenta's situation that he probably will curtail bookings at the venue.