Trouble In Paradise - Sordid Celeb Stories
by Jay Allen Sanford 02.01.07
ELVIS PRESLEY April 3, 1956
"This is the first time that the Hancock is going to rock and roll, while still in anchor!" The titular host of NBC's Milton Berle Show [aka Texaco Star Theater] introduced Elvis Presley to a live audience on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hancock, docked at the Naval Station in San Diego bay. Presley's first-ever California performance included "Heartbreak Hotel" (on its way to becoming his first #1 hit) and a few others. The singer gamely acknowledged the raging controversy about his "shocking" onstage pelvic gyrations by taking part in a comedy sketch. Presley introduced Berle, dressed as Elvis (world's first Elvis impersonator?), saying "Mah twin brother, Melvin Presley." Berle/Melvin then takes credit for all the hip-wiggling, saying "I gave him his singing style - I used to drop grasshoppers down his pants."
Elvis' sexually-charged "singing style" was no joke to San Diego police, however. The next two nights, both of Presley's concerts at the San Diego Arena on 8th and Harbor Drive (aka Glacier Garden ) were sold out and police presence was heavy. Over both evenings, several young women were removed from the Arena, reportedly for "hysterical and lewd behavior." The Shore Patrol had to set up a floating blockade behind the venue, after two teen girls in their underwear and carrying soaked dresses emerged from the water to make a run for Presley's dressing room (they were caught by police and released, presumably after their garments dried). Three people were arrested and a separate report in the same edition of the San Diego Union mentions an incident April 5th at the El Cortez Hotel, a naked woman running down the hall and around the pool, stating that police were investigating a connection to Presley and his entourage staying in the hotel at the time. No follow-up appeared. A later report places ticket sale gross for the two days at $17,250 with 11,250 fans attending the shows.
When Presley was scheduled to return to the Arena June 6, Police Chief Adam Elmer Jansen (the city's longest-serving Chief, at 14 years) had had enough. "If he puts on the same kind of show that he did last April, I'll arrest him for disorderly conduct," he was quoted saying in the Union (repeated nationwide after newswires picked up the story). "I've had enough complaints from parents to assure me that twerp is not doing the kids any good." Late in the year, the city Social Services Department held a series of hearings, to discuss whether Presley should be banned from playing in San Diego . Presley escaped town without being arrested or banned and in fact returned years later to pack them in for three more sold-out performances, after Police Chief Jansen retired - November 15, 1970 (ticket sales 14,659), April 26, 1973 (15,050 attendees) and April 24, 1976 (17,500 attendees).
STEPHEN STILLS August 14, 1970
In late 1970, ex-Byrd David Crosby, former Hollie Graham Nash and Buffalo Springfield singer Stephen Stills were joined by periodic fourth voice Neil Young, as they prepared to promote and possibly tour behind their live LP "4 Way Street." Stills eponymous first solo had spawned a hit record "Love The One You're With" and his second solo disc was slated for the following year. Then Stills was arrested one hot August night at a La Jolla motel, reportedly incoherent and combatative with police. He was charged with "possession of dangerous drugs," cocaine and barbiturates, and released on $ 2,500 bail.
In April 1971, Stills returned to San Diego for his court date. Rolling Stone #83 [5-27-71] said it was "to get his wrist slapped with a $1,000 fine (plus probation) for his not-often-celebrated coke bust." The charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and band manager Elliot Roberts, in the same issue, refuses to elaborate on just how this major legal coup was pulled off. "It's over now, so we don't talk about it."
ROLLING STONES June 13, 1972
Only recently have viewing-copies of Robert Frank's long-suppressed documentary "Cocksucker Blues" surfaced. The movie famously chronicles the Stones' infamous 1972 tour, timed to promote "Exile On Main Street" [released April 12] and the group's first time playing North America since the deadly 1969 Altamont concert. In the film, the San Diego International Sports Arena date isn't so much a scene of decadence as indifference. Backstage, Mick Jagger can be seen deciding what to wear over his purple jumpsuit - a silver lame' jacket, black leather coat or raspberry polka dot shirt, his three main sartorial accessories for the tour. He ends up shrugging his shoulders to don a plain denim jacket that looks small even on his thin frame, muttering "I don't care, it's only San Diego ." The set was reportedly fair - it's one of the few occasions they've performed "Honky Tonk Woman" live. The real show was happening outside, in the Arena parking lot.
The Bill Graham-produced event had, like the Stones themselves, sold out. Unreserved seating cost $6.50, among the year's highest ticket prices (even aside from the free parking) in an era when Pink Floyd, Traffic and Chicago tickets cost local patrons $4 - $5. Around three hundred apparently ticketless youths milled around the Arena parking lot as someone, perhaps several someones, worked their way through the crowd, selling dozens of counterfeit tickets for anywhere from $10 to $20 each. The actual tickets had been imprinted on a beige fiber cardstock with slightly raised ink - the counterfeits were offset printed with thick raised ink, fairly convincing except printed on a yellow-orange cardstock. Had the color been closer to the genuine tickets, most of the counterfeits might have gone unnoticed.
Hapless scam victims were refused admission and soon the crowd of angry, ripped off Stones fans and rowdy ticketless bystanders were moving threateningly en masse for the row of entrances. Guards (one of whom later characterized the scene as "a riot") were overwhelmed, dozens of people stormed the gates and ran into the hall and police were helpless do anything other than summon medical aid for a handful of mildly injured gatekeepers. When it was reported that most rioters appeared underage, a Juvenile Delinquency and Crime Commission was set up to investigate whether local rock concerts in general and Stones concerts in particular should be restricted to only adult patrons (no city measure ever materialized). The scene was eerily repeated in July at a Montreal Stones show, where 3,000 victims of ticket forgers rioted in the streets. At the same concert, one of the band's equipment trucks was dynamited by French separatists, making the San Diego date seem more rowdy than riotous by comparison.
Surviving counterfeit tickets from the Sports Arena show are highly prized collector's items, sold and traded with certificates of authenticity signed by purported experts in rock and roll memorabilia. One eBay auction in late 2003 for an untorn San Diego 6-13-72 bootleg ticket, "certified authentic" (an authentic counterfeit?), attracted over 3,800 hits, drawing 65 bids and closing at $251.00, plus $7.50 insured shipping.
FRANK ZAPPA FANS December 13, 1979
Tickets for Zappa's first eighties appearance in his one-time hometown [April 4, 1980] weren't even on sale yet when several people were arrested for larceny, drugs, vandalism and indecent behavior. On the night before seats were due be released at 10am, about a hundred people were camped out on the pavement in sprawling lines, all leading to the Sports Arena ticket windows, Zappa fans (and a few scalpers) wholly intent on getting the best seats for this highly anticipated performance.
I was among the throng with apparently little to do besides napping in lawn chairs, playing Zappa bootlegs on car stereos and passing around joints with other likeminded layabouts all night long. Some friends and I talked others into holding our spots in line while we snuck into the nearby Midway Drive-In to see the new Star Trek movie. Returning to the Arena parking lot, we were amazed to see silver beer kegs lined up on each of the ticket window shelves, all tapped and flowing! Everyone was standing around, filling plastic cups, passing them out - partytime, excellent! More kegs were being wheeled out of the wide-open Sports Arena doors and down the steps on handcarts, while other people were coming out of the building with gigantic bags of pre-cooked popcorn and garbage cans full of other snack bar goodies.
I never was clear on who first used a coathanger to pull the leverage bar inward from the other side of a set of glass Arena doors, opening the place up to be invaded by anyone brave enough to enter (which included most of us - er, them). This was only the beginning of the bacchanalia. Everyone lined up at the pay phones to call friends and invite them down to what was quickly becoming a drunken overnight orgy and eventually about three hundred people were there - amazingly, no cops showed up. At least not yet.
The ticket clerks who threw open the windows of their booths at 10AM were greeted by the sight of precariously balanced (and completely emptied) beer kegs on the window shelves, a mountain of plastic cups and snack bar trash littering the parking lot and a subdued crowd of hungover young adults barely ambulatory enough to stumble up to the windows and pull out our wallets to mumble "gimme yer best seats." The windows promptly closed and, instead of being sold tickets, we were quickly surrounded by what seemed like every police officer in southern California . Various suspicious types and presumably frequent offenders were pulled from the crowd and questioned but I never heard about anyone being arrested for actually breaking into the Arena. One guy was busted for attempted larceny, for trying to pry open a ticket window gate, and a hippie looking guy who made a chair of one of the empty kegs was cited for possession of stolen property. Several others were handcuffed and hauled away for being intoxicated or in possession of drugs (one guy had weed out in the open, another was passed out with a cocaine-covered mirror next to him when police approached).
A willowy redheaded girl, still inebriated, got into trouble by refusing to put anything on over her see-through panties and bra and the cops took her way. She'd been very popular all night, performing oral sex on several guys who shared cocaine with her, usually in full view of everyone in line and sometimes earning cheers from nearby voyeurs for her efforts, though she blew a couple of guys under blankets. I heard they tried to charge her with public indecency but most of us found her pretty decent and I can find no account of her actually being charged in any newspapers. Everyone I know looked for her at the concert itself (we were eventually allowed to buy our tickets) but subsequent sightings of the cokehead-redhead-who-loves-head are unconfirmed and remain the stuff of local urban legend.
GRATEFUL DEAD July 1, 1980
Dead fans, however believable their addled faculties may be, usually cite the band's 1980 album "Go To Heaven" as the nadir of their recording career, though "Alabama Getaway" and "Don't Ease Me In" became later concert staples. That year's tour still managed to bring out the tie-dyed and squinty-eyed in big numbers for an appearance at the Sports Arena. Advance press reports made it clear that local police were "on guard" for the expected influx of illicit drugs and illegal activity in the parking lot and audience seats. Even before the show started, several people were arrested for smoking pot. One bust was witnessed from alongside the stage by Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and band manager Danny Rifkin.
The trio tried to intervene, cajoling onlookers to join them in separating the young potsmoker from police offers trying to effect the arrest. Cops pulled out additional handcuffs and arrested Weir, Hart and Rifkin for "suspicion of inciting a riot." The three defendants had to return to San Diego several weeks later to face charges. Their offense was reduced to a low grade misdemeanor, fines were paid and everyone walked out of the courtroom with a grudge against the SDPD that lingers to this day. "We couldn't believe what fascists they are down there," Weir told Golden Scarab, a Dead fanzine, in 1999. "We almost never went further south than Irvine after that. We didn't wanna set the kids up to be busted by a bunch of gorillas with no education, who hate rock and roll music."
SKELETONES 1998 4th & B
Based in Riverside, ska band the Skeletones have been around since 1986, earning frequent spins on 91X (who called them "the #1 ska band in California and perhaps the world") and steady gigs at Soma and elsewhere around town. On the occasion they played 4th & B, the band just about blew up the place, and that's not a euphemism for a strong performance. "The way 4th & B is, being a licensed establishment," explains security guard Joel Meriwether, who'd worked at the club since its inception, "you can't take liquor outside in open containers. So we told them 'You can't walk outside with your beer.' It was one guy [he's unclear whether a bandmember or roadie] and as they got their van loaded up, as they were leaving, I was at the back door where I usually am. I got called in to break up a fight, and so [co-owner] Bob [Speth]'s wife went to the back door to spot me while I was inside. The guy that was being a dick opened up the [van] window and threw what we thought was a cherry bomb at her. It hit the wall and exploded, kaboom, it echoed off the building. Right as he did that, a cop was sitting up the street at 3rd and B and he looks over and sees the flash and everything and stops the van."
"He'd actually thrown an M80. They called out the bomb squad, roped off the whole parking lot, the customers' cars; they [the band] couldn't leave. They had tweezers out there and were picking the stuff up for hours." Meriwether says he recalls an arrest being made but can offer no further details. "I think he did some time. He was already on probation for some other stunt."
SNOOP DOGG June 16, 2001
The opening night of Snoop Dogg's "Puff, Puff, Pass" tour ended early as the rapper left the Coors Amphitheatre stage after only 45 minutes. When he pulled the plug, Dogg had already been hit in the chest with a thrown red visor and members of his entourage standing onstage were being pelted with bottles and other debris. Someone from the audience tried to climb onstage and alleged gangmembers were pulling speakers from the stage and trashing them. According to witnesses, it had nothing to do with the music - the people onstage were wearing blue colors. Offending/offended audience members were wearing red. Suddenly it was Dr. Suess with tattoos as starbellied sneeches and barebellied sneeches threatened to go head to head in a violent confrontation. According to the Union-Tribune, a security guard suffered a minor injury after being struck by an unidentified object during the "disturbance" but no arrests were made other than a woman under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As Dogg left the stage and house lights came up, the sound of microphones being slammed to the ground while still amplified was mistaken by some to be gunshots and a minor panic ensued. Chula Vista Police took the stage in what police Lt. Dan Linney called a "skirmish line," as a show of force, but audience members quickly regained their calm and left the venue compound peaceably.
After the concert, Snoop's tour bus was pulled over in Temecula. The police smelled marijuana smoke, searched the bus and found 300 grams of pot. A member of Snoop's entourage claimed possession of the herb, was cited for misdemeanor possession and released. On October 19, two of the rapper's tour busses were pulled over again, this time in Cleveland , for speeding, and six more bags of weed weighing 200 grams were found. Snoop and two fellow passengers were arrested for misdemeanor possession, making the "Puff, Puff, Pass" tour one of the most aptly named in recent memory.
ANTHONY KIEDIS June 26, 2001
The 38-year old singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers was "rescued" by lifeguards at La Jolla cove, along with the lead actress from "Felicity," 25-year old Keri Russell. Lt Rick Wurts, spokesman for San Diego County Lifeguard Service, told San Diego AP that lifeguards responded to a call about six people in the water who were "in distress and caught in a rip current" and four of them were "pulled to safety." Kiedis denies that he and his companions were in any danger. "Those [lifeguards] down there think they're rock stars or something. Four or five of us were swimming not too far out [from shore] and this lifeguard comes cruising up on a surfboard and says 'there's a riptide, it's gonna be really hard to swim back in.' We were in absolutely no danger but he had us grab his board and pulled us in and then the beach was full of these Baywatch wannabees and reporters were calling me and it became a big deal that made all the papers." Russell's publicist told reporters her client and Kiedis were in San Diego "visiting friends."
In an interview posted at TV Guide online, Russell also accused the lifeguards of overreacting. "There was no drowning. I'm actually a fabulous swimmer.[we all] could have swam back in." She took the press to task for post-rescue insinuations that she and Kiedis were some kind of item. "He was just a friend of someone who was there," she says. "He's not my friend ... I think he has a girlfriend."
NELLY October 18, 2002
Nelly had nothing to do with the fatal stabbing that took place after his performance, in a VIP parking lot at the Coors Amphitheatre stop of his Nellyville tour. However the incident further tarnished hip-hop's reputation among local promoters and venue owners and raised public concern about concert safety, with area hip-hop bookings becoming fairly scarce over the ensuing year. Police said officers directing traffic after the Nelly concert were flagged down by people in two cars near the venue. Each car contained a stabbing victim and a third car was pointed out containing parties said to be involved in the stabbing. Concertgoer Faitamai Tauanuu, a 30-year old Samoan man, died from his injuries and Sean Bowers, 27, was stabbed in the shoulder and under the armpit and hospitalized in serious condition. Police arrested Steven Tesam, 42, and Hank Banegas, 26, holding them for murder and attempted murder, and Tesam's 16-year-old son was taken to a juvenile facility, under suspicion of conspiracy. Tesam was the chairman of the Viejas band of the Kumeyaay Indians, who operate the Viejas Casino. Banegas is his nephew.
Witnesses said Tauanuu was stabbed in the heart during an alcohol-fueled fight, the combatants shouting obscenities. At a preliminary hearing in January 2003, Fili Usini testified that the victim was killed while trying to break up a scuffle between TeSam and Bowers. Deputy District Attorney Jeff Dusek told the court that charges would not be brought against Tesam because of insufficient evidence and the tribal chairman was released. The 16-year old was also released but Tesam's nephew Banegas was charged with the murder and faced 26 years to life for the stabbing.
On August 13 2003, Banegas circumvented his upcoming trial by pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault charges. At the October 8 sentencing, Defense attorney Tom Warwick tried to characterize the victim Tauanuu as belonging to a Samoan "Blood" gang, but prosecutor Dusek said the 30-year-old Paradise Hills man was just trying to break up a fight Tesam started with Tauanuu's friends. "He was trying to solve the situation that night and he ended up dead," Dusek told the judge. Banegas was sentenced to ten years in prison.
The mayor of Chula Vista , Shirley Horton, pointed out that the Nelly incident was the first major violent incident at the Amphitheatre after more than 50 events, adding "We will certainly evaluate the situation."
RICKIE LEE JONES, lyrics from "Drunk On The Striped Table"
"I abandon the old way when I first got to San Diego .
I fucked anybody I wanted to.
I was, however, gang raped by a blues band in an old school bus.
That was pretty horrible. There were only three of them.
I can't remember if I got the third one off me.
I think I did. I was so ashamed."