Starting the New Year Off with a Bang

Keith Morris (vocals, Circle Jerks): After the lecture, we started playing again and, of course, a couple of kids went down and that was when the bouncers got into it. The bouncers had been watching this and they were glad that I had made the comments. I’m not pro or con when it comes to bouncers because I’ve seen bouncers do just some amazingly fucked up shit. But at the same time it’s either them or the police and on many occasions there are people in the crowd who try to pull off some ridiculous stunt that just has no business being attempted in the first place. And they wonder why they’re being thrown out; why they’re handcuffed and being taken off to jail… But the Nazis knocked out a couple more kids and that’s when the bouncers went to the island and they started punching. You know, there should be no violence at these shows. We’re singing about violence, we live in a violent world. All we are is just a mirror of society. But this was one time where it was warranted. This was one time when I didn’t say anything when they had the biggest kid and they were dragging him out face-down and he was kicking and trying to punch. You don’t punch a bouncer, are you kidding? You don’t walk up to Mike Tyson and spit in his face. You’re gonna’ get killed! You lose! If you’re stupid enough to do that then you deserve whatever kind of stupid treatment they dole out. If you’ve got 50 bouncers there’s gonna’ be at least a dozen of them that are level-headed and aren’t there just to fight.

Jim Norton (bouncer): Now, after hearing Keith talk about how appreciative he was of the City Gardens bouncers helping him when he faced down the skinheads and their wall of death, maybe the part where I just said, “He never thought maybe it looked different from where I was…” was completely wrong. Maybe I need to turn that back on myself. Maybe both are right. Maybe it was a conditional thing. One man’s goon is another man’s… whatever. I would appreciate it if the parts where I sort of hedge a little bit and said how it looked from my side were said before I heard the nice things Keith said about the bouncers backing him up. Maybe I was the douche. A little self-realization, a little personal growth, never hurt anyone…

Nancy DeSimone (patron): So the show is over and the security guys were all circling around the band and making sure nobody was able to get backstage. They weren’t letting anybody get near them.

Stephen Ernest Saputelli (bass, Deadspot): By the end of the night the guitar player, Paul, was like, “Those guys want to kick our ass, let’s get out of here!” Randy was telling us that we couldn’t leave because all the skins were out in the parking lot waiting to fucking kill us! The staff came back in and they told us we couldn’t just walk out and get in our van. We gave the keys to the sound guy and he went and got our van and drove it around back for us and we kind of scurried off. I never had to run for my life before. It was cool, though. I really dug being on that stage in spite of everything.

Keith Morris (vocals, Circle Jerks): We finish our set and when we would get through playing we would hang out. The guys would want to drink a few beers, dry off, collect our thoughts, try to get laid… all of that fun stuff. But then the owner of the club says, “You guys can’t leave right now because there’s a parking lot full of skinheads.” And I’m thinking, “Well… there was a room full of skinheads 20 minutes ago – what’s the big deal?” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was going to be 10 guys versus 50 guys. It’s going to turn into this big, ugly, brutal thing out in the parking lot. It’s not like I’m afraid or anything like that. It’s just the way the owner explained it… He said, “If you want you can take a look outside.” What I noticed when I looked outside – and the only way you could look outside was by opening the front door – was that there were four cars with five or six guys in each car driving around in circles in the parking lot. And I’m like, “Okay, what are they trying to prove? What are they doing here, why don’t they just go home?” Well, they want to beat up and kill the lead singer of the Circle Jerks. I start thinking about it and I just cracked up! I’m not going anywhere.

Randy Now (promoter): They had to stay in the club for a while after the show: there were skinheads outside who wanted to kill them.

Carl Humenik (bouncer): That wasn’t just the Circle Jerks shows – that situation happened a number of times.Anytime there was a problem on the floor, they would just go outside and wait for the guy they had a problem with to come out.  If I have a problem with someone, I tell them, I don’t go out and get a bunch of my friends and circle the parking lot waiting for them. It’s an instance of someone trying to show off and be a man, but never actually doing anything.

Nancy DeSimone (patron): For what seemed like a really long time we couldn’t leave. The guards were outside saying that a bunch of people were waiting out in the parking lot. When they got them out of the parking lot they started circling around,up and down the street. We were sitting inside like “What the fuck?” We couldn’t leave!

Greg Hetson (guitar, Circle Jerks/Bad Religion): Randy and Tut let us hang out as long as we wanted to after the show, so we just hung out playing ping pong and pinball.

Nancy DeSimone (patron): I was terrified because I had never had any sort of run-ins with skinheads before and everyone was taking the whole situation pretty seriously. Well, Keith was all, “Fuck them!” everyone else was kind of sitting there, drinking beer and thinking, “You know… we didn’t sign up for this…”

Keith Morris (vocals, Circle Jerks):They’re out there driving around in circles waiting for us to come out and the really ridiculous thing is that if they really wanted to fuck with us, they could have slashed all the tires on the van, on the trailer, smashed out all the windows. But apparently they weren’t even smart enough to do that.

Nancy DeSimone (patron): Eventually when the coast was clear we barreled into our cars and went to Denny’s or something, and then we went to the Red Roof Inn. All City Gardens bands stayed there. Which was kind of funny because none of the skinheads even thought to come to the Red Roof.

Greg Hetson (guitar, Circle Jerks/Bad Religion): I guess eventually the parents came to pick their little boys up and take them home.

Keith Morris (vocals, Circle Jerks): When we left nothing happened. We got in the van and drove away. They were long gone. We just hung out with the staff and Randy; we went upstairs and played pinball. You get really good at pinball when you’re on tour.


From the upcoming book No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes, an oral history of 80’s and 90’s-era alternative/punk music told through the portal of one club—Trenton, New Jersey’s legendary City Gardens.

Photographs by Ken Salerno.

See also How Did It Come to This? An Oral History of May 3, 1987: The Day The Butthole Surfers Came to Trenton, New Jersey.

Amy Yates Wuelfing has been a music journalist since 1985 when she helped publish the punk ‘zine Hard Times. Since that time she has written for other music publications including B-Side and HITS. She is a graduate of Temple University and is currently Vice President of Marketing at business consulting firm. Steven DiLodovico spent his formative years going to punk and heavy metal shows, as well as booking show, in Philadelphia and New Jersey, and is an experienced music journalist who grew up in the underground scene of the 1980s. Steven has worked for several indie and major labels in various positions and has been a freelance writer for 15 years writing liner notes and bios for groups such as Jedi Mind Tricks. He has freelanced for CMJ, Subversive and Elemental, among others. More from this author →