The co-owner of a nascent nightclub -- in the throbbing metropolis of Fremont, no less -- is doomed to endure several decidedly lousy days. So it goes for Rick Haynes, who has spent the past week and a half explaining how the altercation that took place outside Club V in the early hours of Saturday, March 26, did not resemble a scene from the "Beat It" video.
"It hurts," Rick says. "How the media portrays the situation can hurt you. I thought that the police and the security guards did a great job of breaking everything up without any injuries."
The media has described, via print and radio airwaves, a righteous brawl pitting twenty angry dudes against twenty other angry dudes, a parking lot melee that required fourteen cops to disperse, and ended with six angry dudes getting arrested.
Rick doesn't dispute the facts so much as the presentation. "They make it sound like it's this big forty-person brawl -- well, that's not what happened," he says. "We had some separate altercations in the parking lot that were dealt with very well by security and police. It wasn't a huge out-of-control situation or anything, where a bunch of people got hurt or a bunch of people were beating up on each other. Newspapers want to sell newspapers, I guess."
This being Club V's first prominent introduction to the East Bay public, the incidents weren't particularly well-timed. The monolithic, 20,000-square-foot dance club opened in January after a year's preparation, and like all newborn venues in its position, it's still struggling to establish itself in the market. Rick uses the phrase "providing a service for the community" a lot to describe the particular charitable act that Club V has in mind for South Alameda county. "It's been a challenge -- it is a challenge," he says. "It just really was a needed service in this area, and we're hoping people will respond to it. Instead of going to San Francisco or San Jose, they'll stay in their own area, and go out clubbing here instead of leaving. I just don't think there was a good enough place for them to stay, before, to keep 'em at home."
Are club kids' ears perking up? Posters in an online forum at street-racing Web site SROmagazine.com batted curiously at Club V like a kitten with a piece of string, describing it as anything from "gay ass" to "hella cool" to "Fremont hahahahaha ... hell no."
Unfazed by the haters, the new joint, in addition to regular Top 40/"Club Hits" events, recently has had a run of eye-catching shows aspiring to reel in the SF/SJ crowd: Cock-rocker and porn magnate Tommy Lee headlined an eclectic event in early March, and just last Saturday alt-rocker-turned-celeb-DJ Perry Farrell joined DJ Skribble for a big to-do.
On March 27 -- roughly twenty hours after the forty-man quasi-rumble -- Club V also hosted the "Chicks with Decks" tour, featuring big-shot DJs Irene and Rap. Down in Front, blissfully unaware of the brawl that had taken place the night before, was there as a witness.
Nice place, though a bit weird, and very, very loud.
The "Fremont hahahaha" wiseass has a point: Club V resides in a bit of a strip mall wasteland, particularly after 9 p.m. or so, when all the furniture stores and bridal gown outlets have closed for the night. A small but steady stream of folks shuffles in anyway, swallowed by the monolithic cavern the club occupies -- it's a massive space with towering ceilings, gaudy lights, twenty or so disco balls, faux-graffiti art on the walls, several full bars, just as many fancy-ass VIP areas, and the Loudest Sound System Ever Constructed by Man.
Within twenty minutes of entering, as we sit watching the only two people on the dance floor -- a textbook glowstick-bearing raver inexplicably dressed like Scooby-Doo, and a dude in a wheelchair -- the wheelchair dude starts hitting on my girlfriend.
Afterwards, she attempts to discuss the experience over the apocalypse-heralding boom of the sound system.
What did he say to you?
WUMP WUMP WUMP WUMP.
WUMP WUMP WUMP WUMP.
Never mind. It's nearly impossible to have a conversation in this environment, and if you tried, it's easy to understand how a misunderstanding and subsequent parking lot brawl could ensue -- Hey, man, got a light? could easily be misheard as I'll fuck you up like a car crash.
But not tonight. The only physical altercation to speak of occurs in the men's bathroom -- two guys enter, and while one hits the urinal, the other picks up a trash can full of soiled paper towels and playfully dumps it over the urinal patron's head. Mass giggling ensues. While unsanitary and juvenile, this hardly merits its own Cops episode.
No, the overtones here involve sex, not violence. DJs Irene and Rap do their relentless 4/4 WUMP WUMP WUMP WUMP techno bit -- the beat builds, the beat abruptly drops out, the beat climactically returns louder than ever, repeat ten thousand times -- but when an attractive young lass in a short jean skirt jumps up on a bar and starts dancin', within three minutes she has attracted a crowd of drooling dudes almost larger than the one watching the DJs.
Rick explains that this is a slow night, in which case Club V's bartenders and other staff are encouraged to rile up the small crowd via bar-dancing and other gentle but suggestive pep-rally methods. But the lonely-dude lust generated here is disturbingly real: The joint is a few shots of Jack away from turning into a full-on strip club or a scene from Roadhouse. The chances of a fight breaking out would skyrocket accordingly.
Therein lies Club V's rub: Be notorious, but not that notorious; provocative, but not that provocative. And combining alcohol, loud music, and testosterone always heralds the possibility of disaster. "You know, people, especially men, when they get drunk, they wanna fight and cause problems," Rick says. "All that you can do is deal with it when it happens, okay? There's preventative measures so that people don't do things, so that drugs and weapons can't get in the club and stuff like that, but how are you gonna stop it when somebody steps on somebody's foot or runs into somebody, and that person gets mad, they have words, and they're gonna try and fight? Our objective is to split them up before they do that, keep our eye on everyone, and not let it get to that point. That's what we try our best to do."
No nightclub worth walking into doesn't promise a little bit of danger. Club V just delivered it. Let's see how much more it -- and Fremont -- can stand.
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