Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Miamisburg Talent Show Riot Revisited

First, I want to thank my good friend Matt, for emailing me this link that led me down the road called memory lane....The link in question is called Freaksite.

The band on this particular Freaksite link is A Ten O'Clock Scholar, and the incident they're writing about is the riot that took place after the band's first public performance at Miamisburg High School in December 1991. I know a thing or two about this incident....I was there.

The website does a good job of giving the background....but gets most of the facts all wrong. So here, in a nutshell, is what REALLY happened that day.

A little background information for you: Miamisburg High in the early 90's was Cowboy Heaven. The guys wore cowboy hats and boots with their tuxes to Prom. Garth Brooks music played over the intercom during lunch and in between classes. An armada of pickup trucks with Rebel flags in the windows lined the parking lot. It was in this environment that I arrived in 1990. You can just imagine my dismay...walking into a school of proud-to-be-rednecks, with my green mohawk, multiple piercings and hardcore punk outlook on life. It wasn't pretty, and neither was my junior year. I was taunted, teased, had my locker vandalized, even had live firecrackers thrown at me as I walked home from school. I muddled through as best I could, going into Dayton to hang out with my punk and goth friends on the weekends and laughing off the Hillbilly Hell I'd found myself in. Then something happened my senior year....a band called Nirvana. Suddenly, it was Hug-a-Punk day at MHS. I was everyone's best friend. I went from outcast to popularity queen practically overnight, and with no effort on my own part. The irony of it all was, I hated Nirvana. I couldn't stand grunge. It's funny now, when I look back on it. There was, however, one group at MHS that didn't buy into my new-found popular status: the football team. They still hated me with a passion, and had no problem expressing this. There were other 'alternative' types at MHS: my best friend Fizz, my friends Amy and Holly, and a quiet, creative kid named Kevin Parret. I was the most "out-there," however; the most visible, and the biggest target for the football team and their testosterone-driven bullying tactics. I avoided them for the most part.

In the winter of 1992, however, one member of the football team (who I am going to refer to as "Numbnuts") decided to push the envelope. MHS had a weekly cable-access show, produced by students. One segment was called "Hot or Not?" or some such nonsense. One day, I came into the cafeteria, and was instantly surrounded by people wanting to know if I'd "seen it already." What they were talking about, as I soon learned, was the latest Hot or Not segment, starring Mr. Numbnuts. He had two balloons: one with a blonde wig and red lipstick painted on, the other with a green wig and black lipstick painted on (I was the only person at MHS who fit that description). He basically went on about "freaks" and "who could you bring home to momma" and nonsense like that, and then took out a long needle and burst the Angel balloon. When I look back on it now, it seems so silly and juvenile. But I was 16 at the time...and royally pissed off. I immediately went to the teacher in charge of the show, and he hadn't seen it yet, either. He apologized when he saw the segment, and told Numbnuts that he had to apologize on air to me, or he'd be kicked off the show and fail the class. He chose to fail. The football team was incensed with me. I was persona non grata to them. This all happened in retaliation for the Talent Show Riot...the team clearly blamed me for it, when it was their own incindiary behavior that was the cause of the problem in the first place.

In December came the MHS Talent Show. Kevin's band, A Ten O'Clock Scholar, was scheduled to play dead last. I had some misgivings about it; this was not exactly a school that was into the kind of music Kevin's band played. But I figured this was the school gym, during school hours, and there wouldn't be a problem. I volunteered to help set up, and Kevin was cool with it.

Here's where the Freaksite account of the riots is just plain wrong. They describe the football players as "pelting the band with loose change, halfway through the first song." They then claim the lead singer, Steven, goaded them on and the band began throwing water at the crowd. This is not what happened at all.

On to the rest of my story: I helped them set up, and chose to stand near them, dancing, while they played one song, and then a cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I felt something hit me in the head. It was a small, plastic Rebel flag. I looked up at the audience, and the football players were standing, waving the flags and then tossing them at the band. They were singing some stupid country tune...I didn't recognize it. Then the quarters began to fly...the principal came out, and warned the football players to stop (but not too harshly....there was a very "boys will be boys" attitude towards the football team at the school). Steven never goaded them, or threatened anybody. He did absolutely nothing to precipitate what happened...it was in no way his fault, or anyone in the band's fault. He did what any good lead singer is supposed to do: he went on with the show, and ignored the assholes in the audience. Now, the Freaksite says he grabbed his crotch and "goaded" the football players on. It's possible there was some crotch-grabbing....I was in the back, near the amps, so I wasn't in a position to see. Never did anyone in the band tell the football players, "We'll take you all on." Are you kidding? They weren't stupid or suicidal; some of those guys were HUGE. I vaguely remember someone---possibly Steven---yelling at them to stop throwing the water balloons, a kind of, "Hey, cut that out!" statement. But no threats of violence.

After the principal walked away, the football players began throwing water balloons at the band. This was clearly planned ahead of time. The band did NOT throw water at anyone...other than tossing back some of the balloons in an effort to keep their equipment from getting wet. Maybe a few were thrown back in retaliation....at that point, I was incensed and not really paying attention to what either Steven or Kevin was doing. I do know the drummer was quite upset, worried (justifiably so) that the water balloons would do serious damage to the band's equipment.

As soon as the song ended, the football team rushed the band. Several teachers moved in, seperating us. Someone unplugged the band's equipment; I remember seeing an adult, but I don't know who it was. The band was not interested in a riot....I, however, was young and dumb and all for it. I jumped up and spat in the face of Numbnuts. I punched someone, who turned out to be Numbnuts. I cursed a blue streak. I did tell the football players that I would, in many colorful terms, kick their asses. I also questioned their parentage at more than once.

Let me repeat this: the band was not acting violently, and did nothing wrong. I, however, did. I admit it...and they were none too happy with me as a result. The band thought I acted immaturely, and let's face it: I did. The principal thought I was starting a riot: that I disagree with. I said nothing, did nothing, until the team was already in the process of rushing the band. The football players wanted someone to blame, and I was it. I'll say this much: I hold some blame, but not all of it, damnit.

I was never really friends with Kevin after the incident; I think he partially blamed me for the near-riot and for ruining his band's first performance. I saw him only once afterwards, when a mutual friend died. I'll say this for Kevin, we got along fairly well when our friend died, and he acted like a true gentleman to me that day. I was beside myself with grief, and he helped me. He is a good guy. Don't know what he thinks of me, lol, but if you ever read this, Kevin...thank you. I never forgot your kindness. That's what I prefer to remember about you...not the riot.

So why am I even addressing the riot at all? Well, I think the Freaksite people did the band a disservice. Their article made it sound as if they asked for what happened, by playing to a crowd they should'nt have played to and goading on the already-worked-up football players. And that's just not true. For starters, this was a talent show. Kevin and his band had just as much right to perform there as anyone else. Secondly, the band was nothing but polite and professional to everyone at the school, both before and after the riot. You would have thought they'd been playing together for years, the way they behaved. Third, they didn't start anything and had no intention of starting anything. They just wanted to play their music. The football players clearly had other ideas...they had the flags, change and water balloons all ready for the performance. They weren't going to give Kevin's music a chance: they were looking for a fight, and for a chance to show their asses. You can't blame that on the band in any way. They also weren't responsible for anything I did...I was never affiliated with the band. I was just a casual friend of Kevin's, trying to support him in what I knew was likely to be a less-than-receptive atmosphere. They didn't put me up to behaving the way I did, didn't goad me into it, and couldn't stop me once I had started (although one of them did try to stop me, I think it was a guy they had with them helping out, a roadie if you will).

As far as I know, the only peopled hauled into the principal's office in connection with the riot were me and Numbnuts...me because I'd punched him, and him because he'd tried to grab me. We both ended up with Saturday school, if I recall correctly. The band didn't, and shouldn't have. They did NOTHING wrong. I did, but I sure as hell wasn't the only one.

Now, I do know that some people---including one outspoken mutual friend of mine and Kevin's who will go nameless---blamed me for instigating the riot under the claim that it was my presence that made the football players go ballistic. I don't buy that at all. For one, I wasn't a member of the band and the football players had no way of knowing that I would, on the spur of the moment, volunteer to help out. For another, they came in with the flags and water balloons ready. I'm sure my being there didn't help any, particularly after the team rushed the band, but I wasn't the reason. They were just being assholes. They were on some stupid redneck solidarity trip, some idiotic us-against-them bullshit. That was their claim-to-fame at the time; bullying to the nth degree. Anyone who didn't conform to their Travis Tritt-version of Right was clearly Wrong and had to be dealt with accordingly. Morons.

So that, in a nutshell, is what REALLY happened at the Miamisburg Talent Show Riot.

On my way home from the show, I was pelted with live fireworks by the football players. Neither the cops nor the school would do anything about it. A few weeks later came the Hot or Not segment...and the rumors that I was, in fact, to blame for the entire talent show fiasco. I laughed that off then, and laugh it off now. They wanted to be assholes, the least they could do is OWN it. But I guess we were all young and dumb and ready to be assholes then...we were teenagers. Goes with the territory.


At 8:46 AM, Blogger Desultory Girl said...

Ah, don't you just love to be a tough girl? I did, but I wasn't as bold as you when I was in high school, I only did that in some of my hockey games. Oh yeah, nevermind, I did a few times throughout my fighting career as a teen.

Anyway I enjoyed reading your post. As it made me smile and at the same time remind me of one of my good friends Rachel. When I was a junior, Rachel was a freshman, one day out of the blue, she just decided to shave her entire head. I found out about this as she walked on the bus.

Now mind you, our school was at least 65% black, but anyway she was taunted not just by black kids, but the white kids too. Some nameless asshole, slapped her in the back of the head. I felt aweful. Those ignorant mean fools tried equating her shaved head with being a Nazi, and this was so not the case. For got sakes, I was one of her closer friends and I was a hip-hop skater chick. It was so underserved.

She had some rough times, matter of fact we all did. I can say happily now, that she wasn't scarred for life by this. She came from a trailer home with some pretty shitty parents, yet has got her head on her shoulders for the most part. She now has long beautiful hair and is about to be a mommy soon.

It was nice to meet you and i'll check back soon. Btw, found out about you through my twin, Punkrock Mommy.


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