How coincidental that seven Easters after the fact, I found articles I had saved about the experience… one of the most bizarre ones of which I’ve been a part.

On Easter Sunday 1994, a friend and I were going to meet at a local teen club in suburban Marlton, NJ to see Doug E. Fresh. I got there, and my friend screwed me over by not showing up (he conveniently called 10 minutes after I left the house), but I was going to stay and catch the show. I happened to run into a girl I knew from elementary school but hadn’t seen since, so I talked with her a bit. She had been in a car accident a few weeks prior and was working the snack bar that night.

Doug E. was supposed to show by about 9pm, but he didn’t. At about 10:30 or 11, some local emcees got on stage to do a sort of local-talent type of thing until Doug E. arrived. By this point in the night, I was hanging out against a wall near the back of the club on the side furthest from the exit.

At about 11:30, a guy in the front row started heckling the emcee on stage and spit on him. The emcee got pissed and threw the microphone at the guy, but missed him and hit the guy’s girlfriend instead. A small fight between the two started up front, but then one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever been involved in started.

Since I could see all the way up to the front and had a good view of the entire crowd (which was up over 400 people by this point, packed tightly), I could see fists-a-flyin’ and a weird wave of fighting and people running that quickly swept from the front of the audience to the back. Everybody in the place was bolting for the door. I felt a sense of urgency, nearly panic, as I edged along the back wall working my way to the exit. The sound I heard as I was pushing and shoving to get out is one I’ll never forget… it sounded like a herd of buffalo coming full steam behind me. I was most worried about falling to the ground and getting trampled.

As I continued along the back wall, I soon came to the snack bar. The girl I knew from elementary school was behind the counter and looked terrified. She saw me and I yelled at her to “come on!” but she yelled back, “I can’t! I can’t! I have to stay… my leg!” The exit was only a few steps away, but I jumped the snack counter to try and help her out of the club. As I stood behind the snack counter, I watched people rush past in a panic. Among them was an angry looking guy who had a wooden chair held over his head, charging our way. I screamed to the few people that had taken refuge behind the counter, “Get down!”

Only I never finished the word “down.” I blacked out for a second and came to on the ground behind the counter. My hat was no longer on my head and my glasses were gone. The girl was on the ground next to me and the glass pretzel machine had fallen on top of her. I looked back and saw a young girl holding her boyfriend whose head was busted wide open.

A chair to the head didn't do me nothin'

Though I don’t know what happened for sure in that span of five seconds, I figure I can pretty safely deduct that I was hit over the head or in the back with that chair. My head didn’t ache and I didn’t have a concussion, so I probably took most of it to my upper back, but enough to the head to knock me out for a second.

I got up and noticed that there was a small break in the crowd, so the girl and I made a quick dash for the back room (the employees-only section). We waited behind locked doors with the four security guards. They had tried to calm things down but just got their asses beaten, being that they were outnumbered more than 100-to-1. One short, but muscular, guard looked particularly bad.

I called home to my dad and said, “Dad… could you come to the club… something kinda’ happened.” I had borrowed his car, but just wanted him to come and drive behind me on the way home since I was so shaken up.

After a while, the ruckus ended, and the few of us in the back went out to survey the damage. The club looked like shit. I remember a huge metal chain (the kind you would see on a small crane) laying on the ground. Broken glass was everywhere, and soda covered the floors. It was tornado-type bad.

I went over to the snack counter to see if I could find my hat and glasses. I found both. The inside of my hat was covered with someone else’s blood and my glasses were nearby. By some miracle, the glasses weren’t broken—just covered with Sprite from the soda machine that had been knocked off the counter. My dad’s car was also OK, which is good considering the newspaper reported that one person’s car had been bashed in with a baseball bat.

There was a weird sense of comraderie amongst the dozen or so of us that were left as we just stood there, in shock at all that had occured. It was most definitely what one would call a riot.

Following is an article that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer two days later:

April 5, 1994
Police report ‘a near riot’ in and around dance club
Heckling at a concert touched off waves of fighting. When was over, seven were injured.

EVESHAM — Seven people received minor injuries and a Mount Holly youth was arrested late Sunday in what police called “a near riot” that erupted at the WhereHouse Club TNT, an under-21 dance club. Thirty police officers needed several hours to quell the disturbance.

The teen dance club and entertainment center at 2000 Lincoln Drive normally holds dances only on Friday and Saturday nights, but was hosting a special Easter Sunday live rap performance. The melee broke out shortly after 11 after someone in the capacity crowd heckled and spat at one of the entertainers, police said.

In response, the unidentified rapper threw his microphone into the audience, reportedly striking a female patron and triggering a brawl that the club’s four security officers were unable to contain.

Township police, who had been patrolling the area since 9:30 p.m. after receiving a complaint about suspicious activity on the adjacent parking lot, called for backup when fighting began in the parking lot and one patron’s car was bashed with baseball bats.

Police units responded from nearby Mount Laurel, Maple Shade, Medford, Cherry Hill, Medford Lakes, Voorhees and Pennsauken, along with three K-9 dogs, to help dispel the crowd. Evensham Police Sgt. Harry Taraskus said the situation was declared under control and the parking lot cleared by 1:30 a.m.

An unidentified WhereHouse security guard declined medical attention for head injuries, police said.

Two teenage boys were treated for minor injuries at Burlington County Memorial Hospital and released. Two men and a teenage girl went to West Jersey Hospital-Marlton for treatment.

Police were later called to dispel a disturbance at West Jersey Hospital-Marlton after another injured male and several of his friends continued fighting at the hospital.

“It took another half-hour to clear the hospital area of the combatants,” Taraskus said in a news release.

Police arrested a Mount Holly youth on charges of assault and possession of a knife. The boy was later released to the custody of his parents, police said.

Douglas Patterson, who owns the building but rents it out, said the dance club had been operating since September without any problems. The entertainment center had a capacity of 400.

“The teenagers in our area, which includes Medford, Marlton, Mount Laurel and Moorestown, are very good young adults in general,” Patterson said. “That’s the reason we’ve been trying to give them a good place to go and have fun, because nobody wants teenagers.

“A couple will always try something, but up until now we never have had any problems.”

Patterson said the club, which is operated by Mark Misty, normally employs six security guards at the Friday and Saturday night dances. Only four guards were working Sunday night because Misty “wasn’t expecting much of a crowd,” he said.

Misty was unavailable for comment.

Lynne Sproule Scheiter, who operates the RAP Room, a teen peer counseling and resource center next door, said the teen club was normally well-run and expressed disappointment at the incident.

“This is exactly what we didn’t want to happen,” Scheiter said. “This is what you always fear when you’re trying to do something with kids. It’s real disappointing. But when you get large numbers of kids, you always have the potential for problems, especially if kids are coming from the outside.”

While the experience itself was one of the scariest things I’ve ever been a part of, it makes for a hell of a good story to tell my grandkids. And it’s given me a few good lines for my songs, too. Silver lining, you know…