Springboard for Hitler

Anaheims the Shack has become Nuremberg-rally central for OC racists

Photo by Eric MayfieldIt's Sept. 2, the day before Labor Day 2001, and inside the Shack, neo-Nazis are setting up band equipment and literature tables for another Sunday show of racist rock and recruitment.

Outside the Anaheim rock club, the scene is like the red-carpet runway at a Fascist Academy Awards. Reporters, placard-waving demonstrators and a stream of Nazis mingle at the club's entrance in north Anaheim.

Club staffers say they know nothing—or that they're preparing for a wedding reception. Co-owner John Terbay emerges to talk with reporters.

Terbay and his partner, Bob Gibson, are coming out of two years of denials to begin slowly acknowledging that their club has hosted a series of Nazi get-togethers.

The candor isn't complete. "I don't know what kind of bands are playing tonight," Terbay says.

Has he had White Power shows in the past?

"Yes, we've had them," he admits. "But I'm Lebanese. If I was supporting Nazis, my whole family would be out here." Terbay points to the 35 or so protestors waving signs ("NAZIS TO THE NUTHOUSE!" "HONK IF YOU HATE NAZIS!") and chanting ("NO NAZIS, NO KKK, NO FASCIST USA!"). The libertarians are out here, as is the Jewish Defense League.

And so are the Nazis, the Klan supporters and the skinheads. By 7 p.m., security is patting down customers at the front door. The fashion sense is what you'd expect—shaved heads, sleeve tattoos, tank tops or Skrewdriver T-shirts for the men, vaguely punk or Bettie Page looks for the women. A couple of guys arrive in uniforms—black pants, black neckties and white dress shirts with Confederate-flag patches on the shoulder (one pauses just before entering the Shack to give protestors the Heil Hitler salute). A woman with Tragic Kingdom-era Gwen Stefani blond hair, a white tank top and blue jeans rolled up at the cuffs pulls up in a Saturn, unloads a guitar case, glares at a protestor, and says, "If I wasn't pregnant, I'd kick your ass."

As darkness falls and the 8 p.m. show time nears, a muscled, tank-and-tats-sporting skinhead comes to the door to talk with reporters. His tattoos are pretty elaborate, but the SS emblems are unmistakable. He says his name is Tommy Romero (which may or may not be true—many of today's neo-Nazis are stingy with their last names) and says he's promoting tonight's show.

Romero says, "We have a right to free assembly and freedom of speech just like everybody else," that the Shack has hosted "from eight to 10 shows here, and there has been not one single incident," and that he represents the skinhead movement.

He hands out a statement titled "The Fascists Amongst Us." "It is difficult to imagine that at the dawn of the new millennium, censorship is rearing its ugly head once again," the statement reads. It goes on to complain that protestors outside the Shack are the real fascists, trying to stop neo-Nazis from exercising their right to peaceably assemble. "We will not allow ourselves, as freethinking individuals, to conform to their McCarthy-era style of Fascism. . . We've held many shows in the past without any incidents, and we will continue to do so."

Clandestine White Power shows aren't unheard of in Orange County. What's weird is that a commercial venue like the Shack would host one—or, rather, several since the club underwent an ownership change in February 1999.

Terbay and Gibson have offered evolving responses: (1) they have denied such shows ever took place; (2) they have said they are not sure White Power bands perform at their club because they're not much interested in the politics of their bands and can't understand the lyrics; and (3) they have said the shows have gone on, but hey, it's a free country, even for Nazis.

No. 3 is undoubtedly true, but it contradicts Nos. 1 and 2. And the Shack's fear of publicity raises questions about its commitment to No. 3, regarding which, let's say this: for two years, ending around the night of Sept. 2, the Shack's ownership worked assiduously to keep the Nazi shows top secret, staging most of them on unadvertised Sunday afternoons, referring to them as "private parties." Interviews with the Shack's owners, staff and representatives of anti-hate activist organizations make one thing clear: the shows were going on, but management didn't want the publicity.

And until recently, they succeeded in maintaining a low profile. Word that the Shack had become OC's Nuremberg-rally center got out just last month when an e-mail announcing an Aug. 19 Nazi fund-raiser fell into the hands of anti-racist groups. Mass-mailed by Blood & Honour and the Costa Mesa chapter of Women for Aryan Unity, the e-mail claimed the Shack would host supremacist bands Youngblood, Hate Crime and Warfare88 (H being the eighth letter of the alphabet, "88" is skinhead slang for "Heil Hitler"). The show would raise money for a compilation CD featuring like-minded pro-Nazi groups and, as the e-mail stated, "recruit all whites who are not already part of our great movement. Included with the CD will be literature and information to get these young white kids on the right track to discovering the truth." The e-mail suggested that people supporting the racist cause would be flying in from other states to attend.

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