As the story of Wade Michael Page
, a drunk, loner asshole who shot and killed six innocent people and himself at a Sikh
temple in Milwaukee on Sunday, starts to unfold along with his Orange County connection
, media have successfully dug up what seems to be another mass murderer cliche. Breaking down Page's past produces a picture of a disillusioned guy who drank too much, sponged off his friends, couldn't hack it in the army, was fired from just about every job in his recent history and, on top of everything else, listened to Rush
We recently spoke with Pete Simi, a criminology professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, who was once a grad student who talked his way into staying with Page and a his housemate to study them and their scene for a dissertation on white supremacist groups back when Page lived in Old Town Orange. From 2001 to 2003, Simi's contact with Wade included everything from interviews and crashing on his couch to late night hangout sessions watching him play in OC white supremacist band Youngland. Simi says that Page, though not the greatest guitar player, was virtually always playing in a different hate rock band as either a bass or guitar player since the local hate scene was so small, virtually devoid of skinhead fret talent.
Jason Stevens, who left the hate scene in 2004, was in a Portland-based group called Intimidation One that played shows with Youngland and recruited Page as their guitarist to fill in for a band member who couldn't get a passport prior to their European tour. He'd first met Page in Georgia at Hammerfest--one of the biggest white supremacist festivals in the country--in 2000. Two years prior, in 1998, Page was discharged from the army due to problems with discipline and drinking. Stevens, who was a major force in the white power music scene, says Wade's mellow, awkward personality made him the last guy to ever get involved with police scuffles or riots that broke out at their shows.
"Wade was never a fighter, he was never aggressive, he was never mean, "Stevens says over the phone. "It was almost like he was really just there for the music and to be able to travel and play. He didn't seem to be much into the ideology or the politics of it. We'd have riots break out in our shows in Europe. He wasn't standing there getting it on with the cops, he was usually trying to get outta there."
Stevens did say however, that their were a few times that Wade got arrested and quickly released when he and his bandmates illegally played their neo-Nazi music in public while on tour in Europe, where several countries have banned public displays of Nazism. Since leaving the white power movement, Stevens became an electrician and started a non-racist band called The Suppression.
Shortly after joining the white power scene, Simi said Page originally travelled to Orange County on a motorcycle with hardly anything but the clothes on his back. He eventually met the members of Youngland and start playing in OC hate rock groups at places like Anaheim's Shack (which is now a Mexican nightclub called Xalos) and the Doll Hut. Page also found some favor with old-timers in OC's hate rock scene who'd been around since the '80s.
"He called it the best time of his life," says Simi. "He'd always say it was like he'd finally found his bros." In a time where OC was regarded as an all white, conservative enclave and Simi says bands like Youngland, Blue Eyed Devils
and Max Resist
felt comfortable about making their beliefs known in public through their music in which skill was not a prerequisite. As we've reported before, for as much as punk rock back in the day didn't give a fuck about talent--these bands really
didn't give a fuck about talent.
However, Simi says, Page and other members of white supremacist bands were studied con artists when it came to getting unwitting club owners to let them play gigs. Back in 2001 the Shack talked to the Weekly about a white power rally that had come disguised as a wedding reception to their venue and quickly overwhelmed the place.
"The first thing bands like that try to do is ingratiate themselves with an owner or a bartender that worked there," Simi says. "When they asked about playing shows at these places they'd just say they played 'pro-American' music."
After Simi completed his research and left Page to take a job at University of Nebraska Omaha, he made one return trip to OC in 2004 but by then, he says, Page had already left the scene and had moved to North Carolina--though he did periodically stay in touch with his old buddies in the area. Stevens says the last time he talked to Page was in 2010 over phone. He'd said he was living in California and employed at a metal working shop.
"What he did literally makes me sick to my stomach," says Stevens.
Simi and Stevens also say that while some in the white power scene might champion Page's cowardly actions, there are others in the white power movement might think differently about how history should view his actions.
"A lot of these guys look at people like Timothy McVeigh as like the second coming, and maybe in the end they'll also view Page as a martyr as well," Simi says. "But, there's also skinheads that are gonna at this shooting as a stupid and pointless disgrace committed by just some idiot."