The Stickey Saga at the Biltmore
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Saved by the Bell.”
Being in a sticky situation and extracting yourself out of it is one thing; being in a sticky situation with no chance of extracting yourself out of it but you got out because other people came along at the precise right time is something else. Well, I have experienced the latter. Let me tell you a tale of how True_George almost became the late True_George; maybe I’m exaggerating, but I’ll let you be the judge.
It happened one Thursday during the fall at a dance hall called the Biltmore Ball room in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. Weekend party time in the City begins on Thursday this particular dance hall is located in the Flatbush area around the corner from the famous Erasmus Hall High School, the same school that Barbra Streisand attended. Now you need to understand that places like the Biltmore Ballroom is nothing but a death trap. Even though the City has regulations that clubs and dance halls are supposed to have fire exits, the Biltmore had none. There was only one entrance and exit. During the years from my experience in this place lots of people lost their lives there. But this tale has nothing to do with escaping fire.
What took me along with two other friends to this place on a Thursday during the fall was that there was supposed to be an appearance of three major artists, who were popular in the West Indian community and they had number one hits on the Jamaican, American and British reggae charts at the time. Those artists were Michael Palmer, Half-Pint and Phillip “Papa” Levi. The promoter charged a lot of money for this event. At the door we saw that the promotor took the unusual step of hiring private security. These were not the usual bouncers. These were armed guards who also had K-9’s. The K-9’s were angry looking Rottweilers. We paid our money and we were in.
There was a good size crowd and everyone was waiting for the featured artists. In the meantime music was playing, people were dancing and having a good time. There was a performance by local artist Shinehead. Yes, the same Shinehead who eventually got signed to a major label. Everyone liked Shinehead’s performance. But, he did not satisfy the crowd because he was not the featured artist. It was going onto two O’clock and still none of the featured artists showed up and the crowd was getting restless. Then there was a rumor that Michael Palmer showed up, looked at the size of the crowd and announced the crowd wasn’t big enough to warrant a performance and he left. Whether the rumor was true or not, it stirred up the crowd. The crowed confronted the promotor, but the security men intervened and soon some of the crowed got in a confrontation with the security. Wisely, the security put the K-9’s in the van so nobody would get bit. While that was happening, one of the security personal stayed inside. Then a dread (Raster man) got in a heated discussion with that security guy, then he (the dread) grabbed the security and started to slap him in the face. That was a very bold move especially since the security guy had an unconcealed chrome .357 Magnum on his waist. Who would in their right mind want to slap someone carrying the world’s most powerful hand gun? To top that off, I was standing right next to them as this was happening. You guessed it, the security guy immediately draw the .357 Magnum, and fired a shot. Luckily for the dread the security guy shot one round in the air instead of in the dread’s chest. But for me, as soon as the gun was fired, all I saw was a flash of bright light. I shit you not. All I saw was a bright light. I don’t know how long it lasted; you may ask was it the light that you go into when you die? Did I just got shot? It felt so surreal, because when the light cleared I felt as though I was put back in place. This had to be a case of spiritual intervention. I was taken and was moving through the light, but suddenly pulled out of the light and put back where I was. It wasn’t my time. When my wits finally returned I looked at the ceiling to see how large the hole was, but there was no bullet hole in the ceiling. I thought to myself where did the bullet go? Simultaneously I looked around and saw that the crowd had disbursed and I was only person standing. Then I saw the three security men, and they all had guns pointed at me, and they were all in a firing stance. Oh, shit. What a sticky situation, and there was no way out of it. If there was a spiritual intervention plucking me from the light and putting me back to where I was; then why is it that I am in front of three guys getting ready to shoot me. Then “lord behold,” the Cops busted in. Now understand what I just described took place in a matter of minutes even though it felt longer.
So now the NYPD are on the scene, eight patrol cars; I didn’t count the number of police personal, but there were lots. Then an old cop wearing a white shirt with a gold shield came in and asked what’s going on. When the patrons explained what happened, the old Cop told the promoter to start giving everyone their money back. The promoter refused. Then, the old cop told him again to give back the money. The promoter still refused. Then the old Cop said “if you want Police protection give back the money,” The promoter refused again. So the old Cop told his detail of Police to leave. Once the Police left the crowd grabbed the promoter and beat the living hell out of him. During the ass whipping someone grabbed the cash box and ran down the street and disappeared. The crowd went wild and started to bust up everything in the place. Then they went for the bar area before they got to the beer, I quickly took two cases. The crowed saw this and followed suit and started to take the cases of beer and liquor. They figured out it was better to rob the place of their drinks at least they got their money’s worth instead wasting time busting up the place and ending with nothing.
I stumbled across this Blog after searching for Biltmore Ballroom as I was hunting for photo’s I wanted to show the youth on Dancehall history.
Back in the early to mid 90’s my crew and I used to drive from Toronto to New York to check out some of the dances that were talked about at the Biltmore Ballroom. I remembered we went to a Clash and the first thing that came to mind was, this was a different kind of crowd than other Dances we went to. This was a crowd that was easy to snap if the wrong things went down. As we were enjoying the dance, we see man dem poppin off shots giving Gun Salute’s to certain songs or dubs played. At the same time a fight broke out at the entrance and shots rang out there. It was crazy people were like “where are we gonna go” and security went to push the situation to the street. The dance continued but it was clear that the venue wasn’t really managed the way other places were managed.
Looking back in retrospect despite the gun tings dem, I’m glad we got to experience one of these clashes there but on the flip side you’re life was really at some kind of risk. Today the Dancehall scene has really toned down and the Kids are actually in a much safer environment given the tight regulations they have now. But back then…it was cowboy town for sure. Brooklyn wasnt the only place that had trigger happy people going to dances, Toronto had the same problem in that same period too and it was unfortunate how many people were permanently disabled from gunfire or even killed. The mentality then was, its like that everywhere, what did we have to lose……..
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We had our lives to lose…
Thanks for reading my experience. The Biltmoore was a death trap. Even after this event,there were events where people got shot and some of them killed. It took a while before the City eventually shut them down.
Yeah, I remember going to Dance hall clashes and other locations where fights break out because a sound played one to many dubs cutting into the other sound’s time.
Back then the danger was immaterial to me, I loved the clashes and dances of the raw sound systems.. But I can tell ya, I never went back to the Biltmoore for nothing after this experience.
Its interesting the the people in the culture behave the same everywhere…
Yeah man, as a Flatbush youngster in those days I can truly back up those stories… Biltmore, Starlight, The Shell, Galaxy…Skating Rink, and all those basement parties. Let’s not forget Sound Systems such as: Earthquake, Babyquake, Eruption, Magnum, Hurricane, Tallas from Chicago, Killaman JJ, Etc… Original U.S. sounds…
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Yep..not to mention Star tone, Empire Tone… etc LOL
Each week it was an adventure
Started going to Love People before it turned into a drug haven could write stories about those death traps
Those were INFAMOUS times.. I remember the dance at the same BILTMORE BALLROOM with Shelly Thunder as the main performer. Late as usual (same as with any artist that performed there), Shelly touched the stage, and greeted the crowd. As SOON AS SHE STARTED HER HIT SONG AT THE TIME, “KUFF”, someone started bussing gunshots in the air.. I IMMEDIATELY ducked while other patrons ducked as well. The music stopped. Shelly temporarily left and ran off the stage. It took the promoter a while to calm the crowd. After 5 mins, Shelly came back to tell whoever fired the shots to please hold it down… At this time, I was close to the door. A good number of people had left. I didn’t blame them.. DANCEHALLREGGAE SOUND CLASHES were also the norm in which gunshots would ring out.. Wether it was LP VS ADDIES, THE BORDER CLASH (KING BARKA VS LP VS PRETTY POSSE), OR BLACK CAT VS ADDIES in which some NUTCASE bussed semi automatic shots outside of the Ballroom around 4:30 in the morning hours.. BILTMORE BALLROOM, and other DANCEHALL REGGAE clubs like this one back then were shooting havens in which dozens of people were either permanently grazed, maimed, or killed. Some of them were just innocent party patrons..
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Thanks for validating what was said about that death trap Biltmore Ballroom. People lose their lives there and it still open fir business.
Yes, I been to many sound clashes where it ended up in fights, gunshots or the Police shutting down the dance hall for the night and confiscate the sound system….Being in a young frame of mind I did not know how lucky I was not to be grazed, maimed or shot. But it is shame that we could not enjoy a good sound clash without violence…
Wow. A life-altering experience for sure.
Well, I never did attend an event in that place after this incident
Hope you managed to obtain decent alcohol and did not suffer any bodily damage!
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yep, I got two cases of beer and I didn’t suffer any injury
Crikey, that sounds very much a close call.
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Yep, it was a close call……