While benefit promoters Rick Blatstein and Larry Goldfarb are trying to play down the subject, Guidotti's injuries raise the thorny issue of safety and security at area rock clubs and concerts, particularly those involving hard rock and rap.
Here's what happened: on Sunday, June 4, at 3:15 a.m., after finishing a show with the heavy-metal group Heavens Edge show at the Empire rock club, Roosevelt Boulevard at Princeton Avenue in the Northeast, Guidotti walked out the door of the club and was fired on by a man with a shotgun. According to Detective Robert Weaver of the Northeast detective division, the man - later identified as Patrick Craig Ryan - had been hanging around the Empire parking lot much of the night, shouting obscenities.
At about 1:15 a.m., Ryan got into a fracas with bouncers at the Empire
entrance and "cold-cocked" Steven Walker, one of the bouncers, according to Weaver. Another Empire bouncer then "retaliated in kind," and Ryan "walked away threatening to come back with 150 Warlocks to kill them," Weaver said.
According to police, Ryan (since charged in the case) "did return with his shotgun, fired a few shots in the air and then declared he was going to shoot the next guy who walked out the door." That happened to be Guidotti, who was hit with buckshot from his shoulders to his knees. (Ryan currently is in custody in lieu of $40,000 bail.)
"The doctor who operated on him told Guidotti he was lucky to still be alive," says Weaver. "He's had two operations and will need more."
According to the detective, there were "at least three to five fights" that night outside the Empire. The large parking lot also serves the adjoining Nightworks club and an all-ages roller rink, and is one of the most popular youth hangouts in the Northeast.
A number of sources in the music business say they know of musicians who are reluctant to play the Empire. One concert promoter, who asked not to be named, said, "Because of the neighborhood and the (hard rock) music the club features, it attracts a very tough crowd. The booze and the bruiser-type of bouncers they employ just make matters worse."
Empire proprietor Blatstein denies that going to his hard rock club is dangerous. "I'd let my daughter go there if she was old enough . . . You can get shot at an Elton John concert, too, or at a shopping mall . . . This was just a random instance of violence, one nut case, one unfortunate tragedy."
(Tonight's benefit is at the Troc, another Blatstein club, which usually features dance parties and midweek local rock shows. Blatstein also operates the Arch Street Empire, a live rock club; the Phoenix, a disco next door to the Arch Street club, and Walnut Federal, an upscale restaurant/disco.)
Certainly, there have been other incidents of violence at other clubs around the city. The long-shuttered Ripley Music Hall on South Street and Emerald City in Cherry Hill, N.J., were the scenes of stabbings before they
closed. Before its incarnation as a yuppified entertainment spot, the 23 East Cabaret was a rough and tumble "bikers' bar." And, in its early days, J.C. Dobbs on South Street hada reputation for attracting a "tough" crowd. But what are club owners doing today to keep a hand on the rough stuff?
Promoters draw a connection between certain types of aggressive music and the potential for mayhem. And they suggest that the manner in which concert and club employees supervise their territories can make a difference in preventing violence.
Penn's Landing talent booker Bill Royston says he stays away from rap and heavy metal acts "because we can't really contain the youthful, exuberant audiences those shows would attract. Our booking is more family-oriented. If we had a serious security question, I'd have to make the site an armed camp to make it pleasant. That's a contradiction in terms."
Insurance companies that sell liability insurance to area clubs and concert promoters do so reluctantly, seeing the mix of music, booze and party animals as risky business.
"For liquor liability insurance, I've had quotes as high as 47 cents on every dollar we take in at the bar," says Cabaret operator Steve Mountain. (Blatstein says he's "not sure" if his liability insurance will help Guidotti. "Our agent is investigating that right now.")
Concert Company promoter Steven Starr says, "If you're doing a rap show at the Spectrum, the insurance agents demand you take $3 million in coverage. For any other show - from Amy Grant to Iron Maiden - you can get away with $1 million in coverage."
Training employees to sense potential problems among patrons and nip them in the bud is "as much a part of our business as anything else we do," says J.C. Dobbs spokesman Tom Sheehy.
Dobbs staffers have participated in the "TIPS" program (Training in Intervention Procedues for Servers of Alcohol), an eight-hour course sponsored by beer distributors to teach how to spot, and help sober up, overindulgers.
At the three Cabaret clubs (Ambler, Chestnut and 23 East), the psychology of crowd control is taken seriously, Mountain says. "We talk about it at almost every weekly meeting. And we have our own training program, in addition to participating in TIPS . . . If any problem occurs on a given night, the police are called in instantly, and two reports must be filed by club personnel."
Mountain suggests that "the music acts that attract a diverse crowd are the ones where there is the most potential for violence. You'd think from looking at them that the 'slam-dancer' types who come to punk rock shows would be a problem, but they're not . . . . It's shows like hard rock and country rock, where you get a mix of everybody from bikers to guys wearing alligator shirts, that you can have problems. These people get uptight because they don't know how to relate to each other."