Yesterday, I got an email in response to my post from Armando Lopez, the manager of the Aragon:
The Aragon is a very elegant place again. no longer the Brawlroom (sic)
Aragon Entertainment Center
I was reminded of Splotchy's mention of an email from the manager of the Davis Theater, which is near my home, demanding that he take down a reference in his website that points out the Davis' general grime and dilapidation.
To be fair, I haven't been to an event in the Aragon Ballroom in years-- it may just have been restored to the elegance it and the surrounding neighborhood bore when it was built in 1926. I doubt, though, the neighborhood has changed-- the last time I went through Uptown, a couple of weeks ago, it was still filled with drunks, drug addicts, gangs and crazy people.
Do they still have Mexican wrestling at the Aragon?
In any event, I was reminded of a concert at the Aragon in December of 1990 that I was not at that only enhanced its old nickname "The Brawlroom."
On December 29, 1990, Sonic Youth and Public Enemy were playing a double bill at the Aragon Ballroom. It was a fascinating double bill-- one of the last punk(ish) bands paired with the most politically active rap band.
The first Gulf war was brewing-- the ground war was to begin three weeks later, on January 17, 1991. At the concert, some people from the Revolutionary Workers, a Communist Party group, hung a banner decrying the war. Chuck D responded positively to it, questioning why any black man would fight in a war for cheap oil.
As the concert ended, the Revolutionary Worker group exited, put up the banner, brought out a megaphone and began a protest.
Apparently, plainclothes cops tried to tell them to knock it off and they refused, citing free speech. They proceeded to arrest the ringleader, which the crowd exiting the Aragon took offense to. A shoving match between crowd members and police erupted; paddy wagons hauled dozens off. Billy clubs were swung, and there were a number of injuries.
In the middle of this, someone started videotaping. The video machine and tape were confiscated and destroyed.
The incident might have passed unnoticed but for the fact that the young up-and-coming actor John Cusack, a native of the Chicago suburb of Evanston, witnessed the whole thing, and a letter to the editor he wrote about it was published in the Sun-Times a couple of days later.
I'm curious if any of you bloggers were there or know someone who was there. I'd love a first-hand account, because as that esteemed philospher Jimmy Buffet has noted, "There are three sides to every story-- his, hers and the cold hard truth."