Hayden urges probe of all-night party

January 02, 1994|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer Staff writer Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this article.

Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden yesterday called for an investigation of possible illegal drug and alcohol use at a huge, all-night New Year's Eve party at the Maryland State Fairgrounds.

Billed as a nonalcoholic event, the "rave" party attracted more than 2,500 people from around the East Coast to the privately owned Timonium fairgrounds and didn't break up until midday yesterday.

Yesterday morning, the parking lot was littered with empty beer and alcohol bottles.

Michael M. Gimbel, director of the county's substance abuse office who visited the event twice, said he believes illegal drugs also were consumed.

A reporter observed a couple apparently having sexual intercourse on one of the dance floors yesterday morning.

"I don't think we can be satisfied with anything like that happening in our county," Mr. Hayden said, adding that he will ask county Police Chief Michael D. Gambrill and the county state's attorney's office to investigate the party.

Mr. Gimbel said the rave, which was staged by local promoter Lonnie Fisher, was an "irresponsible and uncontrolled event."

"It was billed as a nonalcoholic event. Obviously that was not true," Mr. Gimbel said. "The parking lot looked like the Preakness infield.

"We have a responsibility to let parents know we will protect their kids," he added. "We can't have an event where kids 12 and 13 years old are drinking, smoking and having sex on the floor."

An English phenomenon, rave parties have become popular in the United States, attracting a young crowd to clubs and other locations for hours of communal dancing to loud techno-music. Reports about raves often mention that some participants use hallucinogenic drugs, although many people who attend stick to bottled water and soda.

The 12-hour rave started at 10 p.m. Friday and featured laser beams and strobe lights, and music played by disc jockeys from New York and Washington as well as a local band, The Almighty Senators.

Hundreds of youths dressed in baggy clothing, bell bottoms and platform shoes paid $20 and $25 to dance and mingle inside the Cow Palace, a huge pavilion normally used for judging livestock.

Mr. Fisher, the promoter, defended the event.

"Overall, it was a great one -- a lot of thought was put into the visual setup with a combination of lights, screens and lasers," he said. "Overall, it was a very safe and clean event."

He said, though, that CES Security Co. of Randallstown, hired for security at the rave, performed "inadequate searches" at the door.

An employee at the private security company declined comment and referred questions to company officials, who did not respond to a request for an interview.

Mr. Fisher said there was almost no drinking inside the party. But, he acknowledged, some partygoers were drinking in the parking lot.

Mr. Gimbel said he went to the rave twice -- at 10:30 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. yesterday. On Friday night, he said he witnessed guards making security checks for drugs and alcohol "in total darkness . . . with a flashlight."

Security "was a joke," Mr. Gimbel said. "All of my biggest concerns were coming true last night."

Baltimore County police assigned two patrol cars to the rave and reported no incidents, said Officer Denise Geiger of the Cockeysville district.

The party was advertised as a nonalcoholic event, although a flier for it depicted a huge Uncle Sam figure wearing a marijuana leaf lapel pin. Mr. Fisher said the use of a marijuana leaf on the the flier was poor judgment. He said it was done to support Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's call for debate on decriminalizing use of some illegal drugs.

At 8:30 a.m. yesterday, the rave was still going full force. A man in an orange space suit danced alone while a group of dazed youths stared at a slow-motion film of a waterfall.

Nonalcoholic liquid refreshments such as a Thermite Bomb ("the pTC total mental meltdown"), Orbit Juice ("smooth sailing all night long") and the Oxygen Cocktail ("Molotov cocktail for your mind") were being sold for $3 and $4 each.

"We'll never forget it. It was weird, just weird," said Ralph Hane, 21, who drove to the rave from his home in suburban Philadelphia.

"It was the most different night I've ever had in my life," said Mr. Hane's buddy, Todd Rudden, 22, also of Philadelphia.

"It is a modern way of reminiscing the 1960s," Mr. Rudden said. "Everything is psychedelic. The peak hours were 11 p.m. through 3 a.m. Then, at midnight, there were psychedelic lasers on all the walls and a huge 1994 was flashed up in laser beam."

The same promoter put on a rave at the fairgrounds several months ago with no problems reported, said fairground Manager Howard M. "Max" Mosner.

State Del. Gerry L. Brewster, a member of the fairgrounds board, said that, if Mr. Gimbel's reports are true, he would not support allowing future raves on the property.

The fairgrounds are owned by a private, nonprofit corporation that rents the facilities year-round to a variety of events, ranging from motorcycle races to computer shows. The money generated by the events helps pay for the annual state fair.

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