Five Years Ago Today...
Do you remember where you were five years ago? Most people don't remember such things or simply don't give a damn. Really, were it not for the sheer fact that I tend to hold on to contracts and other crap for a long time I'd have little or no idea where I was last week, much less five years ago.
Thanks to that aforementioned crap lying around the house I can tell you where I was five years ago and then you can get that creepy feeling down your back hindsight provides the same way that I do when I look at this artifact.
What you are looking at is a laminated all access pass. The event was a talent showcase, primarily for black talent in Chicago, produced by the Onesti Entertainment Corporation. There was prize money, TV exposure, and representation on the line for this one and the agency where I occasionally worked as a producer, sent at least one good act.
We found out that this was quite the swanky event and Jim (my partner at the agency), April & I decided to check it out. Free food & booze, and a very cool talent showcase all seemed like reason enough to attend. Plus it is always good to support the acts you send out to the potential slaughter that may accompany a contest judged by "experts".
What was most hysterical about the night was that aside from the show's producers, April, Jim, and myself were the only white people at this very cool nightclub, The Epitome. The place was beautiful and everyone was dressed to the nines. You could tell that this was a secret place to the urban crowd and as we all entered there was clearly a "there goes the neighborhood" feeling about. We just admired the place and sought out our submitted act, schmoozed the producers, and enjoyed the show.
The downstairs was a very upscale restaurant and bar, and the upstairs was the dance floor and night club. The entire operation was impressive. Lavish decor, big bars and lots of room for many people. The stage was large and inviting and even though many of the acts were not to my taste, the show did feature some good talent.
April and I took a better look at the place. While we liked the club a lot, we started to notice things about it that put us off a bit. We didn't give a crap about being the only white people in the bar. We were more concerned about the one single staircase being the only visible exit to the club. There were likely some other stairways used as back entrances or fire escapes, but we certainly couldn't see them. More surveying of the room did not ease out tensions and we started noticing how many people were in the place for the contest. We realized that this room, already crowded was only at about half capacity. After making our notations about the place we continued to make our appearance and support my friend on stage.
On the way home we commented about the evening and the club in specific. We both noted that as cool as the place was, we'd both hate to be in there if there was ever an accident or a fire or something requiring a quick exit. We didn't think about that day again until just about two years to the day later. One month shy to be exact.
We were in Las Vegas when we heard the news coming across the national news wire. Twentyone people died at The E2 Night Club in Chicago, one of the worst night club disasters in history. You may remember hearing the story.
Details were sketchy. It all started with a simple bar fight. Security was said to use pepper spray to break up the heated disagreement and someone, overly worried about a terrorist threat, thought that the gas was poison and began panicking, which in turn, panicked the rather large crowd.
The result was a massive throng of people rushing to the only exit they could find; one lone staircase. People rushed down the stairs. People fell. People were trampled. Some reports have the bodies stacked four & five high & the doorway to the club was actually plugged up with human bodies. The photos on our TV screen were horrific. People wedged inside a small doorway at the bottom of a staircase. Some people were alive. Some were not.
April and I sat there shocked as we realized exactly where the E2 was in Chicago. E2 was that same upstairs night club we'd seen the talent show, the same place we admired for it's beauty and class, and denounced for poor design. We remembered talking about how horrible it would be if you had to make a quick exit and we felt very disturbed to realize just how right we were.
After coming home from Las Vegas I looked through some old boxes to see if I still had my backstage pass and if indeed this was the same place. As you can see, it clearly was.
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