School’s Out, 1986 : Thousands of Youths Revel Dusk-to-Dawn at Amusement Park
There were surly-looking, spike-haired punk rockers in leather. There were meticulously groomed girls in Reebok sneakers. There were screams, smiles, romance and roller coasters.
But, above all, there were teen-agers, thousands of them, partying together from dusk Thursday until dawn Friday at the Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park in Valencia.
When it was over at 5 a.m., brightening skies revealed embracing couples who had met only hours earlier, dozing revelers on park benches and shivering youths phoning home for rides in the early-morning chill.
Unlike last year, however, sunrise brought no reports of violence to mar the celebration. During the 1985 “School’s Out” all-night party at the park, a gang rivalry erupted into fights in which six people were stabbed, four security guards assaulted and 21 people arrested.
That June melee led park officials to tighten security. Every one of the 18,600 visitors this year was searched for drugs and weapons. Last year, only some visitors were searched.
Deputies Scan Crowd for Gang Members
During the Thursday-Friday party, sheriff’s deputies scanned the crowd for gang members. Selected vehicles were searched as they entered the parking lot and a police helicopter provided surveillance from above. Meanwhile, security officers with guard dogs patrolled the perimeter of the 260-acre park on horseback and in vehicles.
In all, 32 people, including 14 juveniles, were arrested within the amusement park or at its entrance, Sgt. William Benton of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station said Friday.
The charges ranged from disorderly conduct and trespassing to possession of illegal drugs or weapons, including a switch-blade knife and a .22-caliber sawed-off rifle, Benton said. He said no arrests were made on assault charges.
The juveniles arrested were released to the custody of their parents, Benton said.
Despite the arrests, or perhaps because of them, Magic Mountain’s public relations manager Sherrie Bang called the party “a very pleasant, quiet evening.”
Most of the teens who attended the party live within a 50-mile radius of the park, with heavy representation from the Santa Clarita and the San Fernando valleys, Bang said.
Ticket Sales Limited to 20,000
Park officials limited ticket sales to 20,000. Tickets cost $16.95 in advance and $20 at the door. No one could re-enter after leaving the park. Although there were no age restrictions, the party attracted mostly teen-agers.
Magic Mountain has held a “School’s Out” all-nighter every year since 1981, Bang said. In all, the park has held 12 all-night parties, including celebrations of midsummer and the return to school, but the “School’s Out” parties are the most popular, she said.
“It’s like an event and everybody comes and a lot of our friends are here,” said 16-year-old Tiara Reyes, as she sat on a park bench with two friends.
“It’s just a giant party,” observed 19-year-old Todd Bean, who lives in Pasadena.
The heightened security this year was not lost on some visitors, and many of those interviewed said they appreciated the added protection and noticed a calmer atmosphere.
“It’s more under control,” said 18-year-old Jeannie Barnett of Canoga Park, who attended the party a year ago. “Last year it was out of control.”
The Untouchables Help Enliven Event
The party was far from sedate, however.
About 6,400 visitors screamed, clapped and danced to rock, reggae and rap music during two concerts by the Los Angeles band The Untouchables. Some visitors, such as 14-year-old Carmelo Gaeta, said the band was the main reason they went.
“Going on the rides is no big deal,” said Carmelo, who stayed around for both shows. “But you don’t know when you’re going to be able to hear this band again.”
Others said they went to see and be seen, and they wore outfits accordingly.
Teen chic at the party ranged from black leather jackets with studs to fluorescent-colored shorts and T-shirts to fancy white cotton dresses. One long-haired male visitor wore a tie-dyed denim jacket with the words “Septic Death” and “Tormentor” stenciled on it.
Park officials also were concerned with appearances.
On Thursday night, Magic Mountain enforced its usual rules barring entry to anyone without a shirt or wearing excessively torn or ripped clothing, studded and spiked jewelry such as that worn by some punkers or clothes with printed obscenities, Bang said.
But mostly the teens were intent on looking their best.
Boys combed their hair in men’s rooms. Girls painted on lipstick or mascara as they sat on benches. Bang said the weapons searches revealed mostly cans of hair spray in women’s purses.
The primping seemed aimed at members of the opposite sex. As they passed each other while walking around the park, many youths pursed their lips, winked or smiled.
“To meet guys,” was the reason 18-year-old Noel Williams of North Hollywood made the trip, she said.
Reza Bayat, 18, of Santa Monica, observing that “there are a lot of nice-looking girls here,” said he was hoping to take home some phone numbers.
Standing in line for ShockWave, the park’s new roller coaster, 18-year-old Cindy McIntosh of San Pedro met Saro Canik, 18, of Sherman Oaks. By dawn, the two were cuddling on a park bench and had exchanged numbers and promised to meet again.
Although many of the teens traveled in single-sex groups, there were some couples among the crowd. Some of the couples said there were attractions beyond wooing.
The rides were a big draw, though the lines were long. The wait for ShockWave was two hours for much of the night, park officials said.
Food offered another diversion. Food, Etc., a trendy-looking restaurant decorated with multicolored neon lights, was particularly popular. Even at dawn, visitors were still munching popcorn, pretzels, candied apples and other sweets. After the party, some teens went to a nearby fast-food restaurant for breakfast.
Not everyone had a great time, however.
“It’s not as fun as two years ago,” said Rachal Moreno, 18, of Sun Valley, as she waited on a park bench for friends. “I’m tired and my feet hurt.”
By 2 a.m., the teens were walking more slowly and had quieted down. Some began to nod off.
At 5 a.m., there were still about 6,000 people in the park, Bang said. They dispersed slowly in the gathering light, some lingering in the parking lot before finally heading home.