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‘Killer’ Show : Ice-T Defiantly Performs Song--And Nothing Happens

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Controversial singer Ice-T angered police but thrilled concert-goersWednesday when he defied promoters and sang his much-ballyhooed anthem “Cop Killer” with as much on-stage defiance and in-your-face fanfare as he could muster.

The bare-chested singer strode to the center of the stage at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium and, as a finale to an hourlong set, pulled out a letter from the head of the 1,900-member San Diego Police Officers Assn.

The Sept. 23 letter, from POA President Harry O. Eastus II to the show’s promoters, protested the late addition of Ice-T and his band, Body Count, to the concert featuring heavy-metal headliners Metallica and Guns N’ Roses.

Ice-T took the letter, read it aloud sarcastically, and then--to chants of approval from the mostly white, early-20s crowd--crumpled it up and stuffed it in his pants, tucking it near his crotch.

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He then sang the song, whose lyrics tell the story of an inner-city youth shooting a police officer with a sawed-off shotgun, as many in the crowd yelled the line, “Die, pig, die!”

But that’s all that happened. Just as quickly, the rapper quietly left the stage, and no incidents ensued.

Eastus said he half expected Ice-T to sing the song despite promoters’ pledge that he would not use it in his set.

“This shows everyone what a butt he is,” Eastus said. “We figured that he would do something like this and take a shot at the Establishment.”

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Eastus’ letter set off a fierce round of politicking last week, with Bill Wilson, manager of the stadium (and a former Pasadena police officer), writing concert promoters and asking them to remove the performer or cut the song.

Local officials said they were assured by Avalon Attractions of Los Angeles and San Diego’s Bill Silva Presents that Ice-T would not perform “Cop Killer.”

But when he took the stage and announced, “I consider San Diego to be Southern California and Southern California to be my home,” several tattooed members of the largely shirtless throng said they knew “Cop Killer” was coming soon.

Ice-T withdrew the song from Body Count’s debut Sire album in July after various police organizations complained to Time Warner, which distributes Sire Records, that it encouraged violence against police officers.

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The controversy here pitted Mayor Maureen O’Conner against police officers after she said she deplored the song but defended the rapper’s right to freedom of expression.

Ice-T read the letter on stage shortly before 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, at which point brown-shirted police officers rushed up from the stadium’s tunnels.

As if expecting the inevitable, officers collectively adopted a grim expression. Few seemed angry or surprised.

San Diego Police Sgt. Bob Nunley, overseeing a record number of police (233) and security officers (1,200) for a stadium show here, said from his press-box perch that he “fully expected” the song and was happy that “absolutely no incidents” came in its wake.

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“It’s just the same old story,” Nunley said, shaking his head. “People were dancing around policemen, saying, '(Bleep) the police.’ ”

Fearing the crowd’s response, promoters removed Ice-T from last Sunday’s Guns N’ Roses-Metallica show at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the concert set for Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

That decision was due to sensitivity over the Rodney G. King beating verdict and the riots in Los Angeles last spring, according to Brian Murphy, the head of Avalon Attractions.

After the song was performed Wednesday, promoters issued a terse “No comment.” Stadium manager Wilson confined his comments to a statement.

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He said he was “extremely disappointed that Ice-T chose to sing ‘Cop Killer,’ ” and noted that “a majority of the concert attendees” had not reached their seats when the moment came. About a fourth of the crowd were in their seats, promoters said.

Local officials said they hoped Ice-T’s defiant act would not affect the future of concerts at the stadium, which had not seen one of this magnitude since The Who’s sold-out appearance in 1989.

Officials had hoped for a net payday of at least $225,000 from Wednesday’s event, which they agreed to risk, in the words of one, “only because, in this economy, we desperately need any money we can get, and this is money.”

Judging from the comments of the crowd, the show--and the song--were worth it.

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“It’s a pretty powerful song,” Roanna Avila, 19, an Oceanside waitress, said of “Cop Killer.”

“But too many people take it literally and misinterpret its meaning. They refuse to look at the feelings--at the real injustices--that may have contributed to such a song.”

“Who cares?” said her companion, 24-year-old Joe DiTullo of Vista. “Everybody here came to hear Guns N’ Roses and Metallica. The only reason he got to come here and sing it is, this is San Diego, and not L.A., where people actually might have cared.”

By 9 p.m., Police Sgt. Nunley said 65 people had been arrested inside the stadium, most of them for drunk and disorderly conduct. An additional 85 arrests had been made in the stadium parking lot, for a total of 150.

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“We’ve had worse Aztec games,” Nunley said.

Wilson said he was “relieved” with the numbers, conceding that they were released before Guns N’ Roses took the stage. He said the same show netted 130 ejections and 60 arrests at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Sunday.

In the hour between the time Metallica left the stage and Guns N’ Roses appeared at 8:45 p.m., three video screens near the stage showed close-ups of attractive women in the crowd. Nearly all of them bared their breasts for the camera, provoking cheers from the crowd.

Around 8 p.m., some of the Metallica fans began leaving the stadium, but many thousands more were trying to enter the parking lot, backing up traffic on Friars Road.

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Before the concert began, the stadium parking lot was a sea of noise and action. Concert-goers began arriving from all over California early in the morning, filling the parking lot with what looked like a pickup-truck and recreational-vehicle convention.

Michael White, 19, of Chula Vista, drank beer while sitting in the bed of his pickup truck and wore a shirt, like many in the crowd, that displayed a four-letter obscenity as its centerpiece.

“Do I work? Hey, I don’t do nothin’, dude!” he said. “I live with my parents and get messed up every day. I’m here ‘cause Metallica is a . . . kick-ass band, dude!”

One man in his early 20s walked over to a reporter, said he was a Metallica fan--"They’re the best ever, man!” he said--and showed him what he said was a needle track in his left arm.

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“The stuff I put in here is the best, man!”

Many in the crowd wore burr haircuts or shaved heads, provocative tattoos, no shirts and swilled an assortment of beer, liquor and wine. A few openly smoked marijuana or shouted out presidential preferences.

“Perot! Perot! Perot!” screamed one mob, proceeding to describe Bill Clinton and George Bush in the crudest terms that came to mind.

Christopher Gallagher, 25, a Glendale sanitation worker, said he came to the show for the first act--Ice-T--and hoped he got to hear “Cop Killer.”

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“I love the song,” he said. “It’s not going to provoke anybody to kill a cop. The media blows it all out of proportion, man.”

Audra Sweetland, a 22-year-old Mission Hills delicatessen worker, said the concert was “bitchin’ ” but that she resented the scrutiny of teams of “Nazi” police officers.

“They made us stop throwing a Nerf ball around the parking lot,” she said. “A Nerf football! A Nerf football! Can you believe it?”

An ongoing public-address announcement kept warning the crowd that they would be searched upon entering the stadium and that weapons and fireworks were strictly prohibited. There were fireworks on the stage, however.

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In one of the night’s few incidents, a fanged-skull mural caught on fire during Metallica’s set but was quickly extinguished by stagehands, before the San Diego Fire Department could arrive.

“The crowd just thought it was part of the act,” said Stadium Manager Wilson. “But it was a real fire. It wasn’t supposed to happen.”

T-shirts and other souvenirs, on sale in the parking lot and inside the stadium, ranged from $23 to $30. Long lines snaked in front of just about every souvenir and concession stand, though many ready to plunk down money said they were unemployed and angry about being jobless.

One foursome from El Cajon--all out of work--said they paid a collective $125 to see their two favorite bands, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, by borrowing the money from friends.

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“We’re not voting,” said Michelle Mullenix, 20. “It wouldn’t help us anyway.”

“None of the choices are good,” said blue-haired Paula Rawson, 16.

A friend of theirs, calling himself “Tripper,” said he appreciated Wednesday’s bands, particularly Guns N’ Roses, for their “anti-Communist” message.

“Everything’s wrong with this world, and these groups have a lot to say about that,” Rawson said.

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