They looked like the kind of signs you post when a cat is missing or a dog runs away, except instead of a furry face, these posters pictured a giant truck along with the promise of $2,500 “for the return or for any information leading to the return of an all white international 4700 26 ft. long former budget truck.”
How exactly do you lose a 26-foot truck? Well, you don’t, actually.
Truck owner Bobby Marshall, once a fixture of the D.C. go-go scene, now owns a company called RCM Productions, a sound-equipment-rental company. On Dec. 14, Marshall was due to deliver his goods—some amps and speakers—to Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria. The congregants were putting on a Christmas play.
At 7 a.m., Marshall and his crew member, Richard Lyon, stopped at a shopping center in Largo to pick up some extras for their church gig. Marshall parked the truck in the parking lot, got in Lyon’s car, and drove to a Chick-fil-A a couple miles away for breakfast. They were gone for about two-and-a-half hours. When they got back to the strip mall, the truck was gone. Marshall was stunned. “I was shocked that someone could steal a big truck like that.”
The truck, together with the equipment, was probably worth $110,000, he estimates, but Marshall didn’t pause long to contemplate the shock of it all. This was his livelihood, and so he spun into action.
Marshall called the church and hooked it up with another sound-equipment company. Then he called Prince George’s County Police. “They just took a report, gave me a [case] number, and told me, by the way things looked…it had been stolen.”
Marshall says he left the meeting with the police feeling dejected. “I don’t have a great respect for police when it comes to tracking property….They didn’t convince me that theft was high on their priority.”
So Marshall did the only thing he could think of. “That’s when I got the idea to canvass the neighborhood.” He papered Prince George’s County and D.C., putting posters up at the police station and in pawnshops, in apartment buildings and on cars.
The posters didn’t yield much of a response. “On Tuesday, we got a joke. Somebody called me with a blocked number and said, ‘We found your truck.’?” It seemed promising, but when Marshall called the phone number left by the tipster, it led to someone in Las Vegas who claimed not to know anything about the truck’s whereabouts.
Marshall decided to try another tack. “I got all my guys together for breakfast,” he says, and told them it was time to start searching the city. He gave each of his three crew members $200 and instructed them to spend the whole day looking for the truck. “I want you to take this like a full-time job,” he said. “Eight hours per man.”
The group fanned out from Gladys Knight and Ron Winans’ Chicken & Waffles in Largo and divided up the city. “I gave everybody a neighborhood,” Marshall recalls. One crew member drove along Southern Avenue. Another surveyed Benning Road. Marshall took Kenilworth Avenue. The men agreed to meet at a restaurant on Eastern Avenue at 4 p.m.
After about an hour scouring the neighborhoods, Lyon spotted the truck on the corner of 21st Street and Constitution Avenue NE. “It was sitting right there, like someone had parked it for work. It was parked on the side of the road normally.”
The windows had been shattered, the padlock had been replaced, the ignition was broken and “glass was everywhere inside of the truck,” Marshall says. About $20,000 worth of equipment was missing, he says, and there was a $250 parking ticket on the windshield.
Since then, Marshall says, he has acquired footage of an individual trying to sell the sound equipment at a pawnshop and is hoping to pursue the lead with the police. He also plans to contest the parking ticket.
DC9 Rings In the New Year With Smashism
Jason Koepke calls DC9 one of his three favorite music venues in D.C. He especially likes Liberation Dance Party, a weekly DJ event featuring MTV-style music videos.
This time, however, the folks behind Liberation have gone too far, Koepke says.
“In short, I am upset about DC9’s New Year’s Eve plans that include the breaking of old CDs—an activity that is reminiscent of Nazi book burning,” Koepke writes in an e-mail.
On New Year’s Eve, for a $25 cover, Liberation attendees will be handed a free drink and a hammer to smash the CDs they despise most.
“Most people ring in the New Year with a toast. We wanted to ring in the New Year by smashing bad music,” Liberation DJ and DC9 co-owner Bill Spieler says.
A CD smash, huh? Seems like a pretty apt symbol for a year that witnessed the death of a leading music megastore. At the very least, it will be a kind of catharsis, right?
Not for Koepke, who thinks the whole idea of smashing CDs smacks of fascism. “There are real problems when we begin to destroy history, whether it is written (as in the Nazi case) or recorded (as in LDP’s case),” he writes. “Rather than erase that history and do nothing but spit upon someone’s artistic expression, shouldn’t we cherish it?” he writes.
Spieler says he’d happily discuss the event with Koepke and “explain his view,” but he rejects the comparison to Nazism. “It’s not one person deciding what’s bad music. I’m not telling you Britney Spears sucks. It’s your choice to bring in something you don’t like,” he says. “It’s everybody for themselves. If they think Franz Ferdinand is awful, they’re more than welcome to bring in a Franz Ferdinand CD and smash it. If you think Britney Spears is bad, so be it.”
In fact, he says, the whole purpose of the CD smash is to celebrate music—new music—something that runs to the heart of what Liberation is all about. “When I opened DC9, I was very frustrated going out to clubs. I love to dance, and so much of the music is over 10 years old….I couldn’t understand why DJs who were around wanted to play that music.”
So why smash the music then? Does it represent the demise of the little silver disk? Or perhaps we’re witnessing a pop-cultural act commensurate with the mass burning of disco records at the end of the ’70s.
“I see it more as getting rid of the old and starting a new year,” Spieler says, adding that he did not intend the act to have great symbolic significance.
Koepke remains unconvinced. At the very least, he says in an interview, the Liberation gang should consider having a CD exchange instead. “I’m not sure what my New Year’s Eve plans will be, but I’m 100 percent sure they won’t involve CD-smashing,” he says. Still, Koepke writes in an e-mail, he would like to see the smashists struggle to break the CDs.
“I think the CD-breakers will find destroying CDs much more difficult than expected,” Koepke writes. “There’s nothing like watching a bunch of fascists become frustrated in their attempts to ‘purify’ the past.”