According to Harley Flanagan, he was invited to the Webster Hall gig and had a VIP pass, which he used to enter the venue. In fact he had even originally intended to take his kids, who wanted to see their father's band perform, as he had done July 5 for the screening of American Hardcore. "The day before... I went to the CBGBs film part of the festival where they were showing the American Hardcore movie by Steven Blush and Paul Rachman." Harley was in the documentary and was invited there to talk about the film to the press.
The accounts of that night in every media outlet claimed that Harley went on a rampage, that he was looking to attack Cro-Mags band members and cause havoc. The story Harley tells is very different. He says he went there with "the best of intentions" hoping to mend years of bickering and make the fans happy. The venue -- formerly the Ritz, where the Cro-Mags founder played for massive energized fans in sold out shows filled Harley with nostalgia.
THE DRESSING ROOM
According to Harley, he was invited to the dressing room back stage and instead of being welcomed as he expected he was jumped by a group of men:
When I saw that door get pulled shut I was literally fighting for my life. I was afraid these guys were going to kick me half to death, roll me down the back steps and that no one would see it... and there would be no witnesses and that would be that... and all I could think about was getting home safe to my kids... I wanted to save my life, to protect myself and these guys were trying to do me in.
... I was getting the shit beat out of me. It was like an old fashion biker beat down, like BA BABABABABA BA And at that point everybody started screaming and I saw the door of the dressing room open and I started screaming security, security and I saw somebody pull the door shut to keep security out. And in my mind I thought to myself, "fuck, these dudes, their intention is to fuck me up, they don't want no one to see it they're trying to beat the shit out of me... SO what I did was defend my life...
...I'm getting the shit beat out of me... Then at that point that's when the bouncers managed to get in the room and I ended up getting dragged out into the balcony area, which is where everybody says the mêlée take place but no the mêlée took place in the dressing room behind a locked door where I was getting jumped by people by myself.
One dude says get on your stomach, get on your stomach, put your hands out in front of you and this one guy, big guy steps on my back and he's standing with both of his feet on my back... and one guy is literally looking at me squeezing my throat choking me and... at this point it was DMS guys and security I don't know who the fuck was which... one guy looks at me and says motherfucker I'll fucking kill you... I will kick you in your fucking face until you are dead motherfucker stop moving... and I'm just like Yo, I'm stopping moving at that point. And one guy's like put your hands out in front of you and I'm like are you a cop and he's like yeah and I'm like show me your badge and at that point... the boys in blue hallelujah... the cops came running up the stairs... I was like fine, I'm not moving anymore... please cuff me, I stuck my hands out in front of me... I'm face down on the floor. At that point I still didn't know that I had been stabbed, I got 30 stitches in my leg. Thank God it was in my leg... and the cops cuffed me, turned me over and that's when I saw the wound in my leg...
[ It] was just grotesque... the blood was bubbling out of it, the fischa was... the tendons were literally hanging out of my leg... that's why people started saying that's a compound fracture... it wasn't until I got cleaned up in the ambulance they realized it was more of a stab wound. And that's when the cops put me on the chair. And they put me in the ambulance.
LOOKING BACK: THE CRO-MAGS
Harley was reflective with us about the recent events:
I being the sentimental fool that I am, thought that if I actually saw John face to face and got to speak to him that maybe it would rekindle some of that friendship that we had. We did grow up together back in the old days. We lived in squats together. There were times that we had to steal food together and hustle together and were these street kids together. When you grow up with somebody like that, you know, at least me, you always have an attachment for that person. You may go your separate ways but you still have a certain connection that never really fades because you went through your youth together, which is very important to most people and we played music together for a lot of years and that's a very bonding thing. Anyone who has ever been in a band or done anything creative or artistic with somebody -- you do develop some kind of a bond. I thought that he would have to feel the same way, despite all the bickering and smack talk we've done through the media, I always felt that was more ego and posturing on both of our ends than it was genuine hatred.
As much as I talked smack about him and he talked smack about me, I felt if I spoke to him face to face, especially with my kids in the picture he'd say fuck it, let's do the right thing...
I had a lot of outpouring from fans that I knew and I didn't know... Part of me thought that there was some sort of small possibility of it happening, especially because I own the trademark to actually releasing Cro-Mags CDs and DVDs stuff, so he could never actually go and make a Cro-Mags CD unless I was involved or unless I gave the go-ahead. I thought that if I extended myself to him in a positive way -- face-to-face instead of through a computer or through a phone -- and if we were actually able to look at each other and talk I'd be able to say, 'screw all this past and I write songs like crazy, we could do an album, we could make everybody happy. We could make some money. We don't have to be in love with each other to get along, and be respectful and chill and put things back the way they should be instead of the way they are now.' Well evidently I'm the only one that felt that way, which is kind of sad.
Today this man with a young family, a new recording contract for his own project Harley's War and a long-standing teaching gig in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the world-renowned and respected Renzo Gracie Academy is pretty clear he has no plans to throw his life away just yet.