Prodigy: Man, there would be fights every week at that motherfucker. For no reason.
Rosenblum: [The club’s reputation for fighting] is not unfounded at all, but it was true for any hip-hop party from that era. I do think that it got progressively worse [at the Tunnel]. But if you look at the volume of people we were doing, it’s probably not insanely disproportionate. And here’s the other thing: I couldn’t prove this, but there was much more violence outside of the club than inside.
Derrick Parker: In the 1990s, I was a troubleshooter for the NYPD. I would go to all of the clubs and give opinions to the brass about which were the most detrimental. The Tunnel was the biggest club for hip-hop. And the rap game was the new drug game. People leaving the club to go home would get into disputes. Or disputing crews would be in the club, and a crew member would see some other crew member who he had a beef with over a drug thing, or something in the borough—an argument or disagreement.
Rosenblum: If you have a hugely successful party, with people who have money and expensive cars, and it’s all migrating to one neighborhood, it will attract additional things. It has nothing to do with the event.
Beck: Our team searched so diligently, it was ridiculous. We were a tight crew. There would be roving teams of three men together. They would have posts, radios. It was a work in progress, and no one had all of the answers at first. You had to learn as you went along. Whatever was going on in the street was going on in the Tunnel. It was a tough place to work, and it was a tough place to leave at night. Bouncers went home together, just in case. We’re not talking about some punk dudes; we’re talking about really tough guys who would leave together and go home in the same direction.
One lieutenant in the 10th Precinct kept a bottle of Pepto-Bismol in his desk just because of the Tunnel.
- Derrick Parker
Gatien: On Sundays, we used to have anywhere from 60 to 90 security people from different neighborhoods that knew who the troublemakers were. And we did an exhaustive search. In all the years we were there, the only shooting incident was some guy who snuck in a gun with his wheelchair and shot himself in the calf.
Rapaport: The Tunnel was one of the first places that had goon security, football linemen dudes who didn’t look human. They looked like they should be playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. One night, I was standing there by myself; my friends were walking around, somehow we got separated. The thing about the Tunnel was you never knew when beef would pop off, so you would always have your little crew. You would always mind where you were. But that night I was just standing there and four of those guys picked me up off of the ground—I’m 6’2”, 200 lbs. They picked me up like I was a baby and threw me into a corner. They were saying something like I touched a girl’s ass, or took something out of her purse. I said, “Yo, you got the wrong dude.” And one of them said, “You’re the dude from Higher Learning.” I said, “Yeah,” and he said, “All right, well, be careful.” And they had me so held up, they could have done anything. I didn’t even understand who they had mistaken me for, because on that particular night, and on most nights, there weren’t many people that looked like me. There wasn’t that many white dudes on Sundays.
Beck: If there were three fights and you hadn’t been in any of them, [the rest of the security team] would call your name out [at the end of the night]. “How come there was a fight and you were standing against the wall?” Guys would call each other out, and guys would take each other’s money. If, at the end of the night, you were just a punk in the corner and someone got wind of that, we would take your money. And what would you do? You’d already proven that you’re afraid. And these are the guys who are not afraid, monstrous, battle-tested warriors.
Flex: Nobody followed the rules from another nightclub [in regards to fights.] The rules were made in there.
Cipha: Things are strict now because of what happened at the Tunnel. For instance, Capone-N-Noreaga had their reunion concert there after Capone got out of jail. They were doing “Bang Bang.” Capone had on a mink hoodie, and somebody threw a drink at him. Without hesitation, he dove into the crowd. Once he went in, his whole crew dove in, and it was a brawl. After that night, we got shut down for a couple of months.
Flex: Every now and then, we got shut down. We would get advised [by the police], “Hey, it's getting a little too rough,” and we would shut down.
Parker: One lieutenant in the 10th Precinct kept a bottle of Pepto-Bismol in his desk just because of the Tunnel. He’d come in Monday morning saying, “All right, what happened last night?”
Gatien: The cops told my police liaison flat out: “If Peter stops doing these nights, weʼll stop bothering him.” A club’s responsibility is to create culture. These people were not coming from Mars; they were New Yorkers, and should have been able to go and dance and enjoy themselves and network.
Cipha: Some security were posted at the door, some at the bar, some on the dance floor. Then there was a team of floaters, ten guys in a train holding onto each other’s shoulders, moving through the crowd. They dressed in all black. And a lot of them had FUBU jerseys, because FUBU gave them out as marketing. They wore gloves and army pants, with the pants tucked into their boots.
Rapaport: I felt unsafe when there were fights in other parts of the club, because then the pushing would start. That terrible incident at City College, at the party that Puffy had thrown—I was aware of that. [Ed. Note—In December 1991, nine people were killed when the crowd crushed them at a celebrity basketball game organized by Diddy and Heavy D.] So when there was pushing, you were always anxious.
Beck: Everybody in there was a lion. Nobody was a sheep. I’m not just talking about the bouncers. Fights happened all of the time. When there was a call to security, we would roll through in a bouncer train. Ten to 25 guys right behind each other saying, “You’re in the way, you’re in the way.” And the train was rolling through 2,000–2,500 people to get to a fight all the way in the back.
Prodigy: Security would snatch niggas’ chains. If you got into some shit, and you had a chain on, they were gonna fuck you up, take your chain, and then kick you out.
Beck: It happened, [chain snatching]. You didn't need licensing [to be a bouncer then]. Whoever was tough enough to work, you wanted on your side. A lot of bouncers were guys that had come home from jail and had trouble finding work. It was a gladiator academy—this is what they were good at. I’ll say it today, I’ll say it tomorrow, and I’ve said it yesterday: These felons, guys that went away, made the best bouncers. They would get into a fight and know how to control people. They were fearless, and when push came to shove, they knew how to rock ‘n’ roll. Today, you have guys that say, “Oh, I’m a bouncer.” Good for you. Half of them want to prove something, and the other half are afraid to prove anything. There are always going to be fights [at clubs], there are always going to be bouncer issues, but nothing will ever be like the Tunnel.
Prodigy: One night we were in the Tunnel mad deep, 50 or 60 of us. We had just walked in and were walking to the dance floor. Coming toward us was Wu-Tang, like 60 or 70 of these niggas. The rappers knew each other, but the crews from the neighborhoods didn’t; it looked like the 300 fight was about to go down. I was walking in front. Ol’ Dirty Bastard was in front of his crew, and the nigga was mad sweaty. He grabbed me and just hugged me. That shit was disgusting, this nigga sweating all over me, saying, “I love you, P. I love you.” He kissed my cheek. I showed him love, but the shit was so sweaty.
Gatien: We ran it as professionally as we could for a night that—letʼs face it—could be very problematic. We had the foresight to understand that having the proper ratios of men and women would make it a much more docile night than if you had a 90 percent male crowd. We always made sure that the women got in without a problem, and at the end of the night, when there was no more room, the women always got in and the guys didnʼt.
Rosenblum: I’m sure there were a million things that went on in there that I don’t know about—because I knew that I didn’t need to know, and it was probably smarter that I didn’t.