I'm OK, You're KO'd

At Denver's Fight Club, life knocks out art in the first round.

Two men in their mid-twenties are talking outside a Capitol Hill bar. It's 5:17 p.m. on July 5.

Dirty D: "There's this new guy in town. He's from Philadelphia. He's short, stocky."

Jerry Bronze: "Put him against Butz?"

Dirty D: "Nah, he'll kill him."

Bronze: "What about Crane?"

Dirty D: "Nah, man, this guy from Philadelphia is small. He shouldn't be fighting Crane." Dirty D pauses, pondering the match-up. "But he's kind of built, so I don't know. He may be a crazy motherfucker? If he's quick..." Another pause, as Dirty D pulls on his chin. "I'll call him. He's new to town, so he's got nothing better to do. He's going to be like, 'Man, what is this shit? You putting me in a fight?'"

Jerry Bronze thinks he knows how to get people to fight. More important, he knows how to get people to come and watch people fight.

According to local lore, fighting for fun got its start here about two years ago, pre-Fight Club, in the backyard of a Thornton music/party pad called Eight Houses Down. A guy named Dan got drunk, put on some gloves and challenged a friend to fight. The action proved entertaining -- even if the fighters held back a touch.

Jerry Bronze, the promoter alter ego of a 23-year-old bartender/musician/political science student, moved the idea out of the backyard and into a warehouse this past February. He was late bringing the gloves, so the first two guys went at it bare-knuckles. Dirty D videotaped the fight. It's a bloody, disturbing brawl. The two fighters have no technique, conscience or passion for one another. They simply stand atop six-inch-high wooden loading pallets floored with sheets of plywood and pummel each other; the cheering, fist-pumping onlookers serve as the ropes. After one brawler falls into the crowd, the mob tosses him back in and then pushes back around the ring in a nanosecond. The crowd's liquor-fueled hollering is as unnerving as the sound of fists hitting flesh.

"Man," Bronze says, shaking his head. "I got so many punk-rock points for throwing that show."

Bonus points were tacked on when the cops raided the warehouse just as the fists were getting hot. One officer jumped on stage and grabbed a microphone, calling for Bronze by his real name (which Bronze asked to be kept out of this story). Although most of the attendees knew Bronze by both names, none so much as looked his way as he crawled to the back door. "I grabbed my bartender, grabbed the girl who took me there, and got the fuck out," he remembers.

To plan such an underground extravaganza takes a few weeks. Bronze and his silent partner, Tony Gold, have since thrown several illegal music/entertainment shows, but the one coming up -- Bronze is calling it "The Glory Hole" -- will be just the second time punk-rock pugilists have been hired to kick ass. Between sets by four bands, brawlers will scrap on an eight-foot-by-eight-foot stage. Some fighters will wear gloves, some will not. "It's their prerogative," Bronze says. "They're the ones taking the hits."

The fighting, boozing and rocking is such a can't-miss combination that local promoter Dan Steinberg cribbed Bronze and Gold's concept and turned it into the sold-out "Punk Rock Fight Night" at the Aztlan Theatre two months ago. (Says Bronze, "That guy will steal any idea if it'll make him a dollar.") And in Fort Collins, riding the same violent wave, a local promoter offers "Chicks Fight Night," an evening of female kickboxing.

Bronze insists he's not throwing his gigs for money or fame; he has neither, he says, and is content. Last round, however, Bronze and Gold walked away with $2,300 between them. Nearly three hundred people crammed the warehouse that night, and most of them had paid their fifteen bucks' admission. But the money is never a sure thing; before they start collecting it at the door, Bronze and Gold need to make sure people know where that door will be, sending word deep into the catacombs of a subculture. "We're not doing this to be promoter guys," Bronze says. "We're doing this to be cool to our friends."

The balancing act is a tough one: Bronze has to promote the show enough to get a large crowd, but not so much that he alerts the cops. For the upcoming Glory Hole, he's hired strippers, fire-eaters and regurgitators and told everyone when they'll perform, just not where. Fliers for the event arrived in bars and clubs just days before the show's early-July date; they're left next to stacks of index card-sized notices that promote raves or concerts. As with raves, Bronze's fliers list a phone number for patrons to call the day of the show -- and when they do, they'll hear Bronze's voice giving out the warehouse's address.

Fighting won't be the star of the Glory Hole show, Bronze says, just one particular event inside a large extravaganza of chaos. He's trying to give Denver a good time, a scene; he's not one for wallowing in the "Denver sucks" theory.

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