Feyline's "Goon Squad" leader Tony Funches on giving beatdowns to club-wielding gatecrashers
On Wednesday, March 6, Barry Fey will be inducted into yet another hall of fame, this one the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame. In honor of his induction, we'll be running the stories that didn't make his memoir all this week. Today, Tony Funches on first meeting Barry by throwing him out of a show and then working for him heading up his so-called Goon Squad.
Tony Funches, Feyline head of security (1970-1986)
I met Tony because he was initially Jim Morrison's bodyguard and then he was Mick Jagger's. We sat down one night after the Stones show in Fort Collins, which was '69, and I was telling him about some of the troubles we were having with the gate crashers. I was scared then to put on a show. It was ugly every night. You'd have police with helmets and kids calling them "pigs."
So he said, "Why don't we put somebody between the kids and the police?" He said, "We'll call it 'Peer Group Security,' and I'll get it all together for you because I'm leaving the road. I'm tired of the road. So he came to me in 1970. Oh, and he never threw me out of shit. I'd kick his ass. What happened was, there was this concert in San Bernadino that I had backed some people in a little bit because they were a little short of money.
So I went, and that was a tough town. I remember arriving there and seeing that they had cut a telephone pole in half and were using it as a battering ram on the back door. That's how bad it was. They'd hold the spikes and then ram the pole into the back door. That's how tough it was. I don't remember being thrown out. I remember not wanting to go near the place, but I eventually got in. I had to protect my money.
The first time I ran into Barry, I threw him out of a concert. I was doing security for a company called West Coast Productions. We had a Mad Dogs & Englishman show at the Swing Auditorium in San Bernadino.
The Swing was known at the time for having "gate crashers form hell," some of whom were real creative in figuring out ways in. Even though everyone who should have been backstage was from Southern California, and we mostly knew each other, I was the only security guy, and I decided to make it easier on me by having everyone wear a button, and it worked.
As I was doing my rounds in the building, I noticed one character who wasn't wearing a button. I snatched him and threw him out. He got back in and as I was about to throw him out again, one of the West Coast guys ran over and said, "Tony, Tony, Tony, don't! That's Barry Fey, and he's working with us." I said, "Well, he should have had a button."
That's how I met Barry.
Working for Barry was, in a word, fascinating. In more than a word, it was completely insane. The pace was incredible, but we were all young and managed it; there were so many moving parts and very little room for error. Barry relied heavily on the people he hired to do their jobs, which often involved the impossible. And when he felt those jobs weren't being done and wanted to make an important point, if I may put it politely, Barry's voice could attain decibel levels previously unknown. While that distressed a lot of folks, it was no big thing to me. So what. We BOTH were ex-GIs and that's normal...
The gate crashers in the late '60s and '70s had adopted this completely loony anarchist attitude that it was their music and they were entitled to get in without paying. As Barry's head of security, I begged to differ on that.
The security people Barry had hired before I got there had an attitude that you could reason with crazy folks, and if the vibes were right, they'd go along with it. That didn't work when gate crashers showed up with homemade clubs full of nails sticking out of them.
So when I took over, the strategy changed. At the first show I worked for Barry, I made attempts at reasoning. When those attempts didn't work, I answered in kind, and they were ill prepared for the response. There were fat lips and broken bones -- not mine -- and the message was quickly received, and the gate crashers wandered away.
After the shwo, Barry asked me if I could find other guys like me. I did, and we became known as Peer Group Security -- or the Goon Squad.
Word got around about how good we were. Bands requested us because they'd heard how effective we were at crowd control and neutralizing the gate crashers, and this made the concert business more palatable in many more locales.
Barry wound up being our booking agent. He'd handle all the details, and off we'd go to other cities to keep the peace.
It was something to do!
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