Spy (112 Travis) has become the Bobby Brown of Houston nightclubs. Bad news just seems to cling to the place. Federal authorities seized the club's assets after the owners were arrested in an alleged international ecstasy trafficking ring last September, and in November a shoot-out with police ended in the death of a convicted drug offender who had been thrown out of the club for fighting. This month saw another death with its roots at the nightspot.
On Saturday, January 4, Truyen The Pham, 22, was shot and killed by a Harris County constable. The constables say that Pham brandished a pistol, fired into a crowd (accidentally hitting a woman in the leg) and pointed the pistol at a constable. Three witnesses -- friends of Pham's -- swear that police shot the wrong guy, that Pham had in fact wrested the gun away from the real shooter. At press time, crucial gunpowder tests on Pham's hand were pending.
Spy general managers Bobby Stark and Curtis Monroe aren't talking to the press about the latest blow to the club. But Spy security head Kenneth Richardson says the nightspot is not to blame for the recent fatal commotion. According to Richardson, the events that led to Pham's death began at around 1:45 a.m. Apparently, two groups (let's not call them gangs, for the moment), one from Houston, the other from Port Arthur, were getting into it at the club, when Richardson and his team of bouncers calmed the brewing storm. "We let the Houston group stay in, but we kicked the Port Arthur group out," says Richardson. But when the Houston crew left the club at 2:30 a.m., they ran into the Port Arthur boys, including Pham, who were ready and waiting for them. The fight's embers were immediately rekindled. Constables from inside Spy ran across the street to the scene near the Spaghetti Warehouse (901 Commerce).
As Richardson tells it, the bouncers weren't the only reason the groups decided to settle their business outside the club. He believes they also didn't want to cause trouble for the spot they call home every Saturday night. "This is one of the first places that accepted them," Richardson says of Spy. "They weren't gonna disrespect this club."
Four out of five days a week, you can go to Spy without the slightest trepidation. Take Wednesdays -- DJ Mike Snow's "'80s Trash Bash" night, where you'll find a bunch of thirtysomethings all dolled up in glam wear and requesting obscure Gary Numan tracks. You'd be hard-pressed to spot a Glock-toting gangbanger among them.
Saturday's Asian Night, though, is another matter. Asian Night has been aggressively promoted by Black Dragon Productions, which hands out flyers all over town. Another club promoter who spoke on condition of anonymity says there is no love lost between the Asians from different parts of Houston.
"You got the southside boys and the northside boys, and the boys from Clear Lake," says the source. "So trouble is bound to happen."
This source was not a witness to the recent shooting, but he has been privy to other altercations and knows how the scene usually goes down: Flashy, rowdy Asian gangbangers from rival crews get into each other's faces -- "usually over a girl" -- and sometimes the friction builds to a violent climax.
Now, this is not to say that all Asian clubgoers are gun-wielding gangsters, mind you. For example, if you go to the more posh, conservative Tonic (310 Main) on a Saturday night, you'll find a slightly older Asian set enjoying themselves -- not one of them feeling the need to go to the car for some "backup."
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But the source says that with young, bling-blinging Asian cliques from all points of the city converging at Spy, the atmosphere can get sketchy. "I had a girlfriend come in from Dallas, and she went to Spy one Saturday," he recalls. "I get a phone call from her telling me to come get her. I go down there with two of my boys, and there was all of this tension. When we left, sure enough, there were beer bottles crashing, flying all over the place."
It's not likely that Spy will end its Saturday Asian Night, since it's one of their biggest draws of the week. But the club is finally beginning to take precautions. The Saturday after the shooting, bouncers began frisking people at the door.
Party team Gotta Move Productionz is showing it's back in the marathon shindig business with "The Fantastic Experience," the first of many events scheduled for the next few weeks. The party at the International Ballroom (14035 South Main), or "The I-Ball," as the kids are calling it now, certainly has some big names attached: Derrick L. Carter will be coming from Chi-town to put in a three- to four-hour set, and visiting spinners Frankie Bones and DJ Pauly will pick up the slack. Oh, and let's not forget about all the local DJs (Chris Anderson, Gotta Move All Starrs, Steve Sheffield, SDF-3) that'll be there. Just like a case of the clap after an incomplete antibiotic treatment, all-night parties are coming back bigger and stronger!