Today I came across this 1985 article from the L.A. Times I wanted to share with you. The feature is about FFF (which started out as whack 80’s hardcore band), a pretty much all-white punk gang from the valley. It’s an interesting read about something I lived through as a youth in Venice. I want to answer the question, were there punk gangs during the 80’s? The answer is yes, but in the beginning, the main two rivals were the Suicidal Boys from the West Side of L.A. (who were intergrated and had all sorts misfits of different ethnic backgrounds), and the L.A.D.S from Hollywood. There was beef between these two groups, but honestly, they kept the violence on some punk shit. I never got the feeling that either group wanted to esclate the violence to real gang levels. Now this started to change when other hoods felt the need to start a so-called punk gang in their hoods. That’s when I started to see guns and other dumb shit at shows. FFF were a part of this era, which was a sad time for the hardcore scene, because this when many people stopped going to shows. That being said, many of these kids were the product of their environment, plus they were just young and dumb. The saddest thing I saw in Venice were my homies who started out as punk kids dressing as cholos, but who transitioned into full-fledged gang members, only to be shot to death. The SoCal 80’s punk scene had so much more to offer than just gangs – but hey, it was L.A., you know how that city gets down! Many of these young knuckleheads later became metal heads, and head banged their way through 90’s…
Also check out this feature over at Dirt City Chronicles that will shed light on FFF’s racist ties!
Here is a quote from the article describing
Yapelli’s legit street cred would serve him well once he gravitated towards the rich white kids of the Valley. Around 1981, taking his cue from Henry Rollin’s bellicose act with Black Flag. Yapelli reinvented himself as a hardcore punk front man. He formed Fight for Freedom, a hardcore band that made no bones about its Nazi beliefs. He became known as Ranger, a violent manipulator who was equal parts Charles Manson and SS Stormtrooper.Ranger was joined by a host of anonymous musicians. Their identities didn’t really matter, in fact, the music itself didn’t matter. It was just the means to and end. A student of the Third Reich and military tactics, Ranger wasted no time in forming an inner circle of like minded teenagers. He even authored a four part code that they adhered to: 1. be yourself 2. live your own life 3. fuck social values 4. fight for freedom.
From The L.A. Times, 1985, written by Doug Smith
One youth wears a plaid wool shirt and a small clenched fist that dangles from a chain pinned to one ear. Another has a butch haircut and half a dozen crosses around his neck. A third wears baggy shorts and a white T-shirt.
A little cholo, a little punk, a little surfer. Offbeat, mildly intimidating. When they want to be really intimidating, they switch to all punk.
The boys belong to a gang, but not the usual gang. It’s made up of white kids who grew up in suburban homes. Now in their teens, they’re turning an unexplained anger on their neighborhoods in the form of vandalism, graffiti and street violence.
These three have gathered on the steps outside North Hollywood High School, the center of their turf, to talk about it.
Attacks on People
They call the gang Fight for Freedom, or FFF. No one knows exactly what that means except that it comes from the name of a defunct musical group and has something to do with fighting authority and doing whatever you feel like. It is said to reflect the philosophy “If it feels good, do it.”
What they like to do most, the three youths say, is take drugs and get crazy.
When they’re crazy, they say, they beat up people on the streets, attack homosexuals in North Hollywood Park, rumble with other punk groups in Hollywood and Burbank and go to parties where they sometimes smash up the place.
They call them “bring your own sledgehammer” parties.
“I went to this one party and sliced up this girl’s water bed,” says the one with the earring.
The hourlong recitation of their adventures takes on a legendary tone: In street fights they have subdued rivals as diverse as the nearby Burbank Punk Organization to the east and the football team of Notre Dame High School to the west, they say.
Because they have cars, their turf extends beyond the San Fernando Valley. They spend a lot of time in Hollywood, where other white punk groups hang out into the early hours. They have enemies as distant as La Mirada.
They are allies with some of the Valley’s Chicano gangs–the Mexican-Americans who call themselvescholos– and allies with a Hollywood gang called Los Angeles Death Squad, but enemies of other white and Chicano gangs.
They brag that they are the biggest and most powerful of the dozens of white gangs now springing up with names like Mother Malicious and Mickey Mouse Club.
They like the feeling of flirting with physical harm.
“I keep a loaded gun in my bedroom 365 days a year,” the one with the crosses says. “I’d say everybody in FFF owns a gun. What’s going to keep BPO from driving by and shooting up the house? You don’t want somebody hurting your mom for something you did.”
Lore is New, Baffling
Much of this lore is new and baffling to the authorities whose job it is to keep track of gangs and try to control them. At best, they can only guess where white gangs came from, where they are headed and how serious a threat they pose. What little evidence has turned up about the groups suggests their actual adventures have been nowhere near as terrible as their lore would have it.
But it is also generally agreed that something new and potentially dangerous is happening in the world of gangs.
At one time in Los Angeles, gang violence was the sphere of Chicanos. Later, in the 1970s, violent black street gangs emerged, presumably spawned by poverty, frustration and links to prison gangs.
Now, with no obvious roots in ethnic alienation, poverty or tradition, gang culture is sprouting up in the predominantly white and economically healthy neighborhoods of the southern Valley, from Burbank to Woodland Hills.
The white gangs are not simple copies of their predecessors.
Their origins are in punk rock and heavy-metal rock. In part, these groups bear the stamp of the Satanism, Nazism and nihilism found in much of that music.
A Fight for Freedom member’s sketch that was confiscated by police, for example, shows a swastika crossed out, a pistol shooting a bullet through a detached head and a punk rocker choking someone so hard the skull pops out of its skin.
That’s pure punk-rock fare, the experts say. But what concerns them about the new Valley gangs is that they also reflect traditional street gang influences.
Gregory Bodenhamer, a former Orange County probation officer, has made a study of punk rock and heavy-metal music through the program Back in Control, which he started to help parents regain control of incorrigible children. Bodenhamer said the Valley’s FFF gang emerged about four or five years ago like dozens of other punk rock groups.
‘Throwing Out a Gauntlet’
But most punk rock groups don’t become gangs, he said.
“What really sets the kids off in the Valley isn’t that they’re punk,” Bodenhamer said. “It’s that they’re a punk gang that’s operating as a gang. They’re organized more after the traditional Chicano street gangs. Most of the punk groups are not nearly so organized or focused in what they are doing. Most punks don’t tend to go out looking for fights that much. FFF is going around and choosing off street gangs, writing over their graffiti, which is a no-no, because that’s a challenge. It’s like throwing out a gauntlet.”
Police officers who monitor the Valley’s gangs say that, so far, the gauntlet has not been picked up by the Valley’s many Chicano gangs, even though in many places their graffiti have been crossed out by the new white gangs.
The Chicano gangs, they say, don’t even consider the upstarts to be a gang. In many cases the officers agree.
“If those guys ever met a real gang, there wouldn’t be any of them left,” one North Hollywood gang unit officer said.
FFF Record Cover
Rival Burbank Group
Violence apparently has occasionally broken out, however, between Fight for Freedom and its rival, Burbank Punk Organization.
In separate incidents this spring, two Burbank homes were hit before dawn by bullets from passing cars. Police said teen-agers in both homes mentioned Fight for Freedom as the possible attackers.
No one has been identified as a suspect in either shooting, Burbank Detective Randy Pastor said.
In spite of these incidents, the new white gangs have yet to cause the kind of documented damage that would prompt a major police response. The police aren’t terribly impressed.
“I don’t know,” Pastor said. “They’re a bunch of dumb white kids. They’re patsies’ answer to cholos.”
Many officers in the Los Angeles Police Department’s North Hollywood gang detail, called CRASH, consider the new white gangs a minor irritant contrasted with the expanding network of Chicano and black gangs in the Valley.
They call the white gangs “wannabes,” meaning someone who dresses and talks the part because he “wants to be” a gang member, but is actually tame.
“We’re dealing with a whole bunch of people who are doing this or that drug and alcohol and write ‘fff’ on the wall while they’re getting stoned,” said Detective Ray Davies, CRASH supervisor.
“The only reason the FFF has come to our attention is that they write their names up on the wall,” said Juvenile Court Commissioner Jack Gold, a Studio City resident who said he was shocked when he saw the graffiti appearing in his neighborhood.
In the past year, their writings have appeared in the pleasant residential neighborhoods near Ventura Boulevard in North Hollywood and as far away as Chatsworth.
No place is immune. The writing appears in dark and neglected spots such as freeway underpasses and on walls along residential streets south of Ventura Boulevard in Encino.
It takes a variety of forms, either “fff,” “FFF,” “3fs,” or “Tres Fs” and usually is accompanied with the street names of the writers. These are often Chicano-like names such as Ducky and Sparky.
‘Excuse to Get Crazy’
What’s the point? The kids in the gang give many reasons.
“It’s just an excuse to go out and get crazy,” one says.
“Most of what we did was for our own selves, for our neighborhood, for the white crowd,” another says.
“Holding your own. Backing yourself up,” the third says. “You’ve got your jocks. You’ve got your preppie group. You’ve got your cholos. You’ve got your Crips,” a notorious South Los Angeles black gang.
“I want to get my backup.”
Another said in an interview that he got involved because he was afraid of black gangs who came to his school by bus. But he soon came to relish the feeling of power the gang provided.
“Don’t mess with me or I’m going to do something to you.” he said. “It’s that power feeling. You like that feeling of people being scared of you. See, you don’t know. Sometimes when you get in a fight and hit somebody till it’s killing them, something happens. It’s a high.”
Spray painting is a high, too, he said.
“It’s weird. You sign your graffiti signature. Anytime you drive by, you say, ‘I did that.’ I think it’s a high. It’s fun to spray-paint.”
Gold, the juvenile court commissioner, saw no humor in it. He has become a crusader on the subject. He regularly speaks to community and business groups, urging a counteroffensive.
File Opened on Gang
“The people of the Valley have got to stand up and fight it,” Gold said. “Hollywood gave up to the street punks and its gone.”
The community got aroused. Partly as a result, the North Hollywood CRASH unit opened a file on Fight for Freedom. It has identified about 40 members. In the last year dozens of them have been arrested and charged with minor assaults, drug and weapon violations, vandalism and theft.