Techno Inferno

Terry Cowan, spokesman for the L.A.-based rave promotions collective CPU 101, says the vials were distributed at Seventh Heaven by the staff of a vendor who paid $500 for booth space at the rave. There were several dozen vendors at the rave, Cowan said, selling everything from rave fashion to candy and glow sticks.

"Media reports to the contrary, the promoters of this event did not distribute those vials," Cowan says. After the Associated Press article came out, Cowan denied all interview requests, including ones from the L.A. Times and CNN. In an exclusive interview with New Times, however, he told his side of the story: The doors opened around 8 p.m., Cowan says, and by 8:30 he saw the first sick kid on the floor. Then another, then another, then another. "I was basically scraping these kids off the floor, picking them up and carrying them to the EMTs we had on site. They were vomiting, semiconscious. They were totally wiped out. It was extremely frightening."

Cowan says two of the kids told him they had been handed vials of "fX" on one of the party's several dance floors. He said he and two or three security guards walked that floor and saw a team of people from the "fX" vending booth handing out vials free. He says they told him they were promoting a new product line (Valley head shops currently do not carry any product called "fX" among their line of herbal stimulants and "trance inducers," and employees say they've never heard of that brand name).

There were several other herbal stimulant booths at the rave, Cowan says, but they were selling their product, not walking through the party and giving it away. "The kids told us the people gave them as many vials as they wanted," he says. By then, Cowan says, his staff's walkie-talkie traffic was frantic with reports of sick ravers. Cowan says he and other CPU 101 staff members got on the mikes at all the dance floors and issued warnings not to drink the vials. "We told them it was poison," he says. "We told them it could kill them." The L.A. Times interviewed several ravers who said they heard and heeded those warnings.

The police and fire marshal ordered the party to shut down at 10:50, Cowan says. "That was a bad move," he says. "By that time, we had already asked the vending team to leave the premises, they were gone, and the situation was under control. I told the fire marshal, 'I wouldn't do that, sir. You're going to start a riot.' They're just lucky they were dealing with this scene. If it had been a hip-hop or alternative rock concert they shut down, they would have really seen a riot."

Cowan says the saturation coverage by TV media on January 2 was "reprehensible and devastating." "This is the first major story a lot of people have seen on the global, underground dance culture, and they're painting it as this incredibly violent, drug-ridden thing, which is wrong. The coverage has been the equivalent of saying the whole space program is bad because of the Challenger disaster."

--David Holthouse

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