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Old 09-05-2004, 01:11 AM   #2 (permalink)
SheepFly
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: California
Posts: 24
Unhappy

prosecution's star witness. People on both sides, from Dustin Camp's attorney to the punks who never knew her, would acknowledge that her testimony had the ring of truth. Her credibility was beyond question: She was the '99 class valedictorian at Tascosa; she was the only important eyewitness who hadn't been drinking; she had no discernible motive for lying or blurring the facts.

The Camp trial came at a time when Amarillo's prejudice, indignation, and grief had bled onto the letters page of the local newspaper and manifested itself in numerous incidents of intimidation involving both jocks and punks.

Thompson, when called upon to testify, would thread her way between the two tribes.

Out of the chaos, she drew sanity.

She remembers all the gossip at Tascosa High that Friday. A fight was gonna go down, combatants to be announced.

Word passed from a couple of football players to their girlfriends to some of the kids who occupy the spaces between the cliques in high school, kids slightly out of step with the campus mob. Kids like Elise Thompson, whose entertainment then and now centers around a weekly Young Life Bible study.

"I detest violence," she says, "but fights never materialized. One side would show up, and everyone gathered in the parking lot, and you got to see all of your friends. It was just a big, fun social event, and that's what I thought was gonna happen."

When one of the punks talks matter-of-factly about his "anarchistic tendencies," he's obviously missed the irony of kids with Mohawks and pierced noses listening to the Subhumans, diving into mosh pits, and digging the poetry of Jello Biafra not too far downwind from Amarillo's stinky feedlots.

They'll tell you it's tough being a punk in the Panhandle. All of the kids in the "lifestyle," and that includes Goths and skinheads, complain about the harassment they regularly face from Amarillo's staid citizenry.

Just this morning, Matt Bohannon, an iron-pumping 27-year-old with a shaved head who became the punks' informal spokesman during Dustin Camp's trial, was run off the road on his bike by a posse of "white hats" in a Mustang, he says.

Some time ago, Julie Hollifield got a car stereo lobbed at her head while she was walking down the street. The guys who threw it missed, but barely.

Intimidation had become such a fixture in Brian Deneke's life that he'd earned the nicknames "Punch," as in human punching bag, and "Fist Magnet."

"He took a lot of verbal and physical abuse from people," says his dad, 48-year-old Mike Deneke, who sells cookware for a living. "We tried to explain to him that if you dress that way, have your hair that way, people are gonna act negative toward you, and that's just the way it is.

"And he said it's not right; they shouldn't. And he's right -- they shouldn't. But people do."

Brian wasn't one to bow down to campus cliques. He began acquiring his unusual tastes in music and dress as a young skateboarder, zinging down homemade ramps in his parents' back yard with his older brother Jason, even vaulting over cars. His love of skateboarding led to a clash with his scoutmaster, who once took Brian's most beloved possession and kicked it out the door. The boy picked it up and seemed poised to hit back, but didn't. Camp's attorney would dig up that incident in the trial as an early example of Deneke's "antisocial behavior."

Along with skateboarding came punk music. And as Brian grew older, the music would eclipse his hobby.

Subhumans, Naked Aggression, Blanks 77, Logical Nonsense -- Deneke's buddies list the names of his favorite bands, several of which he lured to Amarillo for live performances. "He'd write 'em and ask them to play here, as many times as it took for them finally to agree," says John King, one of Deneke's closest friends. "He'd take money out of his own pocket and rent a place for them to play."

Deneke couldn't play any instruments himself, but his passion for music got him singing in a local band. The name, White Slave Traders, had the requisite dose of outrage. But if he got overly bored at home, he'd hitchhike cross-country, meeting up with punk "squatters" in other towns, getting drunk, watching bands, surviving by "spanging" -- as in "spare-changing."

In Amarillo, Deneke was gainfully employed. He painted whimsical road signs for local entrepreneur and pop-art enthusiast Stanley Marsh III, the force behind the city's famed roadside sculpture, Cadillac Ranch. He often used his paycheck to cover the bills at a series of communal homes the punks shared, which sometimes doubled as underground clubs.

Like many of his friends, Deneke would shave, bob, and spike his hair in odd configurations and apply lurid hues that eventually faded to the default color of all homemade dye jobs, a certain sickly green. He wore a black leather jacket, camouflage trousers, spiked belts, and dog collars -- all trademarks of a look that reached its peak in Britain in the late '70s. It survives today, thousands of prairie miles from its historical context, in places where kids know little about "Break Free From Oppression" and "Smash Government Corruption," two of the vaguely punk slogans Deneke stenciled onto his thermal underwear.

Wardrobe aside, Deneke possessed a personal magnetism that separated him from his peers. "He was real cute. He was," says Jennifer Hix, Deneke's onetime girlfriend. "He had a really positive, outgoing personality. Instead of sitting on his ass, he'd rather do something. He was real fun."

That energy and charm fit perfectly with his role as Amarillo's 19-year-old punk impresario. He lured bands from as far away as L.A., put on his own shows, and got to know just about everyone whose musical tastes ventured into the margins. At gathering places such as The Egg and a sprawling communal home for punks on 8th Street, kids would assemble for shows, dancing and downing pints of bottled Guinness, their preferred drink.

The punks repeatedly talk about Deneke's ability to generate excitement out of nothing. And Amarillo, they remind you, is pretty close to nothing on the thrills spectrum. Daniel Kelso, who worked with Deneke, identifies him as the chief figure behind Amarillo's punk scene and explains his unusual charisma: "Brian was probably the most self-aware, self-realized, and happy-go-lucky 19-year-old I've ever run into. He was always in a good mood, always smiling, even when bad **** happened."

Rumbling with the jocks probably never fit into Deneke's idea of a good time. But punks saw confrontation and provocation as regular features of their lives and were prepared to deal with it. "You don't have to go looking for trouble in this town," King says. "If you look different, it will come to you."

"***got! Freak!"

Chris Oles, a tall, gangly punk with a hollow "American Gothic" face, salvaged his pride the best he could: by blowing gentle kisses to the table of jocks gathered in the side room at IHOP on December 6, a week before Brian Deneke's death.

Who started it is a cause of much dispute. Oles, now 23, says the jocks began harassing him when he was forced to walk past them on the way to the restroom; one of the jocks, Justin Devore, says Oles egged them on by repeatedly pulling up his shirt and exposing what appeared to be a knife handle. Oles denies this.

Whatever the case, the conflict amped up several notches when two other guys at the IHOP -- John King and Dustin Camp -- got in each other's faces.

Neither kid knew the other. But amidst the exchange of macho epithets, witnesses say Camp, a pudgy football player from Tascosa High, jabbed his finger into King's chest.

Wrong guy. Of all the punks, King, now 19, is known for his short fuse. Slouched in a chair and gazing at you with half-lit eyes, he talks quietly about smashing in someone's head with a police baton. "I'm a punk," he says. He could very well mean thug.

That night, King just gave Camp a hard shove. Chris Oles tried to break things up, he says, putting his friend in a headlock and pulling him away while someone else hustled Camp out the door.

Outside, Oles met up with some allies, including Brian Deneke. Meanwhile, King strolled up to Camp's car and offered a few parting words. Camp suddenly peeled out of the parking lot and hopped over a median, recalls Kendra Petitt, who had joined the punks. "He came up behind [the punks]. I'll never know how they moved -- it all happened so fast -- but they had to jump out of the way. He was trying to hit them. He had it floored. His tires were screeching."
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