At the time, though, it seemed wholly appropriate to Rob Fuller. His buddy had just won tickets to the hair-metal event of the summer of 2001 -- Quiet Riot, Warrant and Poison at Sandstone Amphitheater -- and Fuller, a bodybuilder from Lee's Summit, had just the torso to fill out a snug, sleeveless, see-through piece of medieval nostalgia. "I got it and wore it because I figured we'd get the girls' attention with that," he says.
It worked. "Girls would come up to me and get pictures with us throughout the night," he says. "Like I said, I figured it would be a fun shirt."
But after Quiet Riot ("Cum on Feel the Noize") and Warrant ("Cherry Pie") finished their head-banging sets, the fun turned into aggravated battery. Now Fuller is suing Clear Channel, the communications giant that owns 1,200 radio stations in the United States and more than 100 concert venues, including Sandstone (now called Verizon Wireless Amphitheater).
The problem arose approximately twenty minutes into the headlining performance by Poison ("Unskinny Bop") at the concert, billed as "The Glam Slam Metal Jam." Fuller says he was standing in the amphitheater's concession area, talking with some women from the University of Kansas. When the women left, a group of college-age guys walked by and commented loudly on Fuller's shirt. They deemed the tank top "gay."
Fuller approached the men and asked them to repeat their remark. He alleges that one of the men punched him in the face, another tackled him from behind, and then a group of six to eight guys teamed up on him, bashing his face with a barrage of punches and kicks. "I'm 5-foot-11. I'm about 230, so one or two guys aren't going to be able to hold me down and take care of me," Fuller brags. "I've never seen a group attack like that."
Chain-mail tank top or no, Fuller wasn't typical pickings for a gang of undergrad punks. A decade ago, he trained as a power lifter. While preparing for the World's Strongest Man competition, a contest in which entrants have been known to drag airplanes along a track, his weight ballooned to more than 300 pounds. Obscene cholesterol counts convinced Fuller to go on a diet and pursue the healthier, more tan-conscious sport of bodybuilding. Until, that is, the night he merged muscle with metallic mesh. "That was a year of training blown for Mr. Missouri," he says of the Sandstone attack. "That's what pretty much stinks about it."
When his assailants fled the concession area, a bloodied Fuller chased them, drawing cautious concern from onlookers distracted by the all-too-literal head-banging they'd witnessed. "They just said, 'Oh, I saw what happened, man. That's messed up,'" Fuller recalls. "I told them, 'You saw what happened, but you didn't help me?'"
Eventually, on-site paramedics did help him, routing Fuller to a hospital. He says he spent twelve hours in the ER, where he was treated for a broken nose, a fractured eye socket and a sprained ankle. He says that ongoing treatment of his injuries has cost him more than $12,000 in medical bills.
"I went to see nine different eye doctors about the possibility of maybe having to take my eye out and rebuild my eye socket," he says. "Luckily, it didn't come to that. But for three months, my eye was solid blood. And it was the size of a softball and swollen shut for more than a month. I had two surgeries on my nose. It was quite a long process. My eye is still drooping from it."
On June 28, 2001, the day after the concert, Fuller reported the incident to the Bonner Springs Police Department. He couldn't give any identifying details about the perpetrators, however. "They just had me sprawled out, so all I kept seeing were fists and shoes coming at me," he explains. "I had no idea what they looked like." Officers filed away the case as an unsolved aggravated battery.
So on June 19 of this year, Fuller filed a lawsuit in Kansas City, Kansas, federal court against Clear Channel, accusing the company of providing inadequate security at Sandstone. The lawsuit claims that Clear Channel owed Fuller a "safe and secure environment" in which to enjoy such 1980s staples as "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."
Fuller filed his lawsuit just in time to beat a two-year statute of limitations that would have killed his opportunity to sue the megacorporation. James attributes the delay to Fuller's ongoing medical expenses related to his problematic eye. (Court records indicate only that Fuller seeks more than $75,000 in unspecified damages. "That has to get nailed down before we get this resolved," James says.)
In the past, Clear Channel has landed in Kansas federal court as the defendant in a dispute over alleged trademark infringement. That lawsuit was terminated in November 2002. Attorneys from Kansas City's largest law firm, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, represented Clear Channel in that case. They did not return calls from the Pitch for this story.
Fuller says he's returned to the concert venue once since the assault in 2001, for a country-rock concert. He steered clear of the place this August 9, however, when Warrant returned with "Rock Never Stops" tourmates Whitesnake, Slaughter and Kip Winger.
"We haven't been out there too much since [the attack]," he says. "I go out to try and have fun, and that was pretty much not fun."