By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Whatever was going on didn't stay in the club's walls for long. The Dallas City Attorney's Office soon received a complaint — they won't say from whom — about both DarkSide and the Playground. Unluckily for Hudson and Epplesheimer, it landed on the desk of Melissa Miles.
Miles is a lawyer in Dallas' code compliance litigation section, which investigates code violations. She'd already spent time in the area of town where the clubs were located: In 2009, she and a police lieutenant got rid of several storefront brothels on Harry Hines, some of which were offering up underage victims of sex trafficking.
Miles is "super smart and tough as nails," says Lizard Lounge's Don Nedler. He had a "run in" with Miles a few years ago, when his club held a "tits and ass, booty-shaking" competition. Pictures leaked onto the Internet. Miles spied some illegally uncovered nipples.
"She ripped me a new one," Nedler says. "She told me, 'I better not ever see this ever again.'" She didn't.
After receiving the complaint in early summer 2011, Miles contacted Hudson. She told him he couldn't legally operate a dance hall in DarkSide's current location, or a sexually oriented business in the Playground's. But Hudson and his attorney disagreed. The clubs were perfectly legal, they told Miles, because they were registered spiritual organizations. DarkSide and Playground, they said, were churches.
At Miles' urging, the Dallas Police Department launched an undercover investigation to get a closer look at these spiritual activities. It was part of a broader investigation into EDM clubs, which were "gaining a reputation for providing a venue for kids to use a number of drugs, including Ecstasy, and that kids were overdosing and dying as a result," Miles told the Observer by email. In August 2011, 19-year-old Matthew Allen died after taking Ecstasy at Afterlife, another after-hours 17-and-up club.
"We were extremely concerned," Miles wrote. "We remain concerned."
Once inside DarkSide, detectives found clubbers "openly ingesting and under the influence of illegal substances, dancing and engaging in various sex acts," according to a complaint Miles filed in civil district court. The cops were "continuously approached" by people offering to sell them drugs, including ketamine, LSD, Ecstasy, mushrooms, morphine and pot. They bought drugs 15 times — and observed zero religious services.
In court filings, prosecutors even accuse the Brotherhood of being an organized criminal gang, composed of the club's security staff and led by Epplesheimer. They say he told the staff to confiscate drugs from DarkSide patrons, then resold them in the club.
But it was more than just drugs. Although Epplesheimer had pushed to make DarkSide 17-and-under, the clientele sometimes looked even younger, including girls photographed by the Observer's nightlife photographer and displayed in a slideshow. (The slideshow has since been removed.) Danny Boy says the club's security was scrupulous about checking people's IDs. However old they were, some of the youngest girls showed up with Epplesheimer, Gypsy says.
"We figured he picked them up because they were friends with his girlfriend," he says. "We didn't think anything of it."
"Tommy was the type of guy, he flirted around," Danny Boy says. "He's a middle-aged man, single, he's got a club, there's young single girls around him. What's any guy gonna do? They're gonna flirt, they're gonna try and talk."
Hannah Dill, the 17-year-old who made fliers for the club, says Eppelsheimer hit on her a couple times. "But the thing with Tommy is if you told him you felt uncomfortable, he wouldn't go any farther with it," she adds. "He wasn't a bad person."
One girl caught Eppelsheimer's eye during a Christmas party. She was 17 at the time, she tells the Observer in an email, and along with her boyfriend, she spent a lot of time there. That night, Eppelsheimer told her that she could keep her jacket upstairs. She and her boyfriend were following him there when a security guard suddenly blocked the boyfriend's way. Epplesheimer led her into a room with a bunch of chairs and a mattress on the floor, she says.
"He grabbed me close and kissed me," she says, "and I struggled to break free. He backed off and led me back downstairs. ... He pulled me into the room where his 'dancers got ready' and tried to pick me up and put me on the mirror-lined tables, trying to get onto me again. Luckily, my boyfriend had caused a big commotion outside of the door. The security guard came in looking nervous and said we had to 'hurry up.' That's when I got really scared. The guard acted like that was normal."
When the girl tried to pull away, Epplesheimer pulled her back. She ran out of the room. She told only her boyfriend and a DJ, asking them to talk to Epplesheimer and keep him away from her.
His fondness for teenagers went further — and younger — than that. As the detectives infiltrated the club, they learned that Epplesheimer had had sex with a number of 15- and 16-year-old girls. The girls told police he gave them drugs and had them perform sexual acts on each other. He also groped a 15-year-old girl who'd been dancing in one of the club's cages, police say, and their reports suggest he may have drugged her. The girl reported waking up in a bed at his house beside two other girls.
what a classy expose of what the Observer loves the most...trashy people doing trashy things with other trash.
Like I said before... Garbage culture for garbage peopleShareFlagLikeReplyKeepingitrealJul 25, 2011
Yea and your culture isn't garbage at all networks dont mind takeing money from calvin klien for exploiting under age kids in sickening ads , the mainstreme media doesn't point out that massive amounts of drugs are sold at topless clubs which stay open afterhours and allow the "rave" scene in after. Do you want your kid at the topless club at five am or in a club that atleast calls it self a church ? I dont know ? This is the same mainstreme media that blast out music lauding the merits of being a drug dealer "balling" hanging with your fellow gang members or being a "hoe" to those guys , all I can tell you is that kids are going out you cant stop it , they are either at a club with a cop at the door or a house party getting beaten , drugged , assulted , or initiated into a gang. Isnt bob johnson the ceo of black entertainment television friend of and investment partner of george bush in the caryle group ? And the carlyle group and haliburton are the primary owners of the private prision system that locks up these same young people suckered in to the very same "dope slanging, gang banging" life style they promote with the average 17 year old haveing seen 17,000 simulated murders on the networks they own. You have the garbage culture sir and before you tell us to clean our house........ you better clean up yours...... or should I say ours.... youre lucky if your kid becomes a raver until he or she grows out of it , the rave scene is the anti-violence antidote to your garbage culture at least our motto is peace , love , unity and respect whats the mainstreme medias motto , poverty , death , destruction , inequality , cast systems , addictions , murder and any mayhem to keep people divided and conqured. Turn off fox news and crack a book or something ! or just put a big mac in it and shut up..... like a heart attack billion calaorie burger and edible polymer aka "plastic" shake is gonna help you..... That's why there is a real symble on dairy products by the way......... our culture has a real symbole yours is plastic !!!!!!
Great job on the cover story, Anna. Its not often that there is a lengthy article in my weekly Observer that is worthy of letting one or both of my feet fall asleep when I am reading it on the shitter. Not only was your story worth the pins and needles I felt in my feet, it was also worthy of the semi-paralysis I felt while balancing against the wall of my shower..
BEST QUOTE EVER!!! "The media made it out to be a sex-infested, drug-infested underground rave club that was run by a pedophile and raver kids who didn't give a damn," he says now. His voice rises a little. "That's bullshit. Yes, there were drugs. Yes, Tommy is a pedophile. But there was a deeper purpose, a deeper meaning, a deeper connection.
Bwahahaha f'n idiots!
"she filed one against the Playground, accusing it of providing a place for people to find 'random consensual sexual activities.'"
I promise you "Darkside" was a fart in the Dallas Rave scene. Union Bower,IceHouse,Major Theater,Club Canie, just to name a few
"The media made it out to be a sex-infested, drug-infested underground rave club that was run by a pedophile and raver kids who didn't give a damn,...Yes, there were drugs. Yes, Tommy is a pedophile..."
Ok...that made me laugh out loud.
I believe this can be rated on the Vagina system since it touches on sex right? If so 5/5 Vaginas, I love Anna long reads.
This individual was never ordained by the one and only faith based Universal Life Church World Headquarters of Carrabelle, FL., nor was this establishment in congregation affiliation with us. Obviously this individual was ordained by the non-Christian, no doctrine universal life church of Modesto, CA., started by the self proclaimed Modesto Messiah Kirby Hensley. Universal Life Church World Headquarters, http://www.ulcnetwork.com
@JustSaying That's a beautiful sentiment, Kenny Powers. Have a lovely weekend.
@monstruss Why thank you.
@RoaminCadillac In my mind's ear, I hear it being delivered by David St. Hubbins.
@RoaminCadillac I've read this story nine times and laughed every time I read that line.
@ScottsMerkin Bahaha. Thanks, Merk.
@UniversalLifeChurch Off topic but I helped in the starting of the Carrabelle Speed Festival just down the road from you. Funny to see that city on a Texas site.
@Anna_Merlan Yeah, I hadnt commented on a cover story or anything outside of UP or CoA in a while, and I know we get different commenters here than in the blog so I figured I'd try to confuse readers more than I already do.
I can't say that I've ever heard of it, but that does not say it does not exist, it is just not my cup of tea. But Carrabelle, Florida is a great city in a great state, as is Texas. Carrabelle truly has a lot to offer thanks to folks such as yourself who have blessed our community with their presence. The seafood is fantastic.
@UniversalLifeChurch It happens twice a year and is just about 3 years old so it is pretty new. It takes place on the Carrabelle-Thompson airport. Whenever you see all of the fast cars in town that si where they are going. Actually had the event last weekend. Carrabelle is a great city. I am from Destin.