The Bizarre Life and Troubling Death of DarkSide, the Dallas Rave Church That Never Was
The Lord had chosen an unlikely vehicle for his message to John Wayne. But when John learned he'd been DJing in a church, he knew it was a message from above.
John grew up Pentecostal in Waco, at a church where they spoke in tongues and laid on hands. He dropped out of school at 17 and moved to Dallas to become a professional dancer, but he got wrapped up in drugs instead. He spent a few chaotic years living in hotels, mooching Ecstasy and LSD off dealer friends and watching his dreams turn to dust.
By the time he became part of DarkSide, John was clean and had a beautiful woman by his side at the turntables. As the club grew, eventually becoming one of Dallas' hottest after-hours spots, John was one of its main DJs and promoters. Then, suddenly, it was also the spiritual outlet he'd always craved.
Scenes from DarkSide on Youtube:
He received this good news in November 2010, around the height of the club's popularity. He was at Dancetronic, a weekly party at DarkSide's sister club, the Playground. John was in the zone, headphones on and bass thumping, when someone shined a flashlight onto his turntables. Annoyed, he raised his arm to block the light and kept spinning.
Fists pounded on his table. John ignored them. Someone yelled at him to turn around. Finally, he did.
"What the fuck do you want?" he screamed, and saw whom he'd been blowing off. The cops yanked him from the DJ booth, he says, headphones still around his neck. They piled on top of him. He felt a knee on his neck and a gun to his head. He was handcuffed while the cops kicked everyone out.
When he got out of jail two days later, on his birthday, he was shaken and scared. He called his boss, a man he knew as "AB."
"I think I'm done," John told him. "The cops are watching that venue. For some reason they don't want us doing this."
"John Wayne, what they did was illegal," AB replied. DarkSide and the Playground were both licensed spiritual organizations, he said. "I've got proof. We can take them to court. Come down here right now. We'll walk up to the police station with the paperwork I have and we'll own the fucking city."
John was confused. He'd never known the clubs to be "spiritual organizations." They sure didn't look like it. But it was true, AB said: He was an ordained Universal Life Church minister, and he had a permit to use his buildings for worship.
John was still baffled. But he was elated, too.
"I love God with all my heart," he says. He'd always wanted to show people "the truth" through his music. Well, he thought, the Lord works in mysterious ways.
It wouldn't be long before DarkSide collapsed amid a messy tangle of drugs, arrests and accusations, sending its shady operators and tightknit collective of staff and customers scattering. But for eight months, anyway, John Wayne thought he'd found the spiritual home he'd been seeking, and that it had come, miraculously, with a dose of DJ fame. He started dreaming up outreach events DarkSide could offer to the rave scene. He even got ordained himself and performed a wedding in the club, two young ravers who wanted to marry before they both joined the military. The bride wore a green gown and walked down the aisle to a dance remix of Mendelssohn's wedding march.
"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. This wasn't just something we did on weekends. This was our life."
DarkSide's former home at 3207 Northwest Highway is a squat tan building, part of the last stretch of commerce before the road flattens out into a cloudy streak of Bachman Lake on one side and drab commercial buildings on the other. From August 2010 to July 2011, this was a huge planet in the galaxy of clubs in the Dallas dance-music scene, drawing as many as 1,000 people a night to its five rooms and as many stages. It was a candy store of raver delights: disco balls, strobes, lasers, a stripper pole, cages to dance in and readily available drugs to make it all sparkle. Videos online show every room packed wall-to-wall, young dudes in T-shirts, young women, maybe even girls, pulsating to deep bass lines in tiny outfits paired with big, fuzzy boots.
"It was really nice," says Gypsy Masters. He's a cheery, rainbow-dreadlocked 22-year-old who became a DarkSide mainstay; the club's management used to pay him to show up, he says, because he'd bring a big crowd with him. "There was more music, more genres, more styles — more of a freedom of what you want to listen to."
DarkSide was something new to its young clientele. But the electronic dance music (EDM) scene has deep roots in Dallas, given a thread of continuity by Lizard Lounge, the city's longest-operating dance club. When that club's owner, Don Nedler, moved here in 1991, he found a subculture already in full bloom.
"Rave culture was exploding in the early '90s," he says. It had started with the Starck Club, a sleek converted warehouse where DJs such as Greg Watton and GoGo Mike DuPriest created a huge following for house music. The Lizard Lounge opened at the end of 1991 and soon started spinning mostly dance music. Around the same time, warehouse parties helped take scene further off the radar.
"We'd just grab a generator, some turntables and some buddies and go set up in a field or an abandoned warehouse and just get after it," says Jerrod Gideon, who DJed that scene as a teenager. "It was mostly illegal."
Underground parties and clubs with dance nights gradually gave way to small, all-EDM clubs like Kinky's, Wish and Cameo, now all long gone. Today, most clubs spin at least some dance music. But the main action in the EDM scene happens at enormous traveling festivals: Lights All Night, Electric Daisy Carnival, Life in Color.
In some ways, DarkSide had the fly-by-night vibe of those old warehouse raves. It began as the brainchild of a promoter named Tommy Eppelsheimer, in a couple of one-off nights at a Richardson club called the Verandah Grill and Lounge. Eppelsheimer is 43, a pale, stocky guy with a shaved head. Before DarkSide he mostly worked as a locksmith in Lewisville. But he promoted too, going by the name Tommy Gunn and hyping mostly 21-and-over "bottle clubs."
John Wayne says he met Eppelsheimer a few years back at Dallas World Aquarium, where John worked and where he'd thrown one of his only shows. He was having trouble getting gigs, which he blamed on the insularity of the Dallas rave scene. "I was tired of the disrespect," he says. "I'd show up, support, dance, but I never got booked."
But Eppelsheimer saw something in him. "You're an amazing DJ," John remembers the older man saying. "And no one gives you a chance." DarkSide would be that chance, Eppelsheimer promised.
John was reluctant to get involved in DarkSide at first. "I'm a very spiritual person, and the name turned me off." But the chance to DJ regularly was too good to pass up. And Eppelsheimer didn't want just him — he wanted John Wayne's girlfriend, Lacey Jayne, too. (John and Lacey agreed to be interviewed on the condition they be identified by their DJ handles. Together, they called themselves The HitStars.)
"Fine," John Wayne told Eppelsheimer. "We'll run DarkSide, and I'll be the light in the dark."
Their gigs at the Verandah drew close to 500 people, John and Lacey say, but also invited the attention of the cops, so the owners didn't invite them back. For a few months, DarkSide bounced restlessly from venue to venue. One weekend, John and Lacey even rented out the clubhouse of their apartment building and held DarkSide there. Another weekend, DarkSide happened at Iniquity, a swingers club.
It wasn't until September 2010, when Eppelsheimer met the man DarkSiders knew as "AB," that DarkSide settled into the dingy, rambling space on Northwest Highway. It's unknown how the two met, and most of the club-goers didn't know AB was just leasing the building, and that its owners had unsuccessfully tried to evict him. All they knew was that their club finally had a home.
To talk about DarkSide, you have to talk first about the Brotherhood, which, depending on whom you ask, was either a group of kids who got drunk and played beer pong or a highly organized criminal gang.
Most DarkSiders describe the Brotherhood as a group of kids from The Colony who went to high school together and entered the EDM scene together. Many of them had brittle or nonexistent family ties. They became each other's support.
"It was a rave family," says Scott "Styx" Webb, now 22, who did lights and sound for the club. "You could call someone at 4:30 in the morning because you had two flat tires on the side of the highway and someone would bring a pickup truck to get new tires. Someone did that for me once."
Lacey was one of its first members. When DarkSide first opened on Northwest Highway and business was slow, she reached out to several other members, who started promoting the club. "If you were new, they would welcome you in," Lacey says. "No questions asked."
After a while, DarkSide's staff were largely Brotherhood. "They were our promoters, they were our security, they were the ones who held it down for us," John Wayne says. And as the club's popularity grew, so did the Brotherhood's membership. "Every time I turned around, I had some random rave kid telling me, 'I just joined the Brotherhood,'" he says.
The girls wore white bandanas, while the guys wore black. They organized events for people to earn their bandanas, Lacey says, like scavenger hunts and silly challenges. That was the feeling of the club in those first days, the DarkSiders say: goofy, welcoming, ragtag. It was exciting. It felt like home.
Well, not at first. After their roving party landed at AB's space on Northwest Highway, the DarkSiders heard the place had previously been a swingers club or a strip club, a theory supported by the stripper pole in the back. The club was filthy, with junk and dirty mattresses everywhere. There was no electricity in several of the rooms, and extension cords snaked in all directions. John, Lacey and Eppelsheimer set to work cleaning it up. For a couple months, John says, he and Lacey also lived at the club.
Things got off to a slow start; the cops at the Verandah had created some wariness among the EDM crowd. By October, the club, which didn't serve alcohol, was experimenting with its hours. At first it was open from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., then from 10 p.m. to 7 the next morning. Both arrangements were illegal: Clubs in Dallas, even those licensed to stay open late, can't have dancing past 4 a.m. DarkSide needed a dance-hall license and a late-hours permit. It had neither.
Around the same time, Eppelsheimer also experimented with whom to let in. Specifically, he decided to bring the entrance age down from 18 to 17. "We'd push for 18 and up, but he'd always argue for 17," John Wayne says. "He'd say there's more clients that way."
To go with its spotty electricity and ramshackle sound system, DarkSide didn't even have an in-house sound guy. One night, Styx showed up to check out the club. Someone tripped over an amp and unplugged something important, causing a massive sound failure. After 10 long minutes of silence, he stalked back to the sound booth, pissed off.
"Aren't you guys able to do anything?" he asked. He started checking the sound equipment, unplugging and re-plugging cables. "I had three guys grabbing onto me, thinking I was intoxicated and being retarded," he says. As they were pulling him away, he reached out and flipped a switch. The sound came back on.
Eppelsheimer, one of the guys who'd been grabbing Styx, stood him up and brushed him off. "Can you do that all the time?" he asked.
Styx became a full-time employee. "Anything that lit up or made noise, I was responsible for it being there and working properly," he says. He and the others fixed the lights, arranged furniture and built stages and DJ booths. He even made one booth out of a glass door that used to be part of a walk-in freezer.
"We built most of DarkSide out of what was already there," he says.
Danny "Danny Boy" Hundley worked security at the club. He'd never been much of an EDM guy, but he found he loved coming to work. "After you became part of the DarkSide family, it wasn't just about going to a club," says Danny Boy, who's now 20. "I knew somebody there was gonna put a smile on my damn face." He'd watch, fascinated, as the crowds on the darkened floor danced and did elaborate light shows with glow sticks and LED-studded rave gloves. Many clubs ban the gloves because they're supposedly an accessory to getting high on Ecstasy, but they were a common sight on the DarkSide floor.
The DarkSiders don't dispute that there were drugs in the club, like any other nightclub in the city. But they say they tried to be proactive about getting rid of the drugs, and often called police to report drug activity, a claim somewhat backed up by police reports. They were strict about checking bags and pockets, Styx says, but drugs were ferried in people's underwear. Small amounts of confiscated drugs were put into a drop safe for the night. After the club closed, they'd call the police to come pick them up. If they confiscated a large amount, he says, they'd call them to come over right away.
"We had a real good relationship with the police," Styx says. "They never said anything to us about drugs."
The staffers themselves filed a number of police reports over the year the club was open, two of them drug-related. According to one, on July 16, 2011, a girl from Lewisville had taken two hits of acid and "was having a negative reaction to the drug." She was taken by ambulance to Parkland. Two weeks later, a staffer reported that while she was searching the bags of people entering the club, she found "a large plastic baggie containing what is believed to be hallucinogenic mushrooms."
The would-be mushroom-taker told the staff "he forgot he had them." He grabbed his bag and fled westbound on Northwest Highway. He was riding a green motorcycle and wearing a Superman costume.
Although most DarkSiders didn't know it, their club savior, AB, is actually a failed businessman named Wyakie Glenn Hudson. He's a slim black man with a trim goatee and a shiny, bald dome, and, according to an interview he did with The Dallas Morning News, he grew up near Denver, raised by a strict Baptist grandmother. (Emails and calls to Hudson went unanswered.)
Hudson tried to open a few restaurants in the Denver area, he said, all of which failed, before moving to Dallas 15 years ago. Records show that he filed a few assumed business names here, but none of the ventures seem to have ever gotten off the ground. He earned three misdemeanor criminal convictions in 2007 and 2008, two for marijuana possession and one for unlawfully carrying a handgun.
About five years ago, when he was 34, Hudson married a 19-year-old Dallas woman. She filed for divorce five months later, but the divorce wasn't granted until this year because she had some trouble locating Hudson. Another marriage license a few years later expired without Hudson marrying the woman. He told the Morning News he was engaged and had a 9-year-old son.
For Hudson, "everything was spiritual," says Danny Boy, the former security guard. Everyone contained a positive and a negative spirit, he would say, and both positive and negative energy flowed through the universe. Danny Boy had lost any faith long ago, but he'd find himself nodding in agreement.
Then there was Hudson's less holy side.
"He could play with his words," Danny Boy says. "He'd make you think one thing, and behind your back he'll be doing another. A lot of times we questioned what was going on with the money, what was going on with the club."
The club's financial operations were suspect from the beginning, says John Wayne, starting with the very first day he worked there. It was a sweltering August afternoon, and only one of the large portable AC units worked. Hudson told John to wait at the club for some guys who would deal with the AC. John didn't know what that meant, exactly, but he did as he was told.
Eventually three guys in a truck pulled up. They grabbed the only working AC unit and rolled it out.
"Why are you taking the only one that works?" John yelled after them. "I'm not sure if you should take that." They ignored him and drove off.
When John called Hudson to tell him what had happened, "he acted like he had no idea who the AC guys were," John says. And he didn't remember telling John to wait for anybody.
"You done lost my $10,000 AC unit?" Hudson yelled down the phone. John had to work for free for three months straight, and other staff did as well, Danny Boy says, with their wages going to repay the unit John "lost."
"He hustled me, basically," John says. When people started getting paid, finally, it was all in cash. Staff members signed a note card to signify they had received their money. "We really had no idea where the money was going."
Hudson didn't come around much, mostly only showing up at the night's end to collect the money. Other times, he sent friends in his place.
Hannah Dill was 17 when the club got going. A budding graphic designer, she made fliers promoting the club; other times, she worked the door or ran errands. She remembers two of Hudson's associates coming by frequently, a girl named Tiffany and a guy who went by "Face." The cops showed up a couple times when they were there, and the two promptly grabbed the cash box and locked themselves in the closet, Dill says. They sent her and John Wayne to deal with the cops.
As the club reached its height in late 2010, Eppelsheimer kept buying new stuff: more strobe lights, more lasers, more sound equipment. But sometimes, things went out just as fast as they came in. One night, just before New Year's Eve, several people say, nearly everything in the club was stolen. A police report from around that time lists thousands of dollars' worth of stolen equipment, including subwoofers, lights, sound equipment, speakers, a cooler door, an office door and a front door.
Undaunted, Styx promptly started building new speakers out of junk he found in the closets. "We still pulled through," Danny Boy says.
The trouble wasn't limited to DarkSide. On Valentine's Day in 2010, records show, Hudson flagged down officers outside the police substation on Northwest Highway and told them he was a DJ at the Playground, a swingers club on Harry Hines Boulevard that he also operated. Everything had been stolen, he said, several thousand dollars worth of equipment: $26,000 of "search lights," $2,000 CD players, two iPods, and three amps worth a thousand bucks each, among other things.
The Playground hosted an EDM night called Dancetronic each week, the party where John Wayne got arrested — for resisting arrest. The vast majority of the time, though, the place was fully occupied with swingers. The ambience of the club lives on in reviews from swingers' forums. Some of them sound suspiciously glowing ("Puts the sex in sexy!") while others are less enthusiastic ("They overcharge you and you end up in a drunk ghetto fuck club"). In May 2011, the club promoted an appearance from a porn star named Mr. Marcus, who later admitted to being the starting point of an enormous syphilis outbreak in the adult-film industry.
"Pretty much anything went over there," Danny Boy says, uncomfortably. He'd originally only signed on to work two nights a week at DarkSide, but it got to be a lot more. He ran errands, moved heavy stuff with his truck and even worked security at the Playground.
"It was definitely, definitely a different vibe," he says. "There was times where I sat there and I almost begged to go back to DarkSide." He saw working at the Playground as a part of the duty he felt to DarkSide. "We put ourselves through hell and back," he says. "We put in blood, sweat and tears to make sure we were open, that we were gonna be successful no matter what."
As things at the club started to change and grow murkier, Lacey says, so did the Brotherhood. "They started taking it far too seriously, establishing some hierarchy," she says. "I heard rumors of other things going on, but I just gradually got disconnected."
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.
Epplesheimer was arrested at his house in Lewisville on July 18, 2011, and was ultimately convicted of three counts of sexual assault against a child and one count of indecency with a child. Several child porn possession charges, stemming from images he had on his Blackberry, were dismissed. He was sentenced to nearly 80 years in prison.
"DarkSide did play a big role in many people's lives," Eppelsheimer writes in a letter from Tennessee Colony, Texas, where he's serving his time. "It was a place where anyone and everyone could come to meet new friends and old. To have a good time, dance and laugh in a safe environment and a clean one too. Everyone was treated equal at DarkSide, no matter if you were fat or skinny, ugly or beautiful, Black, White or Green. Everyone could be themselves."
Epplesheimer, who's appealing his conviction, claims he never did drugs "and wanted to show others it is possible to enjoy yourself without all the bad things associated in [the] club scene."
Despite the piles of evidence against him, some of the DarkSiders still have a hard time criticizing him.
"To hear these allegations against him was really hard to accept," Danny Boy says. "Evidence is evidence. If he did, he did. I'm still not 100 percent on either side of the fence." He pauses for a moment. "I feel bad for Tommy. He was a real good friend of mine. I can't say he's ever done me wrong. I really can't."
Lacey says Epplesheimer "was a good man and a good father until all of this came up, and he lost everything because of it. Most of us did.
"All of this started with such innocent motives," she continues. "Money and power changed things — even in a place as simple as a dance club."
Just before Epplesheimer's arrest that summer, the DarkSiders held a couple raves in a field in Hurst, near a horse ranch Hudson said he owned. (There's no record that Hudson owns any property in Dallas, Tarrant or Denton counties.) John Wayne and Styx were out there for four days before the event, "shoveling horse shit," John says, building stages and DJ booths.
The field raves were a big success, bringing in a couple thousand people total. DarkSide was still open for business; a van shuttled party-goers back and forth. But John Wayne says Epplesheimer paid him and Lacey a pittance, so the two quit in a huff. They came back a couple weeks later, but nothing was ever the same.
Epplesheimer's arrest shocked the club. Two days later, Miles filed her complaint against DarkSide, and not long after that she filed one against the Playground, accusing it of providing a place for people to find "random consensual sexual activities." Detectives also saw topless dancers and porn playing on flat-screen TVs.
Miles asked a judge to shut down both clubs. But when Hudson insisted he was the head of a spiritual enterprise and vowed to fight the allegations, her request for temporary restraining orders were denied. In March 2011, well after he told John that the clubs were "spiritual organizations" — but four months before Miles and the city got wind of what he was doing — he'd registered a nonprofit with the Texas Secretary of State's Office called N.R.G. Mission. DarkSide, he said, was an "outreach event" for N.R.G. As for the Playground, he told the Morning News he had no affiliation with the swingers club, and that he ran a marriage-improving group called Members Only from the same location. His LinkedIn profile, meanwhile, described him as "CEO of the Playground AKA MAGIC CITY."
After Miles filed her complaint, Hudson seemed to realize that DarkSide needed to act more like a church, and fast. He told John Wayne to church the place up.
Oh my God, John Wayne recalls thinking. This is really happening.
He did some quick Googling: "Any spiritual scriptures that talked about singing, dancing, life." He printed up poster boards and banners with the quotes on them, hanging them on every wall. It gave the place "a more enlightened feel," he says. He renamed the rooms, too: the "Laser Lounge" became the "Temple of Lasers." Others became the "Enlightened Room" and the "Main Congregation."
"The kids walked in expecting a normal rave club," he says. Instead, "we had them sign membership forms, because it was now a private membership club." On the forms, they'd ask people if they needed prayer.
"A lot of people got freaked out," John says. "Of course. You've got rave kids tripping on drugs and you're gonna tell them they're in a church?"
The story hit the media, and TV news trucks started showing up at the club almost every night, making sure to get plenty of lingering shots of young women in very little clothing. One night, Gypsy suggested they start a "prayer circle" outside, for the benefit of the cameras. A DarkSider named "Rev Stiz" had 30 or 40 people join hands. He said a brief prayer, blessing everyone and suggesting they have a good night. Everybody in the circle quieted down and got very serious.
"They actually took it as a prayer," Gypsy says. "At the end of it, he forgot to say 'Amen.' Nobody caught it but me."
With Epplesheimer locked up and Hudson's "associates" assuming more control over DarkSide, John Wayne and Lacey finally quit for good. Styx and Danny Boy stayed involved, though. Styx even came up with the idea to change the club's name. For the last couple weeks of its existence, DarkSide was the "Fenix Project."
"I figured there was such a negative stigma surrounding the name DarkSide," Styx says. "I was gonna take the word 'project' off if it succeeded." They packed the house most nights.
Meanwhile, Miles approached John and Lacey, asking if they would testify against Hudson. "Of course," John told her. When he and Lacey arrived at the George Allen Courthouse that August morning, they saw their old friends. "They came to back up AB," John says, sadly. He and Lacey sat directly in front of them. No one spoke.
Just before the hearing began, Hudson suddenly said, "Hold on." He and Miles disappeared into a back room. When they emerged, Miles announced that they had reached an agreement. He would immediately shutter both clubs and never operate another in Dallas again. "We had sexually graphic video that belied Hudson's claim that the Playground was a 'youth outreach ministry,'" Miles says, so Hudson cut a deal to keep it from being played during the hearing.
Hudson offered a slightly different rationale: "I love Dallas," he said "If [law enforcement] tells me to jump, I say, 'How high?'" Just after that, John says, he heard Hudson pull some of the club kids aside. Keep the club going, he urged, "but do it under somebody else's name."
That would prove impossible. After the hearing, Styx says, the club kids went back to retrieve their gear but found the doors locked and barred. Inside, they could hear one of Hudson's pit bulls, which he'd always said he was training to become "guard dogs." A few days later, Styx says, they managed to break into the club, through what he calls "a non-traditional entry to get into the building." The equipment and the dog were gone.
The DarkSiders never saw Hudson again. His fiancée, Monique McClinton, whom the nickname-prone club kids called "Mo," recently opened a business called Max Trade & Repair in a Lancaster strip mall. It's an electronics repair shop that advertises only on Craigslist. A couple weeks ago, the business was mostly bare, besides a desk and a half-empty shelf of DVDs.
Reached by phone, Monique says Hudson doesn't want to talk. "It all got blown out of proportion," she says. "There was a lot of wrong information put out there. I really don't feel like he's interested revisiting all of that."
DarkSide's collapse seemed to mark the beginning of the end for Dallas' not-so-underground after-hours scene. Four months after it was shut down, the other big one, Afterlife, was also shuttered. "I'm not aware of one illegal after-hours [club] happening right now," Don Nedler says. "Two years ago, I could've pointed you in the direction of five or six."
After it closed, many of the DarkSiders drifted away from the scene altogether. "You felt like a train just hit you," Danny Boy says.
As for John Wayne, he "quit the game," he says. He stopped DJing, stopped going out. "I had to man up." He sold vacuums, insurance and energy plans door-to-door, while Lacey got a job doing secretarial work.
"All my friends stopped talking to me," John says. "I couldn't get booked." A few months later, after three years together, he and Lacey broke up.
Lacey soon got back into the DJ scene here. John moved to Vegas, where he's been trying to get over Lacey and restart his DJ career. Not long ago, he wrote on Facebook that he'd managed to make rent for the month. A few days later, he said he'd just gotten a contract with a new talent agency: "God is good."
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