Music History

American Rock Story: Layne Staley's Night Out in Dallas With Dimebag Darrell and S&M

Chad Lovell will never forget the night he partied with Layne Staley in Dallas. Every April, though, the memory comes back particularly strong: Last week marked the 14th anniversary of Staley, the former singer of Alice in Chains, dying of a heroin overdose. But for Lovell, he'll always remember Staley, surrounded by dominatrixes, living it up on a wild night on Greenville Avenue — with a little help from Dimebag Darrell.

“It’s been 14 years since Layne passed on,” wrote Lovell, then of the band Course of Empire and now the sound engineer at the Curtain Club, in a Facebook post last week. “Loved Alice in Chains. Here is a quick rock story.” 

It was an October night in 1992 and Staley was in town with Alice in Chains. He was being trailed by a Rolling Stone reporter, who would later write a cover story on the band called "Alice in Chains: Through the Looking Glass" (thought omitting many of the deeds that Lovell recalls). Staley and Lovell visited The Basement, and underground rock 'n' roll club on Park and Greenville, for a private party called Sadistic Sunday.

Alice in Chains had come to town to open for Ozzy Osbourne, who played the night before, Lovell once recalled in an interview with the Observer.  Lovell met Staley at a Fishbone show at Deep Ellum Live, which was next door to where The Bomb Factory is located now. He later jumped on Osbourne's tour bus with his bandmates from Course of Empire and the guys from July Alley and Fishbone. Also there were Staley and the rest of AIC, as well as Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo from Osbourne's band.  
Wylde asked Lovell, “Where do you go in Dallas [to party]?” Lovell took them to The Basement. “It was basically turned into an S&M club,” he says. “It was like a strip club for dominatrix. It made The Church look like they were kids at play.”

The rock stars were all about it. “Zakk was like, 'It’s on,'” Lovell recalls. 

When they arrived at The Basement, they walked inside and ran into Dimebag Darrell and his brother Vinnie Paul Abbott of Pantera. It was as if fate had intervened. Staley had broken his leg, Lovell recalls, and lumbered in on crutches, then basically spent the rest of the night at the bar with the reporter, while Wylde and Dimebag bonded over shots, pool and their love affair with the electric guitar.

The owner of The Basement quickly closed the club to the public, turning it into a private party for rock stars. “It became a hug, rock ‘n’ roll party,” Lovell says. “It was 1992, and we were all in our 20s, rock ‘n’ roll dudes with money.”

The Rolling Stone reporter wrote in his Nov. 26, 1992 article that on that Sadistic Sunday night, the whips came down hard at The Basement as several dominatrixes in body paint lashed a patron’s back with riding crops before digging their fingers into his shoulder blades only to pour vinegar into the wounds. Staley, who was 25 years old at the time, was drunk off his ass, laughing it up and trying to join in their fun, but the pins in his left foot prevented him from joining. 
Lovell doesn’t recall Staley participating in the debauchery, either. He was quiet for the most part, not feeling his best. “Everybody was partying, and he was sitting at the bar. I took a moment to invade his space. He was nice but so removed from it all… in his own head space," Lovell says. "I thought at the time, 'Well, he has a broken leg.' Looking back, that was just him.”

He’d only see Staley one other time, at Lollapalooza in California, before Staley died from a mixture of heroin and cocaine at the age of 34 in April 2002. Dimebag Darrell would follow him in death two years later when a crazed fan charged the stage in a small bar in Ohio, spewing bullets and hatred before a cop ended the assailant's life.

But on that Sadistic Sunday night in October 1992, the rock stars partied until 10 a.m. and left at some point for an impromptu jam at Choice Studios on Paramount before calling it a night. The only recording of the night lay in the memories of the people who experienced it.

“Incredible night, incredible experience,” Lovell wrote on Facebook.

Wylde is in town this week for the Generation Axe Tour with fellow metal guitar titans Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen. That show takes place not far from where Lovell's night of debauchery got kicked off 23 years ago, at The Bomb Factory.
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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.