Controversial singer Ice-T angered police but thrilled concert-goersWednesday when he defied promoters and sang his much-ballyhooed anthem "Cop Killer" with as much on-stage defiance and in-your-face fanfare as he could muster.
The bare-chested singer strode to the center of the stage at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium and, as a finale to an hourlong set, pulled out a letter from the head of the 1,900-member San Diego Police Officers Assn.
The Sept. 23 letter, from POA President Harry O. Eastus II to the show's promoters, protested the late addition of Ice-T and his band, Body Count, to the concert featuring heavy-metal headliners Metallica and Guns N' Roses.
Ice-T took the letter, read it aloud sarcastically, and then--to chants of approval from the mostly white, early-20s crowd--crumpled it up and stuffed it in his pants, tucking it near his crotch.
He then sang the song, whose lyrics tell the story of an inner-city youth shooting a police officer with a sawed-off shotgun, as many in the crowd yelled the line, "Die, pig, die!"
But that's all that happened. Just as quickly, the rapper quietly left the stage, and no incidents ensued.
Eastus said he half expected Ice-T to sing the song despite promoters' pledge that he would not use it in his set.
"This shows everyone what a butt he is," Eastus said. "We figured that he would do something like this and take a shot at the Establishment."
Eastus' letter set off a fierce round of politicking last week, with Bill Wilson, manager of the stadium (and a former Pasadena police officer), writing concert promoters and asking them to remove the performer or cut the song.
Local officials said they were assured by Avalon Attractions of Los Angeles and San Diego's Bill Silva Presents that Ice-T would not perform "Cop Killer."
But when he took the stage and announced, "I consider San Diego to be Southern California and Southern California to be my home," several tattooed members of the largely shirtless throng said they knew "Cop Killer" was coming soon.
Ice-T withdrew the song from Body Count's debut Sire album in July after various police organizations complained to Time Warner, which distributes Sire Records, that it encouraged violence against police officers.
The controversy here pitted Mayor Maureen O'Conner against police officers after she said she deplored the song but defended the rapper's right to freedom of expression.
Ice-T read the letter on stage shortly before 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, at which point brown-shirted police officers rushed up from the stadium's tunnels.
As if expecting the inevitable, officers collectively adopted a grim expression. Few seemed angry or surprised.
San Diego Police Sgt. Bob Nunley, overseeing a record number of police (233) and security officers (1,200) for a stadium show here, said from his press-box perch that he "fully expected" the song and was happy that "absolutely no incidents" came in its wake.
"It's just the same old story," Nunley said, shaking his head. "People were dancing around policemen, saying, '(Bleep) the police.' "
Fearing the crowd's response, promoters removed Ice-T from last Sunday's Guns N' Roses-Metallica show at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the concert set for Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
That decision was due to sensitivity over the Rodney G. King beating verdict and the riots in Los Angeles last spring, according to Brian Murphy, the head of Avalon Attractions.
After the song was performed Wednesday, promoters issued a terse "No comment." Stadium manager Wilson confined his comments to a statement.
He said he was "extremely disappointed that Ice-T chose to sing 'Cop Killer,' " and noted that "a majority of the concert attendees" had not reached their seats when the moment came. About a fourth of the crowd were in their seats, promoters said.
Local officials said they hoped Ice-T's defiant act would not affect the future of concerts at the stadium, which had not seen one of this magnitude since The Who's sold-out appearance in 1989.
Officials had hoped for a net payday of at least $225,000 from Wednesday's event, which they agreed to risk, in the words of one, "only because, in this economy, we desperately need any money we can get, and this is money."
Judging from the comments of the crowd, the show--and the song--were worth it.
"It's a pretty powerful song," Roanna Avila, 19, an Oceanside waitress, said of "Cop Killer."
"But too many people take it literally and misinterpret its meaning. They refuse to look at the feelings--at the real injustices--that may have contributed to such a song."
"Who cares?" said her companion, 24-year-old Joe DiTullo of Vista. "Everybody here came to hear Guns N' Roses and Metallica. The only reason he got to come here and sing it is, this is San Diego, and not L.A., where people actually might have cared."