Fighting for the Right to Party

Town-Gown relations heat up at the Hong Kong

When the Crimson Sports Grille closed its doors in summer 2001, Harvard’s aspiring hedonists were forced to find another location to fulfill their search for drinkin’, fightin’, and whorin’. The Grille had been a haven for Harvard students to indulge in pure and honest drunken carousal, with none of the bourgeois lameness of many other bars in the Square. Since its demise, the Hong Kong restaurant has filled that void, with an unforeseen bonus: the chance to exchange punches with a friendly local.

Due in no small part to the influx of Harvard students, the Kong has become a bustling hot spot on weekend nights. Sure, on the surface the place appears to be merely a third-rate Chinese restaurant, and it is certainly that. For some, however, it’s also an equal-opportunity hotbed of bedlam, accommodating Harvard students and townies, men and women alike. The Kong has put rowdy Harvard students into contact with rowdy Cantabrigians like never before.  

Why the Kong? The unpretentious nature of the place is conducive to rambunctious behavior, attracting folks who prefer cheap drinks and bad hip-hop to sipping twelve-dollar chocolate martinis and strutting around in tight black pants. Throw in the possible town-gown tension, and you have yourself the ideal setting for some late-night, booze-bred donnybrooking.

Despite the fact that the “smaht kids” are taking up more space at the Kong than they used to, there isn’t necessarily bad blood between the two groups. “I have noticed that there are more Harvard kids there lately,” says Brian Goodwin, 22, a waiter at John Harvard’s and a Cambridge native who has been going to the Kong since he was 18. “But I don’t think that has anything to do with the fighting, or that there’s any tension between townies and Harvard kids.”

The fights, however various in motivation and execution, share a common ingredient: alcohol. “They all get started the same way: from drunk people being stupid,” says Goodwin. “If anything, it’s just that it’s so crowded in there and people bump into each other or a drink gets spilled on somebody.”

Be that as it may, over the past few months, the Kong has erupted in hair-pulling, slap-boxing and ass-grabbing. FM brings you an illustrated guide to recent low-skill grappling, complete with expert annotation.

GET OFF MY BACK

Last fall, while exiting the Kong at around 1:30 a.m., Alaina F. Aguanno ’03 paused at the corner with a friend to wait for the rest of their group. “Two local men who had left the bar just after us slithered by,” recalls Aguanno in an e-mail, “and as they passed, one of them reached out and grabbed a huge handful of my ass.” Noting the frequency of such incidents in bars and clubs, Aguanno says she “turned to the man on the street and told him to fuck off.” Undeterred, the man walked right up to Aguanno. She shoved him away, as one often does with random ass-grabbers, and shouted that he had better get lost. The man’s friend got involved, asking, “What’s the matter, baby?” Aguanno shoved the friend away as well, saying, “You guys had better get out of here.” The two remained.

The rest of Aguanno’s crowd caught up, warning the locals not to talk to her. Aguanno describes them as “drunk and looking for confrontation,” and says the locals demanded to know what the three were going to do. One friend shoved the local, who took hold of him and wouldn’t let go. Slapping and flailing ensued, and the rest of Aguanno’s friends interceded. She says she thought people were going to get hurt, so she got into the middle in an attempt to break up the fight.

A passing police car pulled over and one student combatant, freed from the clutches of the aggressive ass-grabber, fell to the sidewalk. “The two locals walked down the street, as the cop came up to talk to us,” says Aguanno. “I explained what had happened, and the cop walked down the street to frisk them. We watched for a minute or two and then escaped down a side street.” HONG KONG FIGHT-O-METER RATING: 4 out of 10.

COMMENTARY: Kudos to Aguanno for standing up for herself, and to her friends for laying the smackdown.  You go.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

“It was the typical drunk fight that starts with a couple of guys mouthing off to one another for no real good reason,” recalls Bryan M. Parker ’02 of his Kong scuffle, “until it escalated into a full-scale rumble.” While leaving the restaurant, about four Harvard students exchanged words with four townies. Parker admits that his memory of the fight is “a little hazy, but there were punches being thrown and people falling into the street.” He says that while some guys on both sides attempted to break up the fight, others jumped right in. Parker himself ended up getting taken to the ground on Holyoke Street, cutting his thumb on the concrete. Things settled down, despite a reported ten minutes spent “talking shit and nearly coming to blows several other times. The girls that were with the locals kept holding them back and telling them not to fight. When it became apparent that there would be no more fighting, both parties went their separate ways.”

Goodwin, the John Harvard’s waiter who was on the townie side of the fight, generally echoes that account of the scrap. “I’ve been involved in my share of fights at the Kong, but none since that one,” he says. “It sucks for me because I know a lot of Harvard students from my job and I grew up with a lot of the locals who are at the Kong, went to school with them and played football with them, so it’s tough for me. So I try to avoid fighting like that.”HONG KONG FIGHT-O-METER RATING: 6 out of 10. 

COMMENTARY: Blood was spilled; faces were bruised.  A high number of combatants makes for more dynamic street fighting.

IT'S LADIES' NIGHT, OH, WHAT A FIGHT

According to Debbie, a junior who spoke to FM on the condition that her real name not be used, she was just dancing. She and her friends were on the third floor of the Kong on a Thursday night last fall when some local women started bumping into them. “It seemed like it was intentional,” says Debbie, who remembers that she eventually turned and gave the townies a heads up. “Honestly, we were all having a good time and not looking for trouble at all. So I turned back around and was dancing, when I got body checked from behind. I turned around to see four or five girls—I don’t know—coming at me, scratching my face, neck, arms, and pulling at my hair. I was throwing some punches, and kind of laughing at the fact that I wasn’t getting hit, but rather scratched. I mean, who pulls hair, honestly?”

She was pinned to the ground, says Debbie, “and then it got ugly.” Another friend, seeing the altercation, hit one of the local fighting femmes square in the jaw to get her away. Two remained, pinning Debbie to the ground. Debbie says she grabbed one of their legs and stood up with it, flipping the local girl over. The Harvard students’ male friends soon joined in, and “a couple of the girls sucker punched our boys, who were obviously trying to protect us without having to hit the local girls.” Enter the bouncers, who broke up the scuffle and sent both groups outside.

But it wasn’t over yet: friends who had been on the second floor came outside, unaware of the situation, and saw the local girls apparently trying to pick fights with “our boys. They punched some of the boys, and my girl friends got in on the fighting again. A fat local girl bowled into one of my friends from the side, and hit her head on the building. My friend then shoved her off and hit her hard a couple of times. Another one of my friends was about to be blindsided by a girl swinging a purse, but one of us interrupted her with a punch in the face.” A Harvard girl who was trying to break it up, says Debbie, was shoved to the ground by the locals, who also managed to knock down an unrelated middle-aged woman in their way. When it broke up, the group of Harvard students headed to a club, and the local girls “drove by in a car and screamed at us. We ignored them and went inside.”

Casualties? Debbie says she came out with some scratches and bruises, a turned ankle and is still missing the earrings that were ripped out of her ears. She says one friend was scratched by the purse that was flung at her, and another suffered a bruised cheek. “The local girls seemed to get punched a lot more than we did,” she notes. “I know my friends landed some pretty solid hits. I think [the other women] had kind of weak fighting tactics, like hitting with purses, scratching, and hair pulling, where we are a bit more athletic in our style.”

TURKEY SHOOT

Just what makes FM qualified to judge the blows and bruises of Hong Kong spars? FM’s own Sam A. Winter ’03 tells all.

As we were leaving the Kong, some locals who we didn’t know said something to one of our friends to which we took offense. Words were exchanged and it started getting heated. There were three of us and two of them. Neither side was backing down, and it looked as if things might come to a head. Then we noticed one of the locals lifting his shirt and reaching down towards his pants as if he was grabbing a gun, like it was Menace II Society. It turned out he wasn’t packing, but was just trying to scare us with his imaginary gat. After realizing that we wouldn’t be shot, my friend had had enough of their yammering, and he shoved one of them. Now the rumble was on, and they started going after him. I was trying to step in and at least hold one of them off.

Amidst the struggle, one of the locals got thrown to the ground. He got up, pissed, and tried to go after my friend. I grabbed him and held him off. Meanwhile, my friend was trying to ward off the other townie’s best offense, which apparently was open-hand slapping. Just then, we saw police lights. Things ended abruptly, and the townies started walking the other way, looking like they were minding their own business.

A few officers asked us what happened, and we explained that they had started the fracas by being jerks, pointing out the perpetrators. The police replied, “Okay, why don’t you move along.” They proceeded to spread one of the locals up against the wall and check him for weapons. We thought it was funny that they were getting harassed and we weren’t, but we didn’t care because they were assholes.HONG KONG FIGHT-O-METER RATING: 5 out of 10. 

COMMENTARY: The faux gun pull is a pathetic move.  It backfired greatly, and inspired some hardcore shoving. That punk got what was coming to him. If I do say so myself.

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