Red blood cells 

Isn’t it sad when an artist’s own words can be used as ironic fodder for headline writers? By now you’ve likely heard that White Stripes front man Jack White beat up Von Bondies front man Jason Stollsteimer last Saturday night at Blanche’s sold-out Magic Stick show.

According to folks who were there, during pal Brendan Benson’s set, White confronted his foe stage right and punched Stollsteimer until the latter bled — this after yelling at him and spitting in his face — and Blanche fans had to pull the rock star off his former protégé. Appalled fans busted up the “fight,” which happened in front of Stollsteimer’s wife, Andrea, as well as Carrie Smith and Marcie Bolen of the Von Bondies. Stollsteimer, who filed charges against White, was taken to a local emergency room and treated for a cut nose and black eye.

Although the crowd was there for Blanche’s CD release, many were hoping to catch White make a surprise appearance with Blanche. ’Twas not to happen. And the musicians in Blanche seemed noticeably shaken later during their set.

“Most people didn’t know anything even happened,” says Magic Stick talent buyer Greg Baise, who was nearby when the fisticuffs went down. “The place was packed and no one noticed, it happened so fast.”

Detroit Police say there’s an investigation into the Magic Stick melee, the results of which could be a misdemeanor assault charge, most likely against White. White later filed a complaint against Stollsteimer, claiming self-defense.

“It is a cross complaint,” says assistant prosecutor Marcus Connor at the Wayne County Prosecutors Office. “The Detroit Police Department is conducting an investigation regarding the incident at the Magic Stick between White and Stollsteimer. After the investigation, we’ll decide whether or not to prosecute.”

Was the scuffle entirely unprovoked? Who knows? Scuttlebutt suggests that White is simply having a hard time dealing with the Von Bondies’ success (some of which can be attributed to White himself), and that he’s unable to let go of petty squabbles. At any rate, these dudes have been taking passive-aggressive swipes at each other for a while now. White’s being fed by the mouth-breathers in the English gossip/music press. Yay.

White said this in a recent New Musical Express interview: “They’ve [the Von Bondies] really lost their minds. [Stollsteimer] has really gone off the deep end — he’s very mean-spirited.”

Stollsteimer denied any rift to NME and has since gone out of his way to avoid any conflict with White.

Still, the bloom is off the rose. White has finally publicly deflowered the Detroit garage rock scene in a manner that upholds the honor of any local hip-hop beef we’ve heard of in some time.

Neither White nor Stollsteimer could be reached for comment, but those close to Stollsteimer say that he’s in a bit of shock. White left the city for Stripes-related commitments.

But this is hardly the first time White’s temper has gotten the best of him. Whispers about White’s violent outbursts have been in circulation around the incestuous Detroit rock scene for quite some time, though you’d be hard-pressed to get aspiring musicians to go on the record about it. There was the altercation between White and the Sights’ drummer Dave Shettler a couple years ago in the Garden Bowl. The scuffle had something to do with someone using White’s favorite bowling ball. In England, White reportedly flew into a jealous rage and kicked Ninjitsu moves on Dolf de Datsun after finding out Datsun was doing his old squeeze.

But what’s surprising about White’s testosterone-fueled outbreak at the Stick isn’t so much that a 28-year-old, newly minted millionaire and international superstar should find himself on the receiving end of some serious mental angst, but the bold-faced selfishness and hypocrisy of how he chose to deal with it.

At one of last month’s local White Stripes shows, White chided dudes in his audience to cut out the moshing, saying, “I can smell the testosterone from here.” OK. No problem there. Sensitive gentleman Jack spreads his gospel of childlike love.

Except ... last Saturday night he chose to act childish instead of childlike. And instead of, oh, say, talking about it in the calm light of day or even settling matters in private, White chose to do this in front of 500 or so fans of his friends’ bands and his real and chosen family. Apparently it’s not enough to be in the spotlight for your own music, you have to upstage your pals too.

And how do White Stripes fans react to this? If is any gauge, by saying things like, “gosh, Jack sure can kick some ass” and other such worshipful prose. The assault forced the cancellation of the Von Bondies’ planned in-town press interviews and photo sessions to promote the upcoming release of their debut Sire record, Pawn Shoppe Heart.

So many local bands/musicians are riding along on the White Stripes International-Bright-Young-Thing gravy train it’s no wonder getting anyone to talk on record about the Magic Stick fracas is akin to wrenching a rotten tooth out with a pair of pliers. White’s the king in his Motown court, presiding over a scene that has blossomed under his auspices. Everyone from the Von Bondies and Electric Six to Brendan Benson and the Sights, and so on, have all benefited in some way from the White Stripes. And that is, certainly, a beautiful thing. What’s more, White has, for the most part, been kind and gracious with his influence, bringing local bands on tours, sometimes covering their songs (Blanche and Benson) on single B-sides and talking in the press about how Detroit is a fine and righteous place. In fact, things are relatively easy for any upstart Detroit rock band looking for a Euro foothold, and that has everything to do with the white light, white heat of the White Stripes. Which makes this whole Magic Stick punch-up all the more bizarre. Hard to be a gentleman, indeed.

“No one believed what had happened,” says the Stick’s Greg Baise. “No one can believe it.”

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