Guest Post: I Was At Bebe Rexha’s NYC Show When She Was Attacked – That Should Never Ever Happen

By Alexandra “Alé” Chernooki-Lavorato

Bebe Rexha performing on June 18 at NYC’s Pier 17 Rooftop where an audience member threw a phone at her. Photo by the Author Alexandra Chernooki-Lavorato

At what was a homecoming show for Bebe Rexha in New York City on June 18, the pop goddess was shockingly assaulted by a “fan” at Pier 17 Rooftop as she was finishing her luminous set. Someone in the audience threw a phone with the intent to hit her and did. Straight in the eye. Two days later, Ava Max was assaulted by a “fan” at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles and took to Twitter to say, “He slapped me so hard that he scratched the inside of my eye.” All of which begs the question: What is happening, and what is wrong with people?
I should start by introducing myself: I am a 23-year-old music lover and a recent college graduate. Over the past year, I have worked in various positions at four amazing venues in New Jersey — a smaller theater, an iconic large club, a performing arts center and an amphitheater. But first and foremost, I’m a huge Bebe Rexha fan, a Rexhar if you will. I was in attendance the night she was assaulted, and I’d like to share my experience and opinions, both on what happened and solutions that could — but hopefully won’t — become the new norm.

I was located stage left, meaning to the right of the stage as an audience member, at the barricade just behind two people. I’ve been a true fan since day one, so you best believe I wanted to get as close as possible to see every pore. But I digress.

The entire night, Bebe created a stunning show that I haven’t experienced with another artist in a long time, and I attend and work at quite a few shows. Toward the end of the night, as we approached 10 p.m., she went offstage for what seemed a quick water break. When she returned, she performed “I’m Good,” her six-time platinum megahit with David Guetta. Everyone sang along when she suddenly stopped. She kindly requested fans put their phones away, explaining that we had all filmed enough for the first take and to enjoy the moment without staring at our screens — a very reasonable request from an artist.
The crowd cheered and the music started up again. Let me say, being present with her and everyone’s awesome energy was perfection. As Rexha finished, she moved toward stage left and was about to say a few final gracious remarks when suddenly I saw a black rectangular object fly in from the crowd, hitting the singer in the eye. I heard the object hit the stage floor and almost simultaneously saw Rexha grab her face and fall to her knees.

The first emotion to wash over me was shock, but anger quickly followed. The crowd and time seemed to stand still. Someone screamed at Rexha asking if she was alright and others booed and cursed the culprit. Members of her team and family quickly stepped in and escorted her off the stage floor to a tented area where she was no longer visible to the audience. As this happened, another team member rushed to the front of the barricades and asked angrily who threw the phone. The audience had no problem identifying the alleged assaulter in question.

Venue security pulled the man over the barricade toward backstage. As the crowd was slowly being ushered out, Rexha came out of the tented area and was assisted backstage to seek proper medical attention while still holding her eye. The crowd cheered her as she left the stage, as a form of audible reassurance of our love and support.

I could see her mom on stage visibly, and understandably, in shock and filled with adrenaline and likely rage. One could only imagine as a mother what was going through her head having witnessed what happened to her daughter. I saw NYPD heading up as I reached the first-floor exit. We later learned the man (who will not be named because he doesn’t deserve any more attention) was reportedly charged with two counts of assault in the third degree and one count of harassment in the second degree, aggravated harassment in the second degree and attempted assault in the third degree.

The attack was a shock to everyone, and while I believe the situation was handled as best it could be, what might this mean for promoters, managers, agents and venues in terms of safety measures to protect artists while performing?

The first thing that comes to my mind is increasing the separation between the stage and the audience with the use of barricades. That way, if lighter things are thrown, they are less likely to reach the stage or may give more time to deflect any objects.

Ava Max, a 29-year-old pop artist, was attacked on June 20 by a fan during her show at Los Angeles’ Fonda Theater. (Photo by Marilyn Hue/Atlantic Rec.)

At some venues I’ve worked at, per the artist’s and/or tour’s request, certain sections that descend toward the stage — general admission area and pits — fans have to empty canned beverages into plastic lightweight cups, but this still wouldn’t do much to mitigate the potential of throwing heavier objects such as cellphones. Perhaps, companies like Yondr, which provides pouches to lock personal electronic devices at certain shows, could become the new norm if this kind of violent activity continues.

This actually might be kind of nice. When I attended comedy shows alone without my phone, it was a little weird at first; but later, I found myself fully immersed in the stand-up act that the performer worked extremely hard to craft. And the phone is locked in a soft pouch which would also help prevent serious bodily injury to anyone.

In the case of inebriated customers, venue staff are trained to look out for signs and have a policy of ejecting uncooperative patrons before things escalate. As a fan and a venue employee, I’ve witnessed people pre-gaming in the parking lot and elsewhere and causing scenes even upon entry. Venue security personnel are trained to keep a closer watch on these patrons.

What’s harder to understand is if you pay hard-earned money to come to a show, it’s usually because you like, if not love, the performer. So why would anyone ever want to hurt an artist (or think it’s “funny,” as Rexha’s assailant said)? This brings the question of mental health into play. A 2021 National Institutes of Health study cited by Johns Hopkins University stated “an estimated 26 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.” Unfortunately, it also stated that “many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time. In particular, depressive illnesses tend to co-occur with substance use and anxiety disorders.”

Keeping this in mind, fans should look out for one another. If we see someone who might not be feeling well, talk to them and see if you can help them. Or if you sense something is off and/or possibly dangerous, let security staff know so they can monitor the situation and handle it before anything escalates. If we are all aware of our surroundings and proactive with situations, there might be less likelihood of violent scenarios arising such as what happened to Rexha and Max.

Maybe there can also be a policy that bans these two individuals from entering the venues where the incidents occurred or any other venue — similarly done with airline companies that place people on a no-fly list to prevent them from ever boarding one of their planes.
I believe these and other security measures could and should be implemented by venues if this kind of heinous fan behavior continues. If it does, surely managers, promoters and agents will demand their artists are safely protected. As a fan and music lover, what happened to Rexha and Max this past week was incredibly saddening and infuriating. Hopefully, this doesn’t become the new normal for any performer anywhere.

Alexandra “Alé” Chernooki-Lavorato graduated from William Paterson University in 2022, has experience in various aspects of the music and entertainment industry, and currently works at no less than three prominent New Jersey venues in hospitality and as a runner. She is also currently working with Pollstar as a mentee via the Well-Dunn Foundation.