Donna Alexander tells me that if I hit the TV in just the right location, a sweet spot somewhere around the middle, “it will explode.” She would know. For the past eight years, Alexander has run the Anger Room, a business dedicated to destruction. As I tap on the glass tube with the head of a 7-iron, I am excited by the promise in those italics.
The TV—an old CRT model, a thick and boxy chunk of hard, graying plastic—rests on top of a scuffed chest of drawers. Next to the chest is a coffee table and an armchair, both covered in a haphazard assortment of mismatched glasses and plates, like I’ve happened upon a yard sale. But I already own all of it: I’ve paid $45 to smash the entire lot. I have 15 minutes, the 7-iron, and a gnarled black baseball bat. It’s the Anger Room’s Lash Out package.
Alexander moved the Anger Room to its current home, a nondescript building on the east end of Deep Ellum, late last year. Inside, a Spartan front room gives way to an open, warehouse-style space at the back, with a whitewashed cinder block wall graffitied with signatures and F-bombs from previous guests, and a growing pile of rubble in one corner. Prior to its arrival here, the Anger Room made stops in Richardson, Arlington, and Lancaster. Its first location, before it was even really a business, was her garage off Ross Avenue. In 2008, she began inviting friends and family and co-workers there to bash away at whatever Alexander could scrounge up, charging them $5 a pop.
“Then a man showed up one day and asked if this was the place where people smashed stuff,” she says. The Anger Room was officially born.
It was a long time coming. The 34-year-old Alexander first had the idea when she was 16, growing up on Chicago’s South Side. She looked at the overcrowded prison system and wondered what would happen if people had a healthy, legal outlet for their frustrations. It was such a simple concept, “I figured someone else would do it first,” she says. But no one did.
When Alexander finally opened the Anger Room, she found she was right: people would pay to beat the hell out of something in relative peace, to give them a little peace. (She offers three packages: I Need a Break, five minutes, $25; Lash Out; and Total Demolition, 25 minutes, $75.) The Anger Room has hosted cancer patients, commuters, therapists and their clients, scorned women—I noticed a headless mannequin with “Kevin” written across its smooth chest; sorry, buddy. Comedian Gabriel Iglesias came in recently with a crew of 14. With bats and two-by-fours and sledgehammers, they unleash their rage on donated desks and old office equipment.
Which brings us back to me and the TV. Wearing black coveralls, two pairs of gloves, a hard hat, dust mask, and safety goggles, with protective paper booties over my shoes, I take a few abbreviated swings to get lined up. Then I let loose. True to Alexander’s word, the TV explodes with a sparkling clap, like a bucket of diamonds has just been assassinated by a sniper. My central nervous system is a 100-year flood of endorphins. I feel fantastic.
So I smash the rest of it.