Category Archives: Anniversary

Old Man Woodstock Reflections

Old Man Woodstock Reflections

The Irony of Woodstock

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, many find themselves reflecting about that iconic event and its impact.

Thank you to Charlie Maloney, Woodstock alum, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts volunteer, Museum docent, and a guy who "gets it" when it comes to the spirit of the 60s that Woodstock has come to epitomize. It was he, who while surfing the internet one recent night, found an article written by Robert Hilburn for the Los Angeles Times. It kept him up later than he'd planned, but it was worth the sleep loss.

1989 was the 20th anniversary of Woodstock. Like 50, 20 is also an number that summons reflection as well.

Robert Hilburn

Hilburn's point was that if Woodstock had been held in 1989 it would have been a very different event. By 1989 the commercialization of rock music had gone from the 1950s fear of rock to a late-20th century commercial takeover with branded events.

The article's first  example is Janis Joplin's bringing a bottle of Southern Comfort on stage with her in 1969. In 1989, such "product placement" would have cost the liquor-maker. For the article, famous concert promoter Bill Graham suggested that, "...Southern Comfort would pay her a million dollars for just holding that bottle...."

Hilburn wrote that Graham's viewed Woodstock, "...not principally as a great musical moment, but as the day corporate America saw the big money to be made in rock. Indeed, Woodstock itself was a grand attempt to escalate the scale of rock."

The article quotes Joe Smith, a Capital-EMI exec, "Woodstock legitimized rock 'n' roll, and it sent out the message that there was a lot of money to be made in it."

Lou Adler, one of the organizers of rock's "first" festival, the Monterey International Pop Festival, said, "If Monterey made rock 'n' roll an art form, Woodstock made it a business."

Really?

Old Man Woodstock Reflections

Woodstock Ventures didn't just lose its shirt that weekend, it lost its pants, shoes, had, and underwear. None of the four organizers, Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts, or Joel Rosenman, ever got rich from it. They did continue to get plenty of grief and a mailbox full of law suits. Within days, Ventures sold the movie and music rights to to just begin to get out of the financial hole it found itself in. It was more than a decade later before that hole was filled. Not what I would call an acceptable rate of return.

If anything, it might be more accurate to say that corporate America saw the potential for "big money" in Woodstock's muddy aftermath and its may brethren festivals that summer.

It's many brethren? Until I began training as a docent at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts' Museum, I had, as most recollect and the article implies, that Woodstock was one of the two memorable festivals that year. The other, the sad counterpoint, being Altamont and its association with Hell's Angels violence and failed security.

Where were…?

That was not the case.  My research led me to dozens of other festivals that summer. None had the huge attendance that Woodstock had, but many had the same names. In fact, the lack of Black artists and bands at Woodstock (given the number available), stands in contrast to those other festivals. For example, none of the following were at Woodstock, but appeared throughout that summer at other festivals: The Chambers Brothers, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Taj Majal, Elvin Bishop, Sun Ra, Bukka White,  Carla and Rufus Thomas, Ike and Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye,  Albert King, Albert Collins, Edwin Starr, Slim Harpo, Big Mama Thorton,  Champion Jack Dupree, John Lee Hooker, Edwin Hawkins Singers, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Charles Lloyd, BB King, Little Richard, James Cotton Blues Band, Sam and Dave, Fred McDowell, Deacon John and the Electric Soul Train,  or Junior Walker and the All Stars,

I am not suggesting that Woodstock's invited line-up was a biased or poor one. It was great (others were, too). And I am certainly not suggesting that all of those listed above should have been there, otherwise the true musical coexistence that the spirit of Woodstock implies would ring hollow. But why not any?
Old Man Woodstock Reflections

 

As a Woodstock alum, myself, it is a thrill to hear "my" festival so celebrated and given such importance, yet when Lou Adler states that, ""My feeling has always been that if it hadn't rained, we may not have heard that much about Woodstock, or at least heard about it in a different way.....More than the music, it was the story of people pulling together against all these adverse elements. That's what made it such a dramatic and universal story" I cringe a bit.

The rain did happen, but the weekend was not a wash-out by any means. Sunburned backs attest to that. 
Old Man Woodstock Reflections
That those of us who attended did return home with a sense of solidarity seems to be accurate. The most common theme I note after conversations with returning Woodstock alum at the Museum was the sense of "Us" that we had there and afterwards.

Always remember that on that misty Monday morning when Hendrix finally closed the (actually) 4-day event, there were "only" 30- to 40-thousand people left. Most of us had gone home. We were tired. We were hungry. We were wet. We were muddy. We wondered whether our car was still there. And we had to get back to our jobs--whether that was a full-time one or a summer job before college began.

Love for Sale

Old Man Woodstock Reflections
Locals along 17B on Saturday 16 August selling hot dogs and soda. $1 each.
Woodstock's mythic story intensified what had already begun. FM rock stations and college stations (always underrated in terms of their influence) became a bigger influence. Hillburn writes that, "Woodstock changed the progressive rock format from an experiment to a boom."

The record industry did continue to increase its profits, but not, until the mid-70 did sales skyrocket: "$2.37 billion in 1975 . . . $2.73 billion in 1976 . . . $3.50 billion in 1977 . . . and $4.13 billion in 1978." And those profits are credited to Woodstock's fame.

The end result, by 1989, is that the counter-cultural music scene had gone mainstream. Stadium shows with commercial sponsors and ticket prices that make Woodstock ticket-buyer wax nostalgic.  The idealism of the 60s could still be found, but now part of a subset, not the primary aim.

A disillusioned Bill Graham quit the promotion business. Temporarily. He  returned to help create hundreds of stadium shows and help oversee a merchandising-related company. Ironically, he died in a helicopter accident after a successful meeting with Huey Lewis about doing a benefit concert.

By 2017, even a not-for-profit venue like Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has to charge what seem to many to be exorbitant prices for tickets to make ends meet. Ends, actually, that don't meet and depend on the generosity of others to close the gap and finally end in the black.

Apparently the intersection of Hurd and West Shore Roads will always be a beautiful, iconic, and historic site, but not a profit-making one.

Today you can find an exhibit at the Museum called "Love For Sale." The exhibit "examines the pervasive influence of the Counterculture on American popular culture and commerce." 

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May 31 Music et al

May 31 Music et al

Jimi Hendrix enlists

May 30 Music et al

May 31, 1961: Hendrix (19 years old) enlisted in the Army after  being caught for a second time riding in stolen cars and given a choice between spending two years in prison or joining the Army. After completing basic training, he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. (see “in November”)

Jimi Hendrix discharged

May 31, 1962: paperwork was filled recommending a discharge for Hendrix. (see June 29)

White album begins

May 30 Music et al

May 31, 1968: from the Beatles Bible: While the precise date is unknown,towards the end of May 1968 The Beatles met at Kinfauns, George Harrison's bungalow in Esher, Surrey. There they recorded demo versions of a number of songs written in India, 19 of which later appeared on the White Album.

The 27 songs believed they recorded the songs on Harrison's Ampex four-track reel-to-reel tape recorder. They grouped  them mostly grouped together by the composer of each song, although John Lennon's songs were more scattered across the day.

Sessions will span 4+ months, ending on Oct 14. (see July 17))
May 31 Music et al

Timothy Leary dies

May 30 Music et al

May 31, 1996: Timothy Leary died. From Find a Death dot com: In 1995, he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. I was speaking to Rocky Horror actor Barry Bostwick a couple of weeks ago. As I do.  He had prostate cancer, and was cured. However, he still goes in for checkups all the time, and could not emphasize enough the importance of getting checked. Especially men in their early 40s. So take it from Brad, do it guys.

Timothy's god daughter was shoplifter Winona Ryder. She supposedly moved in with him a couple of weeks before he died. It is said that she loved him deeply, and the two were very close.

On May 31, 1996 - Leary was in bed and everyone was waiting for him to die.  Suddenly he sat up and asked, "Why not? Why not? Why not?" It was 12:44 a.m., and the 75 year old died. About 20 friends, his stepson Zach, and his ex-wife Rosemary Woodruff Leary were with him. Timothy made sure that the entire event was videotaped. (see November 10, 2001)

May 31 Music et al, May 31 Music et al, May 31 Music et al, May 31 Music et al, 

Remembering Ryan White

Remembering Ryan White

AIDS

Whatever the decade, whatever the century, the media provide us with what they think we are interested in, with what we buy and tell them we are interested in.

AIDS was first clinically observed in 1981 in the United States. The medical community first observed it in intravenous drug uses and gay men. That being the case, it was easy for many to discount the illness's fatal effects or describe it as divine retribution.

We ignored AIDS; so did most media.

Remembering Ryan White

Remembering Ryan White

 

Ryan White was born on December 9, 1971, at St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Kokomo, Indiana to Jeanne Elaine Hale and Hubert Wayne White. When he was 3 days old, doctors diagnosed White with severe Hemophilia A.

For treatment, he received weekly infusions of Factor VIII, a blood product created from pooled plasma of non-hemophiliacs, an  common treatment for hemophiliacs at the time

13 Years Later

Remembering Ryan White

In late 1984, Ryan White came down with pneumonia and on December 17  during a lung biopsy procedure, doctors diagnosed him  with AIDS.  His diagnosis was he had six months to live. He remained home for the rest of that school year.

Meanwhile research into the disease continued. On March 2, 1985, the federal government approved a screening test for AIDS that detected antibodies to the virus, allowing possibly contaminated blood to be excluded from the blood supply.

Kept out of school

Remembering Ryan White

Despite feeling strong enough to return to school, on June 30, 1985 Western School Corporation Superintendent James O. Smith, denied White admittance for everyone else's own protection. Whites' parents challenged the decision.

On the first day of school, August 26, 1985, He listened to his classes via telephone. 117 parents (from a school of 360 total students) and 50 teachers signed a petition encouraging school leaders to ban White from school. On October 2 the school principal upheld the decision to keep White out of school, but on November 25, the Indiana Department of Education (DOE) ruled that the district mus admit him.

The school board voted 7–0 to appeal Indiana Department of Education ruling. (December 17), but on February 6, 1986 the Indiana DOE again ruled White can attend school.

Ignore scientific evidence

Remembering Ryan White

Much evidence supported the DOE's decision. That month the New England Journal of Medicine published a study of 101 people who had spent three months living in close but non-sexual contact with people with AIDS. The study concluded that the risk of infection was "minimal to nonexistent," even when contact included sharing toothbrushes, razors, clothing, combs and drinking glasses; sleeping in the same bed; and hugging and kissing.

On February 13, 1986 the Howard County health officer determined White was fit for school; on February 19 Howard County judge refused to issue an injunction against White and on February 21, 1986 he  returned to school.  A different judge granted a restraining order that afternoon to again bar him. (see April 9)

Continued oppostion

In March 1986 White’s opponents held an auction in the school gymnasium to raise money to keep White out.

On April 9, 1986: White’s case was presented in U.S. Circuit Court and the next day Judge Jack R. O'Neill dissolved the February 21 restraining order.

White returned to school. Again.

When White was finally readmitted, a group of families withdrew their children and started an alternative school. Threats of violence and lawsuits persisted. According to White's mother, people on the street would often yell, "we know you're queer" at Ryan.

Before the next school year began, on July 18, 1986, the Indiana Court of Appeals declined to hear any further appeals in the White case.

Harrased 

White attended Western Middle School for eighth grade for the entire 1986–87 school year, but was deeply unhappy and had few friends. In 1988 White would speak before President Reagan’s AIDS Commission. At it he would state:
Even though we knew AIDS was not spread through casual contact. Nevertheless, parents of twenty students started their own school. They were still not convinced. Because of the lack of education on AIDS, discrimination, fear, panic, and lies surrounded me:

 

  • I became the target of Ryan White jokes
  • Lies about me biting people
  • Lies about me spitting on vegetables and cookies
  • Lies about me srinating on bathroom walls
  • Some restaurants threw away my dishes
  • My school locker was vandalized inside and folders were marked FAG and other obscenities.

          I was labeled a troublemaker, my mom an unfit mother, and I was not welcome anywhere. People would get up and  leave so they would not have to sit anywhere near me. Even at church, people would not shake my hand. (entire text)

 

Threats continued. After someone fired a bullet through the Whites' living room window, the family decided to move.

By this time the story had become an international one. Elton John loaned $16,500 to put toward a down payment on a new home in Cicero, Indiana. 

Cicero

Remembering Ryan White

On August 31, 1987 White enrolled at Hamilton Heights High School, Cicero, Indiana. The school principal Tony Cook, school system superintendent Bob G. Carnal, and students who had been educated about AIDS greeted him and shook his hand.

He drove to school in a red Mustang convertible, a gift from Michael Jackson.

On March 29, 1990. spring of his senior year, White entered Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis with a respiratory infection and on  April 8, 1990 White died.

Remembering Ryan White
On April 11, over 1,500 people attended White's funeral at the Second Presbyterian Church on in Indianapolis.  White's pallbearers included Elton John, Howie Long and Phil Donahue. Elton John performed "Skyline Pigeon" at the funeral.

Also attending was Michael Jackson and First Lady Barbara Bush. On the day of the funeral, former President Ronald Reagan wrote a tribute to White that appeared in The Washington Post. In part Reagan said:
“We owe it to Ryan to make sure that the fear and ignorance that chased him from his home and his school will be eliminated. We owe it to Ryan to open our hearts and our minds to those with AIDS. We owe it to Ryan to be compassionate, caring and tolerant toward those with AIDS, their families and friends. It’s the disease that’s frightening, not the people who have it.” [Full text]

His family buried him in Cicero.

Remembering Ryan White

In the year following his death, his grave was vandalized on four occasions.

Remembering Ryan White

Legacy

Rather than accept repayment Sir Elton placed the repaid money into a college fund for Ryan's sister.

On August 18, 1990 President George Bush signed the Ryan White Care Act, a federally funded program for people living with AIDS.

On May 20, 1996 Congress reauthorized the Ryan White CARE Act.

Remembering Ryan White

On October 30, 2009 President Obama signed The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009. Obama  announced plans to remove a ban on travel and immigration to the U.S. by individuals with HIV. Obama called the 22-year ban a decision "rooted in fear rather than fact."

For complete information about the Ryan White CARES Act visit: Ryan White Cares Act.

Controversy Continues

As governor of Indiana, current Vice President Mike Pense, hesitated in his support of the Ryan White Cares Act unless disproved and homophobic "conversion therapy" was integral to the program:
Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.

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