Thursday, January 19, 2017

Backstage Pass!

      You may need a magnifying glass, but if you look closely you'll find some pretty impressive people listed on the Sponsoring Committee: Congressman and Mrs. Alphonzo Bell, the Honorable Edmund G. Brown (former governor of California), Senator Alan Cranston, Senator John V. Tunney.
These are all 24 carat gold politicians - serious individuals who would have had heart failure if they'd known what was going on behind-the-scenes. Hollywood sponsors included Warren Beatty, Diahann Carroll, Ossie Davis, Cary Grant, Shirley MacLaine, E.G. Marshall, George Plimpton and Nancy Wilson.
      In retrospect I ask myself: How is this even possible?!? On some level Jerry Brandt had to have been a genius. As a reader you can appreciate the irony. On one hand no one is getting paid, the workers are doing whatever it takes to keep going 24/7, and the invitations are in the mail. Anticipation is building on both sides - the Paradise Ballroom people are on the edge of a nervous breakdown while the public is expecting an L.A./Cirque du Soleil event. Here's a diary taste from backstage.
April 20, 1972
      8:30 PM Panic in the dressing room. Everyone thinks it must be 9:30. The sound is still being worked on. Floors swept, dope smoked, guards dressing in Santa Claus suits, crazies mingling in the dressing room. Crowded. Panic in the air. The club won't open.
      9:30 the sound still isn't working. The great Chip Monck is on the scaffolding, in the sound booth, everywhere he can imagine the problem lies. The Sparks Brothers wondering if they should go on at all since the sound system has never been checked. 
      10:30 A meeting with Nick Casey and Joyce from the Hog Farm in the Pillow Room. All listening for our new time slots. You follow the Oingo Boingo Band and that's after the roller queen. Nick has the bullhorn. Panic-stricken J.B. enters hysterically demanding the bullhorn. The lights in the penny arcade are out. In fact, all the lights on the left side of the building are out, as are every other store on the block plus the traffic signal.
      Wendy's downstairs answering phone calls and organizing the arriving charity guests and the press. The press is everywhere. Guy Webster weaves his way in and out of the dressing room and the catered food.
      Past 10:30 and the guests can't wait anymore. They're admitted in one crush leaving another thousand outside. The rooms fill, overflow, nobody can move and still, no sound system. The performers - the Oily Scarf Band goes on playing their non-electronic instruments. The Oingo Boingo Band does a stint. The performers, like troopers, mingle, pass flowers and incense.
      11:30 the sound system is fixed. The first band goes on. There are too many people to do anything but mingle through the crowd and nibble on yummy hors d'oeuvres. I take the Eat Me Girl through the crowd of straights and flipped out hip types. It's an enthusiastic crowd. The club is going to be a success. I perform my flower trick for Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty. Sly and the Family Stone are going to play. 
      2:00 AM and the police insist we close. The Hog Farm goes on with their Flying Dog act. The performers can go home without performing. We're all exhausted.
      No Fellini film could come close to last night's fiasco. From a disaster to a HAPPENING. Luck? Maybe. It was a stroke of something magic that made it all come together into the greatest happening in L.A.

Stay tuned for the reviews.


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