Vas you dere...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vas you dere...

Updated 08/12/2009 – 01:14 pm that weekend in 1969?

I wasn't, and for good reason....

(Hint: think "Mike Battle!")

I do know some local folks where were there, but I'm pretty sure The Southampton Press' Jessica DiNapoli is including their stories in her 40th anniversary remembrance of the music festival which started it all, so I won't rain on her parade.

I got to thinking about that August weekend in upstate Sullivan County a bit when WFAN's Mike Francesa had as his Tuesday afternoon guest, one of the celebrated DJs of 25-40 years ago, WNEW-FM's Pete Fornatale.

(It was a terrific 80-minutes and people can listen to it streamed on-line.)

Fornatale1, a one-time broadcasting instructor of Francesa's, was there ostensibly to promote his new book, "Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock," and it got my mind racing on a number of tangents.


One of the producers of the original event, Artie Kornfeld, was an old college-mate from the early '60s. That's incidental, 'cause I hadn't seen Artie since the cast party for Adelphi's production of "Guys&Dolls," when "Sky Masterson" and I threw the hapless Artie out of the first story window of an apartment in Hempstead.


My son-in-heir, born July 23, 1970, never for­gave his parents for not having him in time for him to attend the 1970 event.

Colin, an enterprising and very capable fellow, brooded about that for years, but took great satisfaction in being "on stage" for the opening act of Woodstock '94 when blues harp virtuoso John Popper opened the 25th Anniversary event with his extraordinary rendering of Jimi Hendrix' version of the Star Spangled Banner.

And he, with his sister, was there again for the ugliness of Woodstock '99, appeared on the Monday evening segment of Rivera Live on CNBC, and drove the host nuts by calling him "Jerry2." It was one of Colin's finest moments.

Why I missed it

On August 17, 1969 the upstart New York Jets met their cross-river rival New York Giants... both teams actually played in New York at that time... for the first time ever!

Seven months earlier, those 18 point under­dog Jets, had defeated the formidable Balti­more Colts in Super Bowl III, and become the World Champions of professional football.

Along with Spike Larsen, Ed Desmond and Jerry Mangles, I had collected a substantial chunk of arrogant NFL money from those who so hated the Jets' brash playboy quarterback Joe Namath who had "guaranteed" his AFL team's victory, they had thrown all wagering caution to the wind.

And the prospects of seeing that same Namath ride roughshod over the Giants was too great a temptation to fore-go for a weekend of music and mud in an inaccessible cow pasture!

Those of us who traveled to the Yale Bowl that Sunday afternoon were treated to not only a convincing 37-14 Jets win with Joe Willie Whiteshoes tossing three touchdown passes, but the stirring sight of a marginal defensive back named Mike Battle on an 86-yard punt return, complete with a full gallop vaunt over a would-be tackler, for a touchdown!



In point of fact, I had no notion of the sig­nificance of it all 'til someone showed me Life Magazine's coverage, complete with a photo of a proper Remsenburg/Garden City teen in her scanties in a dirty pond with a bunch of dirtier youths.

As the 24-year-old Fornatale intoned in pro­moting the event over the airwaves:

"The Woodstock Music and Art fair is a three-day Aquarian exposition at White Lake in the town of Bethel, Sullivan County, New York...."

As we know, that didn't begin to describe it.

But as the legendary jazz and pop music critic Ralph J. Gleason noted:

"If the name 'Woodstock' has come to denote the flowering of one phase of the youth culture, 'Altamont3' has come to mean the end of it."

Just so.

  1. Another link: in the early '80s, Fornatale was syndicating a little production he called "Rock Calendar," and when fledgling WWHB-FM (107.1, Hampton Bays) offered it to my agency as a possibility for a client, I liked it so much I sponsored it myself.
  2. Hey, "Jerry Rivers," as Joe Louis used to tell his ring opponents, you can run but you can't hide!
  3. Chronicled in the Maysles brothers re­markable documentary, Gimme Shelter.


1. Shepard M. Scheinberg said...

When I read the names "Spike Larsen, Ed Desmond and Jerry Mangles," I got a lump in my throat. These were three good men. Whenever I pass the light at Montauk Highway and Depot Road I look to see if Spike, hands on his hips, might be standing by the tiny cottage. The Patio hasn't been the same since the days Jerry presided behind the bar. And when it came to having a personal banker, Ed was the man.

Fun guys all, though when I think of The Patio's halcyon era, I think of Chris Christman, Teddy Duvall and Pinesfield Johnny Nelson behind the stick. Jerry I think of in relation to The Dune Deck, and the "Heidi Game" in particular.

2. EastEnd68 said...

Your memories are correct -- Woodstock didn't become big until after it was over.

3. Jeanne Speir said...

I was asked to go by a fella named "Wally." I didn't go, because he had bad breath. Imagine that. I missed the defining musical event of my generation because of halitosis.

O sweet honey mustard! This is how I find out that my wife could be had for a concert ticket back then?!?

O, the infamy!

4. Speonk said...

The only "Woodstock" that I remember in 1969 was on my M14, but I did have mud and rain. Darn tropics....


5. Hampton West said...

I was working for the Union County New Jersey Park Commission that Summer and a group of us decided to go. We actually had tickets. So - my brother and I had just re-built the motor on my 1962 Falcon and a group of us set off from Linden, NJ to the show. We took the back roads as we had already heard things were tight on the NY Thruway. It was a convoluted route through Jersey - Route 15 to Route 23 to 206, etc. We got to about 20 miles of the show - parking lot - nowhere to go, So decision time - 20 miles away - going nowhere - we turned back.

Got back in time to see NY Daily News article about Hippies Stuck in Mud - oh well.

Never to make it - but we tried!!!

6. R. Spencer Fink said...

Dean, We tried to go... no, wait, we did go... we just never actually got to Max's Farm. We made detailed plans on the patio at Shotwell's Pump, we had our tickets and we had a car. What could go wrong?

The first and probably the biggest thing to go wrong was leaving for the festival the morning of the second day. Not being a folkie, let's just go for the Rock. Wrong! I don't know how close to Yasgur's Farm we got but I do know that all the traffic was headed towards the show. The throughway road was one way only and then it stopped. So we walked and walked and everyone we asked said it was just over the next hill. Finally we heard music, loud music. "Oh man we're here!!!" As we crested that last hill we saw a van with 2 JBL 100s on the roof blasting out their own rock show. That was our Woodstock. Maybe our first mistake was making plans at Shotwell's Pump. Anyway we tried.

Thanks Dean... keep up the good work. – Spencer

Nah, Spence, it's wasn't that it was planned at Shotwell's, it was the dope! Take a little hit of this or that, crank up WNEW-FM, and it was all gonna work out somehow... organically!

Like the man said later on, "That's why they call it dope."

7. Hampton West said...

A lot of comments about Woodstock in the press these days. A lot of "this put the flower power movement on the map" and so on. Hmmn. I think it actually noted the beginning of the end of the whole counter-culture movement -- it probably peaked sometime in 1965 or 1966 or the "Summer of Love" may have represented the zenith.

Go back a generation. Swing was invented supposedly when Benny Goodman's band played the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles in 1935 and it was carried on national radio. But, swing was "accepted" when he played Carnegie Hall in 1938, a level of respectability was added to swing. But that really marked the end of swing because big band immediately took its place. Bix Biederbecke was long gone, Louis Armstrong was not doing well during this stretch, same for Sidney Bichet. Carnegie Hall was high tide followed by a quick downfall, as Woodstock was for rock - followed by Altamont - oy vey - what a mess there.

OK, what do you think?

I think you certainly know your mid-20th Century pop music, but the only thing that peaked in '65 was the folk-rock explosion when Dylan went electric at Newport, and the Watts riots later that Summer, and in '66, the Vietnam Conflict became a full-scale war.

When I think of the "counter-culture movement," though, I mark the beginnings around the time of Mario Savio and the "Free Speech" activism at Berkeley at the end of '64, followed some years later by Mark Rudd at Columbia. In between was the DNC in Chicago in '68, and the names of Hoffman and Hayden were already well-known by then.

But mostly I think that Woodstock had little if anything anything to do with "counter-culture..." alternative culture, perhaps, but "counter-culture," nah!

Re-watch "Woodstock" sometime soon and listen to how "square" the reporters sound as they interview various attendees... they were met with no hostility, and no one was countering" anything… aside from the two idiots babbling about Government aircraft seeding the clouds in an effort to rain-out the festival.

The "counter-culture" people blew up and burned-down things. The emerging alternative culturists quietly rejected the mainstream and moved off by themselves.

8. Iris Messina said...

The Patio Daz were great but you must include Pete The Greek. Woodstock was the best!!!! XXu

Iris, you're far too old to be posting in Twitter-speak!

Nice to hear from you.

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