2009 is the 40th Anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. As such, all kinds of special events, have been planned. One such event was a screening in New York of the Director's Cut of the Academy Award winning documentary "Woodstock". The movie had been restored prior to its June 9, 2009 release on Blu-Ray and DVD. The screening of the restored version took place on June 3, 2009 at the Walter Reade Theatre in Lincoln Center. When I saw the add for the screening, it announced that the film's director, Michael Wadleigh, would be attending along with one of the Festival's organizers, Michael Lang, along with other special guests. For me, Michael Lang's attendance was worth the price of admission, as his was an autograph that I desired. It was later revealed that the special guests would include: Michael Wadleigh (the film's director), Michael Lang (one of the Festival's producers), Joel Rosenman (another of the festival's producers), Artie Kornfeld (yet another producer), Jocko Marcellino (drummer for Sha-Na-Na), Tom Constanten (keyboardist for the Grateful Dead), Gregg Rolie (vocalist and keyboardist for Santana), Michael Carabello (Conga player for Santana), Michael Shrieve (drummer for Santana), Stu Cook (bassist for Creedence Clearwater Revival), Eddie Kramer (recording engineer). and some of the other people that worked on the film, whose names I didn't know.
Back in March, the South by Southwest Festival held a Woodstock panel that included Michael Lang, Stu Cook, Jocko Marcellino, Gregg Rolie, Michael Shrieve, and Wavy Gravy (an MC at Woodstock as well as a member of the Hog Farm who provided security at Woodstock) as panelists. Also, a Stevie Ray Vaughn Panel was held and Tommy Shannon (Steve Ray Vaughn’s bassist and Johhny Winter’s bassist at Woodstock). I desperately wanted to go in order to add signatures to my poster, but was unable to. In lieu of that, I tried to find someone who was going to SXSW, as the festival is commonly known, and would be kind enough to obtain the autographs for me. That didn't happen either. Needless to say, I was disappointed that I missed that opportunity to meet so many of the people that I am seeking. However, good things come to those who wait.
As stated previously, for me, Michael Lang was alone worth the price of admission; therefore, I bought my $25 ticket as soon as I heard about the screening. When I found out about the rest of the panel, I was elated. I now had the opportunity to make up for the missed opportunity in Texas and I already had a ticket for it.
On the afternoon of June 3, I drove my car to Tarrytown, NY to take the train into the City. The rain seemed apropos, as I was going to see "Woodstock". All I needed was some mud and some green acid for the total experience. The train arrived in Grand Central Terminal earlier than I expected. Therefore, despite the rain, I decided to walk to Lincoln Center. As I walked across Manhattan, I passed 48th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, where all the musical instrument stores are located, and was extremely disturbed to see a sign in the window of Manny's Music stating that the store was closing forever. The shock of those words saddened me, more than I can express. Manny's Music was an iconic store where every, and I mean every, musician shopped. I remember walking in there in the 1980's when I dreamed of being a musician and looking at all the signed publicity pictures that lined the walls, everybody from Lois Armstrong to The Who, and beyond. I never bought anything there and my dreams have long since been dashed; however, the melancholy enveloped me.
I still trudged onward across a rain soaked Manhattan until I reached Lincoln Center. I found the Walter Reade Theater, retrieved my ticket from the box office and entered. I did not see any of the guests of honor; however, I did see two rows of seats that were marked as reserved. I found a seat directly behind the 2nd row of reserved seating. It was a reasonably small theatre, probably only 1,000 capacity.
A representative from the Walter Reade Theater came out and introduced the evening and the special guests and they each walked out and waved. Along with the people named above, some of the technical people who worked on the film were also there. All the special guests then took their seats. Director Michael Wadleigh's family sat directly in front me - I was delighted as the lights dimmed and the clacking of the projector sounded.
I wasn't quite sure how to approach each of the guests for an autograph. I didn't see any opportunity for a formal meet and greet - so, I figured that I would wing it. Any way, while the movie was playing, I didn't have a prayer or did I? After Richie Havens sang "Freedom", I saw Michael Wadleigh get up and leave the theater, I assumed to go to the bathroom; so, I figured that it would be a good time to go too. I grabbed my poster and my bag of goodies (I brought a copy of the Woodstock soundtrack LP, the Woodstock soundtrack CD, the Woodstock II cd, the Woodstock DVD, and an 11x14 picture of the Woodstock poster that I bought at an autograph auction) and made my way to the bathroom.
I do not believe that I am homophobic; however, when I am standing at a urinal and holding myself in my hands, I am uncomfortable talking to other men. Therefore, I don't do it. When I'm at the sink, washing my hands - I'll talk to anyone all day long, but when I am at the urinal - I'm silent. I walked in to the bathroom that contained only two steel urinals. Michael Wadleigh stood at one and as I approached the other, he turned to me and asked " How ya doing?” I didn't want to be rude to the man; however, I didn't wish to provide a response that would prolong the conversation. So, I replied "I'm enjoying your movie". Hoping in my my mind that that was that, I was surprised when all of a sudden I heard. "Isn't Richie amazing?” Michael Wadleigh continued. "He's such a powerful performer that he was able to transfix a half million people and he's still that way today". Conversation was not something I could avoid at this point, so, I sucked it up. "I know. I've seen him." "Recently?" "About a year ago". "And what gets me is that he doesn't age. Me? I look like an old man, but Richie Havens still looks like he did in the movie." Mr. Wadleigh said as he zipped up and started to wash his hands. "Richie Havens still looks good.”
So now I was not just engaged in a conversation with another male while I was urinating, but now I was engaged in a conversation about how good looking another male is. With that, Mr. Wadleigh left. After I finished answering nature's call, I washed my hands and looked for Mr. Wadleigh - but he was gone.
I re-entered the theatre and sat down to watch the rest of the film. After Sha-Na-Na's performance, I noticed that Jocko got up and left the theatre which was dissapointing. Although, I had already obtained John "Jocko" Marcellino's autograph, he was wearing civilian clothing. He did not have his hair greased back. He wasn't wearing a bowling shirt. He looked like an average guy - it would have been a cool photo op.
The film continued until "Inter -fucking-mission" at which point the house lights came up and an announcement was made that there would be a 15 minute intermission. I wasn't sure who else had left and I wasn't sure how many people would be competing for the attention of the special guests. So, I just sprung into action without really thinking. I grabbed my poster and just ran without my bag of other stuff to be signed and without my camera. I walked towards the stairs at the end of my row, then down towards the lengthwise aisle that divides the theatre.
As I walk down the aisle, I came across was Stu Cook, the bassist for Creedence Clearwater Revival, who now plays bass for Creedence Clearwater Revisited, a band which original Creedence drummer Doug "Cosmo" Clifford is also a part of travels country playing the old CCR hits. Mr. Cook was still in his seat chatting with his family and a few other people. I politely asked him for his autograph and he said "sure". I handed him my poster and a blue Sharpie pen. He asked me if I had a Sharpie (meaning the marker) because that's how he likes to sign. I searched my pockets and found a red Sharpie marker which I handed him hesitantly (as much of the poster is red, I really can't have a lot of people signing in red pen). However, he signed on the green guitar head and wrote "CCR" under his name. Nice!
Standing a few feet away from where Mr. Cook and his family were seated stood Mr. & Mrs. Joel Rosenman. Joel Rosenman was one of the four members of Woodstock Ventures, Inc. (the company that conceived and produced the 1969 Woodstock Festival). He, along with his friend John Roberts were one of the "two young men with unlimited capital" who put up all the money for the 1st Woodstock. He also agreed to sign my poster which I handed to him along with the red Sharpie marker which was in my hand. After signing my poster on the white dove, Mr. Rosenman commented on my shirt (I was wearing a black polo shirt with a logo for The Princeton Review embroidered on the left breast). "The Princeton Review, huh". he said. "Yea, I work for them as an instructor, mostly a tutor, preparing high school students for college entrance exams. I've been doing it for 13 years on nights and weekends. Although, until recently, I worked in financial services as my day job (which I wanted to get in because I know that he runs a venture capital firm and he might need hire someone). I replied. He told me that a friend of his invented a calculator that if someone inputs the estimated answer, the correct answer would come up. He then asked me what I thought about it. This blew my mind - someone that I asked for an autograph was asking me for my opinion on something. I gave him a preview of some Princeton Review techniques as a demonstration why that invention wouldn't work for SAT preparation.. He thanked me, we shook hands, and I looked for my next target.
I turned to towards the exit to the lobby and standing there was Gregg Rolie, founding member, keyboardist, and vocalist for both Santana and Journey (yes, he was there before Steve Perry) looking every bit like a rockstar (most of the guests were wearing suits others slacks and sport jackets, some with and some without ties) wearing a black button down shirt and a pair of slacks. I looked into his leonine like face with the long blondish hair and the golden beard and asked him to sign my poster with the red Sharpie still in my hand. He started to sign, but realized that he was writing red on red and signed on the white border. For a smart guy, I don't always think. I had a blue Sharpie Pen in my pocket; however, after Stu Cook told me that he preferred Sharpie markers - I made the generalization that everybody preferred Sharpie markers. I thanked Mr. Rolie then walked into the lobby in search of either Michael Lang or Michael Carabello.
I didn't see anyone in the lobby; but, on the other side of the lobby were a set of open doors that revealed a big white room with black curtains (no station, though) with art hanging on the wall and people milling about. I walked inside and saw Michael Carabello dressed in a blue sportcoat, a blue and white striped dress shirt and charcoal slacks. His hair was close cropped and processed to make his hair more like Billy Dee Williams rather than the towering 'fro he wore in the movie "Woodstock" , one of te former conga players for Santana, talking with a small group of people. I pulled my poster out of its protective tubing which I wear like an archer wears a quiver. When there was a break in the conversation, I politely asked. "Excuse me Mr. Carabello, would you please sign an autgraph for me?" To which he replied, "Sure. I handed him the poster and the red Sharpie. He surveyed it for a moment and I briefly explained to him and his group about my quest.Mr. Carabello said that it looked like I got a lot of signatures on there already. He signed on the white dove under Billy Cox (Jimi Hendrix's bassist) adding "Santana" under his name. Very cool.
I perused the room for some of the other guests, apaarently Michael Lang left. I saw Tom Constanten (former keyboardist for the Grateful Dead) talking to some fans and autographing items. As my friend Gary already obtained his autograph for me, I passed him by.
I wasn't sure how much time had elapsed and I wasn't sure how long the inter-fucking-mission was going to go on for. So, I figured that I should return to my seat. As I returned a woman asked me about my poster. I told her the story and identified the signatures for her. I then returned to my seat and saw the rest of my items. Again, not sure how long the intermission was going to last, I didn't think to make the rounds again (which I should have done with my camera), I also should have asked Gregg Rolie about José "Chepito" Areas, another one of Santana's percussionists that played the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Gregg has started the Gregg Rollie Band with Michael Carabello and Adrian Areas (Chepito's son) so, Mr. Rolie would know about his former bandmate. I need to know where to contact him in order to obtain his signature.
What I did do, though was ask Micheal Wasleigh to autograph the copy of the Director's Cut DVD that I brought with the blue Sharpie pen. Also, Michael Shrieve (Santana's drummer) arrived and briefly addressed the crowd. After he left the podium, he was standing in an aisle. I approached him and asked him for his autograph. Unfortunately, I was back to the red Sharpie as within 5 minutes, I managed to mislay the blue pen. He graciously signed on the dove for me. T paraphrase the title of a Jefferson Airplane song, I got 3/5 of Santana in ten minutes. I was a very happy man. I took my seat as the house lights dimmed and the movie continued. Santana's " Soul Sacrifice" came on shortly after the movie re-started and the crowd jammed. After Michael Shrieve's drum solo the crowd applauded, possibly because he was sitting there or possibly because it is one of the best drum solos of all time. After the song eneded, I yelled for an encore. I got a couple of laughs as the movie continued. People started trickling out of the theatre while the rest of the movie played as the hour was getting late. Sly Stone's performance was another highlight as were Janis Joplin's and Jimi Hendrix's. All three got a big reaction from the crowd. After Jimi played "The Star Spangled Banner" most of the guests left the theater. I walked out with everyone else at the end of the movie. My friend Gary had asked me to get him a program signed by Stu Cook and the three former members of Santana. There were no programs available, so, on my way out when I ran into Michael Carabello again, I asked him to sign a copy of the newly remastered and released Woodstock Movie Soundtrack CD which he did. With that I walked out into the rainy New York City night with the feeling that I had just been at the Woodstock Festival and had added 5 signatures to my poster.