After the Who's Cincinnati Concert Disaster, A Promoter Under Fire

Larry Magid is in hot water

The Who
Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Roger Daltrey of The Who.
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Less than two years ago, Peter Wertimer, a former employee of promoter Larry Magid's Electric Factory Concerts, warned of the possibility of just such a tragedy as the one that occurred before the Who concert in Cincinnati. Wertimer testified in a deposition for an antitrust suit brought by a rival promoter, the Midnight Sun Company, for whom he also had worked. He recalled that at some general-admission Electric Factory shows at Philadelphia's Spectrum, "There was no attempt to form any lines other than the ones that the people formed initially themselves. But as the doors would open, there would be a huge crush forward into those doors. They're large glass or see-through doors that get pushed out into the crowd, and [with] the crush of the people into those doors, you have a situation where people could get pushed through the doors and, if not anything extreme, just a severe crush right at the point of contact between the crowd and where those doors were opening."

Magid responds to allegations of such past problems by saying, "I really don't want to comment on that – you'd have to speak to the lawyer about that. Whether I'm aware of it or not remains to be seen." As to responsibility for security at concerts, Magid says, "We [promoters] are not anything but tenants. We are not owners of the building. I'm not pointing fingers at anybody. I hear this idea that it [Cincinnati] happened because the promoter didn't have his shit together. You hear people saying, 'It couldn't happen here in Providence,' or whatever. Bullshit! It's a symptom of a society, and it could have happened anywhere. In fact, it has happened at soccer games in other countries. I just think it goes a lot deeper, where the responsibility lies and who to blame, no matter who didn't do what. After all, we didn't trample anyone to death, and we didn't step on anyone, and we didn't push anyone."

Rock and Roll Tragedy: Why Eleven Died at The Who's Cincinnati Concert

The tragedy December 3rd in Cincinnati was not the first time that Larry Magid has come under fire for the way he runs his business. Within the last three years, Magid, one of the country's largest promoters, has been the target of at least five antitrust suits filed by rival promoters. One of those suits was recently settled out of court and four are still pending. In addition, Magid was the subject of a yearlong grand jury investigation initiated by the Justice Department's antitrust division. (The grand jury adjourned without bringing any indictments.)

And there have been other problems. In two successive years, 1977 and 1978, members of Aerosmith were seriously injured onstage by flying objects during concerts at Philadelphia's Spectrum, where Magid books many of his concerts. Both concerts were sold on a general-admission and reserved-seat basis.

As for the future of festival [general-admission] seating, Magid says, "An awful lot of attractions want to play festival seating . . . and an awful lot of the audience want it, too. I think we're probably not going to see festival seating in bigger places anymore. I think there'll probably be legislation against it now. I may not wait until legislation comes out."

This story is from the January 24th, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 309: January 24, 1980