.

Night of the Hurricane (Or Was it Just an Idiot Wind?)

Page 7 of 7

"Absolutely! We would also have made a substantial contribution to Rubin. It was a nominal loss, just a small amount. Money is just money. I look at it as a contribution to Rubin Carter. I felt he deserved it and I would do it again tomorrow. If we could have done it in the Superdome in New Orleans, it would have been a complete sellout, people would have been fighting to get in."

Clyde Carson isn't so sure. "I wish I'd never heard the word "benefit." What am I gonna do now? I've got a chemical distributorship with another partner for the marine industry and supplies to the oil industry. Fuck the entertainment business."

That night in the San Marco in New York, Clyde had said he would "find out tomorrow if I'm bankrupt or not." That would be when he and brother Frank took their TV pilot to Mattel, the TV project that he had taken out another $200,000 line of credit on. Several weeks later, Clyde said he was out of that deal altogether. Rolling Stone called Mattel to see what they had thought of Clyde Carson's TV pilot. Mattel said they had never heard of Clyde Carson.

Still later, Carson called again and vented his frustration. "The whole thing is dying away," he said. "Rubin's just another nigger in a goddamn jail, and that's how he got convicted, when the racial shit started coming into the trial. . . .

"If he got out of jail, I'd give him the money to get out of the fuckin' country. In fact," Carson continued, "I had dinner with him six or eight weeks ago. I said, 'Why don't you hit the road? I'll lend you the money.' He said, 'No, I really think it's going to work." You know, he really believed in the fucking system."

Beauregard redmond of the Bank of New Orleans said he didn't know what the amount of the loan was. "The file is closed. The loan was repaid. My risk was not all that great because several good customers of ours backed it up. I don't need to tell you who they were. The loan was repaid."

Two days later, Clyde was on the phone, highly indignant that Rolling Stone was "harassing" his banker. "I don't feel it's anybody's business what my personal financial situation is . . . I wasn't born with money but I can sure as hell find it when I need to."

The Nature of Dylan's commitment to Hurricane remains unclear. He didn't offer any royalties from the song. Dylan was asked about the Houston show. His answer: a tense silence. (But Sara Ripley of Journeys Far and Near said she talked to Dylan after the show and is convinced that he did not know the promoters were cut in for a share of profits. Dylan's attorney, David Braun, confirmed this. "Obviously, had I known," said Braun, "Bob would never have played the show.") Hurricane says he hasn't heard from Dylan in a couple of months.

Joan Baez, whose only involvement was with the New York benefit, commented: "I've always felt a little guilty about that. I wasn't really involved. I had to assume some things. Bob wrote the song and he [Carter] seemed innocent. Besides, I'm opposed to prisons."

Roger McGuinn was "just hanging out" with Dylan, he said, but he did meet Carter once in New Jersey. And while Hurricane was "a flake," McGuinn said, "he seemed like a nice enough fellow. I got the impression he was innocent. He's a victim of a political structure that's just too big for anybody, including Bob Dylan, to budge. Bob had compassion for him. Being a big winner, he hates to see anyone lose."

Hurricane Carter has been a healthy carcass of a cause, picked over by a lot of people. Out of those two benefits and aside from them the following deals were at one time in the works: a live telecast of the Houston show, a live broadcast of that show on national public radio, a TV special, a movie, a live album and several books.

Hurricane Carter himself bristles when the subject of money comes up. It's "capitalistic" to talk of money, he says, as he sits in the remains of FFAF's office on Fifth Avenue in New York City. A friend of his had had to jimmy the door with a credit card to admit the reporter. Hurricane came in an hour later, more than happy to talk, to talk about everything but money. He opens with a Sunday punch that comes out of nowhere:

"The Rolling Stone magazine did something that was very unethical to me. You assumed a position that you didn't know a damn thing about. You were saying that it [the Houston show] was a financial crash and then talking about Bob Dylan selling out, copping out, and the many other people that performed at the thing, you know. That has always been a thorn that stuck in my paw. I'm in prison at the time, mind you, money is nothing, money don't mean a doggone thing with the exception of paying the attorneys, see, because freedom ain't cheap and justice ain't free either, you believe that. But I figured that if we had the news coverage, after Bob made the record international, that if we could somehow gather 80,000 people in one place — black people, white people, rich people — in one place about the very same thing, then we doin' something, we movie' on people. So I said okay, let's do a concert in New Orleans at the Superdome — 80,000 people. Let's go south to do it.

"They came to see me in prison, Ed Sapir, Clyde Carson, Willie Pastrano, Clyde's brother. They wanted to do something to help. They weren't there to rip off, they weren't there to get rich off of other people's suffering . . . Bob Dylan, as I met him, he came to prison to see me and I met a man that was for life and livin' and not for death and dyin'. Therefore he was gonna write and help — I didn't know he was gonna write no song, see, write and help a person who was still alive who he can help. This is the type of man Bob Dylan was and so he went down to Texas to do what he did for me. Same with Stevie Wonder, with Isaac Hayes . . . all these cats, man, you got all of this conglomerate of talent, of thinking and of thought right on this same stage. Wow, man, that's something, but because it did not put $20 million in the trust fund or something like that, people say it was a financial washout. Bullshit! Only because of that am I here. If you'd have given me $1000, $200,000, well, I'm in prison, it wouldn't have done no good to me. I didn't need money, I needed freedom, and because of that I got my freedom, so they served their purpose very well, and if anybody thinks otherwise, then they're capitalistic."

Carter may or may not have valued money, but from all the evidence, some of his supporters did. And leaving the money issue aside, there remains the question: did Hurricane Carter allow or even help Carson to hustle Dylan and other well-meaning musicians into participating in a shoddy concert? Didn't his supporters, with their rake-off deal, stand to make a sizable profit for themselves? No matter what Carter says, the questions remain.

On December 21St, 1976, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and John Artis were reconvicted of the murders of James Oliver, Fred Nauyaks and Hazel Tanis.

Carter and Artis were to be resentenced on January 26th, 1977. New Jersey governor Brendan Byrne said there was no possibility of a pardon. He said: "What Carter wanted was a new trial, and he got what he was after."

The day after Hurricane was reconvicted, the management of the Louisiana Superdome announced that bids would soon be let to replace the chronically malfunctioning Superdome scoreboard. Clyde Carson's Ad Art scoreboard.

This story is from the February 24th, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

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