After Woodstock: Money and Smiles - Rolling Stone
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After Woodstock: Money and Smiles

The aftermath of the party of the year

Woodstock, Young men and women wait for busWoodstock, Young men and women wait for bus

View of a large group of young men and women as they sit on the grass and wait for a bus to take them to the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, New York, August 1969.

Ralph Ackerman/Getty

Woodstock, N.Y. —  The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was, and in the end, the party of the year.

The hosts are worn out but elated. For the guests, the melody and good vibrations linger on. The uninvited grownup adults are still carrying on. The creditors are being paid. The last of the litter is being cleared.

But, once was enough.

“No,” says Dairy Farmer Max Yasgur, who provided 600 of his 2,000 acres for the Aquarian exposition, “we won’t have it here next year. All 2,000 acres would not be enough for half a million kids.”

Now a veteran of the Merv Griffin show and countless newspaper interviews, Yasgur says, with heavy conviction, that he is very tired. A past victim of heart attacks, he was forced into an oxygen tent after the fair.

“I’m going to Canada for a vacation, to a fishing camp we have there.”

Artie Kornfeld, 26-year-old former A&R man for Capitol Records and one of the four principals in Woodstock Ventures, is exuberantly spaced out.

“The whole trip was a phenomenal thing to go through, man. It was just such a heavy number that went down. Michael [24-year-old Executive Producer Michael Lang] and myself are just trying to think out where we’re going with our heads. We’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do when we grow up.”

A onetime Coconut Grove, Florida, head shop operator, Lang had announced at a press conference four days after the festival that there would be another next year, on August 21st, 22nd and 23rd. Eight days later, he flew off to London and the Isle of Wight, bubbling: “We’re going to make it an international happening, man.” On his return, he was still sure that there would be another Woodstock fair on the domestic scene. “Of course,” he said, “we’ll need more room.”

“I don’t think there could be another Woodstock Music and Art Fair,” says Kornfeld. “That trip’s been had.

“Of course, I only talk for Mike and myself. At the present, we’re all still together (with the other two Woodstock Ventures principals, 24-year-old John Roberts and 26-year-old Joel Rosenman), but I think it will end up as some kind of amicable separation. We’re trying to affect a livable situation. But it’s hard to marry money and smiles.”

Roberts’ money, from a family fortune built on Polydent and other products of the Block Drug Co. is what is keeping everyone out of debtor’s prison and in smiles.

John Morris, managing director of the fair’s production, says Roberts has taken loans against his own personal fortune to the tune of $1.3 million to pay debts incurred. These included unexpected expenses for power, emergency food and medical supplies, helicopters, limousines, telephones and moving everything from the original site in Wallkill. (The cost of the performers is estimated to be close to $300,000, with each act collecting from $10,000 to $15,000.)

To pay off the debits, Woodstock Ventures is counting on the profits of a film to be released by Warner Bros., hopefully at Christmas. Approximately 25 per cent of the film’s net profits are earmarked for the company. The cost of the film, including fees to the entertainers, is expected to be $500,000.

The film was originally planned by Wadleigh-Maurice productions, a small independent Manhattan film-makers group, which put $120,000 of its own money into setting the production up. Running out of money, they took a gamble that someone would step in with an offer. Two days before the festival got underway, Warners made a verbal commitment, and now has the distribution rights. Wadleigh-Maurice will get the credit and a small cut of Woodstock Ventures’ slice.

Other revenues are hoped for from a line of jackets, t-shirts, flags and silver pins, all to carry the Woodstock emblem of a dove on a guitar neck, as well as a corporation-blessed book on the festival. As for the future partnership, Morris admits that the two camps have divergent interests and different ideas of what can be made from the festival.”

“Michael created the energy,” says Morris, “John the wherewithall. The energy was a success. The wherewithall was massacred.”

This far, Woodstock Ventures has stayed clear of lawsuits, save one from the Monticello Raceway, 12 miles from Bethel, which is asking for $300,000 it claims to have lost during the fair weekend because of the jammed highways. Their suit is not regarded as much more than a crank case.

The New York State Attorney General’s office has poked into the question of ticket refunds and dope, but with little pressure to goad it into hard action, is not expected to make waves.

But if officials in New York were relatively unconcerned by what went down at Bethel, the City Council of Hallandale, Florida, wasn’t. The Tuesday after the fair, it revoked the license it had issued the month before for this year’s Miami Pop Festival, scheduled for December 27th, 28th and 29th.

That festival’s promoters, consulting their lawyers and looking for another location in the Miami area, maintain that Woodstock has nothing to do with any other festival. Closer to home, the town of Woodstock itself, 60 miles northeast of Bethel, is moving to have its name disassociated from any future music events, advertising and/or corporations. State Assemblyman C. Clark Bell and a local attorney, Abram Moyneaux, are trying to “protect Woodstock’s good name from devious publicity promotion.” Otherwise, they say, the town’s reputation as a peaceful retreat will be irreparably tarnished.

A happier postscript to the three-day party was a half-page advertisement in the New York Times from the Shortline, the only bus company servicing the Aquarian Exposition. Six drivers were quoted on the pleasure they found driving the festival-goers and the ad concluded: “We think we were pretty lucky. To be the bus line that served the Bethel area. We got to move thousands of kids to and from the festival. But better than that — they moved us. Deeply! Their generosity, patience and good humor turned what might have been a difficult task into a revealing and enjoyable trip. We learned a lot about the young people around us. We love what we learned.”

In This Article: Coverwall, Woodstock


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