US Festival – May 1983

US Festival - Heavy Metal Day - May 29, 1983

It’s been 25 years since the second US Festival. I had just finished my second year at the USC School of Law and was very much in the mood for big crowds and loud music.

The US Festival was a three-day show. Larry and I went to days two and three, making our way to San Bernardino in my black 1968 Mustang. This is considered a classic car with quaint triangle-windows separate from the front windows. The (cheap) model I owned had three-on-the-floor and no air conditioning. Temperatures would go above 100 degrees both days.

May 29 was the Heavy Metal day. Quiet Riot was the opening act. Larry had been the band’s photographer back in his Hollywood High days. The band was at its commercial peak on this day. I was highly entertained by Judas Priest. The spectacle of these totally un-tanned white boys coming out in black leather, astride big motorcycles, on a hundred-plus degree afternoon…well, I thought it was hilarious. I loved their version of “Diamonds and Rust.” I admit I was a bit astonished and amused by how seriously this band was taken by much of the audience. Ozzy came out, fat and drunk, and without Randy Rhoads, who had recently died in a stupid plane crash. Fans rushed the stage and there was a sense of real danger in the air, along with massive clouds of tobacco and pot smoke.

Things did not get totally out of hand, probably because the promoters had the sense to segregate the alcohol drinkers, and to require them to stay within their own little holding pen, far away from the stage. By far the most impressive set of the May 29 show was the Scorpions. Those German guys really taught the Brits and the Americans a few things about musicality and showmanship. Van Halen co-headlined the show, but they were too wasted to maintain any kind of musical or emotional momentum. Larry and I spent several hours trapped in the parking lot after the show, waiting for the jam to clear.

David Bowie was the headliner on the 30th. Los Lobos was the opening act. The Pretenders played their first show with a new guitarist, the previous one having died of drugs. U2 was on the bill, self-important but good – and lower on the bill than the Pretenders. Joe Walsh and Stevie Nicks each had pleasant sets. After the Bowie set we discovered that the Mustang had been towed, along with hundreds of other cars. Larry and I had to walk several miles in the middle of the night and hand over virtually every cent both of us had to get the car out of the impound lot. We made it back to Hollywood just before the morning rush hour.

The US Festival saw one of the most fabulous performances ever – by business lawyers! Van Halen signed for One Million US Dollars. That was quite impressive in and of itself, but the lawyers were able to get a “Most Favored Nation” clause in the agreement, which guaranteed that Van Halen would make as much money as any other artist on the bill. When the promoters agreed to pay David Bowie $1.5 Million, our drunk and stoned friends from Pasadena got a cool half-million dollar raise!

You’ll notice that there have not been any US Festivals since 1983. That’s because the promoters lost millions on these shows. Think about that for a minute. You’ve really got to concentrate pretty hard to lose that kind of money when you put on a show that draws more than half a million people!

Kill Your Television

Smashing TV at Cal 1988

This picture was taken in 1988, twenty years ago, at UC Berkeley, bastion of free speech. Some of America’s smartest and most talented college kids thought this was a practical way to deal with the TV problem.

Alexis and I grew up in Hollywood. Our family has been connected to the entertainment business for more than 60 years. We do not have cable or any other kind of pay television. We do own a 13-inch television set. It picks up a few local stations, but mostly it is a DVD player.

Every year we watch the Oscars and the Super Bowl. Every four years, I watch the World Cup. Last night, we watched an episode of a TV show called “Boston Legal.” Actually, Alexis watched it, and I dropped in for about a quarter of it.

To me, “good TV” is an oxymoron. I’d rather listen to ancient old radio shows instead of watching TV, because the pictures in my imagination are more entertaining to me than anything that might appear on a television set. Plus, I just don’t like sitting around, observing a piece of furniture. That said, “Boston Legal” seemed to be OK. As a lawyer, I can’t say I go for entertainment based on the practice of law. The performers seemed to be having fun in this show. There’s a lot more zooming around and other camera movement than I remember being on TV, back in the day.

officers Protecting TVs

Here we are again, back in Berkeley in 1988. As you can see, the Authorities sent several uniformed officers with guns – to protect the televisions! After all, this was Reagan’s last year in office, and those folks knew how important it is to keep the people watching TV and not thinking about politics. But let’s don’t blame Reagan. That guy was reading a teleprompter on TV and he conducted his cabinet meetings off of cue cards written for him by others. He wasn’t in power; like the current stooge in the White House, he was merely the Acting President.

X Ticket Stub 1980

X Ticket Stub 1980

X was, and remains, one of the finest bands to come out LA. I have seen them many times over the years, at places like Madam Wong’s West. Here’s a ticket stub from a show they put on at the Santa Monica Civic back in 1980. You’ll notice that this was a general admission show. Real rock shows do not have assigned seating.

Back in 1958, 22 years earlier, I had been the star in the first production that anybody ever staged in the Santa Monica Civic. I played Baby Jesus in a Nativity show. They worshiped me. X put on a fine show that night in 1980, but they weren’t God – not quite.

Law School Doodles 1983

25 years ago today, I was a second year law student at the University of Southern California. Here is what was on my mind as I sat in one of the big amphitheater classrooms. A typed translation of the scribbling follows, below.

Law Student Doodles

“I sold pot in the U.S. A quarter ounce. It cost me 40 years in jail, where I have been raped and beaten. The Supreme Court says this is not cruel and unusual.”

“Hi! I’m a rich, deceased lawyer. My picture is up in room 1 of the USC Law Center. I was convicted of tax fraud, but over the years I donated $160,000 to USC.”

“I’m Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Who says my brains need to be reasonably related ty my job?”

“I’m a haggard USC 1st year law student, the victim of a brutal socialization (brainwashing) process. I feel as if my arms have been tied behind my back.”

“I’m a woman associate at a large law firm. My chances of becoming a partner are cut by my dislike of playing softball and my interest in becoming a mother as well as a 1st rate attorney.”

“I’m a fertilized egg in the womb of a poor woman. I present a threat to the life of the woman I’m inside. The courts say it’s OK for the government to deny the woman a free abortion, despite the direct threat to her life.”