Stories about events in Uncategorized


This story takes place in Uncategorized. It was told on September 8th, 2012 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

I was unemployed after getting laid off from US Steel, and didn’t know what I’d do for a living. A friend I’ll call Dave, whom l‘d met in a poker game when he was a fundraiser for the Progressive Party, told me I should try what he was doing. Like everyone else on the blacklist, Dave had been forced to find a way to survive, and like a lot of other radicals, he had entered the field of Jewish fundraising. They didn‘t take over the field; the field took them over. Israel Bonds, World Relief, you name it. The more marginal the group, the fewer questions were asked.
Dave called me and offered me a job for fifteen or sixteen thousand a year. “You can probably live on your expense account,“ he said, “find a Jewish maiden in Kansas City whose father owns the local dry goods store, and marry her.” Dave (who years later became a high-level administrator at a prominent Jewish religious institution, proving that he knew what he was talking about) added one more element to what I understood about fundraising. “lt’s all blackmail and vanity,” he said. “You go to Mr. Hyman So-and-So or Mrs. So-and-So, and say, ‘We’ll make you the Torah Man of the Year.’ Then when it’s four weeks before the dinner and no tickets have been sold, you go to Hyman and say, `Hyman, you‘re gonna be disgraced before the whole community.’ So Hyman then gets the pitch and he pays for the dinner — he pays for his honor. You blackmail Hyman and then he blackmails all his friends.”
I had raised a fair amount of money in my career as a radical organizer, and I would do so again many times — for the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and some of the more obscure leftist movements. But to extort Jews for a living was another matter. I knew it wasn’t for me.

Classical wars

This story takes place in Uncategorized. It was told on September 3rd, 2012 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

The Orchestra Hall people had none of the problems I’d expected with the incongruity of playing folk music on their stage. Richard Dyer-Bennet had played there, Robeson had played there, the Weavers had played there.
The truth was, I found out, that these classical fans overlapped heavily with the folk audience. WFMT, the radio station that pioneered the folk boom in Chicago with a program called the Midnight Special, identified its own listenership as the Lakeshore area, the poshest white Jewish and Protestant neighborhood in Chicago, plus a little section in Hyde Park for the liberals and the middle-class Jews. Studs Terkel weighed in weekly with an interview program that defied McCarthyism on the cultural and literary levels and, not incidentally, drew a broad spectrum of affluent, educated listeners.
That’s always been who comes to hear classical music, and it was pretty much a section of that audience, along with a section of the surviving old left, that came to support folk music, once they found out about it. Those were the first people I had to sell myself to: the Symphony fans, the intellectuals and the socially ambitious.
Walter Hendel, the assistant conductor at the Symphony, was a good example of that classical-to-folk music crossover audience himself. I met him early on while booking Orchestra Hall, and over time he began to come regularly to the folk concerts.
Hendel was chosen to become the music director at Ravinia, the Symphony‘s outdoor venue, which always had a modified pop schedule alongside its classical bookings. This was a big deal for a conductor. Conductors were paid quite well, but the way they made their real money was by hiring a colleague for ten grand or so to be guest conductor for a week, and then collecting an invitation back to the guest‘s home turf in return.
Somehow Hendel had had conceived the notion that I would have a better idea of how to produce non-classical concerts at Ravinia than the people who were doing it already. He also figured, l’m sure, that my presence would enhance his own prestige. That was fine with me — in fact, I was very excited about it. I was increasingly aware of the value of that sort of prestige.
What I didn’t know was whose toes Hendel had stepped on on his way to Ravinia. Earl Lutgen, the chairman of Ravinia, was also on the Symphony board. He ran a big advertising company and was every inch the refined WFMT sort. Being on the board of the Chicago Symphony is, for those who are concerned with those things, a terribly prestigious thing in the establishment pecking order. That meant there were a lot of second- or third-generation heirs and heiresses who had an interest in classical music and the money to back it up. It took longer then to buy your way into respectable society than it does today.
Lutgen called me late one night and in very unrefined language warned me I should have nothing to do with Hendel or I would never get to use Orchestra Hall again. In the end, the fight meant the deal with me was off. It was not that much different from the corruption and strong—arm tactics that characterized the pop world, the only difference being that this variety had several more centuries of refinement. The manners were better, because old money has had time to wash.

Herb Cohen

This story takes place in Uncategorized. It was told on July 10th, 2012 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

By 1961 people were coming out in pretty fair numbers for folk acts, and whatever the case had been a few years before, it was no longer politics that was selling the tickets. What the audiences wanted to listen to was happy, engaging, relatively depoliticized music, and in most cases I had what they wanted.
Of all the pop-folk acts I booked, the Chad Mitchell Trio was perhaps the most political, and even their sharpest stuff was really light social satire, chosen more for its attention-getting features than anything else. Folk artists were there to entertain, and there was nothing wrong with that. (Of course, some purists on the left looked down on it. There was always some theorist willing to try to rein in this irrelevant, sectarian pursuit with some line or other.)
Herb Cohen, who had been active in the LA folk scene before he moved on to manage rock acts like Zappa and the like, talked with Ted a few years ago to help jog my memory. Here’s some of what he said about this.

After the Kingston Trio came out with its hit records, there were folk groups coming out of everywhere. Everywhere. See, after a certain point the whole thing was media-made. The Beat Generation was finished when you could go to I. Magnin’s and buy your weekend Beat clothes. As soon as anything becomes accepted and commercialized, it’s over. The same thing happened to folk music.
There was never really any big authentic folk music craze. It was just a musical form that was used and exploited. It had nothing to do with folk music in the sense of political and social music. It was really very hard for a group to be political living in Southern California, you know, in those days. I mean, what are they going to protest against, the weather? It started out as a political thing, but all of a sudden the record companies and the concert companies saw how much money you could make.
And then it was all over.
From there to rock and roll was just half a step, and then you’ve come to Jim Morrison, whose father was an admiral in the fucking Navy. So you’re talking about a generation so far removed from working-class attitudes and comprehension and background that their protest, you know, has absolutely nothing to do with the body politic as the generation before them knew it. If you asked them a political question they couldn’t give you a comprehensible answer. They wouldn’t know what you were talking about.

Obama and the Republicans

This story takes place in Uncategorized. It was told on March 12th, 2012 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

Joe Allen on the Hickman case

This story takes place in Uncategorized. It was told on August 6th, 2011 by Frank.  Be the first to comment

From Time Out Chicago:

Joe Allen got the idea for his new book—about the appalling living conditions for African-Americans following the Great Migration, and the death of four children in a horrific fire—from the man who brought the Beatles to Chicago. At a 2008 party Allen met Frank Fried, a former activist and concert producer who had staged the 1965 concert at Sox Park. Fried was facing open-heart surgery, and feared the cases he worked on as an activist would be forgotten. He was most concerned with James Hickman.