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Starlight Benefit Concerts Postponed : Sluggish Ticket Sales Blamed for Delay of Event to Aid Africans

May 02, 1985|GREG BRAXTON | Times Staff Writer

Blaming poor ticket sales, promoters of the "You And Me Because We Care" African relief music festival, which had been scheduled for this weekend at the Starlight Amphitheatre in Burbank, have postponed the event for two weeks.

The delay in the three-day festival prompted Burbank officials to say they are worried about whether the concerts will ever take place at the troubled, city-owned amphitheater.

In announcing the postponement, A. Michael Pascal, director of operations for the festival, said Tuesday the Burbank City Council's approval of use of the Starlight two weeks ago did not allow enough time for his newly formed production company to properly publicize the event.

The concerts have been been rescheduled for May 17-19, he said.

Pascal said ticket prices, which had ranged from $25 to $100, were scaled down to $20 for lawn seating to a top price of $60 for box seats. Pascal conceded that the earlier ticket prices were too high.

'Big Names' Anticipated

Pascal and the executive producer of the concerts, entertainer Michael Evans Boyd, insisted that the concerts could be staged on the new dates, and said the additional time would enable them to book some "big-name" entertainers who have shown interest in participating in the event. They did not provide details.

But some city officials familiar with the controversial history of the Starlight, which can seat up to 6,500 spectators, were skeptical.

Outgoing Councilman Leland Ayers, who had approved holding the concerts at the Starlight, said he doubted they would take place. Mike Ragan, chairman of the city's Parks and Recreation Board, a council-appointed advisory committee, said the postponement was another blemish on the Starlight's record.

"This is the kind of thing that only happens in Burbank," Ragan said. "They let the cow out and then shut the door. You don't hear about these things happening at Universal or the Greek Theatre. This postponement just shows more instability, and it's not a good reflection on the amphitheater or Burbank."

'Here We Go Again'

"This really disappoints me," Ragan said. "We had someone who we thought was coming in and using the bowl for a very good purpose. Now it's starting to peter out. Here we go again."

City officials were not the only ones angered by the postponement. Enrique Fernandez, manager of The Castaway restaurant, which is near the Starlight, said he lost up to $10,000 in reservation bookings when he agreed to offer his restaurant for a party Sunday night after what was to have been the final concert.

Problems ranging from poor ticket sales to efforts by city officials to ban several acts deemed "disruptive" have plagued the Starlight in recent years.

Griffin Productions, the city-authorized operator of the facility, had financial difficulties while trying to book acts last summer. The company earlier this month filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S Bankruptcy Code.

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower court's ruling that the City of Burbank had violated the constitutional rights of a concert promoter by preventing him from staging rock concerts at the Starlight during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

'Inspired by God'

Promoter Boyd, who said he was "inspired by God" to start a crusade to help feed starving Africans, approached city officials early this year about staging a benefit concert.

The city offered to loan the Starlight to the promoters for three days, providing the promoters put up a $30,000 performance bond to help pay for police and fire protection services.

Boyd said that, by selling out the Starlight, he hoped to raise as much as $1 million. He said proceeds from the concerts would go to the Burbank chapter of the American Red Cross, which would pass the money to the charity's national headquarters to help relieve famine in Africa.

Pascal said ticket sales had been "minimal" for the festival, which was to feature country music the first night, rock on the second and gospel and rhythm and blues the third night. Among the entertainers booked so far are the Chambers Brothers, Billy and the Beaters, actresses Danielle Brisebois and Mabel King, and the 1960s rock duo Jan and Dean, he said.

A Good Cause

Councilman Ayers said he thought the concert was benefiting a "wonderful cause," but added, "I believe people underestimate what is necessary to take place prior to putting on events of this nature. I don't think it will be successful unless they can attract a fairly recognizable name. Truthfully, I doubt this will come off."

In response to officials' skepticism about the concert, Boyd said, "Well, where are the shows that these people are putting on? Where are they with their buckets on the street, trying to collect money for the poor?"

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