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'Spirit Of '60s' Festival Survives The Heat

September 03, 1985|JOHN VOLAND | Voland, a graduate of the University of Iowa, is a Times intern. and

Outside, on the baking Magic Mountain walkway, tempers and the temperature were rising simultaneously: The Magic Moments Theater was half an hour late opening its doors for the first show Sunday, and it was getting to be the hottest part of the afternoon.

But inside, singer Lou Christie bopped his way to the front of the smallish stage, and the audience gratefully settled into air-conditioned attention. The "Spirit of the '60s" festival held here over the Labor Day weekend had, just like its audience, survived some last-minute heat and was on its way to something enjoyable.

Indeed, as Christie and '60s faves Mary Wells and Peter Noone reminded their predominantly 30s-ish auditors of adolescence, first loves and youthful optimism, all quibbles about the heat, the wait or the last-minute confusion--which had threatened to cancel the event more than once--vanished.

What replaced it was the kind of cool, bouncy fun-lovingness that informed much of pre-psychedelic music of the '60s, as Noone (formerly Herman of Herman's Hermits) attested after his first show Sunday.

"Being out there again today reminded me just how much fun the '60s, and this music, were," the man who had such hits as "Henry VIII, I Am (I Am)" said with a huge grin. "It was such a charming time--not inoffensive, really, but . . . puckish ."

Looking fit, content and hardly a day older than the teen-ager he was when the Hermits first hit it big, Noone said he'd "enjoyed being out front again immensely.

"Look," he said, of the backstage camaraderie. "I would've done this for no money, just for the feeling we've generated. I mean, I would've come to a show like this any day."

Maybe so, but he might have had trouble figuring out just who'd actually be on the bill. Until Saturday, the roster of artists was still changing as were times of performance. (Magic Mountain and Chrysler Corp., the show's sponsor, had engaged a local outside promoter, Stan Le Corno, to arrange for performers. However, as the final details were being worked out, Le Corno became increasingly unavailable for consultation, according to Magic Mountain and Chrysler officials, agents for the talent and the acts themselves.)

"After I had spoken to him and he affirmed the contracts--this was the Wednesday before the shows--he started to become difficult to get a hold of," said Dick Zaan, an agent who represents several of the acts that originally had signed for the festival, but subsequently did not perform, including Tommy Roe and Tiny Tim.

Repeated attempts to reach Le Corno at his Hollywood office over the weekend were unsuccessful.

"I turned down dates to get here for this show, and so I got stuck on the deal," said an annoyed Roe. "I just wanna make clear that the artists involved got stuck, just like our fans. We were willing to do the show and worry about getting paid later, but, unfortunately, that isn't the way it worked out."

Fortunately for the fans, however, there was still more than enough good feeling to go around. Energetic and smooth sets from Noone, who reprised some of his former band's British Invasion smashes, and Christie, whose stratospheric falsetto sounded as fresh as ever in renditions of his hits "Two Faces Have I" (from 1963) and "Lightnin' Strikes" (1966) proved real crowd-pleasers, and formerly frowning and frustrated fans danced in the aisles.

"I'm really glad the show turned out well," said Christie, lounging in his trailer after the show. "I tell you, I was going crazy with this thing--on, off, on again, off again. I had to cancel some dates I had arranged for after this was canceled the first time. But"--and a big smile crossed his face--"they got their show, all right. The baby boomers really dug it. Even people backstage enjoyed it."

Outside, then, as people began lining up for Scottish '60s minstrel extraordinaire Donovan's evening show, the crowd was dotted with smiling faces.

"These shows were a lot of fun," enthused Kathleen Miller of Valencia. "It probably would've been even more fun if all the acts they said were going to show up really made it. But I had a great time anyhow."

But MaryBeth McEvily of Manhattan Beach wasn't as sanguine. "I was really mad when there was so much confusion and bad advertising about this thing, but I had already made plans to be up here. . . . But once we got inside, it got a lot better."

As members of the audience took their seats and Donovan went into 1965's "Catch the Wind," the magic of bygone days took over. Henry Mowry, beleaguered talent director for the amusement park, smiled slightly and whispered: "I've sure learned one thing. I'm never going to work with an outside promoter again."

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