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Insurance Problems Almost Doomed Concert : Farm Aid II Draws 40,000 Despite Heat

July 05, 1986|DENNIS MCDOUGAL | Times Staff Writer

MANOR, Tex. — More than 40,000 pop music fans braved sticky South Texas heat Friday to share the Fourth of July with some 75 Farm Aid II stage performers, ranging from Waylon Jennings and the Blasters to Minnie Mouse and the Playboy Girls of Rock and Roll.

Country pop star Willie Nelson's marathon concert to benefit debt-ridden family farmers did not appear to raise anywhere near the $9 million earned by last September's first Farm Aid concert, however. Early estimates put the Farm Aid II gross at less than $2 million.

Had to Move Site

Farm Aid II was plagued by a number of problems, including a lack of insurance coverage, and very nearly did not happen at all. A demand for a $200,000 insurance premium, compounded by slow sales of the $20 general admission tickets, forced organizers to move the site of the concert last week from the 80,000-seat University of Texas Memorial Stadium in nearby Austin to the Manor Downs horse race track, where the five-story stage was erected in less than 72 hours.

Musically, Farm Aid II was just as odd a mix of performances as Farm Aid I. The day's performers included:

--British actor Christopher Hewitt, television's "Mr. Belvedere," sharing the same stage with Los Angeles Latino rock band Los Lobos.

--The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" followed on stage by Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It."

--Child actor Danny Cooksey of television's "Different Strokes" opening the 18-hour-plus concert with his own early morning (the concert began at 7 a.m.) hard-rock version of "Hey, Bartender!"

At one point, Nelson joined Vince Neil of the heavy metal band Motley Crue, pop guitarist Dickey Betts, folk rocker Joe Walsh of the Eagles and new wave hard rock vocalist John Bon Jovi to form the Rock and Roll All Stars, performing the old Elvis Presley standard, "Suspicious Minds."

Finds Hidden Check

The Amazing Kreskin, a clairvoyant, broke the non-stop music with a mid-morning stunt in which he divined the location of a $10,000 check hidden among the fans. Pressing his temples, Kreskin announced to the crowd that the check--a donation to Farm Aid II from the Wang Corp.--was located beneath a Port-a-John. There were more than 500 such portable toilets throughout the concert site and he specified the one under which it was located.

The Rev. Jessie Jackson put in an appearance in the late afternoon, speaking with the same fervor for farmers as he usually does for his Rainbow Coalition.

"This farm aid concert represents the heart and soul of Independence Day," Jackson told the crowd amid loud cheers. "It's not just a focus on Ellis Island and a big party for the super rich. We must remember who came here by Ellis Island."

Jackson had little good to say about the Liberty Weekend celebration in New York.

"They can't just lift the face of Miss Liberty," he said. "They're trying to change her character. Now she is the hostess of a party for the rich. Mr. Justice should join Miss Liberty, hand in hand."

'Not Asking for a Handout'

"Mr. Justice," he said, was in Manor, Tex., instead of New York.

"If we turn our backs on the family farmers, we turn our backs on America. They're not asking for a handout. They're asking for a bail-out. They want their share. They want a change.

"All they are demanding is the same justice that Chrysler and Mr. Iacocca got from the government."

The day-long concert was televised over the Video Hit One cable television network, which has an estimated 13 million subscribers. But major network coverage of Farm Aid generally was upstaged by Liberty Weekend. As with the first Farm Aid concert at the University of Illinois last fall, the financial success of Farm Aid II will depend on contributions called in on a toll-free telephone number that was flashed regularly during the telecast.

More than 200 cases of heat exhaustion were reported, according to first aid officials at the concert. Officials said that more than 50 arrests, most of them alcohol related, were reported.

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