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Just Normal Security Procedures, Comrades

February 21, 1988|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

Say it ain't so!

In this new era of rock detente--when Soviet rockers are being denounced by communist conservatives as anti- communist dupes--is it possible that the U.S. Department of Defense is still scared of guitar-slingers from behind the Iron Curtain?

That's the impression we got from representatives of Avtograf, the "government-authorized" Russian rock band who recently played a series of much-ballyhooed club dates here. According to a staffer at the P.R. firm Jensen Communications, the band scored another first while in L.A.--an interview with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Services (AFRTS), which beams rock broadcasts to military personnel in hundreds of overseas locales. (Jensen was hired by their American manager, not by a pop-loving member of the Politburo.)

However, the group's publicist claimed that the military refused Avtograf permission to set foot on the Defense Department property in Sun Valley where AFRTS tapes its programs.

"The show's producer called in the morning and asked for the names of the band members and their manager, saying he had to clear everyone with Washington," publicist Kris Sofley explained. "In the afternoon, they called back and said we'd have to do the interview at our offices--the group wasn't allowed there.

"I thought it was pretty peculiar--we've never had this problem with any other clients. After all, Avtograf did a Voice of America interview at a government building in Washington, D.C.--and it was all routine. We got little badges and went in without any problem."

On the other hand--is it possible this mini-controversy is being staged to drum up even more ink for the Russian rock band, who, by their own admission, are touring the States in hopes of landing a lucrative record contract?

That's the way AFRTS staffers see it, who claim that the clearance procedure was strictly routine.

"Anytime you have a foreign national on the show you have to go through a clearance procedure," said AFRTS producer Tim Maddox. "We're located on a DOD (Department of Defense) installation in Sun Valley and that's the way it works here. But it wasn't a matter of the band not getting clearance. We just didn't have time to go through all the regular procedures."

Geez, we didn't know the DOD had such tight security for rock bands. Would a French rock band would have to go through the same procedure? "Absolutely," Maddox insisted.

Not that the DOD doesn't have a few qualms about controversy. AFRTS deejay Joe Reiling, who interviewed Avtograf, acknowledged: "The Armed Forces do have certain sensitivities about us talking to bands about politics, alcohol and drugs--but that's because of some of the places where our shows are sent. However, no one had any problems with Avtograf."

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