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Rock Hall of Fame Launches Anti-Snicker Campaign

July 10, 1994|Steve Hochman

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has been the subject of more jokes over the last decade than Prince's new name.

Wisecracks began as soon as the Hall of Fame directors chose Cleveland in 1987 as the eventual site of the then-$40-million project.

"Cleveland?" the jokes went. "Didn't anybody else want it?"

As groundbreaking kept getting postponed and cost estimates escalated, even inductees began questioning the viability of the whole thing--and whether there was really any need for it.

Concerned that the snickering has gone on too long, the Hall of Fame organization is launching a counterattack.

"It's time to really start building public awareness," says Suzan Evans, the executive director of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.

The project, whose cost has now soared to $84 million, is scheduled to open on Labor Day of 1995--and construction is going along nicely, thank you.

Besides spreading that word, Evans says the priority now is to involve more people both within the music industry--"not just the executives, but the middle and lower levels"--as well as rank-and-file fans.

"We're starting a grass-roots membership program, and we've worked very hard to develop a facility that will be educational and entertaining for everyone, from the general visitor all the way to music historians and hard-core fans."

In addition, Dennis Barrie, who last fall was named director of the Hall of Fame and museum, is beginning to take his case to the media.

"The museum's goal is not just to be a repository for rock 'n' roll memorabilia," said Barrie during a recent West Coast swing, distinguishing the Hall of Fame's objectives from those of ersatz rock-history endeavors such as the ones maintained by the Hard Rock Cafes. "We're more about putting a performer in context, why the songs had value, what social forces created this music and in turn how the music changed the social forces."

On July 28 they'll hold a "capping" ceremony, signaling the placement of the last beam in the building's frame.

"That's usually just a construction workers' ceremony, but we're going to turn it into a party," says Jim Henke, the former Rolling Stone editor who has taken the job of the Hall of Fame's chief curator. "It means the building is real and that alone, convincing people this is a real thing, is the biggest hurdle I've faced."

Henke is already working with top artists on planning exhibits and programs. And it's not just old-timers: One Henke is particularly excited about is a U2 exhibit featuring some of the video and staging elements from the elaborate "Zoo TV" tour plus an adjoining display of the Irish band's early history.

And what about the question of whether rock 'n' roll needs a Hall of Fame?

Says Evans: "The only people who ask that are reporters."

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