Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1987
By Robert Hilburn:
The 16-year-old boy with the faded Run-D.M.C. T-shirt stared at the large airport-style metal-detection device at the entrance to the Memorial Coliseum arena. Like most of the nearly 5,300 at the Run-D.M.C./Beastie Boys concert Monday, the teen-ager seemed amused by the elaborate security precautions. "What gives?" he asked sarcastically. "We're just going to a concert, not trying to catch an airplane."
The 12 detectors placed around the coliseum were part of Rush Productions' attempt to reassure parents and fans that it's safe to attend the New York bands' "Together Forever" shows. Indeed, it was hard at times Monday to tell whether the rap trios had come here to give a concert or to stand trial.
This was the first mainland stop on the colorful and controversial groups' U.S. tour after a weekend show in Honolulu. There were frequent reminders that police, promoters, parents and fans around the country were watching the events here to see how to react when the tour pulls into their towns. The groups are due Friday at the San Diego Sports Arena, Saturday at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa and Sunday through next Wednesday at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.
Concern over the tour dates back to the gang violence at Run-D.M.C.'s concert last Aug. 17 at the Long Beach Arena and to the reports of ill-tempered behavior at recent Beastie Boys shows in England.
Before arriving here Monday, the bands learned that their show in Seattle--the next tour stop--had to change venues after they were denied access to the Seattle Civic Arena. In canceling the performance there, officials cited "ample predictions of real physical trouble."
Even in Portland, police raised the issue of canceling the performance at the coliseum. When Memorial Coliseum Manager Lee Fehrenkamp proceeded with the show, police put on an aggressive profile. Six members of the city's mounted patrol-complete with riot helmets-were stationed outside the coliseum, and numerous uniformed and plainclothes officers were positioned inside the 10,000-seat arena.
The three-hour show went on without incident. "Coliseum Concert Almost Subdued" read a headline Tuesday in the daily Oregonian. "Rap Groups Play Before Well-Behaved Crowd," noted a second headline in the same paper. Still, the bands realized as they headed Tuesday to Seattle (where their appearance had been rescheduled at the Paramount Theatre), that the trial wasn't over.
Lyor Cohen, vice president of New York-based Rush Productions, which manages both groups, blamed media preoccupation with potential violence for hurting ticket sales here, in Seattle and in Honolulu.
"We have been hurt bad," Cohen said while overseeing security outside the Memorial Coliseum before Monday's show. "The local promoter called the day after tickets went on sale, talking about the possibility of adding a second show. But then the media picked up on all this bogus (potential gang violence) stuff and sales came to a stop.
"I was worried about something like this . . . the memory of Long Beach. That's why we wanted to tackle the issue straightaway by returning to the scene (Los Angeles) where the whole thing got started. If we had waited to the end to come back (to Los Angeles) the issue could have been there the whole tour. We want to show that what happened last year was a fluke, a problem in the community that had nothing to do with the music of Run-D.M.C."
Fehrenkamp, who watched the fans-roughly 80% of them white for the racially mixed bill of the black Run-D.M.C. and the white Beasties-move slowly through the metal detectors, also acknowledged the impact of the media coverage on sales here.
"In reporting that the Seattle concert had been canceled, TV stations just seemed to replay that Long Beach story over and over . . . showing people being put into ambulances. Parents (here) must have been scared to death."
To make parents more comfortable, Fehrenkamp set up a hospitality room at the Coliseum where they could watch television during the concert rather than just drop off their teen-agers.
Barbara Reynolds, a video store operator who brought her 15-year-old son to the show, was one of about 40 parents who took advantage of the offer. Like others in the room, she had been alarmed by what she saw on television. "The implication was that there are riots all the time at these shows," she said. "I sure was relieved when I got here and saw how well-behaved everyone was."
Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys made two appearances here Monday. Seven hours before taking the stage at the Coliseum, the rap groups held a press conference at a downtown hotel. The press conference drew a full house and the television crews got plenty of good footage.
Before the groups appeared, Bill Adler, publicity director for Rush Productions, chided the press for a lack of sophistication in reporting on the acts, suggesting unfair and unrealistic dwelling on the Long Beach violence. He noted that the tour's other 64 shows were virtually trouble-free, and also hinted that racism is playing a part in the anxiety that surrounds the Portland and Seattle dates.
Run-D.M.C. then continued the attack, suggesting an ignorance on the part of general-assignment reporters and especially television news personnel of the group's "positive themes." When challenged by reporters to outline the themes, Run-D.M.C.'s Joseph Simmons and Jason Mizell began quoting rap-style from anti-drug and anti-gang lyrics.
Even the normally irreverent Beastie Boys seemed to take the press conference seriously, relating tales of how fans in Honolulu (where the show was also peaceful) came up to them to say they had been afraid to go to the concert because of reports of violence at the Long Beach show.
Things were so serious that a couple of young Beastie Boys fans who had sneaked into the press conference finally stood and asked if the Beasties were going to tone down their act in response to the controversy. Before any of the Beasties could respond, Mizell said, "They don't have to change because you (the fans) know what time it is. . . . We're just talkin' to these guys (the non-music writers) like this because they don't know what time it is. Our fans know what's happenin'." In his concert review, Oregonian critic Stuart Tomlinson was generally positive. He concluded: "Throughout the show the crowd roared its approval, repeating lyrics, waving their hands and generally having a good time."
On this tour, the Beastie Boys have abandoned some of the controversial elements of their show (including a 20-foot-high phallic symbol and a scantily clad go-go dancer), but they still perform in roughly the same rude and crude style characterized by their "Licensed to Ill" tour earlier this year. And they still clutch their groins as aggressively as Eddie Murphy in "Beverly Hills Cop II."
Backstage, however, the events of the last year appeared to have taken a toll on the Beasties. Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz and Adam Yauch all seemed to have been shaken by the controversy surrounding them on their recent British tour.
As they spoke in the dressing room, you got the feeling they would like to change their rowdy anthem "You Got to Fight for Your Right to Party" to "You Got to Fight for Your Right to Be Understood."
"Yeah, that's there," said Yauch, known in the group as MCA.
"The difference is when we wrote `Party' we were laughing because it's such a joke. . . . It seemed like the stupidest, most obvious rock 'n' roll song ever written. What's going on here, however, is something completely different. It is something that's serious to us."
Six months ago, the Manhattan rap trio would have laughed at anyone who failed to see the Three Stooges meet the Bowery Boys humor in their rude and rowdy portraits of urban teen-age life.
Their album, "Licensed to Ill," was well on its way to becoming the biggest-selling debut in Columbia Records history (more than 4 million sold) and everything looked rosy. Movie offers were pouring in and concert ticket sales were great.
But the Beasties became overwhelmed by the controversy in Europe, where they experienced the severest attack by British dailies on any pop group since the Sex Pistols, according to Melody Maker, a leading British pop journal.
The furor began, Melody Maker reported, when the Daily Mirror printed a front-page article alleging that the Beasties jeered at and insulted a "party of children dying of cancer."
Despite denials by the band and representatives of the children, the paper followed with another front-page story charging that the home secretary was considering banning the Beasties from Britain. The home office subsequently denied the report. Several other papers carried what Melody Maker described as "increasingly exaggerated stories of Beasties drinking . . . punch-ups and disorderly conduct."
Horovitz blamed the media hysteria for attracting hooligans to the group's show in Liverpool, where he was arrested and five people were injured. He was charged with hitting a fan with a thrown beer can.
"We used to think the music spoke for itself, and we'd like to get back to that," Horovitz said about the Beasties' new seriousness. "But it's not that easy. We need to clarify again, because I think even our fans have been confused by some of these media reports. It started in England and has spread back here. I don't want kids to think I go on stage and throw a full can of beer at people."
Yauch said he feels a bit intimidated on stage now, as if his every move is being tracked.
"I saw a kid in the front row tonight when I was sitting up on the speaker and he said, 'Throw me a beer,' and I said, 'I'd like to do it, but I know if I throw a beer down there, it's gonna become big news and be described as if I were corrupting the youth of America or something.'
"Besides, if he had accidentally missed it and got just a little cut on his head, it would be written up in the papers as if I had given him a concussion.
"You have to be so careful, it makes you wonder if you can ever really go on tour again."
Los Angeles Times (22 June 1987) - Randy Lewis:
The only hint of danger at the Run-D.M.C./Beastie Boys concert Saturday night at the Pacific Amphitheatre was the frenzy of fans rushing to the souvenir stands. The rambunctious teens weren't trying to cause trouble; they just had to have those $5 posters, $16 T-shirts and $27 sweat shirts. So gang 'way!
The Pacific in Costa Mesa is less than 20 miles from the Long Beach Arena, where more than 40 people were injured last August when gang-related violence erupted at Run-D.M.C.'s show there.
Even though that was an isolated incident in a lengthy tour, the fallout still dogs the group. Neither the media nor pop fans can shake the memory of that night.
There was extra security on hand Saturday, but not nearly as highly profiled as the mounted police with riot helmets that stood on alert outside the Run-D.M.C./Beastie Boys concert Monday in Portland, Ore.
At the Pacific, a dozen uniformed police officers and a beefed-up corps of private security guards watched as the orderly fans passed through eight airport-styled metal detectors on their way into the amphitheatre.
Yet, unlike the anti-authoritarian attitude associated over the years with rock audiences, most fans interviewed had no objections to the security measures. Few even grumbled when the line was slowed down as metal detector warning lights were set off by such harmless items the foil wrapper in a pack of cigarette and, in one case, a woman's orthodontic gear.
"All this security is a big plus," said a Long Beach teen-ager who attended the show with two friends. "I feel comfortable knowing nobody is going to knife me or shoot me."
That residual tension which was echoed by numerous fans, many of whom were already wearing their souvenir T-shirts may have hurt attendance.
Even without considering Run-D.M.C.'s sizable drawing power, the Beastie Boys-whose debut album has sold more than 3 million copies since late last year-would figure to fill most of the 18,700-capacity facility. Yet Saturday's crowd was only approximately 11,000.
Lyor Cohen, of Rush Productions, which packaged the Run-D.M.C./Beasties dates, blamed the tension from last year's show for slowing ticket sales on the tour, which was scheduled to begin a four-night run Sunday at the Greek Theatre.
And the preoccupation with potential violence wasn't lost on the members of the two New York rap groups.
Between songs near the end of Run D.M.C.'s hour-long performance, rapper Run (Joseph Simmons) asked the audience in a tone of both relief and triumph: "What happened to the violence we heard about? I see white people right here and black people right there-I don't see any racial tensions. . . . I just see a lot of party people."
Compared to the almost exclusively white suburban audience at the Pacific last weekend to see Huey Lewis & the News, Saturday's crowd was much more ethnically diverse: equal parts black, white and Hispanic.
Although the age range of the was predominantly 13 to 23, there was also a small, but noticeable number of younger children who were accompanied by their parents.
"It's a melting pot, bro' " said Boysie Goolcharan, a black teen-ager from Norwalk. "Everybody can get along together."
Except for the dozens of fans who either wore baseball caps-many of them turned backwards Beastie Boy-style-or shiny jogging suits in the manner of Run-D.M.C., the audience attire reflected reflected the same jeans/T-shirt informality that you'd find at a typical rock show.
Most of the two dozen fans interviewed expressed some uneasiness about attending the concert, but all seemed at ease once the show started.
Some of the Beasties fans, however, understand why parents could become alarmed by the rap trio's bratty Bowery Boys attitude.
"They're kind of rowdy," said Chris Costlow, 15, of Huntington Beach, adding that he pictures the band members as "always getting into trouble and getting in fights."
Yet most of those questioned see humor rather than provocation in the Beasties, whose beer-spewing, crotch-grabbing, expletive-hurling antics can be viewed as rock's answer to the bombast comedy of primal screamer Sam Kinison.
Said Paul Cassady, 31, of Newport Beach, about the Beasties: "I think they are just crazy."
But Cassady, who was at the concert to chaperon an 11-year-old, didn't see the rap trio as any bad influence. "I'm not at all worried (about the impact on young people). They're cool. Some of the things I went to when I was young were a lot worse than this . . . like Grand Funk Railroad and Cream."
Seattle Times (19 June 1987):
Charges that Portland, Ore., police overreacted to the prospect of gang trouble at the recent Run-D.M.C./Beastie Boys concert were made this week by promoter David Lichen of Double Tee Promotion Inc., which staged the concert. Lichen said that assigning 90 officers to the concert constituted overkill, adding that private security measures should have required no more than four sworn officers, the usual complement at most rock concerts at the city Memorial Coliseum. Lichen is appealing to the Portland City Council for $4,500 in charges growing out of the police action. The remaining $12,000 in overtime charges will be paid by the city's Exposition-Recreation Commission.
Seattle Times (10 August 1987) - Alex Tizon:
Exactly what do the Beastie Boys wreak upon the cities they visit?
Councilman Don Van Blaricom, Bellevue's former police chief, and several other city officials will get to see the group perform and see how other cities control crowds at the band's concerts.
"I'm not looking forward to the whole thing,'' said Van Blaricom. "I hear they (Beastie Boys) are the worst rock group as far as conduct is concerned. They pull their pants down on stage. . . .''
The Beastie Boys performed in June in Portland and Seattle before well-behaved crowds with heavy police security.
Van Blaricom, Police Chief Joe Smith, City Manager Phil Kushlan and city planner Mark Hinshaw will leave on a six-day, four-city trip Wednesday to find out how other convention center/arenas are run, and how events in such facilities affect their communities.
Bellevue is considering building its own downtown convention center/arena complex, possibly in partnership with the Seattle SuperSonics. Van Blaricom is a member of the council ad hoc committee studying the idea.
The four-person contingent will visit Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., Lexington, Ky., and Pasadena, Calif. Three of the cities have convention centers and arenas. Pasadena has only a convention center.
Van Blaricom and the others will talk to city officials, business leaders and community groups in each city.
And, to top it all, the group will get to see two live concerts: Whitney Houston in Richmond on Wednesday and the Beastie Boys in Philadelphia on Sunday.
The kind of on-stage antics of the Beastie Boys just didn't happen during his day, Van Blaricom said. "I graduated from high school in the days when Elvis was big."