How Woodstock Happened … Monday

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By Elliot Tiber

Originally Published In The Times Herald-Record – Woodstock Commemorative Edition
Text copyright 1994 The Times Herald-Record

It was about 9am, time for Hendrix, the headliner. He had launched into the national anthem, a moment that would go down in the annals of rock’n’roll. “I remember trying to fall asleep during the “Star-Spangled Banner’,” said Ciganer, Jerry Garcia’s buddy. “I just wished he would stop.” The party was over.

The partners had to face a different kind of music. Woodstock Ventures had obtained letters of credit, backed by Roberts’ trust fund, from a bank on Wall Street. Now, Ventures was at least $1.3 million in debt. Kornfeld was still muddy when he walked into the banker’s office. “He had a tank with a piranha in it, and he was feeding him meat,” Kornfeld recalled. “The attitude already was a battleground.” Ventures was in trouble because Woodstock had been a damn-the-expense money pit for six weeks. Kornfeld’s promotional expenses were more than $150,000, 70 percent over budget. Lang’s production expenses had soared to $2 million, more than 300 percent over budget.

Ventures had paid crews overtime to do six months of work in six weeks’ time. Three days of running a private air fleet of helicopters had also helped to bust the budget. “It was like living a dream,” Lang recalled. “My idea was just to get it done, whatever it took. We had a vision, and it all came true.” When it was all over, the Wall Street bankers demanded an accounting. The promoters had sold about $1.1million in tickets, but Ventures had written maybe $600,000 in bad checks and had other debts. As of August 19, 1969, the high-water mark of the counterculture had cost at least 2.4 million hard, capitalist dollars. Thousands of dollars more in fines, fees, claims and lawsuits hadn’t even come in yet. To top it off, there was a criminal investigation. The attorney general’s office and the Sullivan County district attorney were starting to dig.

About those two kids who brought their woes to Charlie Prince: The banker helped them solve their problem. They found the week-old “69 Olds. It was parked eight miles away. In front of Neuhaus’ home. Two state troopers were sitting on it.

Leo O’Mara walked the 20 miles back to his car. Andrew never found the friends who brought him, but made some new ones and rode home with them. Gary Krewson had left Sunday afternoon in the Volkswagen bus he’d come in.

Little Michael Kennedy from Smallwood was three years old. On Tuesday, his dad took him down to Yasgur’s farm. “All I can remember is all the garbage,” Kennedy said. “It was the first time I ever saw a longhair. I asked my dad, “What are they”‘ He said. “That’s someone who doesn’t cut their hair and cleans up garbage.'” Ventures spent $100,000 to clean the decimated festival site. Goldstein dug a huge hole and bulldozed tons of shoes, bottles, papers, clothes, tents and plastic sheets into the ground. He set the pile afire. The vast, smoky smolder that burned for days brought Ventures a charge of illegal burning from Bethel officials.

On Tuesday, Prince’s phone rang at Sullivan County National Bank. It was bank president Joe Fersh, who told Prince that Woodstock Ventures’ account was $250,000 short. Robert’s check had bounced, and the bank checks Prince had written Saturday night to the performers weren’t covered. Fersch wanted to know: “What are you going to do about it”” So Prince called Roberts. “(Roberts) said, “I know the pickle you’re in, Charlie. I’ll be there Thursday morning.'” Prince recalled.

By Wednesday, the lab had analyzed the green, leafy substance submitted as evidence in Judge Liese’s court. The irate pot smokers were right. They were buying bogus reefer. “It turned out to be a mixture of timothy grass and birdseed,” said the judge. “He must have paid $6 for the six pounds of it.” Liese ordered the ersatz marijuana salesman set free. “A guy selling birdseed for $6 an ounce. What are you gonna do”” said Liese with a chuckle. Also on Wednesday, a Woodstock mother came back to thank acting-midwife Tiber. Tiber jotted her name down, stuck the matchbook into his pants and, from there, it went into history. “I have no idea what pants I was wearing,” he said.

Thursday morning, Roberts arrived alone at the White Lake branch of the Sullivan County National Bank. He pledged $1 million in stock to the bank to cover the $250,000 note. “I was off the hook,” Prince said. Roberts, Lang, Kornfeld and Rosenman had made personal guarantees to pay the bills. But only Roberts’ family – and his own trust fund – had enough assets to pay off Woodstock’s debt. While Lang stayed with the cleanup crews, the other three partners squirmed under the fiscal glare. Roberts’ father and brother told the Wall Street bankers that they never had run out on debts and they weren’t going to start now. The Roberts family paid off the debt.

Bob Dylan had been scheduled to leave for Europe on August 15 aboard the Queen Elizabeth. But Dylan’s son was hospitalized that day, and the rock legend stayed home. Dylan left the country in late August to play at the Isle of Wight Festival off the coast of Britain. Michael Lang was in the crowd.

Gary Krewson had another Woodstock moment back home in Tunkhannock, Pa., about 90 miles away. Krewson was sitting on the steps of the town’s only hotel when he saw three psychedelic school buses tooling over the hill to the town’s only traffic light. The lead bus, driven by Wavy Gravy, blew an engine. Krewson fetched Tunkhannock’s only mechanic, who let the Pranksters and Hog Farmers use his garage. The bus crew pulled the blown engine and popped in a spare within 45 minutes. Gravy and company were on their way to another festival in Texas.

The Times Herald-Record submitted its stories for the 1969 Pulitzer Prize competition. Editor Al Romm recalls: “A friend, years later, who was on the judging panel, said, “You’ll never know how close you came to winning.’ Our coverage took a different tack from most of the publications. Nobody had as many people at the scene as we did, about six. We had passing coverage of the music. Really could have done better with that. We were just enveloped with the human indignities. The sickness. The miscarriages.

Six weeks after the festival, Rosenman and Roberts bought out Lang and Kornfeld for $31,240 each. Lang, Kornfeld, Rosenman and Roberts – the four young men who had produced and promoted Woodstock – were separated for more than 20 years by Woodstock’s fallout. Rosenman and Roberts stayed best friends. But they charged for years that Lang and Kornfeld, but especially Lang, grabbed all the attention immediately after the event. For instance, Rosenman and Roberts weren’t in the movie at all. Kornfeld was seen a couple of times, but Lang was featured prominently, riding his motorcycle and being interviewed. “We were so busy that I think the credit was directed toward Michael (Lang), ” Rosenman said in 1989. “Years later, people would ask, “Were you involved in that thing Mike Lang did”‘ You have to be in this business a long time to know how valuable it is to be famous. I think Michael and Artie knew that. We didn’t have any idea.

Lang said in 1989 that he, more than anyone is probably responsible for the ill will. “John and Joel were from a different world. They were outsiders, and they didn’t understand,” Lang said. “I didn’t have time to acclimate them. I’m not the most communicative person in the world. I was kind of a wise guy.” Kornfeld, upon reflection, figures it’s not really important who did what. “With all the attention grabbing that’s gone on over the years, my reality is that there are a lot of more important things,” Kornfeld said. “Look, no one person produced Woodstock; the generation produced Woodstock. And look at it emanate now.”

Woodstock had 5,162 medical cases, according to a state Health Department report released October 4, 1969. The report listed 797 documented instances of drug abuse. No births were recorded in the festival medical tent, but Dr. Abruzzi told the Health Department there were eight miscarriages. The report lists two deaths by drug overdose and the death of Raymond Mizak in the tractor accident. In late fall, a Sullivan County grand jury declared that there wasn’t enough evidence to indict anyone for anything. The driver of the tractor was never identified and was not charged. Another investigation by the state attorney general’s office ended in early 1970 with Woodstock Ventures having to make refunds on 12,000 to 18,000 tickets. The tickets were sold to people who were not able to attend because the roads were closed.

John Pinnavaia was considered 1-A by his draft board when he walked onto Yasgur’s farm. After he stepped on the bottle and it slashed the tendon in his right foot, he was classified 1-Y for a temporary disability. After four months on crutches, Pinnavaia got married, putting him even lower on the draft list. Pinnavaia stayed out of the Army but still bears a road map of scars on his foot. He calls it his “Woodstock wound.” ” I can’t walk over broken glass even with shoes on. I just cringe at the sound,” says Pinnavaia.

The owner of the only stereo store in Middletown became a hippie of sorts. “I went from one of me to one of them,” Allan Markoff said. Markoff always regretted he didn’t stay at Woodstock, but he explains it this way: “There was no place to hang out. I’m not a close-to-the-earth individual. I’m a Ritz Carlton type of individual, and there were no luxury places to stay. I can’t live in the rain and the mud. Markoff, now 54, would also go full tilt into the rock’n’roll business, supplying equipment for a Rolling Stones tour in the early “70s. He rigged a massive sound system in former Beatle George Harrison’s hotel room at the Plaza in New York City. Harrison was promptly evicted from the hotel.

Two years after Woodstock, fence installer Daniel Sanabria discovered that he was sort of a star. ” Woodstock: The Movie” was out. He was in it. “Being hams, we’d jump in front of the camera at any opportunity, ” Sanabria said. “It was the greatest time of our life. We bonded as children; we bonded as men.”

How Woodstock Happened … The Final Word