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'You Guys Aren't Exactly Muscle Beach'

Backstage at the Stones' Concert

By Frederick Boyd

From the stage, there are only remembered pictures, the knowledge that Jagger pads his crotch; the star on his forehead, virtually invisible.

Boston Garden is the second ugliest empty building in the city. (The ugliest is the Boston Arena, home of high school hockey and Boston's seamier wrestling shows.) The Garden has bad acoustics, bad atmosphere, a consistent tendency to trap smoke, exposed rafters, and uncomfortable chairs. It also has more seats than most promoters can handle. Which is why there is an alert group standing by the press gate on Monday evening. Because on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, the Rolling Stones will fill the cavern with people, mostly young.

This is the first time I've ever found this gate in less than twenty minutes. We're meeting here to discuss preliminaries. The roughly 25 of us are Don Law's personal security force for both shows. Our purpose is to handle security problems quickly, to avoid reaching the crisis point where the police are required. For the Stones, the emphasis is mind over matter; we may not be big, but we're smart.

The players:

Doug: coordinator, the liason between Don and us; self-admitted "low man on the totem pole" at New England Productions. "I try to stay out of the way;" Harvard '72, as are many of the others. (Doug's Eliot House friends are the core of the group. I work for Don because Doug and I have a mutual friend.) He knows all of us, yet he's one of the few people who can talk to Don privately. He handles the smallest problems, of people placement, and logistics. He has a distinguishing pad of yellow legal paper.

Jane: birthday girl: Don Law's left hand, secretary, typist, she oversees the small problems, like the Chinese food. Jane looks like life is very nearly. Too Much, because she worries for the whole office. It was Jane who listened to the story of my first semester this year, and three months later wanted to know if I did well second semester.

Roger: Harvard '71; (and thus, the reason why the rest of us are '72 and '73--he's the direct link between Don Law and us.) Don's right hand; very efficient, but open, I know instinctively to take problems to Roger first. His openness balances Don's necessary aloofness. (Once, he remembered me from a basketball game played a year and a half ago.) Roger handles bigger problems, as well as road-managing Livingston Taylor.

Don Law: the biggest promoter on this coast, barring only, perhaps, Delsener or Howard Stein. With that in mind, I live in mortal fear of this man, a fear tinged with awe. I am afraid to talk to him; I still remember the two times I made him laugh. Don Law rarely laughs, he's too busy. Besides, the aloofness he nearly always maintains is necessary, it helps in dealing with rock stars' agents, and rock stars themselves. He's not old, but he's seasoned in this business. Still, that's all surface. I think Don Law is a very nice man. (I have the instinctive feeling that he drives too fast, which endears me to anybody). I just wish I could get close enough to make sure.

We're standing in knots at the Garden loading docks. The union crews are placing the chairs on the Garden floor, and the small mechanized transport trucks, preceded by a brusque "Watch it fellas," are shipping chairs into the main arena. The arrangement of our hiring dictates that each person knows at least two others who are also working, and we're neatly divided into threes and fours.

The union crews are an odd assortment of kids and "union types." For every toothless 50-year old veteran of hockey riots, there's a pimply-faced adolescent in a Mickey Mouse T-shirt. They're setting up the orchestra chairs in blocks of four on the cement floor. The leader of a Garden union crew is easy to find. He's shouting. In fact, all pre-show vocal business at the Garden is carried out at the top of the lungs.

"You guys aren't exactly muscle beach," pretty well summed us up. It opened Don's orientation-cum-introductory speech: an outline of our tasks, purposes, and duties. It was the most I'd ever seen Don talk, he even told a couple of jokes; and I began to wonder whether it had been prepared. It had been apparent from the beginning that security was to be tighter than usual, but Don, known for secure concerts, had covered all the angles. We would be divided nto groups before the concerts. The backstage area would be covered, at all access points; the dressing rooms themselves, though locked, would also be guarded. A group would watch the ticket takers to "intimidate" them out of accepting bribes, and two people would always be downstairs checking backstage passes at the press elevator. (A word here on the backstage passes. Stones security was tighter than any known to man. Nobody, including Don, knew what the passes looked like but Peter Rudge, and on Monday, he was in Montreal. This would be significant on Tuesday night.)

Once the show started, we would be redivided. The majority of us would be stationed just in front of the stage, to catch leapers. The theory was: rather us than the cops. Five would be placed in the first balcony behind the stage, because the seats immediately behind it, great for hockey, but bad for rock shows, hadn't been sold. They were covered with burlap, and our only objective upstairs was to prevent people from sliding down the burlap and onto the stage.

He emphasized our importance. "Be calm. You need a limited vocabulary, just 'no.' We want to be able to take more abuse than the police." He laid the chances for success squarely on us. "You guys, and I can't emphasize this too much, are going to be the difference between a successful show by the Stones and trouble."

I watched the union men in a small clump by what was to be the main aisle. They were talking about us. I was thinking about them, and also my increased awareness of my importance. I had just been told to stay calm, and to expect to take abuse.

I had also been told that 140 uniformed policemen would be inside and outside the Garden. Some would have dogs. More cops, in plain-clothes, would be inside the Garden, mingling. Doug, pessimist to the end, had been telling me for three weeks to expect trouble. I had weighed myself the night before and I hadn't cracked 120 pounds. Now I was scared.

At 1:30 Tuesday afternoon I talk my way past the guard in front of the Bruin's main offices at 150 Causeway Street (next door to the Garden, and the only way anybody could get into the building before the doors would open at 6:30) and walk up the urine-stained loading platform and into the Garden. It's empty except for the union crews helping the Stones road crew set up the stage, and the Garden's assortment of janitorial personnel. The noises are functional, moving equipment, the distant sounds of machinery, the shouted questions of the cleaning women in the first balcony, the steady cross-Garden shouts from house manager Harold Neal ("He can be a real prick," I'm told) to the crew chiefs.

I've just missed a catch: five kids are being escorted out the loading dock by seven of Don's people. Which is the reason some of us have arrived in mid-afternoon. There are many entrances to the Garden; it's not impossible for some enterprising people to get into the Garden, then into the second balcony, and hole up in the air shafts for five or six hours until showtimy. And it's being done, despite precautions that include police patrols--with dogs--on the roof, and a head security man who knows as much about entrance points as any kid.

I volunteer to cruise the second balcony for the afternoon, expecting, and getting, relative quiet. The doors are securely locked, and the only duty is a periodic check in the washrooms. I suspect that nobody hides in washrooms anymore because it's so simple. They know that we know that it's the first place to look. In the spirit of investigation, though, I checked the rest rooms every half hour or so, very smoothly; creeping up on the rest rooms, a quick trip through, peering under the stall doors, and then out. After a moment's hesitation, the same process in the ladies' room.

The second balcony affords many small advantages. If you open up five seats, you can sleep up there. And from the first row, you've got one of the finest views in the Garden. From there, I was able to appreciate the size and complexity of the stage and the work being done by the Stones' road crew on it; the camaraderie between the union crews and the freaks setting up the sound and the lights for the concerts.

An awful lot of time is going into the setting up of the stage for the concert. The tour carries a stage, and a complete set of lights, a complete sound system and crew, and a forts foot mirror. The stage had been up Monday night. The lights and the sound came in early Tuesday. Union regulations require the presence of the crews, so there are always twice as many people onstage as were needed.

There is a single trap door open to the roof, so Jon and I take a complete tour of the roof to see whether the open door would be dangerous. We have begun to get caught up in the adventure of the affair. The roof, on this Tuesday afternoon, is primarily melting tar, but a tour around the narrow ledge gives us no trouble at all. The Garden roof is bereft of good hiding places save the fire escapes, and the dogs are guarding them. But we are very thorough, checking the ventilator shafts, and the doors. There's no place to hide, and it occurs to me that I am doing things I wouldn't dream of doing if this wasn't for the Rolling Stones.

Meanwhile, Roger has more or less captured Bill Morrison, and assigned me to guard him. He is a model prisoner, primarily because he is barely aware he has done anything wrong. In hushed tones, and between calls to the corporation's lawyer. Roger tells us that Morrison may have been involved in selling fake backstage passes. Whether we could have him arrested or not was not clear, so it is finally decided that I guard him until we can further identify him, which means waiting for Peter Rudge.

We settle ourselves on the nearest equipment trunk, and start to talk. With roadies, with union people, with anybody. Hockey with the crew, superstars with the roadies. The stage is up, the lights and the mirror are in, the sound system trucks have been places by the stage, and the Garden has begun to settle into a pre-show mood. We learn that the crew is staying in the Madison. "Yeah, we had a lousy hotel in Montreal too," and that the way to get back at these hotels is to cut a slit in the mattress, take a shit into the slit, and leave. One of the crew had only been home two weeks in a year of touring--he was talking about "backpacking in Nova Scotia," after this tour was over.

Meanwhile, the food has arrived, and the Stones dressing room is being set up by two people from HSA for a buffet. You'd never have known it was a locker room. Fabric looking like tapestry on the walls, sprays of flowers on top of the benches, and a long, covered table, to hold cold cuts, bread, cheese, fruit, and assorted imported beer, and champagne. It is all written into their contract. HSA has also provided a tuxedoed bartender to mix drinks.

Out front, the police have arrived simultaneously with Don, and as he begins to scan and sort problems, which included breaking up an altercation between Roger and one of the union people, they line up for rough roll call. It looks to me as though some of those officers with hair curling from under their caps could possibly have volunteered. The flaring tempers are to be expected, considering the importance attached to the show, and the general problems in relations of a group of freaks and union people.

Bill has turned out to be such a fine prisoner that I decide he can go pretty much where ever he wants, as long as I go with him, which allows for some very fine notes for a piece I am writing for the Crimson on the whole affair. We tour the outer lobby, and make one or two forays past the dogs and into the street for cigarettes and food, and have many chances to talk. My impulse is to believe him totally, but I've become hardened against any kind of stories by past experience. He seems genuine.

Wednesday we would find Bill exonerated. Someone had used his name to sell 2000 backstage passes at $20 each. Since no one could have known the passes unless he had been on the tour, this set was obviously phony. No one could get into the press elevator from the lobby with them. Bill spends part of the evening searching for his namesake, but makes sure he sees the show. We've all made good friends with him, such good friends that he spends his backstage time with us, instead of the more important people. It's only fair: I'd gotten to like him.

Events begin to melt into impressions as the show's beginning nears. Describable happenings become images jotted into a notebook. Before the trend of continuity is lost, a few facts should be noted. I watched Stevie Wonder's set in the company of Bill Morrison. I have volunteered to help stand in front of the stage when the Stones come on, mostly out of a desire to be near whatever action the evening held.

Bill gets tired after the first set, and at an instant when I am cornered by Chip Monck, he simply leaves. He had wandered off twice before, but he'd always come back, and each time he'd only gone to the bathroom. But this time he seems to have made his escape. There are other things to worry about.

I am handed $30 by Chip Monck and told to go to Haymarket's wholesale flower shop and come back with "six or eight dozen carnations or something, any kind of corn flower, that we can crush and make into throwable petals, and at least four dozen roses, I don't care where they've been, just any four dozen roses." I have half an hour; it's 9:30.

I catch the first cab I see; it is the one that nearly hit me coming our of the Garden onto Causeway St. The cab driver is a trifle taken back, but once he knows where I've come from, he warms up considerably. "What about that Jagger fella? Y'know I usta get sing in a band, a ways back. Usta get laid twenty times a night." The proprietors of the flowers shop are helpful. Particularly when it becomes apparent that six or eight dozen flowers wouldn't be nearly enough. I decide to spend the whole thirty dollars, and come away with a beautiful assortment of blue and yellow daisies, as well as the carnations and the roses, and some interesting glances as I make my way past the cops and back into the Garden.

Impressions: from the front of the Garden, the first thing you see in the middle of a show is that the haze climbs halfway to the roof and then stops. Before Bill disappeared, we toured the lobby; people were still coming in, they seemed quite ordinary, subjected to two ticket screenings, by the cops, the ticket takers, and further scrutiny at each section entrance. There was a painted Jagger look alike in the east corridor, with two ladies near a popcorn counter. People had reformed the same knots as they had before the show, union men here, roadies over by the stage, Charlie Daniels, Jane and Charlie's lady on an equipment trunk by the Stones dressing room. The whole area quieted considerably; there was an air of business as usual, and rock and roll was pushed into the background.

An audacious 12 year old, claiming "Stevie knows me," had just successfully talked his way into the Wonderlove dressing room. He was Jane's charge; Jane, it seems, has a fatal weakness for children, she made sure he was taken into the dressing room personally.

Out front, the place looked like the Stanley Cups. Banners, some claiming that Chestnut Hill loves Mick were draped over balcony walls, and somebody's mother's good sheets had been emblazoned with the bold crudity of the Rolling Stones' tongue logo. The front row had purposely been placed within three feet of a six foot stage. It was apparent that no one there would see anything, but the theory was to cut off potential space for crowding right in front of the stage. I also elected to make friends with the five people seated directly in front of me. They'd make a dandy obstacle.

The aisles began to fill between sets. And the cops cleared them hydraulically, by simply pushing on the front two people in the aisle until everybody had begun to move back. People were remarkably cooperative, as we cruised the aisles afterward suggesting that people go back to their seats, and not linger in the aisles. I ran into one kid quite obviously on the wrong end of some Seconal who wanted to tell me that he, personally, was going to try for the stage.

Once the delay got noticeable, I wandered over to Roger to suggest that somebody say something to the people, as they were beginning to get restless. (A general rule to thumb: the natives are restless when they start that rhythmic clapping.) He'd thought precisely the same thing and was on his way to get Chip Monck, who, admirably, elected to tell the truth, or most of it, at the time.

What had happened is known now. I can verify its effectiveness. The credit goes to whoever asked the Mayor to make a personal plea for cooperation.

As the combination of events--the bust of the group, and the problems in the South End--began to register, I felt a momentary feeling of claustrophobia, the knowledge that the whole city was falling apart, and here I was to see the Rolling Stones; the insulation was frightening. At any rate, Chip Monck's near-continuous status reports--NASA style--were instrumental in keeping a possibly nasty crowd occupied.

My friends in the first row typified most of the crowd--patient, and for the most party happy to be in the Garden for such an historic event. They'd been assured the band was coming, and they believed. What became a three hours wait, seemed so much shorter.

At 12:45 the Stones hit the stage, and thinking became instinct. I had an aisle with four others, and we'd immediately made friends with the first layer of people in the aisle: they became a civilian buffer zone. There was no need to push them, just brace an arm or a foot on the stage, and hold your ground. Because there was no pushing, only the jostling of 100 people, packed in a space for 20, trying to get some air. There was friendly camaraderie all the way around, and I was happy because I could see the show.

My seconal freak turned up in mid-set. He'd done some more and could hardly stand up. I couldn't quite keep my body between him and the stage, and he made his first jump, while simultaneously passing out. Doug took him out, talked to him, and brought him back, "Humor him, he's really wrecked, and he's not going to hurt anybody." Fifteen minutes later, he had called me everything he could think of, had tried to get a boost onto the stage, and been pulled back, had tried to punch me out, and had altogether made a nuisance of himself. Once he grabbed my midsection, I suggested we take him out, but we humored him until he tried to punch out two very large people next to him. Then we took him out, four of us because he was heavy. The only thing I regret was that we gave him to the police. He was our only problem, except smashed toes.

Images: from the stage, there are only remembered pictures, the knowledge that Jagger pads his crotch: the star on his forehead, virtually invisible; a smiling Don Law, basking in a successful how, as I passed through the backstage area with a case of the dry heaves from the heat in front of the stage; the Jagger-Richard duets; quick glances around the Garden, with the balcony looking like another, calmer, world removed from the chaos downstairs; a rear stage view, with Chip Monck's arm slashes cueing the crew in the split second of a chord change.

There are final impressions, the girls who fainted during the second song, and missed the rest of the show; Mick Taylor playing slashing leads without breaking expression; the complete imperturbability, or musicians, a fire-cracker went off not thirty feet from the stage, not a chord missed; finally, a last image of Jagger's complete exhaustion at the concert's end.

I got home at four o'clock Wednesday morning. The exhilaration had just started to wear off. A letter from our mutual friend, Anne, was waiting on my bed, and the Rolling Stones were singing "Happy" on the radio

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