Friday, August 14, 2009

A Woodstock Memory From One Who Was There

It’s the 40th Anniversary of three days of peace and music and there have been numerous articles, TV pieces, etc to remind you. Being one to jump on the bandwagon, I spoke with my friend Laura Giantonio. Laura has worn many hats in the music business: DJ (in clubs such as the Fast Lane, Hitsville and The Ritz), photographer, band member (The Fabulous Perms) and as a travel agent working solely with musicians and production companies. She attended Woodstock. What strikes me the most about Laura’s recollection and that of others I’ve seen in documentaries is that no one talks about the music as being a front and center part of the experience.

Laura verbalized the feeling and vibe of being there. “It was a party. We all went away to have a party. I was a teenager going to a big festival with a bunch of friends. It was absolutely amazing. It was a love-fest. Everyone was very dirty. You were laying in mud. It was too good to be true. Everyone loved each other. Everyone was smoking pot. Everyone was in La La land. Everybody looked like they had a lobotomy. Everyone smiled at each other. Your parents weren’t around, you were surrounded by weirdos and having fun.”

it was all about a party. Advance tickets for all three days cost $18. Laura still has her ticket some where in her apartment. There is a reprint at of piece that appeared in 1994 in The Times Herald-Record. It’s a blow-by-blow account of how the festival finally got off the ground and then follows through the show to it’s financial aftermath.. This piece explains that the ticket booths were suppose to be delivered to the site, but never make it there due to the backup of traffic on the Thruway. The ticket takers showed up with nothing to do. The gate that was protecting the site finally gave way and the crowd poured in. Some tickets were actually refunded for those who were unable to gain access to the grounds. Not sure how they could verify that as everyone still had their physical tickets in tact, but the promoters refunded 4, 062 tickets.

As I’m sure was the case for most people under 18, Laura’s parents were skeptical about letting their only daughter travel upstate for a three day rock concert. “My father didn’t want me to go, but my mother said all the kids were going. Some kids in the neighborhood were 20, such as Ralph and my parents knew them and to them it was like having a chaperone there.” The TV reports probably made her parents second-guess their decision. “My mother was worried sick. They were showing the helicopters and masses of people on TV.”

Laura grew up in Riverdale. “There were about 20 people from the neighborhood that went. We took an old Voklswagen van that Ralph drove. Others drove too.”
She spent a lot of time at the festival with her friend Lynn Zorman. Laura was there on Friday afternoon before the music started, but wound up with the same fate as all other motorists. “We had to stop the car on the Thruway and walk several miles.” She said they had no idea what to expect. “We didn’t bring a tent. We didn’t bring much”. There were concessions but “you couldn't find anything.” No one really thought about eating. “We were all taking diet pills. We actually stole Larry’s mom’s ups. Nobody cared about food. I was hungry when I got home.”

“The thing I remember most is that there were no toilets. You’d have to pee in the woods, but there were no woods. It was problematic. I had to discard my pants after I peed in them. I rolled my pants up to dry them out by a makeshift campfire. Some guy tripping on the BROWN ACID (she laughs) came wandering over to us, laid down and plopped his head on my pants. He picked his head up briefly and said phewww. I had no idea when he was going leave. I was way too embarrassed to admit they were mine after that, so i left them there. I ended up wearing Ralph’s construction raincoat.”

The bad weather has been well documented and I think it played a big part in the memorializing of the event. “Everyone was very dirty. You were lying in mud. People were jumping off tires and into mud. I ran and slid into mud.”

There were no specific memories of the music. “I remember dancing. I could have been dancing to my own beat. I remember hearing the Who, probably Sha-Na-Na (They performed on Sunday, making it impossible as she left on Sunday morning).

“One of the guys had a car and was going back early so we went back early on Sunday morning. At that point we were soaking wet and covered with mud. Lynn had a blanket throw over her. It was a breeze driving back.. My mom was so happy when I came home early. She threw me in the shower. Lynn ran home to take a shower and let her mom know she was back.” The weekend continued. I had a big crush on Al Cooper. His album I Stand Alone was out then. I loved that song (the title track). .Lynn and I went to see Al Cooper in Central Park that night. I wore a skirt and heels to the show.”

“It was all about a party, having fun and listening to music. This would never happen again. Look at the last one. This was different. There was no racial tension. Everybody was one. It was really cool. Everyone loved each other. It was too good to be true.”

1 comment:

  1. The Phantom Spitter3:51 PM

    Lovely piece -- made me feel like I'd been there (and no, I wasn't).