Peter, Paul & Mary have sung "Blowing in the Wind" before huddled protesters at countless Washington demonstrations.Last night, they sang it again -- for a "non-nuclear world." But this time, the setting was the crimson carpet and crystal chandeliers of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. And this time, the audience was paying up to $10.50 to hear them with George Carlin, Danny O'Keefe and Tom Rush.
The proceeds of their two concerts last night are going to four anti-nuclear groups sponsoring rallies in mid-April. One is the Coalition for a Non-Nuclear World, which hopes to draw "tens of thousands" to its April 26 rally at the Washington Monument. To pay for the telephones, microphones and rented toilets to stage the rally, the coalition turned to the model set by the MUSE concerts in New York.
Last September, MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) put on a week of shows with donated entertainment at Madison Square Garden. Two veterans of those shows, Tom Campbell and Phil Bloom, now work for the Pacific Alliance in Los Angeles, which produces similar shows for anti-nuclear groups.
Campbell and Bloom produced last night's shows, as they have across the country. Campbell just returned from the Three Mile Island anniversary rally in Harrisburg.
"In America, the music community has always been in the vanguard of social change movements," says Campbell, who was once a songwriter and producer in Los Angeles. "I think nuclear power has caught the imagination of American musicians because all other issues pale beside it. This is a black and white issue."
When Campbell first approached the Kennedy Center in January about the show, the political question was referred to the center's governing council, which agreed to approve the show if two conditions were written into the contract: No political proselytizing would be allowed unless it was an integral part of the entertainment, and all advertising had to have a "for mature audiences" warning (prompted by Carlin's prediliction for obscenity).
Political benefits are not unprecedented at the Kennedy Center but they are rare. There have been benefit shows for saving the whales, legalizing marijuana and promoting human rights in Chile. All such shows pay the standard rental fee if approved by the council. According to spokesman Leo Sullivan, the Center will allow issue-oriented benefits that agree to the contract conditions. But they draw the line at benefits for political candidates or parties.
Once Campbell had a date, he and Peter Yarrow -- the first third of the headlining trio -- started calling other artists to see who was willing and available. As the MUSE experience proved, artists are the best recruiters for other artists. "It helps when he's donating his time too. Peter is a great master at it. By the time he's finished his speech about how important this cause is, you haven't got a chance."
Pacific Alliance paid travel and lodging expenses for the four acts, for the rental of the hall and for the sound and lighting, provided at an "expenses and labor" rate by RCI Sound in Silver Spring.
Other expenses included insurance, advertising, printing, piano tuning, taxes, catering and phone bills. Rental for the hall, including union fees, is approximately $7,000 for two shows on one night; other expenses are at least as much. Last night's 10:30 show was added to the schedule last Saturday. According to the promoters if both shows sold out, the gross could be more than $40,000 and the net over $20,000.
Campbell and Bloom will also be producing the entertainment for the April 26 rally. Yarrow and Travers -- but not Paul Stooky -- will be singing with Bonnie Raitt, John Hall, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Pete Seeger, Holly Near, Richie Havens and others.