Sunday, May 15, 2016

Cornerstones Of Rock

I'm sure that some of you out there are thinking that this is the story that just won't go away!!!

But I just HAD to run these comments that I received from Ron Onesti, President and CEO of Onesti Entertainment, owner and master of ceremonies nightly at The Arcada Theatre and also the host of the "Cornerstones Of Rock" Pledge Drive held on WTTW.

Ron brings up some good points in his dissertation which we will address at the end ... so please hear him out as the guy who was right there in the thick of it as this was all happening ...   

Hey Kent,  

I seem to be in the middle of quite the controversy!  

The Cornerstones of Rock project is one that evolved quite quickly.  The Soundstage / BMG people came up with a show that would pique the interest of PBS and have the potential of being broadcast around the country.  The bands involved would then be able to increase their tour dates exponentially.  The two organizations worked hard to make it all happen within a short window of time.  The last piece of the puzzle they needed was the live concert element, and that is when I was brought into the project, to produce those "extravaganzas of talent" on stage. 

Being a part of it from the beginning, I can tell you that there were many, many moving parts here.  And our time frame was such that it was a massive undertaking to create the final product. 

I am not speaking on behalf of Soundstage / BMG or WTTW in any way.  I just know that everybody involved had sincere intentions on producing nothing but a high quality product, as I seek to do with the live performances.  I do believe in my heart and from what I know factually, that providing the best possible product both on TV and on the DVD / CD was the utmost intention of all parties involved.   

And, as I am sure you know, this project has opened the world back up for many of the artists who are participating.  It has been nothing but an awesome experience to see these guys all together, holding their heads up high, as they all deserve to do.  

The project gave us lasting life-moments for fans of the 60s:  

A final performance from our buddy Gary Loizzo from The American Breed ...  

It brought together the two great Buckinghams' voices past and present, Dennis Tufano and Carl Giammarese, with the rest of the fabulous Buckinghams ...    

It had Ronnie Rice rejoin the New Colony Six for a spell ... 

It reunited Tom Doody, James Fairs and Jimmy Pilster from the Cryan' Shames in a way that had with it so much pride ...  

It showcased the immense versatility of Jim Peterik and the Ides of March, who backed most of the other bands as well as killing it with their own hits ...  

It put a spotlight on another legend of Garage Rock in Chicago, Ted Aliotta, from Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah and the song "Lake Shore Drive" ...  

And despite whatever happened with regards to The Shadows Of Knight's Jimy Sohns and "Gloria" on the DVD / CD, the project has given Jimy new levels of excitement anticipating the potential live shows around the country, fueling his desire to come back from a recent stroke, stronger than ever.   

And yes, it made WTTW a lot of money.  

But I see that as a good thing.  

First of all, regardless of the methods to their fundraising madness, nobody can argue about the tremendously high quality of programming that is, and always has been, prevalent on WTTW.  

From Sesame Street to all the Soundstage performances, Channel 11 has always been the place I have gone to for some of my favorite programs for me and my family.  The success of the fundraising drives on WTTW was essential in the project going national, and giving these legendary performers the opportunity to continue to foster their careers.  They have stepped up and put us in touch with stations around the country and actually helped facilitate negotiations with no financial gain for themselves.  PBS is a complex animal, and without the guidance of WTTW, the national initiative just would not happen.  Yes, it NEEDED to be successful on WTTW for the ultimate benefit of the performers (and us fans too, of course)!    

I do not work for WTTW, and do not receive a penny from WTTW ... same with Soundstage ... so I have no reason to defend anybody ... and I truly am not doing that.  I am telling you like it is, as I saw it.  Whatever perceived "negative" elements happened with the DVD was truly unintentional.  I truly know that the turnaround time of the project was a factor of any challenges the project faced.

Not being able to secure the rights for "Gloria" and "Louie Louie" was the reason for not including the tracks on the DVD / CD.       

I know the word "defrauded" was thrown around out there, and this is what really made me write to you.  WTTW, Soundstage / BMG and Onesti Entertainment Corporation are not going away anytime soon, and any thought of defrauding ANYBODY was just not of any intention of any of the parties.  Conversely, the intention was actually to give the fans a great dose of Garage Rock Legends, and not to minimize the concept in any way.  

I am not here to make excuses or deflect any sour feelings.  I am a fan, too!  The fans have spoken, and I think they will be heard.  I am not sure if the parties involved plan on doing anything about it at this time, but I promise you that I will try my best to help facilitate some resolve with this.  I have spoken to the Soundstage / BMG people about this and they have assured me that this is not over and that they are strongly pursuing the rights to the omitted songs.   

It sincerely breaks my heart that such a wonderful project would have any level of a "black eye" associated with it.  And as I see people out there questioning the intentions and the sincerity of the parties involved, I just had to say something.  
You KNOW what a fan I am of Forgotten Hits, and that I also look to you for guidance and support so that this project can flourish and give the showmen involved the opportunities and notoriety they all so much deserve.

Again, this is just me talkin'!    
RON ONESTI, President/CEO 
The Onesti Entertainment Corporation
The Arcada Theatre
The Chicago Music Hall of Fame   
Thanks, Ron ... I was hoping someone from "the inside" would share some perspective on this.  (We have yet to hear a WORD from anybody connected with WTTW which, unfortunately, just adds fuel to the fire when one considers that they don't want to address the fact that they misrepresented the product they were collecting money for.)

I couldn't agree with you more that the event itself should not be tainted in any way.  None of the artists who participated in this project should walk away with "a black eye" ... I believe that I would be unchallenged in stating that EVERY person who was fortunate enough to attend the original taping, watch the televised broadcast, view the DVD or catch these guys at any of the post-show follow-up concert would agree 100% that this was an AMAZING event that captured all of our local heroes in a most positive way.   

It was SO inspirational to see artists like The Ides Of March, The New Colony Six, The Cryan' Shames, The Buckinghams, The Shadows Of Knight, The American Breed and others set aside their differences (some that have spanned decades) and make the whole night about the music ... and nothing BUT the music ... and that ALL of this has now been preserved for future viewings and enjoyment whenever we want ... seriously, what could be more awesome than that?

The fact that these guys are now continuing to perform and tour together in support of the show ... and the INCREDIBLE music they created back in the day ... is a dream come true, especially for a guy like me (and a forum like Forgotten Hits), who has LOVED and supported this music and these artists since the time we first heard it all those years ago.  These guys truly are our "Local Heroes" ... so, as such, you won't find a bigger or prouder fan.

The DVD becomes the permanent "keepsake" of this event ... and, as you said, in just the very short time post-taping we've already had to deal with a couple of VERY unfortunate events such as the death of Gary Loizzo (who sounded GREAT that night in his last-ever performance of The American Breed's #1 Hit "Bend Me, Shape Me") and the stroke of Jimy Sohns (who we hear is doing great and will be back up on stage for the September show at The Arcada).  There was nothing better or more exciting than viewing ALL of the "special moments" you mentioned like the reuniting of several guys who currently have to bill themselves as "former members of" The Cryan' Shames, The Buckinghams and The New Colony Six performing side by side with some of the original band members still carrying on the name.  It's nothing short of a dream come true from my perspective ... and, I would venture to say, also of ALL of the folks who donated money to WTTW and PBS to preserve this very special moment for all time.   

But please understand that this is why WTTW's handling of this has irked and irritated so many people.  Simply put, they didn't deliver what they promised.

I absolutely believe that, as you stated, everybody coming into this project had the sincerest intention of providing viewers and potential subscribers with the best possible product and "extras" discussed throughout the broadcasts.  Otherwise, why would potential subscribers have been told throughout the broadcast that "in addition to the program you're watching right now", subscribers would be receiving bonus performances along with behind the scenes / fly on the wall interviews not shown during the original televised presentation.  The problem is, they didn't follow through on that promise ... so folks who sent in money didn't get ANY of these so-called "extras" promoted throughout the pledge drive (save the unaired tribute to Chase ... which came at the expense of "Gloria" and "Louie, Louie", the Top Two Garage Band Anthems of All Time).

Even WTTW's official statement in response to our original posting only mentions the licensing difficulty of securing the rights to "Gloria" and the "hot mess" recording of "Louie Louie", neither of which were addressed or explained in the advertisements or packaging ... and both of which were only mentioned when put under pressure for an explanation without apology ... what about all those other "extras" they promised such as songs performed but not televised and more of the numerous interviews?  How do they explain not including these features?   

The plain and simple fact is that they promised one thing and delivered another ... and then went ahead took the money anyway ... which (like it or not) can only be described as a fraudulent practice ... intentional or otherwise ... and certainly NOT the kind of thing you'd EVER expect from a Public Broadcasting Station, whose very survival is so dependent on funds raised by their subscribers.  As stated in Forgotten Hits the other day, it's now all become a matter of trust.  The only deserved "black eye" falls on their complete mishandling of this project after the fact ... the original intentions of ALL parties concerned was commendable at the absolute highest level for all of the reasons you describe in your dissertation ... but, at the risk of sounding like Chet Coppock, what WTTW did is run 99 yards for a touchdown and then fumble on the one yard line.

And THIS is why fans are outraged ... NOT because of the performers or the event ... we couldn't be prouder of these guys ... the follow-up shows have been complete sell-outs ... the music is back on the radio again ... this PROVES that all of these best intentions were destined for complete success.  Every one connected with this event should be patting themselves and each other on the back for a job well done ... this should have been a complete success story ... yet all of this seems tainted now because WTTW didn't finish the job they set out to do and didn't deliver the product that they promised they would.  The people who have taken the time to write in to complain have expressed nothing but the highest regard for the program itself ... but these same people who sent in their money in good faith are pissed because of the way it was handled ... and that black eye falls squarely on WTTW and no one else. 

They need to make this right ... this clearly isn't going away, as evidenced here every time we try to wrap things up and more letters continue to arrive.

Maybe it's as simple as putting together a bonus disk and sending a copy to everyone who has already subscribed ...  and then offering ALL of the available merchandise through the website and the rebroadcasts of the program ... sell them in the lobbies at the live shows ... just SOME showing of good faith to offer a "corrective action" that will please the fans and generate more money for the station in future sales.  In my book, that's called a win / win.  Hell, I'll even offer to help them assemble the new disc to insure that the material is handled properly ... and then promote the heck out of it on the website.  

Include the performances missing from the telecast due to time constraints ... pop in more vintage video of these artists and intercut them with current interviews remembering what it was like back in the day ... who knows, by then we might even be able to get the clearance rights needed to include "Gloria" and "Louie Louie", along with some of the great pledge drive breaks banter that went on between you and the artists ... that was as entertaining as the show itself!!!   

But until they do something ... some gesture of good faith to make amends ... the bad press this end game fiasco has created isn't likely to go away ... and that puts the ball squarely in WTTW's court.
Kent Kotal
Forgotten Hits