The power of exhibitionists


It was a moment of clarity, right there in the grandstand at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the road trip in my Super Bee that you’ll read about on page 40 of this issue. I was with staffer Mike Finnegan when Ed “The Outlaw” Jones rolled into the beams in his Candyland Stage. Moments later, Finnie was giggling like a 10-year-old and I was dumbfounded to learn he’d never before seen a wheelstander in person. Noise, fire, Jelly Belly-scented exhaust, and a fiberglass stagecoach with a blown Chevy, shooting magnesium sparks for well over a quarter mile. Finnegan was contagiously tickled.


And I felt super jaded. At 43 years old, half my life has been spent in magazine work and at dragstrips nationwide. Wheelstanders have always been fun, but they hardly put a lump in my throat anymore, at least they hadn’t for decades until that moment in Vegas. The tarnish came off, and I realized the Candyland Stage had been a significant automotive inspiration in my life. I was transported back to my earliest days at Ontario Motor Speedway, Pomona, or most often Orange County International Raceway, where I’d talk my dad into taking me to see 64 Funny Cars, or even the Fox Hunt. I loved the cars, but it was the wheelstanders that made me run to the grandstands, and they were the ones I hunted for in the pits. I remember the Backup Pickup, the Little Red Wagon, the Hurst Hemi Under Glass, and the Knott’s Berry Wagon, but the Candyland Stage was my favorite. Maybe it was because Jones would throw pounds of Jolly Ranchers into the stands after each ran, just as he now does with Jelly Bellys. Even in my late teens when I was more likely to press flesh against the chain links for fuel Funny Cars and when I was obligated to appear too cool for kid stuff, that wheelstander still put a grin on my face.


I was sad to realize those memories had worn off, so when we spotted Ed Jones in the pits, I made a point to shake his hand and tell him about my job and how he’d inspired me to love drag racing and cars in general. The last time I’d spoken to the guy was something like 30 years ago, and I was pleased to learn what an affable man he still is–clearly not as dulled as I, and still in love with what he does. His fiberglass stagecoach has had chassis upgrades over the years but is essentially the same car I’d loved as a kid.

Think of drag racing s living legends–Garlits, Prudhomme, Grumpy, Shirley, Glidden, and so on. Now imagine them at the same level they were three decades ago, with the same car, happy about it, and with total approachability. That’s Ed Jones today, and while he may not have been an innovator like those others, the only reason his name isn’t in the textbooks is that he runs exhibition rather than a “real” race car. But, in reflection, he and his jet-car-running, wheelstanding peers may have made a bigger contribution to drag racing over the years. Without thrilling the little kids, there are no too-cool teens at the strip who become the dads in the grandstands, the racers of tomorrow, or even the hardened magazine editors. And minus the fans in the stands, the sportsman racers, and the media, there are no John Forces, Larry Dixons, or Greg Andersons.

But at that same event in Las Vegas, I saw hardly any kids in the crowd. They were probably home watching car crashes on You-Tube. Just today, my own 3-year-old whined to come home from a swap meet so he could look at cars on CraigsList (CraignList is always my favorite choice to purchase household stuffs – things like: affordable coffee maker, best air compressor, cheap vacuums, etc) which he will do for hours. I’m a bad influence with that, to be sure, but I also took him to the boat drags last weekend and out four-wheeling yesterday, and I’ll bring him to the Pomona Swap Meet tomorrow. He’ll never go on a road trip with a video player in his hand. I think it’s important to get him away from the computer and into the real world of sights and sounds.

If you’re with me, then think of a gearhead who inspired you, and take your kid to meet him. I hope Ed Jones is still in action by the time my kid is old enough to remember me doing just that.

The Palestine festival of literature

PalFest 2013 was my first introduction to both Palestine and to working on a literary festival. Together with the festival producer, I spent some three weeks traveling the West Bank to lay the groundwork for the week-long event. I knew from the start that the experience would leave a deep impression on me, but I could not have anticipated the extent of it.


PalFest was started in 2007 with the aim of supporting cultural life in Palestine by bringing international writers and artists to the West Bank to put on workshops, readings, and performances alongside Palestinian artists. For Palestinians, travel within the West Bank and Jerusalem is complicated and in many cases impossible due to Israeli checkpoints, settlements, and other restrictions. Because of this, PalFest travels extensively throughout the West Bank in order to reach audiences. The festival travels the way most Palestinians would travel: it does not take settlement roads between cities, which are exclusively for Israelis. And it’s off the bus, with all the luggage, to walk through checkpoints like everyone else.

The 2013 festival was special because it ran two concurrent wings: in addition to the West Bank events, a separate group of writers and artists went to Gaza. The importance of bringing literature, both in the physical form of books and in writers delivering readings and workshops, to the besieged strip cannot be over-stated. “Gaza, the boring, densely-populated and clich6d enclave that I have cursed countless times in my life and blamed for every misfortune, suddenly looked and tasted different. My sense of dislocation, fragmentation and ultimate discontent that followed was suddenly consolidated and reconciled,” PalFest’s Gaza co-ordinator Rana Baker wrote of the experience.

Areas of conflict often become monotone in our imagination; the conflict dominates our perceptions of a place, and therefore our expectations of it. This makes travel to, and cultural engagement with, Palestine all the more valuable to the visitor–we have a chance not only to witness the occupation for ourselves, but to see the life and culture that exists all around it, in spite of it.


The cultural engagement PalFest strives for extends beyond the formal events and linkages created between artists. In the daytime, participants toured historical and cultural sites, from Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock to the much less visited Old City of Hebron, shut down and divided in one of the most painful and acute manifestations of the occupation. As we walked through streets surrounded by barbed wire and with a palpable tension in the air, residents explained their efforts to rehabilitate and revitalize the historic heart of one of the oldest inhabited areas of the world.

We spent time in Ramallah, a former summer resort turned administrative capital of the Palestinian Authority, which still feels like a getaway of sorts, with its breezy weather and popular nightlife. It felt like worlds away from Nablus, a more conservative city of industry, with wonderful markets and a legacy of armed resistance.

In this way, mobility is integral to the diversity of experiences, interactions, and audiences it allows the festival to reach. It is also a symbolic and physical triumph over the distorted geography created by the occupation, and the resulting isolation of parts of the West Bank from each other and from the world.

Freedom of movement is something no one in Palestine takes for granted. One participant, then a resident of Hebron, traveled with us to Haifa and Akka (Acre). It was the first time she had received permission to cross the border between the West Bank and Israel. At the ancient harbor in Acre, she saw the Mediterranean Sea for the first time. It reminded me of something an audience member at the event in Ramallah had said to me earlier in the week: “The sea, for us, is a thing of our imagination. It is there but we cannot see it or reach it.”

On the last day of the festival, Raja Shehada read to us from his Palestinian Walks after taking us on a hike through the hills around Ramallah, where he has lived for most of his life. I took in our surroundings, hills covered in silver-tipped olive trees and rich earth, as we listened to Raja read and reflected on the different meanings and attachments our surroundings can hold for us. I thought about how this informs and influences people who write literature, and how literature, in return, allows us to imagine difference. It can let us know one another, and this is ultimately what PalFest is about.

Famous fest casts a golden showbiz glow


HOLLYWOOD It is perhaps no accident that, for the world, the two defining images of the Cannes Film Festival are of topless girls on the beach and of people in formal attire crowding in to attend a movie. The contrast between these impressions expresses the many polarities and paradoxes that the festival manages to accommodate, and summarizes the basic instincts as well as the high art aspirations that have always driven the festival and the cinema itself.

Art vs. commerce, first-time directors competing against legendary figures, revolutionary art presented in a setting of fabulous wealth, Hollywood vs. the rest of the world, masterpieces and abject trash, bleary-eyed critics and salesmen who haven’t even seen the movies they’re selling, rarefied artists and hustlers, titans of the industry and glamorous stars under the same roof with countless wannabes: Cannes takes them all in. Where else would young aspiring actors Robert Redford and Gerard Depardieu, at different times, travel to and sleep on the beach just to get near the action? Where else do so many people race off at 8:30 in the morning, and sometimes fight to get in, to see a three-hour picture that may never play to a full house again? Where else, as a 20-year-old student and beginning critic, would I have had the occasion to share fraises chantilly on the beach with Candice Bergen in the afternoon and a four-hour dinner with William Wyler that night? Where, in the final analysis, is the cinema d’auteur as alive and well as it remains in Cannes?

Cannes, at 50, is not the oldest film festival in the world, but it is, and has been for quite some time, the most famous. Surviving enormous up-heavals in the global film industry, changing tastes, political disruptions, artistic controversies and the challenges of countless other younger festivals around the world, Cannes has indisputably remained the preeminent film event in the world. Virtually throughout its history, Cannes has been the place, more than any other, where talents are discovered, reputations are made and deals are done, where someone can arrive a nobody and depart a star, where Hollywood began mixing with the rest of the cinematic world, where the true internationalization of film took place. Cannes has been the place where film as business and film as art form have most conspicuously commingled, with the art usually carrying the day by a whisker.

Although the initial Cannes Film Festival took place in 1946, it officially came into being seven years earlier, if for only one night. The first film festival in the world, in Venice, had been launched in 1932, but as Mussolini and then the Nazis increasingly came to dominate that event, culminating in a refusal to give the top award to Jean Renoir’s pacifist-minded “La Grande Illusion” in 1938, the French decided to counter with their own event celebrating international cinema. It went down to the wire whether Cannes, a favorite Mediterranean resort of royalty and the wealthy, or Biarritz, on the Atlantic, would host it, but when the Cannes city fathers agreed to construct a Palais to house the gathering, the fest was theirs.

Anchors aweigh

The first edition was scheduled for the first three weeks of September in 1939. An illustrious “steamship of stars” set sail from the U.S. bearing such Hollywood celebrities as Gary Cooper, Mae West, Tyrone Power, Norma Shearer, George Raft, Douglas Fairbanks and Constance Bennett, as well as the French-Americans Annabella and Charles Boyer. The studios further cooperated by sending some 10 titles, including “The Wizard Of Oz,” “Golden Boy” and “Each Dawn I Die,” while Great Britain, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Belgium and, of course, France were the other scheduled participants; Louis Lumiere, no less, was honorary president of the jury. But on the very day the festival was to begin, Sept. 1, Hitler invaded Poland. With a giant replica of Notre Dame Cathedral rising from the beach, the opening-night film, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” with Charles Laughton, was shown, whereupon the rest of the fest was canceled, eclipsed by world events.

When the festival was revived in the year following war’s end, the venue was the town’s old Municipal Casino. On opening night, where the guests included Erich von Stroheim, Marcel Dalio, Jean-Pierre Aumont and Maria Montez, Grace Moore sang “La Marseillaise” to the accompaniment of fireworks over the port. That first year, 44 films from 18 nations were entered, with Rossellini’s “Rome, Open City” emerging as the first among 11 equals sharing the Grand Prize.

Heavy taxes imposed to finance the construction of the $700,000 Palais, on the site of the old Cercle Nautique, created considerable resentment among the Cannois toward the festival. Rushed to completion in three months’ time, the Palais was ready for opening night, but the “temporary” roof blew off when the first mistral hit; the finished Palais was not officially inaugurated until 1949.

Serious international films were the order of the day, but the festival in the early years was a very elite, relatively relaxed affair given intellectual distinction by the likes of Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre but often dominated by such non-film personalities as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, partygiver Elsa Maxwell, the Aga Khan, his wife, the Begum, and their playboy son Aly Khan, whose marriage to Rita Hayworth in Cannes in 1949 capped a Riviera romance that would be eclipsed by an even more star-crossed wedding seven years later.

A few basics about Cannes that even many longtime festgoers don’t know: 1997 marks the 50th edition of the event because no festival was held in 1948 or 1950 due to economic problems; the festival was held in September through the 1940s, in direct competition with Venice, but has taken place in May since 1951; the festival’s top award was known as the “Grand Prix” until 1955, when it was renamed the “Palme d’Or”; the annual budget of the festival by the mid-1990s hit $6 million, with half coming from the French state and the other half derived from various city and regional governments as well as some professional groups; in 1946, some 300 people officially registered to attend the festival, compared to 5,000 in 1966 and 28,672 in 1996; and in 1966, 700 journalists received accreditation, whereas 3,867 (including TV technicians) were approved in 1996.

Most important, however, is the fact that, until 1972, the films entered in the festival were submitted by the participating nations themselves (much as the foreign-language film Oscar candidates are determined), not selected by the festival staff. This process resulted in choices that were made often for political, propaganda and inscrutable internecinereasons. That’s one reason Cannes became one of the many fronts on which the Cold War was fought, particularly in the 1950s, when the American Sixth Fleet often was anchored in the harbor during festival time, while the Soviets constantly put on a human face to promote the virtues of communism; they also scored a major coup by winning the Palme d’Or in 1958 with “The Cranes Are Flying.”

Taking the selection process into its own hands — a move initiated by Maurice Bessy when he assumed the key position of “general delegate” (essentially, festival director) from Robert Favre Le Bret, who had run the event since 1952 — was only the most significant of several key decisions that spurred Cannes to develop in ways that caused it to far surpass the other two international festivals that were essentially its equals in importance through the late 1960s, Venice and Berlin. In terms of public perception, Cannes was always more alluring and glamorous from the moment in 1954 that French starlet Simone Sylva approached Robert Mitchum during a big press luncheon and dropped her bra, causing a photographers’ delight that fixed a certain image of Cannes in the public’s eye once and for all.


Cannes certainly also enjoyed the advantages of a romantic, enormously scenic setting; the presence of countless American filmmakers who, for one reason or another, largely abandoned Hollywood during the 1950s and 1960s in favor of Europe; and the publicity generated by the fabled romance between Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco that started during the festival in 1955 and culminated in the lavish royal wedding held during the fest the following year.

To this day, in fact, Cannes retains an aristocratic, rather formal aura due to its legacy, the nature of its host country and the very character of the men who run it: At what other festival are evening movie audiences required to dress in black tie? In the late 1950s, the festival was regarded by some as far too elitist and not willing or able to promote the best international cinema. So extreme were some of the French attacks on the festival that one of the country’s most vitriolic critics, Francois Truffaut, was banned from Cannes in 1958, only to return the following year to win the director prize for his first feature, “The 400 Blows.”

But what initially set Cannes on a different course from other important festivals, and ultimately forged its bifurcated character, was the establishment of the Marche du Film, or International Film Market. Inaugurated in 1959 in one screening room under a tent on the roof of the old Palais, it soon spread to backstreet local cinemas around the Rue d’Antibes and provided a nascent forum for the buying and selling that at times have threatened to overwhelm the discussion of artistic matters on the Croisette. That the festival would permit this at all constituted a provocation to some of the more high-minded participants, who fretted that the event was sullied and downgraded by the presence of crass salesmen and pictures of dubious merit. Some saw it otherwise, as a way for offbeat and perhaps marginal films without sufficient pedigree to see the light of a projector’s lamp. In philosophical terms, the introduction of the market was a frank admission of the unavoidably two-pronged nature of motion pictures themselves, as an art form that, more than any other, requires significant economic support to survive.

All the same, the Marche remained a low-key, marginal event through the 1960s, when the only official sidebar to the Official Selection was the Critics’ Week, established in 1962.

These were exciting years for Cannes and the international cinema at large. Although Cannes audiences didn’t always recognize a landmark film when they saw one — the Palais echoed with boos when “L’avventura” was first shown — this was the era of Fellini, Visconti, Antonioni, Bunuel, Bergman, Bresson, Demy, Varda, Ray, Germi, Olmi, Anderson, Lester, Reisz, Losey, Lelouch, dos Santos, Rocha, Teshigahara, Kobayashi, Ichikawa, Saura, Munk, Menzel, Chukhrai, Widerberg, Forman, Jancso, Costa-Gavras and Tarkovsky. Just a few of the immortal films that premiered at Cannes in those years were “La Dolce Vita,” “8 1/2,” “The Eclipse,” “Viridiana,” “The Exterminating Angel,” “Ballad of a Soldier,” “The Virgin Spring,” “The Trial of Joan of Arc,” “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” “Cleo From 5 to 7,” “The Innocents,” “Devi,” “Divorce Italian Style,” “This Sporting Life,” “The Leopard,” “The Knack,” “The Fiances,” “Vidas Secas,” “Black God White Devil,” “The Soft Skin,” “Woman in the Dunes,” “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Birds,” “Kwaidan,” “Chimes at Midnight,” “A Man and a Woman,” “Morgan!,” “Mouchette,” “Accident,” “Blow-Up,” “The Shop on Main Street,” “Elvira Madigan,” “War and Peace.” “Antonio Das Mortes,” “if…,” “Z” and “Easy Rider.”

Cannes’ success did not make it impervious to the political upheavals that hit all of France during the events of May 1968. With such directors as Godard, Truffaut, Resnais, Lelouch and Berri leading the charge, the festival was forced to close halfway through, and the French general strike left festgoers stranded and scrambling for ways over the border into Italy, or content to just wait things out on the Croisette.

What could have marked the end of Cannes instead provoked it to reform; paradoxically, the festival emerged from this convulsion stronger than ever, since organizers responded to demands to open the proceedings to more experimental and radical filmmakers by permitting the creation of La Quinzaine des Realisateurs (Directors’ Fortnight), a sort of alternative event concurrent to the Official Selection that, under the direction of Pierre-Henri Deleau, for some years yielded exciting and numerous discoveries of new talent, including Wenders, Jarmusch and Spike Lee, and now often competes for some of the same films with the main event.

In 1970, the U.S. Sixth Fleet was back in the Cannes harbor, on its way to a Middle Eastern hot spot, and so were the American filmmakers. Wearing black armbands to protest the Kent State shootings and the bombing of Cambodia, Robert Altman with “MASH,” which became the first American film to win the Palme d’Or since 1957, and Michael Wadleigh with “Woodstock” led the charge for what was to become a decade of Four more U.S. films–“Scarecrow,” “The Conversation,” “Taxi Driver” and “Apocalypse Now”–won the Palme through the end of the 1970s.

During this period, the festival virtually exploded. After a period in the early 1970s as a hotbed of porno, the market finally took on a life of its own as a teeming cinematic bazaar for buyers and sellers, as well as a place for buffs to search for diamonds in the rough. Further expanding the festival, organizers inaugurated the “Perspectives du Cinema Francais” (now called “Cinemas en France”) to showcase contemporary French films. And when film critic Gilles Jacob took the reins of the festival in 1978, one of his first acts was to reorganize the Official Selection and launch the sidebar Un Certain Regard to include films for which there was no room in the Competition and partly, some felt, to steal some of the thunder from the Directors’ Fortnight.

All of these developments demonstrated that, even if it took threatening events to jolt it, the festival was responsive to the need to change, and served to make Cannes much larger and stronger at a time when Venice, its chief competitor for the title of most prestigious festival, fell into political and organizational chaos. The Berlin Film Festival, the other biggest competitive event in Europe, also experienced some bumpy times, leaving Cannes indisputably alone at the top of the heap.

Star-studded events

Nor did Cannes lack for stellar events from the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s that continued to confirm its status as the mecca of the cinema world: The homages to Charles Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Groucho Marx; the tumultuous arrival of Francis Ford Coppola for the world premiere of “Apocalypse Now”; the abandoning, and eventual demolition, of the old Palais in favor of the new bunker; the overwhelming world premiere of Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.”; the ascendancy of American independent cinema with back-to-back-to-back Palme d’Or victories by Steven Soderbergh’s “sex, lies, and videotape,” David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart” and the Coen brothers’ “Barton Fink,” followed three years later by Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”; and then the first woman, Jane Campion, and first Chinese, Chen Kaige, to win the Palme d’Or.

Cannes has served as the first port of entry for many films from such previous cinematic backwaters as China, the Philippines, Yugoslavia, Australia, Iran and numerous Third World nations; at the same time, it has provided a stage for the likes of Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Madonna. It has also become, with its enormous size, many festivals in one: A haven for buyers and sellers that has not been diminished by the advent of Mifed and the American Film Market; a conclave for industry bigwigs cloistered at the Hotel du Cap; the most essential stop of the year for critics and other festival heads needing to stay abreast of cinematic developments; and a place where outsized showmen, from Samuel Z. Arkoff and Lew Grade to Menahem Golan and Harvey Weinstein, can pontificate and make their biggest splash of the year.

Since the 1970s at least, Cannes frequently has been referred to as a zoo or a circus; for anyone seriously working the festival, it produces two weeks of bleary-eyed exhaustion, the two weeks of the year after which you seriously need a vacation when your non-industry friends think you’ve just had a vacation at the movies and on the beach. In 1994, for example, there were 75 films presented in all selective categories of the festival; with another 435 titles surfacing in the market, this made for 510 films total. The best I could manage one year was 50 films, an average of about four per day, but this is something that only the most avid, or loony, critics and buffs even attempt.

French film fanatics

For Americans, and perhaps for some others as well, Cannes also represents the one time of the year they will be exposed to cinemania in its rawest and most serious state, and the French variety of it at that. This forces even the most mainstream critics and journalists to sample, and even pretend to be versed in, filmmakers and national industries that they may not be exposed to elsewhere, and certainly not often at home. Even though commercial considerations have come into play far more than ever in recent years, Cannes is still a place where films are to be discussed and debated seriously before their box office fates are estimated, and it remains very much the home of that French formulation, the cinema d’auteur.

Pure cinema

Cannes is everything the cinema is: Glamour and rigor, silliness and seriousness, sex and cerebrum, excess and refinement, business and art, the ridiculous and the sublime. It is always too much and, in off years, not enough. It has held on to its position as the most important international film event of the year by retaining a strong sense of its original elitism and discriminating standards while at the same time embracing change and channeling it effectively. It is both competitive but wide open, regal yet available to the most obscure filmmaker provided there is a hint of talent in his or her picture. It is sprawling and utterly unmanageable, yet somehow it works.


The Cannes Film Festival is the most famous event of its kind in the world. Throughout its 50-year history, it has been the place where art and commerce meet and where newcomers are given the opportunity to challenge movie legends.

Festival secures its future


LONDON–All devoted parents have problems letting go of their offspring. Ask pioneering British music-festival organizer Michael Eavis.

His baby is the world-famous, U.K.-based hedonistic Glastonbury Festival, which turns 32 years old in June. The festival’s headliners have included such big names as David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz, and Tom Jones. But recently, it has faced potential closure as a result of crowd-control problems.

On Feb. 13, Eavis agreed to reduce his 100% interest in the festival and hand over a 20% stake to the Mean Fiddler Group (MPG), the U.K. music festival! promoter owned by British entrepreneur Vince Power.

In exchange, according to a joint statement, MPG will “take on the operational management role,” including security, to protect Glastonbury Festival’s future.

But a few days later, Eavis was having second thoughts. He admits to Billboard that the deal, which gave MPG management and operational control, as well as the option to increase its stake to 40% after three years, meant he would lose artistic control.

His reaction was “an emotional sort of thing,” he says. “Glastonbury [Festival] is a very English affair. It’s not just a music festival–it’s part of the youth culture in this country and in the U.S. I wanted to hang on as tightly as possible after more than 30 years. It’s all been resolved now.”

Effectively, MPG has taken a 16% stake in the festival, while the Workers Beer Co., a fundraising organization that operates beer tents at festivals, has taken a 4% share. Profits will be divvied up in those proportions after the festival has made its traditional donations to various charities, such as Oxfam and Greenpeace.

MPG managing director and former Glastonbury Festival employee Melvin Benn will take on the additional role of the festival’s new operations director.

MFG will now handle security and licensing compliance, Eavis explains. “We will still do all the entertainment bits. [Benn’s] involvement is essential and will add value. We can trust him, and that’s why it’s going to work very well.”

Industry observers consider the move an astute one. MPG, an established publicly quoted company that promotes such. major brands as the Reading and Leeds Festivals and the Fleadh in the U.S., will bring much-needed experience.

In 2000, Glastonbury Festival was fined [pounds sterling]6,000 ($8,700) and asked to pay [pounds sterling]9,000 ($13,000) in costs after an estimated 100,000 non-ticket-h gate-crashed an event that already had 140,000 legitimate spectators.

The resulting havoc became a serious crowd-safety issue, as fans without tickets entered by breaking down the seven-mile fence surrounding the venue on Eavis’ 1,000-acre Worthy Farm in Somerset, Southwest England.

It was also the same year that nine people were tragically crushed to death at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark (Billboard Bullatin, July 6,2000).

The local Avon & Somerset police force and Mendip District. Council–the local authority that granted the required public-entertainment license–threatened to put a stop to the festival unless security facilities were vastly improved.

Last year’s event was canceled amid ongoing concern from the police and local authorities about audience safety. Eavis instead held a virtual version that was Webcast on the Internet in a joint venture with Play-louder, a U.K. online technology company and a former Glastonbury sponsor.

Eavis has since Spent more than $2 million on a 20-foot-high impenetrable steel barrier designed to keep out non-ticket-holders. By Feb. 26, he says, more than 30,000 tickets had already been sold of the 100,000 available at [pounds sterling]100 ($145) each for this year’s three-day event, to be held June 28-30.

Festival adds promo punch


TORONTO Teenagers cling to the wire fence encircling the Citytv-MuchMusic-Bravo compound, peering across the parking lot at the revelers schmoozing under a large white tent on the second night of the Toronto Intl. Film Festival. “I don’t see anybody famous,” pouts one trendy young woman.

Had she staked out a less conspicuous entry, she would have seen Kevin Spacey being whisked away to the second-floor balcony-cum-VIP lounge that overlooks the throngs below.

William Hurt and Matthew Modine have also bypassed the parking lot party to mingle inside the marbled halls, while Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin are caught by the cameras as soon as they cross the threshold, and broadcast live during the 90-minute, on-air “Festival Schmooze” that marks Citytv’s most significant marketing opportunity.

For director of communications Mary Powers, Citytv’s de facto minister of propaganda, it’s a fabulous chance to introduce another few hundred potential clients and countless TV viewers to hip, alternative Planet Znaimer. Sponsoring the Toronto Film Festival and its Perspective Canada series is Citytv’s most high-profile marketing venture. Powers also uses posters, tours, brochures and any merchandise that can bear a logo. Every morning, when the studio goes dark to make way for syndicated programming, racks of T-shirts, oven mitts, mugs, videos, baseball caps and jackets are wheeled into the foyer, and the Citytv store opens for business.

But the most marketable commodity in the realm of Moses Znaimer is his own ability to offer a paradoxical sense of inclusion and belonging to the very radicals and outcasts who rail at the homogeneity of conventional broadcasting.

Thus the punk-Goth kids who clogged the pavement outside Citytv’s film festival bash can feel part of the scene just by peering through the floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto the street. Others gain entrance through the live television broadcast as camera crews roam the building in search of stars who beam ecstatically and radiate approachability.

Citytv uses interaction as a marketing tool. Squeegee kids, soccer morns and CBS executives have traipsed into the Speaker’s Corner video booth where they can sing the praises of the latest novel or excoriate the provincial Premier. The most provocative rants end up on air.

More than three tours a day bring a total of 50,000 people trooping through the building every year.

“If you can get people in here,” Powers says, “they have an ownership. That’s just as important to us as any advertising we do.”

The 17 members of the marketing department think with one mind: Znaimer’s. “He sees everything,” Powers says. It’s Znaimer’s dictum that all print ads will convey Citytv’s news, phone-in and current event programs with the same image – “up close, local, in your face.” Bus shelter posters show one reporter in dreadlocks and a videographer in leather jackets and tattered jeans.

Every communique is calculated to juxtapose City, MuchMusic and Bravo! style with the staid and authoritative networks.

“We don’t use creative agencies for anything,” Powers says. “If you don’t have control over your image, you’ve lost a big part of what you’re about.”

Even a four-story wall of Citytv’s building is a canvas: The front end of one of the station’s vividly-painted trucks looks to have crashed through the wall on its way to a breaking story. It remains suspended above the street, wheels still spinning.

Citytv’s reporters and videographers are dispatched into the community with instructions to make as much noise as possible. City Hall, the provincial legislature and hospitals are all wired for live broadcasts so that the stations’ newsgatherers can appear ubiquitous.

“To be heard out there, you’ve got to do everything you possibly can,” Powers says. “It’s too easy to lose a momentum or an opportunity.”


Nov. 25, 1971: Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission approves the creation of Channel 79, the first commercial ultra-high frequency outlet in Canada.

Sept. 23, 1972: Channel 79, dubbed Citytv, goes to air, operating out of former disco the Electric Circus.

June 21, 1972: Citytv lands the coveted channel 7 slot on the cable band, displacing a Buffalo station.

October 1972: Citytv airs soft-porn “Baby Blue Movies” late Friday nights, drawing an average audience of 250,000, bigger than anything in the same timeslot.

Sept. 13, 1975: “Boogie,” the forerunner to the dance show “Electric Circus,” is launched.

Dec. 19, 1976: Citytv founders Moses Znaimer, Phyllis Switzer, Edgar Cowan and Jerry Grafstein sell 45% of Channel Seventynine Ltd. to Multiple Access Ltd., a Montreal company controlled by the Bronfman family.

Feb. 9, 1978: Chum agrees to buy the 45% stake from Multiple Access, and gradually acquires 100% over the next two years.

March 10, 1978: The “Baby Blue Movies” are discontinued even though obscenity charges against Citytv are thrown out of court for lack of evidence.

1979: Citytv’s JoJo Chintoh becomes the first black reporter in Toronto.

1983: Citytv’s Debbie Van Kiekebelt becomes Toronto’s first female sportscaster.

Sept. 2, 1984: Canada’s first 24-hour video channel, MuchMusic, hits the airwaves.

April 15, 1988: Sheila Cameron becomes Canada’s first female videographer.

Sept. 5, 1989: Citytv launches its first early morning news and information show, “Breakfast Television.”

July 13, 1994: Bill Gates visits MuchMusic for the first time.

Jan. 1, 1997: Bravo! NewStyleArts Channel is launched.


The Toronto International Film Festival provides an excellent opportunity for Canadian television broadcaster Citytv to promote itself to potential customers and televiewers. The company sponsors the festival.