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Benefit for Africa : Music Festival at Starlight Is Canceled

Times Staff Writer

Burbank officials Tuesday canceled an African benefit music festival scheduled this weekend at the Starlight Amphitheatre, saying the event’s organizers had failed to meet city requirements for using the facility.

Rich Inga, director of the city’s Parks and Recreations Department, said the three-day “You and Me Because We Care” festival was canceled after the promoters asked for another extension on posting a $30,000 bond to help pay for fire and police protection. The promoters also did not secure required city health and safety licenses and had not met with police to make final traffic-control arrangements, Inga said.

‘Not Sufficient Time’

“The promoters asked for additional time, and I felt that the city had more than cooperated with them for a long time,” Inga said. “We were supposed to meet at 11:30 a.m. and they asked to postpone the meeting until later in the day. I just felt that there just is not sufficient time to process the necessary papers, so the concerts will not go on.”

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Promoters of the concerts said after the city’s announcement that they still are determined to stage the concerts this weekend, but at a new location. They said they were looking into the possibility of using several facilities, including the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and the John Anson Ford theater in Hollywood.

Michael Evans Boyd, executive producer of the festival, also accused city officials of racism. Boyd, who is black, said officials had been uncomfortable with his efforts to stage the concerts.

“I think they were really wrong for canceling, and it really hurts me,” the 28-year-old Boyd said. “The officials did not know I was black when they first gave me the Starlight to use.”

But Inga said he had asked the promoters a number of times to obtain the necessary bond and city permits. “We really bent over backward in terms of accommodating them,” Inga said.

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The festival promoters said 2,000 tickets had been sold for the concerts, which were to have featured country music on Friday night, rock ‘n’ roll on Saturday night and gospel and rhythm and blues on Sunday. Among the acts scheduled to perform were the Chambers Brothers, Billy and the Beaters, and actresses Danielle Brisebois and Mabel King.

The promoters said net proceeds from the concerts would have been donated to the Burbank chapter of the American Red Cross, which would then channel the funds to its national headquarters for its African famine relief program.

The event had been plagued by problems, with the promoters promising to produce big-name entertainers but failing to sign any. Ticket prices, which had ranged from $25 for lawn seats to $100 for box seats, had to be lowered to $20 to $60 when few tickets were sold. The festival was postponed once two weeks ago.

Inga said he had thought from the beginning that Boyd and his staff would have the necessary entertainment contacts to sign up prominent performers. “Right from the start, we felt the cause was beneficial, and the city did its best to be cooperative. This is quite disappointing to us,” he said.

But Boyd said he did not get support from city officials or from black organizations such as the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. “I don’t understand why black people have not gotten behind this thing,” he said. “Because of this, someone may starve to death. Who’s thinking about that?”

Patty Demarais, executive director of the Burbank chapter of the Red Cross, said she was “very disappointed that this is not going to go on, but it’s not unexpected. As the situation progressed, we felt the chances of selling enough tickets at that price scale was unrealistic. But it is not our project and we did not feel it was our role to get involved.”

Boyd insisted that the concerts would be staged this weekend. “We’ve assembled so many people, and we’re ready to put on a show,” he said. “If we only make 15 cents, that’s more than we had. This is God’s work we’re doing.”


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