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How Fishof Became Prime Chaperon for ‘Dirty Dancing’ Tour

David Fishof, the man who put together the “Dirty Dancing” concert tour, didn’t care for the movie.

“It didn’t do anything for me,” said the New York concert producer. The only reason he even saw “Dirty Dancing,” which grossed more than $60 million at the box office last year, was because it was set in the Catskills, the Upstate New York resort area where he once worked as a waiter.

It wasn’t until Fishof, who staged the Monkees’ successful 1986 reunion tour, noticed that hits from the sound-track album (which has sold more than 8 million copies) were zooming up the charts that he started thinking about building a concert tour around the music from the film.

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Though concert bookers around the country were initially skeptical, Fishof said, the show has turned into one of the year’s hottest attractions. The show--featuring Bill Medley, Eric Carmen, the Contours, Merry Clayton and dancers from the movie--ended up selling out eight nights at New York’s 5,870-seat Radio City Music Hall.

The show moves Sunday to the Pacific Amphitheatre and will be at the Greek from Monday through Wednesday.

The tour--which will be taped by Vestron for a cable special and for release on home video early next year--finishes a 100-city U.S. swing next month. But that’s just the beginning. The tour will then split, with one troupe heading for Australia and another going to Europe, Japan and Mexico.

In October, some of the acts will rejoin for a three-month second U.S. tour. In the end, Fishof estimates about 2 million people will have seen the tour, generating ticket sales of $30 million.

Asked about the “Dirty Dancing” movie/album/tour phenomenon (even the sequel album has sold 3 million copies), Fishof said: “I think the reason it was so successful was because it brought back romance, which I think was lost in the ‘70s and ‘80s.” He said the film also had excellent demographic appeal, reaching parents and teen-agers.

Fishof, 33, started off in the entertainment business at 16, booking comics and singers at a resort in the Catskills. He soon became an agent for pro athletes, including Yankees manager Lou Piniella.

Fishof got into promoting pop concerts by accident, he said, during a 1982 visit to Los Angeles. “Someone called and asked, ‘Do you want to manage the Association?’ and I said, ‘The association of what?’ My father was a cantor. The only thing I knew about (music) was Israeli rock ‘n’ roll.”

But Fishof checked out the group and decided to manage it and promote its tour. Soon, other hit groups from the ‘60s contacted him, and he got the idea of packaging them for the “Happy Together” tour in 1984. The nostalgia package did so well in 125 dates that a similar tour followed in 1985.

He was planning a third edition for 1986 when he happened to see a rerun of the ‘60s TV series “The Monkees” late one night and thought about putting that group back on the road.

Fishof managed to get the group (minus Michael Nesmith) together. About two months before the tour was to start, MTV, coincidentally, began rerunning the group’s old shows, creating a new and enthusiastic market for the Monkees. The tour played 200 cities, and, according to Fishof, grossed an estimated $25 million.

Last year’s “Classic Super-Fest” tour package was also successful, but the recent “Super ‘70s Fest” did mixed business in a three-week run this summer.

Fishof’s company now acts as an agency for sports figures and manages music artists, in addition to organizing concert tours. With his success for packaging tours of reunited ‘60s and ‘70s groups, Fishof could be looked at as the king of the pop revivals, but he resists such a tag.

“You might say I brought back some ‘60s and ‘70s acts, but I think that I also brought them current into the ‘80s.”

Fishof believes that the “Dirty Dancing” tour helped spur record sales, and he says the Turtles “now make $10,000 a night--more than recording acts with record contracts"--after receiving exposure on the “Happy Together” tour.

But for Fishof, today’s stars are tomorrow’s clients.

"(Once,) I was stuck in an elevator with Billy Joel, and I told him, ‘Listen, in 20 years, we’ll be doing business together.’ We started laughing.”

The Dirty Dancing Tour will stop at the Pacific Amphitheatre, 100 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $18.50. Information: (714) 634-1300.


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