Lucrative SDSU Concert Contract Stirs Interest

Every two years, San Diego State University’s Associated Students invites concert promoters to bid for exclusive booking rights to the school’s Open Air Theater, which since 1977 has been host of a highly successful summer pop-concert series.

Avalon Attractions would appear to be a shoe-in once the bidding process begins anew in the coming weeks. After all, the Los Angeles promoting giant has faced only minimal competition since initially landing the contract in 1980.

But Avalon’s bid to extend its Open Air Theater exclusive through the summer of 1990 may receive a formidable challenge by a former ally, Bill Silva.

In fall 1986, the last time the contract was up for grabs, Silva was working for Avalon in Los Angeles. A year later, he moved back home to San Diego and went into business for himself. Today, Bill Silva Presents practically rules the local concert market--with the sole exception of the Open Air Theater, the capacity of which was recently upped from 4,250 to 4,835.


Will Silva attempt to expand his kingdom into an empire by seeking booking rights to a facility that annually accounts for about 25% of all San Diego concert activity?

“I haven’t yet seen a request for a proposal, but when I do, I’ll certainly consider it (putting in a bid),” Silva said. “The Open Air Theater is Avalon’s only presence in San Diego, and it seems odd to me that for so many years, San Diego State has chosen to go with an out-of-town promoter.”

Before he decides whether to put in a bid, Silva added, he needs to study “what parameters the school wants.”

“In the past, the contract has always been very heavily stilted in favor of the school,” he said, “and it took an exceptional year on the part of the promoter to meet his commitment to the school and still break even, much less make a profit.”


Silva’s trepidation is fine with Avalon’s David Swift. According to Avalon’s current arrangement with SDSU, the school receives a minimum guarantee of $175,000 per summer, along with a certain percentage of ticket sales. Despite these demands, Avalon expects to turn a tidy profit this year. The 1988 summer concert season’s total gross: $1.9 million. And of 28 shows, no less than 10 were sellouts.

“We’ve enjoyed a good relationship with SDSU over the last eight years,” Swift said, “and we’d certainly like to see it continue.”

Frankie Laine, the pop legend who 20 years ago abandoned the glitter and gold of Hollywood for the golden sunsets of Point Loma, is neither gone nor forgotten.

The recently released “New Directions” is the 75-year-old singer’s 96th album. In the last 40 years, Laine has sold more than 100 million records.

“New Directions” was released by Laine’s own Score Records label, a 4-year-old company that Laine says he formed “because I wanted to occasionally get something new out there in addition to all the compilations and reissues that keep coming out on other labels.”

The new album, available only on cassette, was recorded over the summer at Wayne Cook Studios in Glendale. The 12 tunes range from vintage Tin Pan Alley favorites “Makin’ Whoopee!” and “Fever” to contemporary ballads like “Fly Away” and the country-flavored “Fallen Angel.”

Time has been amazingly kind to the seductive voice of Frankie Laine. It’s a voice that from the late ‘40s through the late ‘50s made him a steady presence at the top of the charts, recording such hits as “Lucky Old Sun,” “I Believe,” and “Rawhide.”

“New Directions” is being sold by mail-order through Laine’s international fan club. Once he gets back on the road next April, the album will also be on sale at his concerts. Laine continues to tour an average of 15 weeks each year, performing on cruise ships, in nightclubs and theaters, and with symphony orchestras.


While the release of a new album affirms Laine’s continued presence in pop music, a letter he received two weeks ago from Polygram Music confirms his legacy.

The publishing house informed Laine that celebrated jazz singer Anita O’Day is planning to record “We’ll Be Together Again,” the first song Laine ever wrote. The tune was originally a hit for the Pied Pipers in 1945, two years before Laine began his own string of 21 million-selling singles with “That’s My Desire.” It has since been covered by nearly 100 other recording artists, including Lou Rawls and New Age queen Dianne Schuur.

It’s not surprising, then, that despite his age--and a quadruple bypass four years ago--Laine isn’t even thinking about retirement.

“Retirement? What’s that?” he said, with a laugh. “I guess with me, it’s the old bit about you go till you can’t go.”

LINER NOTES: Last Friday night’s “Super Blues Jam” benefit concert at Rio’s in Loma Portal raised $2,065 for veteran local bluesman Tom (Cat) Courtney, the victim of an Oct. 6 stabbing at the Texas Teahouse in Ocean Beach. More than 400 people shelled out five bucks apiece to hear members of the Jacks, Shades of Blue, and various other San Diego bands jam with the still-recuperating Courtney, who plans on using the dough to help cover his medical expenses.

The Talking Heads’ hot new video, “Nothing But Flowers,” opens with a shot of each band member and the name of his or her hometown. When it’s bassist Tina Weymouth’s turn, the screen flashes, “Coronado, Calif.” . . . Tickets go on sale today for Kris Kristofferson’s Dec. 9 concert at the Bacchanal in Kearny Mesa.