Will TV Win Spot in Hall of Fame?

TV or not TV?

That’s one question facing--and dividing--the 37-member board of directors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, whose annual induction dinner has become the record industry’s most exclusive gala.

A second question: After four years of being held at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel here, should the dinner be moved--at least for one year--to Los Angeles?

The probable answer to both questions, according to a Times survey of key board members this week: Yes.


The nine board members who were questioned--including seven of the 10 executive committee members--thought it desirable to hold an induction dinner in Los Angeles, possibly as early as next January.

Bob Krasnow, chairman of Elektra Records and induction dinner committee chairman, said after the 4th annual dinner Wednesday night that he favors an event in Los Angeles to give the West Coast a “greater sense of involvement” in the Hall of Fame--a nonprofit organization designed to honor rock music’s history.

(Ground breaking on a $48-million building in Cleveland to house the Hall of Fame is scheduled for next year.)

Though there are nearly a dozen Los Angeles record executives on the Hall of Fame board of directors (including David Geffen, Berry Gordy Jr., Quincy Jones, Jerry Moss, Mo Ostin and Joe Smith), the Hall has a heavy New York emphasis. All 10 members of the executive committee, for instance, are based in New York.

Seymour Stein, president of Sire Records and president of the board of directors, agreed.

“I think it is important to get them totally involved as soon as possible and what better way than to have the dinner on their home ground?”

The television matter is considerably more delicate.

While board members are sensitive to complaints that the annual affair has an elitist tone (“a party for just 1,000 people in tuxedos,” quipped one director), most fear that turning it into a television special would destroy much of the evening’s informal character.

At present, the dinner is an unusually warm affair that attracts rock’s biggest stars. Not only are the induction speeches frequently as eloquent as the artists’ best music, but the musicians always engage in a lively, largely spontaneous jam at the end.

Jann Wenner, executive vice president of the Hall of Fame board of directors and editor-publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, is the most outspoken proponent of a television tie-in. He predicted this week that the board of directors will approve a television agreement, quite likely in time for the fifth annual ceremonies next January.

“It’s just such a stunning event that it is wrong not to let (more) people see it, and I think we can come up with a format that doesn’t destroy the (integrity) of the evening,” he said in an interview Thursday. “There are plenty of really tasteful, talented producers or directors to do it. If it doesn’t work, we don’t do it the following year. But we ought to try.”

For the 1,100 industry insiders who paid up to $1,250 a ticket for the sold-out soiree Wednesday, the Hall of Fame induction dinner was most certainly a night of memories.

Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Pete Townshend and Tina Turner were among the pop notables who showed up to salute the latest crop of inductees, including performers Stevie Wonder, the Rolling Stones, the Temptations, Dion and the late Otis Redding.

One reason the Hall of Fame has been able to get such a star-studded turnout since it was begun in 1986 is that there is no overt commercialization. The artists are free to let their hair down. The affair is videotaped, but only for the Hall of Fame archives.

“I’m afraid it (television) will spoil it,” Seymour Stein said in an interview this week. “I feel we are putting ourselves and this wonderful thing at risk. Would Bruce Springsteen feel free to come and get on stage if he knew it was a television show?”

Though other board members--including Michael Leon, A&M; Records senior vice president, concert producer Bill Graham, Springsteen manager Jon Landau, and Bob Altshuler, CBS Records vice president of press and public affairs--expressed similar concerns, most said they believe a show is inevitable, or at least a one-time trial.

For one thing, the show would be a source of income for the foundation. The board of directors reportedly received a $1 million-plus offer from a cable network for the rights to this year’s dinner. But the issue of “sharing” the event with the public appears to be an even larger factor in making the board lean toward giving television a one-year trial.

Attorney Allen Grubman, secretary-treasurer of the board of directors, said: “The reason we’d do it isn’t the funds, but to give the public a chance to see (the ceremony). The question is whether we can have television involved and still (maintain) the spirit we had Wednesday night.”

Tom Freston, president of entertainment for the MTV Networks and a member of the Hall of Fame executive board, said the cable channel has proposed to tape the entire four-hour show and present it in its entirety at a later date. Betty Bitterman, vice president of original programming at HBO, said HBO is also talking with the Hall of Fame directors about a show, perhaps an edited two-hour special.

Said A&M;'s Leon: “I have reservations about television, but we also realize the importance of making the public feel part of what we’re doing. After all, it’s the public that really creates these heroes. They are the ones who respond to the music that makes it all possible.”

REGARDING THE LOS ANGELES MOVE: Some Hall of Fame board members said it might make sense to switch to Los Angeles in a year when several West Coast bands are being inducted.

Under the Hall of Fame guidelines, which declare an artist becomes eligible 25 years after the release of his or her first record, several influential California artists will become eligible during the next five years. Among them: the Byrds, Doors, Mamas and Papas, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Buffalo Springfield and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Next year’s ceremony, however, is likely to be dominated by British acts. Among the eligible bands: the Who, the Kinks and the Yardbirds.

LIVE ACTION IN LOS ANGELES: Stevie Wonder will headline a benefit on March 5 at Universal Amphitheatre for the Minnie Riperton Fund of Concern Foundation and Concern II. Tickets go on sale Sunday. . . . Burning Spear, Judy Mowatt and Pato Banton will be among the acts at the eighth annual Bob Marley Day festivities, Feb. 5 at the Long Beach Arena. . . . The Stylistics, the Dramatics and the Chi-Lites play the Celebrity Theatre Feb. 24 and the Wiltern Feb. 26. . . . Amy Grant will be at the Forum on March 2.