What's Up, Chuck?
War Stories--The Battle of the Bands continues to generate charges, countercharges and bitter feelings.
Thursday, January 29, 1998
History is filled with war stories. Out of every conflict come tales of heroism, cowardice, stupidity and brilliance. In its ability to generate stories, the recent "Winterfest Battle of the Bands" is no different. But the stories that continue to surface from the Jan. 17-18 contest at Whitey''s Place just get weirder.
As an event that was supposed to raise money for a charity (Meals on Wheels) while providing local bands with an opportunity to vie for $700 in prize money and free video demos, it would seem difficult to generate a lot of controversy. But out of such a theoretically altruistic event have come some incredibly acrimonious charges.
At the heart of the controversy are the two principals: Wendy Gleason of Angel Productions, producer of the event, and Jeff White, owner of Whitey''s Place, site of the 13-band contest.
According to Lieutenant William Kennedy, on Jan. 20, Gleason filed a report with the Pacific Grove Police Department saying that White failed to pay her all the money she was contractually supposed to receive from the door receipts. According to the report, Gleason expected to receive between $3,000 and $4,000 from White but in fact received only about $650 for the two nights.
For his part, White says he has filed a cease-and-desist order with the courts accusing Gleason of defamation of character for accusing him of taking the money, and has demanded a retraction of the charges. According to White, Gleason was served with the papers on Jan. 27 about 2:15pm.
Anecdotal stories seem to indicate that Gleason''s expectations were inflated. Cover charge for the evening was only $5; in order to reach the $4,000 mark, there would have to have been 800 people come through the doors at Whitey''s Place. The club has a legal capacity of 120 people-to reach the 800 mark, the entire attendance at the club would have to have turned over more than three times each night.
For his part, White estimates that there were between 150 and 200 people in his club on Saturday night, and fewer on Sunday. And even of that total, White says that many were band members or friends of the competing bands.
"Where she came up with this I have no idea," says White.
"I''ve worked too hard, too long to build up a good reputation to have someone come up and slander it."
Gleason declined to comment to Coast Weekly about the money issue, saying her lawyer advised her against it.
But, according to local music writer Mac MacDonald and Stuart Pressman, father of a bandmember in the group Blue Nova, Gleason accused White of taking money on more than one occasion.
"I can never really pin her down on a figure, and from what I''ve heard from different people she''s told different people different things," says MacDonald. "What she told me... was that there was $800 left in the [cash] box." MacDonald also says that Gleason estimated Saturday''s audience to be around 450.
"Wendy has really trashed poor Jeff White," says Pressman, "accusing him of taking money. There weren''t that many people there. By the time you put the bands in there that were playing and everyone that was related to them, there couldn''t possibly be that many people in there."
Pressman says Gleason spoke to his wife, Leslie, telling her different amounts she thought White had taken. "The first day she said he took $1,600 and the second day she said he took $3,200," says Pressman.
If the controversy stopped here, the story would be weird enough. But there are those who have questions even about the legitimacy of the judging process.
There were, reportedly, three judges for the two nights. Lenny Leon from Black Olive Records and Joshua Wright, an actor on the soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful" were both in attendance on Saturday and Sunday nights, and MacDonald who was able to attend only Sunday''s show.
"There really wasn''t a process," says MacDonald of the judging. "I was introduced to Joshua Wright who was, as far as I knew, the only other judge there and he showed me how he did it. It appeared he was taking copious notes and he was judging song by song. Having judged these things before, I thought that was going way overboard.
"He said, ''I''ll take my own notes, and you do it your way.'' I didn''t even know that Lenny was a judge. He wasn''t taking notes, it didn''t seem he was being a judge." MacDonald says there were no balloting forms and he made his notes on the back of a flyer.
Gleason, however, disagrees with MacDonald.
"There were written forms," says Gleason. "[The judging] was based on appearance, originality, musicianship and stage presence." Although there were no specific ballots, Gleason says, "they all turned in some kind of sheets; it was a hand-written form each person wrote."
Leon says, "I''m not that familiar with how they tabulated the vote, I just wrote down my picks on Saturday night. Hands down, Rock Steady Posse was the best band on Sunday night but I thought that Electric Playground was the best overall."
MacDonald, seeing only the Sunday night show, agrees that Rock Steady Posse was the top act that night and that fellow judge Wright agreed with him. "I asked him if any of the bands on Saturday night were better than Rock Steady Posse and he said no, I don''t think so. At least from Joshua''s point of view, they could have been the overall winner.
"I was really shocked to see Rock Steady Posse in sixth place. That just doesn''t make sense."
Ultimately, when the battle results were announced on Tuesday, Electric Playground took first place while Rock Steady Posse finished in sixth.
When questioned about the results, Gleason said that MacDonald''s vote counted for only "a 33 and 1/3 vote because he was only there on Sunday."
Gleason also says of the voting, "The thing is, music is art and as art, many different people have many different opinions about what art is. They [the judges] each followed a basic guideline and they each had their own opinion."
If there''s one thing Gleason and White agree on, it''s that this is one battle that''s left scars.
"I had no idea I was doing business with Rosemary''s Baby or I would never have gotten involved with this," says White.
"Who knew? Who knew?" asks Gleason. "This is probably going to put me in a rubber room. None of them care about me, they''re just looking out for themselves. I''m just here to help everybody, to help a charity, and in the end I got screwed."