ROCK THUMPED IN WESTCHESTER CO.
PORT CHESTER, N.Y. - Howard Stein does his best to lure this Westchester County hamlet's kids off the streets weekend evenings, and last year he was instrumental in closing down the town's lone skinflick palace.
But Port Chester's city fathers are not impressed with Stein's achievements, and the city council has been swapping restraining orders with him for the last six months in attempts to close the Capitol Theater and put Howard - the town's lone rock entrepeneur - out of business.
Since he took over operation of the Capitol Theater a little more than a year ago, Stein has booked some of the country's better bands, built up a steady regular audience, and spent about half of his time fighting city hall. And he's getting paranoid.
During a recent Grateful Dead concert, an anonymous phone caller tipped police that a bomb was planted in the theater. The cops relayed the message to the Capitol right after Stein had stepped out for a few minutes, and the responsibility for clearing the hall fell upon the on-duty fire marshal and Dead manager Sam Cutler.
The New Riders of the Purple Sage were into their fifth number as Cutler and the fire marshal rushed on stage to sound the alarm. But instead of racing for the exits, the audience roared back a fat chorus of "fuuuuuuck you!" Ushers and stagehands finally got the place cleared, and after the briefest of searches, the cops declared the bomb threat a hoax. The capacity crowd of slightly less than 2000 streamed back inside, reinforced by several hundred grinning crashers who proceeded to jam the aisles.
Stein said he saw several "shady figures" taking pictures of the aisle-squatters, who were, of course, violating fire ordinances. "I suspect," he declared, "the whole thing was set up."
The Capitol is currently operating thanks to a temporary restraining order blocking the city council's latest ordinance, which states that no establishment in which live entertainment is performed can operate after 1 AM.
"What they were saying effectively," said Stein, "was that the Capitol Theater will close... We'd go out of business because we couldn't do two shows a night. With a capacity of 1850, we have to do two shows or we can't make enough money to get the acts we need."
Dominick Pierro, attorney for the Port Chester city council, wouldn't discuss the town's specific reasons for wanting to close the theater except to say that "it was an undisciplined operation and creates problems for the local police department."
"We wish Stein operated elsewhere," Pierro added. "Our kids don't go to it."
Stein has no plans to pull out of Port Chester, but he will be operating elsewhere. He's obtained a summer lease on the Pavilion in Flushing Meadow Park, Queens, and hopes to stage a series of "mini-festivals."
(from Rolling Stone, April 1 1971)