Inside Thirteen Blogger: Neal Shapiro, President
What a magical night!
I’ve been lucky enough to be at Madison Square Garden for some very special nights–NBA playoffs, political conventions and more than a few concerts. But last night’s event was the most special.
It was The Police’s final performance ever–and that alone would make it unforgettable.
But this was much more that that….because The Police were donating the proceeds from this very special concert to Thirteen and our sister station WLIW21.
In a time when too many headlines are about self indulgent artists, this was an event where the artists were giving back–to support arts and culture programming on New York public television.
Before the concert started, WLIW’s President Terrel Cass and I were supposed to go backstage to meet briefly with the band. It took a series of squeezing past the crowds, flashing credentials at checkpoints, and then following our escorts to the photo area. When we finally got there, I had lost Terrel.
Neal Shapiro, Sting, Andy Summers, Stewart Copeland
So that’s why it’s only me in the picture. (I know Terrel did ultimately find his way to his seats because I saw him at the concert).
Backstage, as we waited for the band, I talked to Mayor Bloomberg, who usually has so many evening events on his calendar that he has to hop from venue to venue. But tonight, he was making a rare exception–he and Diana Taylor were going to stay for the entire concert.
When Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland walked in, I was struck by how relaxed they were…not just for any concert but for their last concert together. They laughed, kidded with each other were genuinely nice with everyone.
There were a few moments that had the “last time” flavor. Kevin Mazur, who has been photographing their LA and NY shows, was taking group pictures and The Police pulled him into a photo with them. We were also joined by promoting genius Jay Coleman (the main architect of our association with this concert) and Public Relations icon/pioneer Ken Sunshine. Somewhere nearby was President of Radio City Entertainment Jay Marciano. All three of these gentlemen had so much to do with making the concert a sold-out success.
In the crowded quarters backstage, I caught glimpses of two people running back and forth with earpieces and small microphones and I wondered if they were part of the band’s security detail, or members of the Garden’s crack events staff. That is, until I got closer and realized they both worked for us. Laura Savini, VP of Marketing and Communications for WLIW and Ranfi Rivera, Deputy General Counsel, Program Business Affairs for Thirteen, worked tirelessly on this event from the moment we announced it, and by that night they looked as if they had been handling rock concerts their entire lives.
When we were done backstage and I made my way to the floor, the crowd was already rockin’ with the B-52’s. Within a few feet of my seats, some recognizable fans of The Police: James Gandolfini, Bruce Springsteen, Deborah Harry and Leonardo Dicaprio. (I’m sure they’re also fans of public television).
Michael Bloomberg, Diana Taylor, Juju Chang, Neal Shapiro
As the concert began, you could sense that everyone knew they were part of an unforgettable event. Sting told the crowd of 19,000 that we were the last audience they would play for…the last audience of more than 3.7 million who had watch this tour, which had consisted of 150 performances.
On one side of me was Pat Harrison, President of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, who had more energy than many of the younger folks who were in our section. On the other side of me was a beautiful woman. She knew the lyrics to every song. She told me that Stewart Copeland was the brother of legendary agent Ian Copeland. I told her that I had talked to the Police personally and they told me what a grind the concert tour had been.
At the end of the concert, I looked in her eyes and asked if she wanted to come home with me …and she said yes. Why? Perhaps it was my personal charm, the euphoria of the evening, or the fact that we’ve been married for 13 years.
The concert was promoted under our banner of “Public Television Rocks” and we want to make sure this is not the end but the beginning of finding more ways to embrace the greatest talents of rock music..on the air and in other ways. Last night’s concert may have been The Police’s last ever but it’s not the last for us. We’ll be back with more.
Photo credit: Joe Sinnott