FOREST HILLS’ SUMMER OF SOUND

August 21, 2019 at 5:00 am

Blondie, Elvis Costello, Morrissey, and Jethro Tull. Just some of the acts ready to knock the socks off of queens this season at Forest Hills Stadium. In a moment, a look at the past, present and future of this venerable New York City venue.

Aired on June 11, 2019 and August 20, 2019. 

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>>> THE MUSIC IS BACK THIS
SUMMER AT FOREST HIM STADIUM.
THIS HISTORIC VENUE IN QUEENS,
ONCE HOME TO TENNIS AND THE U.S.
OPEN HAS ALSO PLAYED HOST TO
JIMMY HENDRIX, THE ROLLING
STONES AND THE BEATLES.
BUT IT WENT DARK FOR DECADES
AFTER FALLING INTO DISREPAIR.
THEN CONCERT PARTNERED WITH THE
TENNIS CLUB TO FIX UP THIS VENUE
AND BRING IT BACK TO ITS OLD
GLORY.
NOW SOME OF THE BIGGEST NAMES IN
SHOW BUSINESS ARE ONCE AGAIN
SELLING OUT IN QUEENS.
JOINING US FOR ALL OF THIS, THE
MAN BEHIND THE STADIUM'S
REVIVAL.
MIKE?
>> THANKS FOR COMING.
>> THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
>> WHAT WAS IT ABOUT FOREST HILL
STADIUM THAT MADE YOU WANT TO
UNDERTAKE THIS KIND OF RISKY
RENOVATION?
>> YEAH.
I GREW UP ON LONG ISLAND.
SO I WAS PERIPHERALLY AWARE OF
THE URBAN LEGENDS OF FOREST
HILLS.
GROWING UP MY PARENTS USED TO
TELL ME THAT THEY WENT ON THEIR
SECOND DATE TO SEE SIMON AND
GARFUNKEL.
IT ALMOST LINES UP SO IT COULD
BE TRUE.
ONE DAY I WAS SCOUTING AND I
COLD CALLED THE PRO SHOP AT THE
TENNIS CLUB AND HE PICKED UP THE
PHONE.
AND HE SAID I DON'T KNOW WHAT
YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT BUT IF YOU
WANT TO LOOK AROUND, YOU'RE
WELCOME.
THE TIMING WAS INCREDIBLE
BECAUSE LAST NIGHT AFTER 15
YEARS OF DEBATE, THE BOARD OF
THE TENNIS CLUB WHICH OWNED THE
STADIUM HAD BEEN ENTERTAINING
MASSIVE DEVELOPMENT OFFERS FROM
TRUMP AND OTHERS.
TO SELL OFF THE PROPERTY AND
KNOCK DOWN THE STADIUM.
TO THE IMMENSE CREDIT THE
MEMBERS OF THE WEST SIDE TENNIS
CLUB WHICH AT THAT POINT WERE AN
AVERAGE AGE OF 90 SAID NO WAY.
THAT'S WHERE THEY BROKE THE
COLOR BARRIER AND THE BEATLES
LANDSED A HELICOPTER ON THE
FRONT LAWN AND BILLY JEAN KING
REFUSED TO LET THE WOMEN PAY
UNLESS THEY WERE PAID EQUALLY.
THE MAGIC THING WAS IF I WAS
GIVEN A CHANCE TO WRITE A
COMPLETE BLANK NARRATIVE OF THE
CRAZIEST BEST PLACE TO EVER WORK
IN THE WORLD, THE ACTUAL REALITY
OF THINGS THAT HAPPEN ON THAT
SITE TRANSCENDS IT AND ARE EVEN
MORE.
>> SO WHAT ARE SOME OF THE
CHALLENGES YOU FACED IN
RENOVATING IT?
>> I BROUGHT A STRUCTURAL
ENGINEER WITH ME AND THERE WERE
SIX FOOT TREES GROWING OUT OF
COMPOST HOLES.
AND IT HADN'T BEEN TOUCHED IN
ALMOST FOUR DECADES.
THERE WERE JUST BOMBED OUT
BUILDINGS AND TONS OF JUNK
EVERYWHERE.
THE GUY AFTER FOUR HOURS SAID
LOOK, IT KIND OF FEELS LIKE
BAGHDAD BACK HERE.
IF SOMEONE WERE GOING TO DROP A
BOMB IN QUEENS, THIS IS WHERE I
WOULD WANT TO HIDE OUT.
BUILT WITH U.S. STEEL AND
CONCRETE.
MOST OF THE PROBLEMS ARE
COSMETIC.
AT THAT POINT WEAPON SAID OKAY.
IT WILL BE SAFE.
SO THAT STARTED THE TRIP DOWN
THE RABBIT HOLE.
>> SO DID YOU SAY, WAS IT IN
YOUR MINDS AT THAT POINT TO
RE-CREATE TO IT ITS GLORY DAYS?
OR DID YOU SAY WE'RE GOING TO DO
SOME FUNKY STUFF HERE?
>> I THINK FOR SURE OUR GOAL
FROM THE BEGINNING WAS THE PLACE
IS SO PALPABLY MAGICAL WHEN
YOU'RE ON THE SITE THAT WE
WANTED TO PROTECT THAT AT ALL
COSTS.
WE KNEW IF WE JUST GOT IT UP TO
CODE, MADE THE EXPERIENCE FOR
THE PATRONS BETTER, PUT IN
BATHROOMS, A REAL STAGE.
WE JUST BROUGHT IT FROM 1923 TO
2013.
THAT WAS REALLY THE GOAL.
>> BACK IN 2013 YOU HOSTED THE
FIRST CONCERT.
AND YOU YOURSELF HAVE SAID, IT
DIDN'T COME OUT SO GOOD.
TELL US WHAT HAPPENED.
>> YEAH.
TO MAKE A REAL LONG STORY SHORT,
OUR GOOD FRIENDS, THE BAND
MUMFORD AND SONS AGREED TO BE
THE OPENING BAND.
WE HAD SPENT THE LAST COUPLE
YEARS AROUND THE WORLD DOING
CRAZY SHOWS FOR THEM.
THEY HAD SOME SORT OF FAITH THAT
IF THEY SAID TRUST US, WE'LL GET
IT TOGETHER, MAYBE TO THEIR
BRAVERY, NAIVETE, THEY SAID
OKAY, YOU DO IT.
WE'LL COME AND PLAY.
WHAT HAPPENED WAS ABOUT 8:30 AT
NIGHT, HALFWAY THROUGH THE SHOW,
SOMEONE WENT TO THE BATHROOM.
THEY COULDN'T GET BACK.
A HUSBAND OR WIFE OR BOYFRIEND
OR GIRLFRIEND.
IT HAD THAT FEELING OF TEETERING
ON THIS COULD GO THE WRONG WAY.
AND THE BAND PRODUCTION MANAGER
IS A WORLD CLASS GUY WHO SPEND
YEARS AND YEARS ON THE ROAD WITH
PEARL JAM.
AND JUST BY PURE COINCIDENCE,
THE OF TWO US HAD BEEN ON STAGE
IN HOLLAND TOGETHER AT A
FESTIVAL WHILE PEARL JAM WAS
SAYING.
BOTH OF US SAW 17 KIDS GET
CRUSHED.
I WALKED OVER TO HIM AND HE
LOOKED AT ME.
WE SAID OKAY.
WE WENT TO THE CAPTAIN OF THE
POLICE DEPARTMENT AND WE SAID
HEY, BOSS.
NOT SUPER COMFORTABLE.
DO YOU WANT ME TO GET THE BAND
TO STOP PLAYING.
TURN THE MUSIC DOWN, TURN THE
LIGHTS ON, STOP THE SHOW.
AND THEN A CLASSIC NEW YORK
MOMENT.
HE WAS READING THE PAPER.
HE LOOKED UP AT ME.
INCREDIBLE, ONE OF MY FAVORITE
PEOPLE.
HE HAD PRINCE TATTOOED ON HIS
KNUCKLES AND HE SAID GO WITH
GOD.
HOLY MACKEREL!
I DON'T WANT TO GO WITH GOD.
I WANT TO GO TO THE NEW YORK
CITY POLICE.
SO HE RADIOED AND THEY CLEARED
IT OUT.
>> SO YOU HAD SOME COMPLAINTS
AFTER THAT EVENT FROM THE
NEIGHBORHOOD BUSINESSES.
THEY'RE NOT COMPLAINING NOW.
>> NO.
TO BACK UP TO THE BEGINNING, THE
VERY FIRST MEETING WE TOOK
BEFORE ANYTHING GOT GOING.
I TOOK PRESIDENT OF THE TENNIS
CLUB TO ME WITH ALL THE CITY
AGENCIES.
WE WERE SITTING IN THE BASEMENT
IN ONE OF THE CITY BUILDINGS.
AND BASICALLY 100% OF THE PEOPLE
INVOLVED SAID THIS WILL NEVER
WORK.
ZERO CHANCE.
THE NEIGHBORS WON'T DEAL WITH
IT.
THE COPS DON'T WANT TO DEAL WITH
IT.
SO WE GOT UP AND THE POOR
PRESIDENT, HIS HEAD IS IN HIS
HANDS.
OH, MAN, THAT WAS THE WORST
MEETING OF MY LIFE.
EL PRESIDENTE, THAT WAS GREAT.
THIS IS HOW ALL THE GREAT ONES
START.
SO WE WENT FROM THAT TO THAT
NIGHT AT 10:00 WHEN THE CONCERT
WAS OVER AND WE KNEW IT WAS A
MESS.
SINCE WE TICKETED OURSELVES, WE
SENT A NOTE TO EVERY PERSON WHO
BOUGHT A TICKET AND THAT, IF YOU
DIDN'T HAVE A TRULY GREAT TIME
TONIGHT, EMAIL US BACK AND WE'LL
REFUND YOUR MONEY, NO QUESTIONS
ASKED.
AND A CLASSIC NEW YORK
SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY THE FIRST 300
EMAILS WE GOT WERE, I HAD A
TRULY AWFUL TIME.
IT WAS MISERABLE.
AND THEN IT GENERATED BACK TO WE
GOT 3,000 EMAILS IN THE END.
THE LAST 2,000 OF THEM VARIED
FROM, I'VE SEEN MUMFORD AND
SIGNS TEN TIMES.
THIS IS ONLY THE SECOND BEST
TIME.
I WANT MY MONEY BACK.
AND ANOTHER ONE, THANKS FOR MY
MONEY BACK.
ONCE WE DID THAT, WE ENDED
REFUNDING ALMOST $450,000.
THE ELECTED OFFICIALS SAW IT.
THE POLICE SAW IT.
THE FIRE FOLKS SAW IT.
THE NEIGHBORS SAW IT.
AND AFTER THAT FIRST SHOW, THE
MAGIC OF THE STADIUM WAS, IT WAS
LIKE AN ONION THAT JUST PEELED
ALL THE LAYERS BACK.
WE KNEW WHAT WE HAD TO DO.
WE BOUGHT A REAL STAGE.
WE PUT IN REAL STAGES.
WE MADE REAL DOUBLE WIDE AISLES.
AND EVER SINCE THEN IT'S BEEN AN
ONGOING PROJECT.
>> FROM EVERYTHING I READ,
GLOWING REVIEWS FROM ALL THE
NEIGHBORS.
I HAVE TO CHOSE WITH THIS.
WHO IS CLOMIOMING UP?
>> ELVIS COSTELLO AND BLONDIE
WILL PLAY TOGETHER, WILLY
NELSON.
JETHRO TULL IS COMING BACK FOR
THE 50th ANNIVERSARY.
WE'RE DOING OUR FIRST KIDS SHOW.
ALL SORTS OF GOOD STUFF.
IT'S BEEN A REAL TREAT TO BE
INVOLVED.
>> WELL, LIKE I SAID, THIS IS A
REAL NEW YORK TREASURE THAT YOU
REVIVED.
THANK YOU SO MUCH.
>> YOU'VE GOT IT.
THANKS FOR LETTING US TELL THE
STORY.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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