What you didn't read in Barry Fey's memoir: Barry turned throwing phones into an artform
On Wednesday, March 6, Barry Fey will be inducted into yet another hall of fame, this one the Denver & Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame, and that couldn't be more fitting. Next to sports, music is probably our state's biggest attraction, and we have Barry Fey to thank for that. Before Barry, Colorado was considered a flyover state. A pivotal figure in music, Barry was the law in these parts for almost three decades. All of those stories are captured in his memoir, Backstage Past -- well, most of them, anyway.
In honor of his induction, we'll be running the stories that didn't make the book all this week. These ones are told by Barry himself, and the people he held most dear next to the fans, those who worked at Feyline. Read on to see what it was like to work with the Man, the Myth, the Legend. Brace yourself, though: These aren't tidy tales of political correctness. This is rock and roll in its glory days -- you know, when it was still dangerous and unpredictable and guys used to break shit.
By Barry Fey
You're about to read essays applauding me for my exemplary skills as an employer. Before there were H.R. departments and rules about hostile work environments, I set the standard for the working world to follow. But, before I let some of the people who worked for me at Feyline have the stage, I'll set up a couple of the stories.
When our office was on the fifth floor of the building on 16th Street in downtown Denver, I threw a telephone out the window in anger. It landed on the sidewalk, near the feet of a Mountain Bell Telephone Company repairman. He looked up and saw my open window, brought the smashed phone upstairs and asked if there was something wrong with my phone. After that, he stopped in about once a week to make sure my phone was working properly.
Years later, I had an assistant named Susie Buell, who had a bad eye, compliments of laser surgery that went bad. When it got worse and she had to quit, all the people in my office thought it was great sport interviewing new assistant prospects for me.
They'd tell each of them awful things like, "Keep an eye on him because he likes to throw things. But when does and when he screams at you and calls you names, it isn't personal."
I was out of town once and I called the office and a woman answered. I didn't recognize the voice. I asked, "Who's this?"
"This is Cheryl. Who's this?"
"This is Barry Fey."
"Oh, hi, Mr. Fey. I was hired to be your new assistant to replace Susie."
"Oh, okay, Cheryl. Well, I'll be there in about a half an hour," I said, pleasantly.
Cheryl told Pam or Chuck or someone that she was going to take her to lunch before I got there. Well, the poor girl, after all the stories she'd been told about me, got so nervous that she left for lunch and never came back. I'd never even met her!
Continue on for Barry on AEG Live Rocky Mountains honcho Chuck Morris and Chuck on Barry and his time at Feyline
Chuck Morris (Feyline, 1975-1997)
President and CEO of AEG Live, Rocky Mountain Region
Before Chuck writes how wonderful I am, let me say a couple of things about him. I love Chuck. He was the light of my life for 25 years. He was so important to me, but things didn't start that well. He was booking talent for Tulagi's, a Boulder college bar. Through me, he booked Zephyr in 1969, but they showed up late and he was going to dock them $200. I got on the phone with him.
"Was the place full?" I asked.
"Yes, but people were leaving because Zephyr wasn't on time."
"Was there a line outside?"
"Did they come in when others left?"
"Just pay the fucking band, asshole."
I think that was my first conversation with Chuck.
In 1972, I was invited to speak to a class at the University of Colorado, taught by, of all people, Chuck E. Weiss. Several years later, he'd have a hit song written about him by Rickie Lee Jones called "Chuck E's In Love." Anyway, Chuck Morris found out I was going to be in Boulder, and he called my office. He had become more afraid of my assistant, Leslie Haseman, than he was of me. She was tough on him. When she answered the phone and found out it was him, she said, "What the fuck to you want?"
Once he made it through Leslie, he asked me if I'd stop by Tulagi's while I'm in Boulder for Chuck E.'s class because he had a group he wanted me to see. Tulagi's was having a good run, and I respected him as a booker making it work in a small club, so I went. The group he wanted me to see was called Stone Ground or something like that. There was a stage full of them.
I took one look and said, "Forget about it. They don't have a shot."
"Why do you say that?"
"They've got fourteen guys. How are they going to support themselves?"
Chuck told me he wanted to leave Tulagi's and open a club in Denver. "I know I can't do it without you, but I'd like to do it with you."
I agreed, and for $110,000, we bought a small -- and I mean small, 250 capacity -- club in a downtown Denver condo building, Brooks Towers. We named it Ebbets Field, and since I was a recently convicted felon because of Richard Nixon, I couldn't have a liquor license, so we put the club in my wife Cindy's name. Cindy and Chuck owned Ebbets Field.
We opened the club with the Mark Allman Band. Some great acts played there: Barry Manilow, Billy Joel, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker and many more, but it only held 220 people. We never really had a chance, but gave it a great try for two years. After that, Chuck came to work with me.
Chuck was more into country and folk music than rock. He was lukewarm about the Who, which I thought was the greatest band ever. One show, I think it was at the Denver Coliseum, I had a couple of security guys grab him and make him sit in the audience through a set. When he came backstage, I asked, "So, what do you think?"
I'll never forget this. He said, "They're good. They ain't no Pure Prairie League, but they're good."
Continue on for Chuck Morris's thoughts on Barry and his time at Feyline
I sat in an office next to Barry's for about 22 years. My main job at Feyline was to keep other people from quitting. I was the CMO -- Chief Morale Officer. If reality TV had been around then, nobody would have believed it wasn't fiction. It was a noisy, chaotic office. There was a lot of screaming: Barry at me, me at Barry, Barry at everybody. He threw anything handy, usually his telephone. There was a phone repairman in the office once a week, probably. Anyone walking in would have thought it was an insane asylum, but it actually worked.
We were getting ready to open the Rainbow Music Hall in 1979 and the Rocky Mountain News sent out a photographer to our office to get some shots of Barry and me. He was sitting by our assistant's desk. Barry's office was on one side of a hall and mine was on the other. Barry got a bad phone call. Something had gone wrong, and it was, of course, my fault, so he stormed into my office, screaming all the way, and flipped my desk over. The photographer, an older guy, probably in his sixties, turned ashen -- we thought he was going to have a heart attack -- grabbed his gear and ran down the stairs, through the parking lot, got in his car and sped away.
One year, Barry was named "the craziest man in the concert promotion business" by a group of other promoters. I loved it because, unlike other finalists, he didn't have drugs or booze as an excuse.
In 1974, we were having a rough time because of the OPEC oil crisis and also because of Barry's feud with Frank Barsalona, who was the agent for a lot of big acts. Barry and I flew to Los Angeles to talk with a potential investor who we thought might keep us afloat. I remember sitting at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and saying to Barry, "What are we doing here? We don't have two nickels to rub together, and we flew out here first class, and we're staying in a suite!" Barry said, "If we're going down, we're going down first class!
One of the things I learned during my years with Barry is that if you don't have some real fun in this business, it's not worth the brain damage to be in it. You gotta have some fun. You take it too seriously, it'll kill you.
Barry was my mentor. By watching him, I learned what to do in certain situations, but I also learned what not to do. I love the guy, and he was one of the greatest promoters that ever lived. There's no question in my mind.
Tomorrow: Pam Moore recalls her time in the insane asylum.
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