The Thanksgiving Concert Disaster

In 1982 I worked for Billboard Magazine. I loved it, and I loved the perks. Free records! Free concerts! Going backstage. Getting on "the list." Bringing a "plus one." For one who had been turned away from Studio 54 in its heyday, it was heaven.

Over Thanksgiving weekend 1982, Peter Gabriel played the Palladium, a wonderful old venue on 14th Street in Manhattan. I scored comp tickets to the Saturday performance, the second of Gabriel's two nights there. I was going with my boyfriend, Danny, who was a big fan. But first, I had to take a quick trip to Washington with my family for Thanksgiving, to visit my grandmother, Mimi. Mimi didn't like Danny - or anyone else, for that matter - so he wasn't going.

The trip, with my mom and younger sister Lisa, was in my 5-speed Celica that I was the only one capable of driving. I told them that we had to come back on Saturday so I wouldn't miss the show. That worked for everyone because, after all, the traffic on Sunday would be much worse on the NY-DC corridor.

I'll skip the details about our time in Washington. You're welcome. 

Saturday we set out for the return to New York. Although we thought we'd left plenty of time, the Saturday traffic was Sunday-quality and the trip took hours more than we'd anticipated. Instead of dropping my mom and Lisa at their place, we had to go straight to the Palladium, park the car in an expensive lot (since neither of them could drive stick) and have them take the subway home. This, naturally, upped the crankiness level for all concerned.

I can still see mobbed East 14th Street vividly as we pulled up next to a fire hydrant. In those pre-cell phone days I'm not sure how Danny and I coordinated meeting on a street corner, but we pulled it off. He got in, we secured the car, escorted my family to the subway and headed to the Palladium. We arrived just as the music was beginning, and I was thinking the drive from hell might have been worth it.

Then we got to the doors. I handed over the tickets, which had been in my wallet all week. The ticket-taker handed them back to me. "These are for last night," he said, turning to the next patron.

I begged. I squeezed out a few tears. I flashed my Billboard business card. None of it had any impact. We were asked to step aside and, in shock, we did.

Danny was very understanding. We had to accept what had happened, he said. We'd do something else fun, maybe see a movie. I staggered down the street, the embodiment of denial. This couldn't be happening. I was responsible for a heinous error that would deprive my boyfriend of the chance to see Peter Gabriel. No "Shock the Monkey"! No "Games Without Frontiers"! Even I liked those, and I had despised Genesis. Why hadn't I entrusted him with the tickets? He surely would have noticed the date and could have gone without me the previous night.

But life goes on. We picked a movie starring Sting, Brimstone and Treacle. At least there would be a British rock star involved in our evening's entertainment. We settled in.

Well, this was one twisted movie, involving Sting's deceiving the parents of an invalid young woman, earning their trust and becoming her caregiver. He violates her in a particularly erotic scene that left me veering between shock and awe, but coming down firmly on the side of awe. It was sexy, and I said so to Danny. He was horrified.

I had been a lifelong feminist, but that night Danny essentially accused me of being brainless and submissive. The girl had been abused, didn't I see that? Sure I did, but Sting was so hot! I told him if I ever ended up in a coma, he had permission to do to me what Sting had done to that girl.

Danny was disgusted. It might have been residual resentment over missing Peter Gabriel, it might have been bitterness about my lust for Sting. It might even have been righteous indignation at what I now agree was an appalling act. But come on, it was only a movie. Some guys would have run with it when their girlfriend said she was turned on.

The night ended with a huge fight in puffy coats on University Place. I got my feminist mojo back, and remember fighting the urge to pummel him and yell that he was a stubborn Sta-Puft. And I went home alone. But at least I didn't have to take the subway.


A side note about the Palladium: Like so much else, it's gone now. Originally the Academy of Music, built in 1927 and renamed the Palladium in 1976, in 1985 it was remade as the ultimate club by Studio 54 alumni and parolees Ian Shrager and Steve Rubell. Decorations were by Basquiat, Haring, Clemente and Scharf and the music, video and patrons were up to those same standards. The club outlived Rubell, who died in 1989. But in 1997 the building was acquired by New York University, demolished and replaced by a dorm and Trader Joe's. I've seen the line at Trader Joe's rival the line to get into previous versions of the Palladium. But of course it's not the same.


  1. Oh Laura what a Hellish Day - I would have very plantively driven anywhere with my mother and sister for more than 30 minutes, and you drove hours with a goal in mind.

    Sorry to say I would not have looked at the tickets either, because in my early 20's if I could have found my wallet it would have been a big deal.

    The rest is so historic, and beyond what any female of our children's generation can comprehend. Even a Southern girl, like me was a trail blazer for today's woman.

    Love your work.


  2. I feel your pain, Laura... missing out on Peter Gabriel back in those days, he was 'da bomb' back then. so sorry you missed the concert and that you had a fight with your guy.

    If you are interested in catching up on the Peter Gabriel Palladium shows from that weekend, both are available for free download in high quality audio recordings:

    November 26th, 1982 show:

    November 27th 1982 show:

    wishing you all the best :)

  3. Thanks for the links! I will send them to Danny (yes, we are still in touch after almost 30 years).


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