Wednesday, December 3, 2008


December 3, 1979:
In Cincinnati, Ohio, eleven fans are killed during a stampede for seats before a Who concert at Riverfront Coliseum.

Wikipedia provides the details:

On December 3, 1979, eleven fans were killed by compressive asphyxia and several dozen others injured in the rush for seating at the opening of a sold-out concert by English rock band The Who. The concert was using "festival seating", (also known as "general seating"), where the best seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Due to the festival seating, many fans arrived early. When the crowds waiting outside heard the band performing a late sound check, they thought that the concert was beginning and tried to rush into the still-closed doors. Some at the front of the crowd were trampled as those pushing from behind were unaware that the doors were still closed. Only a few doors were in operation that night, and there are reports that management did not open more doors due to the concern of people sneaking past the ticket turnstiles.

(The Who were not informed of the deaths until after the show and they were very upset to learn that fans had died trying to see the performance.)

As a result, concert venues across North America switched to assigned seating or changed their rules about festival seating. Cincinnati immediately outlawed festival seating at concerts, although it overturned the ban on August 4, 2004. The ban was making it difficult for Cincinnati to book concerts since many music acts prefer festival seating because it could allow the most enthusiastic fans to get near the stage and generate excitement for the rest of the crowd. Some performers and bands insist on a festival seating area near the stage. The city had made a one-time exception to the ban before August 4, 2004, allowing festival seating for a Bruce Springsteen concert. Cincinnati was, at one time, the only city in the United States to outlaw festival seating altogether.

One of the people who was caught up in the surging crowd remembers the nightmare:

“A wave swept me to the left and when I regained my stance I felt that I was standing on someone. The helplessness and frustration of this moment sent a wave of panic through me. I screamed with all my strength that I was standing on someone. I couldn’t move. I could only scream. Another wave came and pushed me further left towards the door. I felt my leg being pulled to the right. The crowd shifted again and I reached down and grabbed an arm at my leg. I struggled for awhile and finally pulled up a young girl who also had a young boy clinging to her limbs. They were barely conscious and their faces were filled with tears.” - Ron Duristch

At the time of this tragedy, 'WKRP In Cincinnatti' was on the CBS schedule. Not only was it a show set in the Cincinnatti of 1979, but it also dealt with a rock 'n' roll radio station. If Toobworld reflects the real world for the most part, the producers probably felt that they had to address the situation, even though they were a sitcom.

Two months later, they offered up the following episode.....

"In Concert"
At a concert by the Who in Cincinnati on December 3, 1979, eleven kids were trampled to death when the crowd rushed to get seats. The first part of this episode takes place before that concert; the second act takes place the day after, and presents the characters' reactions to the tragedy.

b: 11 Feb 80
pc: 043
w: Steven Kampmann
d: Linda Day

This episode was dedicated to the 11 people who died on 12/3/79 outside Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, OH. On 12/27/79, the City of Cincinnati outlawed general admission, or "festival seating".

At the time, it was rare for a TV show, especially a sitcom, to incorporate current events into their storylines. Even today it's rare for a sitcom to do so. The tragedy of 9/11 has been addressed on dramas like 'Without A Trace', 'Boston Legal', 'CSI: NY', and the 'Law & Order' franchise, but as for sitcoms? The closest 'Friends' ever came to the subject was through a T-shirt worn by Joey Tribbiani in one episode, and even that was a tenuous connection. ('Becker' had a memorable episode about the aftermath with guest star Frances Sternhagen.)

Back then, it may have been expected from 'All In The Family' or 'Maude', perhaps 'Soap', but 'WKRP'?

I was hoping might have the episode, but no luck on that score. And it's probably a series you'll never see released on DVD due to music copyrights......

Toby O'B

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