Tag Archives: N.Y.



WOODSTOCK-THE 45TH ANNIVERSARY Bethel, New YorkIt was held at Max Yasgur’s

600-acre (240 ha; 0.94 sq mi) dairy farm in the Catskills near the hamlet of White Lake

in the town of Bethel, New York, from August 15 to 18, 1969. Bethel, in Sullivan County,

is 43 miles (69 km) southwest of the town of Woodstock, New York, in adjoining Ulster





Need to recharge your flower power? Explore “The Sixties” all next week, Monday through Friday, August 18-22 at 9 p.m. on CNN.

(CNN) — Officially billed as The Woodstock Music and Art Fair, An Aquarian Exposition, the festival that came to be known, simply, as Woodstock is the stuff of legend.



Friday marks the 45th anniversary of Woodstock, which took place from August 15-18, 1969.

Woodstock didn’t take place in Woodstock, New York, but in Bethel, about 60 miles away.

“It was really called Woodstock because (festival co-creator) Mike Lang thought it had the right vibe,” Bob Spitz, journalist and author of “Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969” told CNN.

“Woodstock was where Bob Dylan lived,” said Spitz, “It’s where The Band hung out and he just liked the whole feel of the word. No matter where they were gonna have it, it was always going to be the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Everything about Woodstock has to do with the vibe.”

2009: Folk singer Richie Havens remembers Woodstock

‘The Sixties’ all next week on CNN

60’s: Sex, Drugs & Rock N’ Roll

Max Yasgur provided Woodstock’s venue by leasing out his 600-acre dairy farm near the hamlet of White Lake in the Catskill Mountain community of Bethel, New York, 100 miles north of Manhattan.

The posters promised “3 Days of Peace & Music,” but the festival’s initial concept “depends on who you talk to,” said Spitz.

Lang and festival promoter Artie Kornfeld wanted to have a blowout that was “the biggest party the counterculture had ever seen,” said Spitz. “If you talk to their partners, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, who were the money guys, it was to make a lot of money.”

For the crowd of 350,000 to 450,000 young people in attendance, Woodstock was all about peace and love, and that’s no myth.

“The entire Woodstock festival was peaceful and the kids were respectful because of one word: marijuana,” said Spitz. “Everybody was high. If it had been other drugs it would’ve been chaos. But because of dope and LSD, everything was peaceful there for those three days.”

Festival organizers who had been expecting a crowd of 80,000 to 100,000 people were blindsided when quadruple the crowd showed up. No one was prepared for a surplus of 300,000 people. With no system in place to charge them, Woodstock became a free event.

Cars within a five-mile radius were at a standstill. New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller declared a state of emergency in White Lake. By Woodstock’s second day, authorities publicly pleaded for anyone who might be on their way to the festival to turn around and go home. Eventually no one could get out or in unless they needed to be airlifted. Festival managers scrambled to fly in 30 extra physicians from New York City.

Santana\'s debut album was released the same month as Woodstock, catapulting the then-unknown band to fame.
Santana’s debut album was released the same month as Woodstock, catapulting the then-unknown band to fame.

Santana vocalist Gregg Rolie spoke to CNN while promoting the Blu-ray release of the director’s cut of the 1970 Academy Award-winning documentary “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music.”

Rolie recalled arriving with the other members of Santana via helicopter.

“We flew in because everybody parked on the highway,” said Rolie. “It was kinda like ‘Close Encounters’ or ‘Field of Dreams,’ you know? ‘If you build it, they will come.’ The highways were closed. Upstate New York was like a parking lot. So we had to fly in on helicopters.”

Santana’s appearance is considered one of the festival highlights. The band played early on, before the first of two downpours that reduced Yasgur’s alfalfa field to a sloppy, slippery slew of mud puddles.

All of Santana’s music was new at the time and the band was virtually unknown. They had not yet released their first album. Woodstock is credited for jump starting Santana’s career.

“If you played at Woodstock, you had a career,” said Rolie, who had no idea that the festival’s legacy would resonate so powerfully 45 years later.

Joe Cocker performed a well-received cover of The Beatles\' \
Joe Cocker performed a well-received cover of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends”

Woodstock’s lineup also included Joan Baez, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Joe Cocker, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Band, among others.

Jimi Hendrix closed the festival. By the time he began his Monday morning set, which included his celebrated rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the crowd had thinned out to 200,000. Many had to get to work, school, wanted to get a jump on the traffic or simply could not endure the close quarters any longer. Even so, Hendrix had never performed in front of such a big group before and nearly bailed.

Although Woodstock has been lifted onto a pedestal in certain ways, by all accounts the festival lived up to the fable. The fairy tale, though largely drug-laden, was a reality for those in attendance.

iReport: Hazy memories of Woodstock

Watch ‘The Sixties’

Need to recharge your flower power? Explore “The Sixties” all next week, Monday through Friday August 18-22, at 9 p.m. on CNN.

It can be difficult to connect the storybook reality with Woodstock’s harsher realities like overflowed toilets, lack of food and water, and a makeshift, 20-bed hospital tent to accommodate roughly 3,000 medical emergencies.

A tractor crushed a teenage boy in a sleeping bag, fatally wounding him. One young man died of a heroin overdose, another died of a burst appendix. A young woman broke her back falling off of stage scaffolding.

In addition, there were about 400 bad acid trips, sprained ankles from sliding in the mud, and many a gashed foot as a result of stepping barefoot on broken glass.

Two babies were born, too. One child arrived in traffic en route to the festival, and the other was delivered in a hospital after the mother was airlifted out of the field.

A lot of sex was going on at Woodstock and, according to Spitz, a lot of women forgot to pack their birth control so supplies of birth control pills were flown in.

For an event where facilities were strained far past capacity, not a single fight or incident of violence erupted among the crowd, which endured near-unbearable conditions.

Town elders, residents, shopkeepers and local police couldn’t get over how courteous and considerate the kids were — all 450,000 or so of them.

Woodstock’s financial backers were not so lucky. They took a bath — and not a mud one — to the tune of $1.3 million.

Spitz called Woodstock “the beginning of the end of the ’60s” because it, along with the moon landing, represented a bright period after the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and before the breakup of the Beatles and the deaths of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison.

Woodstock is legendary for many reasons, but what made it magical was the value people placed on one another.

“If these are the kids that are going to inherit the world,” Max Yasgur said at the time, “I don’t fear for it.”






The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was an event held at Max Yasgur’s 600 acre (2.4 km²) dairy farm in the rural town of Bethel, New York from August 15 to August 18, 1969. For many, it exemplified the counterculture of the 1960s and the “hippie era.” Many of the best-known musicians of the time appeared during the rainy weekend, captured in a successful 1970 movie, Woodstock. Joni Mitchell’s song “Woodstock,” which memorialized the event, became a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Though attempts have been made over the years to recreate the festival, the original Woodstock festival of 1969 has proven to be unique and legendary.

Woodstock has been idealized in the American popular culture as the culmination of the hippie movement. – What started as a paid event ended being free with over 500,000 attendees or flower children.  Although the festival was remarkably peaceful given the number of people and conditions involved, the reality was less than perfect. Woodstock did have some crime and other misbehavior, as well as a fatality from a drug overdose, an accidental death caused by an occupied sleeping bag being run over by a tractor and one participant died from falling off a scaffold. There were also three miscarriages and two births recorded at the event and colossal logistical headaches. Furthermore, because Woodstock was not intended for such a large crowd, there were not enough resources such as portable toilets and first-aid tents. As a matter of fact the original plan for holding the festival in Wallkill, NY was scrapped because the town officially banned it on the grounds that the planned portable toilets wouldn’t meet town code. Maybe they would have preferred full bathroom suites.

There was some profiteering in the sale of “electric Kool-Aid.”

Woodstock began as a profit-making venture; it only became a free festival after it became obvious that the concert was drawing hundreds of thousands more people than the organizers had prepared for, and that the fence had been torn down by eager, unticketed arrivals. Tickets for the event (sold in 1969) cost US $18 to buy a ticket in advance (which would be US$95.58 in 2005 with inflation factored in) and $24 to buy a ticket at the gate for all three days. Ticket sales were limited to record stores in the greater New York City area, or by mail via a Post Office Box at the Radio City Station Post Office located in Midtown Manhattan.

Yet, in tune with the idealistic hopes of the 1960s, Woodstock satisfied most attendees. Especially memorable were the sense of social harmony, the quality of music, and the overwhelming mass of people, many sporting bohemian dress, behavior, and attitudes

Woodstock Peace, Love, Music

Click Here For More Woodstock Photos

Performers and Schedule of Events

Friday, August 15
The first day, which officially began at 5:08 p.m. with Richie Havens, featured folk artists.

Richie Havens (opened the festival – performed 7 encores)
High Flyin’ Bird
I Can’t Make It Anymore
With A Little Help w/ me
Strawberry Fields Forever
Hey Jude
I Had A Woman
Handsome Johnny
Freedom/Motherless Child
Swami Satchidananda – gave the invocation for the festival

Country Joe McDonald, played separate set from his band, The Fish
I Find Myself Missing You
Rockin All Around The World
Flyin’ High All Over the World
Seen A Rocket flyin
The “Fish” Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag

John Sebastian
How Have You Been
Rainbows Over Your Blues
I Had A Dream
Younger Generation
What’s Wrong
Motherless Child
Look Out
For Pete’s Sake
Day Song
Crystal Spider
Two Worlds
Why Oh Why
Incredible String Band
The Letter
This Moment
When You Find Out Who You Are
Bert Sommer
The Road To Travel
I Wondered Where You Be
She’s Gone
Things Are Going my Way
And When It’s Over
A Note That Read

Tim Hardin, an hour-long set
If I Were A Carpenter
Misty Roses
Ravi Shankar, with a 5-song set, played through the rain
Raga Puriya-Dhanashri/Gat In Sawarital
Tabla Solo In Jhaptal
Raga Manj Kmahaj
Iap Jor
Dhun In Kaharwa Tal
Beautiful People
Birthday of The Sun

Arlo Guthrie
Coming Into Los Angeles
Walking Down The Line
Amazing Grace

Joan Baez
Oh Happy Day
The Last Thing On My Mind
I Shall Be Released
Joe Hill
Sweet Sir Galahad
Hickory Wind
Drug Store Truck Driving Man
(I Live) One Day at a Time
Sweet Sunny South
Warm and Tender Love
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
We Shall Overcome
Baez Source: Arthur Levy, annotator of the expanded editions of the 12 Joan Baez CDs on Vanguard

Saturday, August 16
The day opened at 12:15 pm, and featured some of the event’s biggest psychedelic and guitar rock headliners.

Quill, forty minute set of four songs
They Live the Life
Waitin’ For You

Keef Hartley Band
Spanish Fly
Believe In You
Rock Me Baby
Leavin’ fuct
Just To Cry
Sinnin’ For You
You Just Don’t Care
Soul Sacrifice
Fried Neckbones

Canned Heat
A Change Is Gonna Come/Leaving This Town
Going Up The Country
Let’s Work Together
Woodstock Boogie

Mountain, hour-long set including Jack Bruce’s “Theme For An Imaginary Western”
Blood of the Sun
Stormy Monday
Long Red
Who Am I But You And The Sun
Beside The Sea
For Yasgur’s Farm (then untitled)
You and Me
Theme For An Imaginary Western
Waiting To Take You Away
Dreams of Milk and Honey
Blind Man
Blue Suede Shoes
Southbound Train

Janis Joplin (Performed 2 encores; Piece of My Heart and Ball and Chain).
Raise Your Hand
As Good As You’ve Been To This World
To Love Somebody
Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)
Kosmic Blues
Can’t Turn you Loose
Work Me Lord
Piece of My Heart
Ball and Chain

Sly & the Family Stone started at 1:30 am
Sing A Simple Song
You Can Make It If You Try
Everyday People
Dance To The Music
I Want To Take You Higher
Love City
Grateful Dead
St. Stephen
Mama Tried
Dark Star/High Time
Turn On Your Love Light

Creedence Clearwater Revival
Born on the Bayou
Green River
Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do)
Bad Moon Rising
Proud Mary
I Put A Spell On You
Night Time is the Right Time
Keep On Chooglin’
Suzy Q

The Who began at 3 AM, kicking off a 24-song set including Tommy
Heaven and Hell
I Can’t Explain
It’s a Boy
Amazing Journey
Eyesight to the Blind
Tommy Can You Hear Me?
Acid Queen
Pinball Wizard
Fiddle About
There’s a Doctor
Go to the Mirror
Smash the Mirror
I’m Free
Tommy’s Holiday Camp
We’re Not Gonna Take It
See Me, Feel Me
Summertime Blues
Shakin’ All Over
My Generation
Naked Eye

Jefferson Airplane began at 8 a.m. with an eight-song set, capping off the overnight marathon.
Somebody To Love
The Other Side of This Life
Plastic Fantastic Lover
Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon
Eskimo Blue Day
Uncle Sam’s Blues
White Rabbit

Sunday, August 17 to Monday, August 18

Joe Cocker was the first act on the last officially booked day (Sunday); he opened up for the day’s booked acts at 2 PM. The day’s events ultimately drove the schedule nine hours late. By dawn, the concert was continuing in spite of attendees’ having left, returning to the workweek and their other normal obligations.

  • Joe Cocker
    1. Delta Lady
    2. Some Things Goin’ On
    3. Let’s Go Get Stoned
    4. I Shall Be Released
    5. With a Little Help from My Friends
  • After Joe Cocker’s set, a storm disrupted the events for several hours.
  • Country Joe and the Fish resumed the concert around 6 p.m.
    1. Rock and Soul Music
    2. Thing Called Love
    3. Love Machine
    4. The “Fish” Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag
  • Ten Years After
    1. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
    2. I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes
    3. I May Be Wrong, But I Won’t Be Wrong Always
    4. Hear Me Calling
    5. I’m Going Home
  • The Band – Set list confirmed via Levon Helm’s book “This Wheel’s On Fire”
    1. Chest Fever
    2. Tears of Rage
    3. We Can Talk
    4. Don’t You Tell Henry
    5. Don’t Do It
    6. Ain’t No More Cane
    7. Long Black Veil
    8. This Wheel’s On Fire
    9. I Shall Be Released
    10. The Weight
    11. Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever
  • Blood, Sweat and Tears ushered in the midnight hour with five songs.
    1. More and More
    2. I Love You Baby More Than You Ever Know
    3. Spinning Wheel
    4. I Stand Accused
    5. Something Coming On
  • Johnny Winter featuring Edgar Winter, his brother, on two songs.
    1. Mama, Talk to Your Daughter
    2. To Tell the Truth
    3. Johnny B. Goode
    4. Six Feet In the Ground
    5. Leland Mississippi Blues/Rock Me Baby
    6. Mean Mistreater
    7. I Can’t Stand It (With Edgar Winter)
    8. Tobacco Road (With Edgar Winter)
    9. Mean Town Blues
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young began around 3 a.m. with separate acoustic and electric sets.
    • Acoustic Set
    1. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
    2. Blackbird
    3. Helplessly Hoping
    4. Guinnevere
    5. Marrakesh Express
    6. 4 + 20
    7. Mr. Soul
    8. Wonderin’
    9. You Don’t Have To Cry
    • Electric Set
    1. Pre-Road Downs
    2. Long Time Gone
    3. Bluebird
    4. Sea of Madness
    5. Wooden Ships
    6. Find the Cost of Freedom
    7. 49 Bye-Byes
  • Paul Butterfield Blues Band
    1. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright
    2. Driftin’
    3. Born Under A Bad Sign
    4. Morning Sunrise
    5. Love March
  • Sha-Na-Na
    1. Na Na Theme
    2. Yakety Yak
    3. Teen Angel
    4. Jailhouse Rock
    5. Wipe Out
    6. (Who Wrote) The Book of Love
    7. Duke of Earl
    8. At the Hop
    9. Na Na Theme
  • Jimi Hendrix had insisted on being the final performer of the festival and was scheduled to perform at midnight. Due to various delays, he did not take the stage until nine o’clock on Monday morning. The crowd, estimated at over 400,000 at its peak, is reported to have been no larger than 80,000 when his performance began. His set lasted two hours — the longest of his career — and featured 17 songs, concluding with “Hey Joe”; but it played to a relatively empty field. The full list of Hendrix’s Woodstock performance repertoire follows:
    1. Message to Love
    2. Hear My Train A Comin’
    3. Spanish Castle Magic
    4. Red House
    5. Mastermind
    6. Lover Man
    7. Foxy Lady
    8. Jam Back At The House
    9. Izabella
    10. Gypsy Woman
    11. Fire
    12. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)/Stepping Stone
    13. Star Spangled Banner
    14. Purple Haze
    15. Woodstock Improvisation
    16. Villanova Junction
    17. Hey Joe


Cancelled appearances

The Jeff Beck Group was scheduled to perform at Woodstock, but failed to make an appearance due to the band’s break-up the week before.

Iron Butterfly was stuck at an airport, and their manager demanded helicopters and special arrangements just for them. They were wired back and told, as impolitely as Western Union would allow, “to get lost”, but in other ‘words’.
Neil Young joined Crosby, Stills & Nash, but refused to be filmed; by his own report, Young felt the filming was distracting both performers and audience from the music. Young’s “Sea of Madness,” heard on the album, was actually recorded a month after the festival at the Fillmore East dance hall.

Joni Mitchell was slated to perform but her agent informed her that it was more important that she appear on “The Dick Cavett Show” on Monday, with its national audience, rather than “sit around in a field with 500 people.” Ironically, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Jefferson Airplane (who both performed at the festival) also made it to the show. She wrote and recorded the song “Woodstock” that was also a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and was recorded by Richie Havens on his 2004 album Grace of the Sun.

Ethan Brown was a solo guitarist highly admired by the ‘hippie’ youth, but he was arrested three days before the festival on LSD related charges. He is known best for his earlier childhood friendship with The Doors piano player, Ray Manzarek.

Canadian band Lighthouse was originally scheduled to play at Woodstock, but in the end they decided not to, fearing that it would be a bad scene. Later, several members of the group would say that they regretted the decision.

Mind Garage declined for various reasons but one of the primary reasons is that the band had agreed to a paid gig in Cleveland. Had they known that many of their friends were playing at this concert they would have attended. Read the entire story by clicking here.

Refused Invitations

The promoters contacted John Lennon, requesting for The Beatles to perform. Lennon said that he couldn’t get the Beatles, but offered to play with his Plastic Ono Band. The promoters turned this down.

The Doors were considered as a potential performing band, but cancelled at the last moment. Contrary to popular belief that this was related in some fashion to lead singer Jim Morrison’s arrest for indecent exposure while performing earlier that year, the cancellation was most likely due to Morrison’s known and vocal distaste for performing in large outdoor venues.[2] There also was a widely spread legend that Morrison, in a fit of paranoia, was fearful that someone would take a shot at him while he was onstage Drummer John Densmore attended and can be seen on the side of the stage during Joe Cocker’s set.

Led Zeppelin were asked to perform, their manager Peter Grant stating “We were asked to do Woodstock and Atlantic were very keen, and so was our US promoter, Frank Barcelona. I said no because at Woodstock we’d have just been another band on the bill.” “Led Zeppelin: The Concert Files”, Lewis & Pallett, 1997, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0.7119.5307.4

Jethro Tull refused to perform, claiming that it wouldn’t be a big deal.

The Moody Blues for unknown reasons declined to perform. They later regretted not performing. They were however promoted as being a performer on the third day on early posters that stated the site being Wallkill.

Tommy James and the Shondells declined an invitation to perform at Woodstock, which they later regretted. Lead singer Tommy James stated later, “We could have just kicked ourselves. We were in Hawaii, and my secretary called and said, ‘Yeah, listen, there’s this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.’ That’s how it was put to me. So we passed, and we realized what we’d missed a couple of days later.”

The Clarence White-era Byrds were given an opportunity to play, but refused to do so after a melee during their performance at the Atlanta Pop Festival earlier that summer.

Paul Revere & The Raiders declined to perform. They later regretted.

Bob Dylan was in negotiations to play, however he had to pull out as his son was taken ill. He also was unhappy about the number of the hippies piling up outside his house near the originally planned site. He would go on to perform at the Isle of Wight Festival two weeks later.

Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention Quote: “A lot of mud at Woodstock. We were invited to play there, we turned it down” – FZ. Citation: “Class of the 20th Century,” U.S. network television special in serial format, circa 1995.

Woodstock Trivia


Jimi Hendrix’s E-string broke when he was playing Red House and played the rest of the song with five strings, which was a remarkable feat.

John Sebastian wasn’t originally scheduled to perform. He was enlisted to perform when several of the acts were late in arriving due to the traffic going to the festival.

Richie Havens’s song “Freedom” was totally improvised. He was called back for so many encores that he ran out of songs to sing, so he just picked up his guitar and started singing “Freedom.” The song includes lyrics from the Negro spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”

Country Joe McDonald wasn’t scheduled to perform the first day. He was forced into it because many of the acts that were scheduled to perform that day hadn’t arrived yet. He also performed on Day Three with the rest of The Fish.

A 20-year-old man named Stephen Victor Tallarico (later known as Steven Tyler of Aerosmith) attended the festival.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young almost didn’t perform at the festival. The helicopter that Graham Nash and the group’s drummer Dallas Taylor were on was less than 25 feet off the ground when the tail rotor failed and it began to spin. The helicopter almost crashed and Nash and Taylor were almost killed.

Michael Lang once said that his original idea was to have Roy Rogers close the festival by singing “Happy Trails.”

The character named “Woodstock” from Peanuts was named for the festival


Ny Times Article

NY Times Article

Woodstock Monument

In Memory of Woodstock ” A Birth of a Generation”

Did you attend the “Original” Woodstock concert? If so I would like to hear from you and your experience while attending. Write to me atwebmaster@the60sofficialsite.com

HIWAY AMERICA -The Barrel Daredevils And tightrope walker Nik Wallenda of Niagara Falls N.Y









p>Gallery of Battered Barrels.
Gallery of Battered Barrels.

Barrel Daredevils of Niagara Falls

Field review by the editors.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

Tumbling in a barrel over Niagara Falls is a freeway to fame for a select group of crackpots and egomaniacs. No great skill is required: just build a really strong barrel, fill it with a lot of padding, and figure out a way to get into the river above the Falls without getting caught. Twenty minutes later, you’re a star.

Annie Edson Taylor and her barrel.
Annie Edson Taylor and her barrel.

Of course, as the Niagara Daredevils Exhibit in Toronto makes clear, it’s not quite that easy.

Greeting visitors to the exhibit is the red, white, and blue “Death Barrel” of George Stathakis, who survived the Falls but died of suffocation waiting to be rescued (His barrel companion, a turtle named Sonny Boy, survived).

Peculiar stories are everywhere in the exhibit, their details offered in gaudy tabloid-style displays. Bobby Leach was the first man to survive a barrel trip, but died later when he slipped on an orange peel. Karel Soucek went over the Falls with a case of beer and survived, but six months later he dropped in the same barrel from the roof of the Astrodome and died.

Charles Stephens unwisely tied an anvil to his feet as ballast; his barrel survived, but all that was left of Charles was his tattooed right arm. “He was,” reads an accompanying sign, “apparently torn apart.”

Risk-takers have launched themselves over the Falls on a jet ski, a kayak, and a barrel made of inflated inner tubes named “The Thing.” All of them died, but the kayak escaped with just a dent.

Weaver's Rapids Queen.
Weaver’s Rapids Queen.

The first human to go over the Falls and live was Annie Edson Taylor, who did it on her 63rd birthday. “I was on the brink of the awful precipice,” says a disembodied voice at Annie’s display, apparently reading from her account. “The barrel seemed to pause for one second… The sensation was one of indescribable horror….” The exhibit offers a life-size cutout of Annie next to an exact replica of her custom-built oak barrel, which survived the Falls but did not survive a subsequent custody battle.

Plunge O' Sphere.
Plunge O’ Sphere.

William “Red” Hill was a fulcrum of daredevilry: he witnessed Anne Taylor’s plunge; he rescued “Smiling Jean” Lussier after he went over the Falls (his barrel is in a museum on the American side); he re-used the Death Barrel of George Stathakis to ride the “Boneyard of Niagara” Whirlpool and was saved from the Whirlpool by his son, who later died in his own attempt to conquer the Falls. Red’s barrel is covered with a hand-painted resume of life accomplishments: “Gassed and wounded four times in World War I.” “Rescued 177 bodies from the Niagara River.” “Saved girl from burning house 1896” (He would have been just eight years old).

Dave Mundy’s “no frills” barrel was built, according to his display, “to show the media he could survive” (He did). Another of Mundy’s barrels resembles an oversized aluminum beer keg, and is open — daring visitors to play daredevil by crawling inside. A third Mundy barrel resembles a large hot dog or foot-long sub; it got stuck on the brink of the Falls, and Mundy later agreed that this probably saved his life.

For all it’s insanity — or perhaps because of it — going over Niagara Falls in a barrel has been treated relatively lightly by the authorities. William Fitzgerald, who rode his “Plunge O’ Sphere” over the Falls in 1961, was fined only $100. One daredevil quoted in the exhibit called the fines, “a cheap price to pay to get into the record books.” Today the maximum fine in Canada is $10,000 and the Niagara Falls Parks Commission strongly discourages barrel daredevils, which has apparently triggered some resentment.

A recorded TV news broadcast in the exhibit strikes a defensive tone: “A spokesman for the Niagara Falls Parks Commission says the Commission is not a party pooper.”

Barrel Daredevils of Niagara Falls

IMAX Theatre Niagara Falls

6170 Fallsview Blvd, Niagara Falls, ON, Canada
In the lobby of IMAX Theatre Niagara Falls, which is at the base of the impossible-to-miss Skylon Tower. Up the hill from Horseshoe Falls, on Fallsview Blvd between Murray and Robinson Sts. Has its own parking lot.
Opens daily at 9 AM. (Call to verify)
Adults $8.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour

Born 150 Years Too Late -John Coffer

Born 150 Years Too Late -John Coffer





Coffer-crop-flip-1000x532WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW


Published: August 3, 2006


FRED R. CONRAD/The New York Times

John A. Coffer sitting for a portrait on his farm in Dundee, N.Y.

THERE are those who, on hearing that the tintype photographer John A. Coffer lives without car, phone or plumbing, might call him a Luddite. This, he insists, is not true — for one thing, he has a computer. He even has a computer room. The walls are bales of hay, the roof is tin, and the power source is a 75-watt solar panel outside in the pasture. Mr. Coffer, who lives on a 48-acre farm in the Finger Lakes, built his computer room in March. It’s lasted nicely through heavy rains and if it falls apart, Mr. Coffer says, no matter: He’s invested all of $15 in it.

You consider yourself a dedicated artist because you lived in a tenement walk-up without air-conditioning? Mr. Coffer, who is one of the few people credited with a recent revival of tintype photography, and who supports himself with the sale of his work and his tintype workshops, does not just make photographs as one did in the 1860’s, he lives, to a large extent, the way one might have in the 1860’s. (In late July, he played host to his sixth annual tintype jamboree, free of cost, for dozens of fellow aficionados.)

He spent seven years on the road with a horse and buggy, and that’s the way he still gets around. He uses an outhouse. He lives in a small log cabin, which he built. The heat in the cabin comes from a wood-burning cast-iron stove, so that everything in the cabin, including Mr. Coffer, has the soft, smoky scent of soot.

One also senses, early on, a low smoldering anger. Mr. Coffer, who, with his suspenders, straw hat, horse and buggy, is frequently mistaken for Amish, is not a mad artist in the woods, but he can be a somewhat cranky one. Asked why subjects in 19th-century photos rarely smiled, he says it is because they were dignified; it is only in recent times that people “feel they have to show their teeth like a used-car salesman.” He is annoyed with the values of modern women — an attitude which is easier to understand once you learn that his wife, after a short time in the cabin, ran off.

And while Mr. Coffer, who is 54, prides himself on living off the grid, he does not want to be lost there. Meeting a reporter for the first time, he brings his scrapbook of newspaper stories about his life on the road. Much of Mr. Coffer’s work in those days was at Civil War re-enactments, and as he flipped through his scrapbook, he said that he sometimes drove eight and a half days in his buggy to get to a site, while the re-enactors pulled up in their trucks or vans.

“You’d be surprised at how delicate some of these re-enactors are,” Mr. Coffer said.

No one could ever accuse Mr. Coffer of being delicate. His log cabin is 12 feet square. He hauls water from his well with a two-bucket yoke. He sleeps in a small loft, with sheets that scream out for an intervention. Since Mr. Coffer has no refrigerator to which he can affix photos, a few favorite tintypes cling to the cross-saws on the cabin wall.

One shows two young women Mr. Coffer met at a Civil War re-enactment a few weeks ago. They’d been bored, so he’d photographed them in their Civil War underwear — pantaloons and tops — along with a whiskey jug and gun belt that he added “to make it interesting.” Mr. Coffer is a man, it is becoming clear, who could use an online dating service, but as his computer is not connected to the Internet, some hardy woman of pioneering spirit will have to find him, taking care not to kick the chickens as she crosses the cabin threshold.

It is also clear that Mr. Coffer is a very handy fellow. His farm includes a half-dozen structures: wagon barns, outhouse, darkrooms, root cellar, all of which he built. The skull atop Mr. Coffer’s corral is what remains of White Lightning, an ox who appeared in many of his tintypes. Mr. Coffer reduced the skull to bone by placing it on an anthill.

Mr. Coffer is not opposed to all modern convenience. His solar panel charges batteries for the single bulb in his cabin and for the radio on which he listens to NPR. He keeps his expenses to the bone. His cabin cost $800, most of it for cedar shingles. The handsome claw-foot cast-iron tub near the woods, in which he bathes in fine weather, was $1. The 60-gallon cauldron that he uses to heat bath water was $20.

How often does he bathe?

Twice a week in winter, when he uses a portable aluminum tub indoors; every day in summer.

What about the sheets?

Mr. Coffer proudly led the way to a 1925 Maytag, which is outside the cabin, near the woods. The rubber wringer is corroded but the inside is fine. Mr. Coffer hauls the water from his well and hooks the Maytag up to a battery. The washer cost $15 at a farm sale.

The big question: why does Mr. Coffer choose to live like this?

“Modern living was always too fast for me,” he said. “I was not good at 20th-century living.”

He grew up in Las Vegas. His father was a magician and hypnotist; his mother was a schoolteacher who refused to marry his father until he became a responsible provider. That turned out to be never. His father gambled; both parents were hooked on diet pills. Both are now dead. Although his father was “kind of a louse,” Mr. Coffer admired his independence.

Mr. Coffer, as a young man, tried several careers: doing underwater construction on oil rigs; running a diving business; working as a studio photographer in Orlando, his subjects schoolchildren and businessmen.

“There was one approach to portraiture,” he later wrote, in a self-published book “Horsehair In My Soup: Book 1.” “The broad smile, the flash, the color prints that fade all too soon and the aura of glamour that surrounded the studio began to grate against my sensibilities. Something within me was intent at looking deeper than face level.”

Then one day, he saw an old wooden Century Number 4 camera in a shop window and knew, in an instant, that it would change his life. He bought the camera for $50 and began photographing re-enactments, soon trading in his car for a horse and buggy. He mixed his own chemicals, creating images on glass and metal plates.

It took about an hour to make a portrait, including sensitizing the plate, taking the picture, then developing, fixing, washing, drying and varnishing the plate. Subjects also had to sit unmoving for several seconds, sometimes with the aid of a neck brace. Sitting for that amount of time, it is difficult to hide one’s true face.

On the road, Mr. Coffer also found a wife.

“Big mistake,” Mr. Coffer says now. His wife had wanted adventure, but after a while she said she’d leave if they didn’t settle down. In 1985, they came to Yates County, where land was $300 an acre and an Amish community provided a support system for horse-drawn conveyances. Mr. Coffer’s wife stuck around for the building of the cabin. Then came her demands for the car and the phone, he said. Then, he said, after two years in the cabin, she ran off with Mr. Coffer’s assistant for the bright lights of Ithaca. She left him 18 years ago and Mr. Coffer hasn’t had an affair of the heart since.

“Nobody likes it up here, I guess,” he said, out in the canvas-covered darkroom in the pasture, as evening came on and with it time to milk the cow. “It’s like a monastery here, I guess.”

He could go out and try to meet a woman.

“I used to do all that, go to singles bars,” Mr. Coffer said. “It was cheap. It just wasn’t fulfilling. I don’t want to live up to other people’s expectations. I own this land, 50 acres free and clear. I’ve got a lot of money in the bank. I’ve been in galleries in New York. And yet girls go, ‘He doesn’t have a phone.’ ” Mr. Coffer rarely curses, but speaking about women, he does. They’ll chase down a guy 10 feet in debt over his head, working at some dead-end job, who’s got a phone and a car, he said angrily.

Actually, it’s probably the lack of plumbing, he was told.

“I love my outhouse,” Mr. Coffer said. “It is a little bit of a challenge in January, but I don’t linger out there.”

Also, since we’re on the subject, there’s no place inside the cabin to bathe. That claw foot tub near the trees might be okay in August, once, if a lady is feeling like doing a little nymph in the woods number, but after that, forget it. There aren’t many hippie chicks left. And Mr. Coffer is 54, and if we’re talking women his own age, they’ll be getting up in the middle of the night to hit the bathroom. Often.

Mr. Coffer was unmoved. He happens to like living as he does, he said. Conveniences like e-mail and phones end up being your master. Driving a horse and buggy, he’s not beholden to auto and gas companies.

“I was a great student of how people lived in the 19th century,” he said. “I emulate my heroes, the independence people had, the old wagons and things. It’s just more of an earthy way of moving, the natural rhythm, the poetry, the pace.”

And he headed down to the pasture, to the cows.