Michael Schmidt Responds To Don Hill Tribute Controversy

Michael Schmidt Responds To Don Hill Tribute Controversy
Julian Ungano

I recently blogged about a brouhaha that emerged out of the December 15 tribute to late club impresario Don Hill at Irving Plaza.

The event's producer, Trigger, felt he'd been screwed over by two very well-known promoters he worked with on the night.

According to Trigger, the guys ended up planning a pre-event at another club that Trigger says stole the big night's thunder.

The blog drew a lot of heated response from both sides, everyone only agreeing on one thing: We all loved Don and feel he deserved the best.

But while I'd asked one of the promoters, Lyle Derek, to respond to Trigger's fumes, I didn't get ahold of Michael Schmidt.

Well, I've since gotten Schmidt's contact info and apologized for not having done so before.

Here is his letter to Trigger, which he has just supplied to me.

"Trigger-

"You have launched an attack upon me directed toward the readership of the Village Voice, various online outlets, your extensive email list, and to anyone within earshot. This has been as irrational and unprovoked as it is vitriolic and disturbing. While it is not my habit to do so, your offenses ranging from petty accusations to threats of harm toward my loved ones have left me little recourse but to respond.

"Three months ago, you reached out to me to be a part of a tribute to someone I loved and continue to love very much, Mr. Don Hill. You claimed the night 'wouldn't be the same' without SqueezeBox, that we must be a part of this tribute to Don. You then shared the list of 17 (which was eventually edited down to 15) bands you already had lined up before SqueezeBox was even to take the stage.

"Just one of those bands had a list of over 17 performers. The date, Dec. 15, fell on a Thursday night, at an enormous (by Don Hill's and SqueezeBox standards) venue, Irving Plaza, and that you planned to charge $35 at the door. In that conversation I told you of my many concerns, most of which were commonsensical:

"-I felt the night was overly ambitious. There were simply too many bands. You explained that each band was doing only 2 to 3 songs each, had a time limit and that you would keep the train on the tracks, without exception.

"-You 'allowed' me to have the door from 12:30 am, at which point to begin charging $10, with a showtime no later than 1:30, a most undesirable time slot. I explained that it was unlikely that people from the SqueezeBox scene of fifteen years ago would want to go out at 12:30 anymore, especially on a Thursday night, most having to work the next morning. I feared many of them would want to come earlier to see the Toilet Boys and Bebe Buell and then need to leave, if they could even afford to pay $35 right before the Christmas holiday. You later lowered the price to $25, which I said was still too high.

"-I expressed skepticism that people would pay 35 or even 25 to see a band they loved do only two songs

"-I also explained to you that I no longer considered myself a promoter; I have not lived in New York for twelve years and do not have access to any email list of SqueezeBox regulars. Also, most performers who made my club great either no longer perform, are no longer in the city or have guarantees too high to be accommodated by the $3000 budget I was limited to.

"I voiced all of these concerns to you, Trigger, and you claimed you weren't worried; there would be a packed house anyway, so I should do what I could to make a great show and let the chips fall where they may. You reiterated that you didn't care if it made money; that as long as it was a great night to celebrate a worthy man you were happy to do it. Despite the odds and against my better judgement I agreed to take part, as the SqueezeBox family certainly wanted to be a part of any tribute to Don, and said I would do my best.

"I did everything in my power to book a great show and promote it to the best of my abilities, despite the limited budget (as I've explained to you, 3000 doesn't go far when you have a four-piece band, six performers, a dj, a hostess, airfares and rehearsal studio to cover). I contacted Jayne County, a great friend to Don, myself and to SqueezeBox and an indisputable legend in her own right, and asked her to fly in for this special event. Despite ill health, she agreed to perform, and at a rate far lower than her usual get. I created a flyer and blasted Facebook as one does, as did all of the principals involved with SqueezeBox, going out to thousands of people. I launched a storm of photographs and fond memories to my followers on Twitter.

"On the evening of Sunday Dec. 11, I received a phone call from Lyle Derek. He told me he had invited Jayne to perform one number at DropOut, his weekly party, on Tues, Dec. 13th, two nights prior to the event at Irving Plaza, and asked if that was all right with me. I told him I had reservations but he could have her perform one number (not a number she's renowned for) on three conditions-

"One, he had to pay her. I certainly was not going to begrudge Jayne making a small bit of money beyond the tiny amount I had offered her, especially having traveled despite her health as she did.

"Two, he could not announce her as a performer. She could be billed as a Special Surprise Guest and the night had to be billed as a Pre-Party for the upcoming SqueezeBox event at Irving Plaza.

"Three, he had to send out my SqueezeBox invite to every avenue he had at his disposal, to people I had no access to otherwise, which amounted to over six thousand people. All of which Lyle agreed to do and did do. I agreed to cohost the night to help generate interest in the event at Irving Plaza which was clearly not selling well. It's called promoting. Incidentally, and my phone records confirm this, my very next phone call that evening was to you, at which point I told you all of this. On the evening of the DropOut party, Jayne spent her few moments on stage talking about her love of SqueezeBox and Don and her excitement about the tribute night, promoting the hell out of it and I was proud of her for that.

"You have somehow come to the conclusion that Lyle and I conspired for weeks to use his evening to bring about the downfall of 'your' night at Irving Plaza. To what end? I spent months of my time preparing a show befitting a tribute to a man I love. What possible motivation might I have for ruining a tribute to Don Hill? I was not paid for my appearance at DropOut, nor did I ask to be. It makes no sense on any level. I only wanted in every way for the tribute to Don to be a resounding success. I received no compensation whatsoever for my participation in this tribute event. I initially asked only that my airfare be reimbursed, yet when it became clear that was not to be forthcoming I paid it myself.

"The evening at Irving Plaza started at 7pm. The SqueezeBox portion of the evening, from roughly 1am to 1:45am, was not even one seventh of the entire night. Why do you blame the poor attendance of the entire night on me? You take absolutely no responsibility for your part in the failed six-sevenths of this event; I had no part in that. Ultimately, my portion of the evening failed to draw to my expectations as did yours, for exactly the reasons I've elucidated above, not because of some pre-party.

"In looking for others to blame for your failings you have publicly called me manipulative, sleazy, a phony, a loser, a creep, a selfish, classless prick, and many other things. Your hate-filled rants are licentious, libelous and under the review of my lawyers. Your infantile references to Jayne County as Wayne are homophobic, transphobic, and vile. You've asked why I won't respond to your emails; had you come to me as a peer rather than as an aggressor you would have received a response. I have never shown you anything other than professional courtesy only to be met with derision and malice. I will have no further correspondence with you.

"Michael Schmidt"


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