is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Whoops! Herald-Leader Report re: WoodSongs Incorrect, Says Johnathon

by Kim Thomas

Due to my reading of what turns out to be the Lexington Herald-Leader's not-so-factual report earlier today, I have tonight received a response from WoodSongs creator, Michael Johnathon, regarding my somewhat Irish-y rant-and-rave about the City's alleged efforts to gouge WoodSongs for unfair and what I called "heretofore uncharged rents." First of all, my apologies, there are already enough disputes regarding our fair city that are valid, and I'm happy to have the chance to clear this one up! Michael wanted me to make sure my blog was correct, and since he was nice enough to let me know, I want to let YOU know the truth. There is no such disagreement after all. The H-L's report was wrong...ack!

Here is Michael Johnathon's clarification:
"The show has always paid rent on the theater, we never got it for free.

The Herald-Leader is incorrect. We've paid rent to the City on every show, every week for all of the six years we've been there. The rent, by agreement, went up another $150 a week this past November, and that has not been an issue with us. It would be nice if they kept it the same, but it is what it is. It's a beautiful room, the perfect place for WoodSongs and, frankly, I'm not aware of another theater option. The Kentucky Theater folks and the Mayors office have always been ... ALWAYS ... very helpful and good friends to the project. Still are.

The issue was the City changing the available use of their lift that we need to change bulbs in the grid for the TV broadcast. We have to change bulbs every three weeks or so, and the show does not have $4500 a year to rent the lift (about $400 total each time, including insurance and delivery) that we need to change a $25 bulb ... which we pay for, by the way.

It is unsafe to use a ladder (the grid is about 40' above the floor and is fixed position, can't be lowered, no cat walk. The City has a lift that is stored a few doors down, they have always left us use it to change the bulbs, and then suddenly decided they don't want to do that anymore. God bless accountants and lawyers.

Unfortunately, the HL felt this conversation was a "story" and so there it is, in the paper ... and wrong. Anyway, the real deal is that I presented a plan that I thought would work for everyone, the Kentucky Theater agreed with me and presented it to the City. There is no "quibbling" for gosh sakes. Just a conversation to figger it all out."

Michael Johnathon, March 18, 2009

I'm going to swallow my pride here and include my ill-informed babbling, just to make sure everyone knows what I thought was the truth, based on what I read in the Herald-Leader...(yikes). By the way, this is the first and last time I shall ever blog about something I read in the newspaper, unless it's Ace Weekly. Here's my earlier, misinformed blog:

Well, here we go again, with even more blatant stupidity emanating from Mayor Newberry's office. In the news today comes (erroneous) word that the City is quibbling with Michael Johnathon, whose pet project, WoodSongs Old-Time Radio is being put under pressure to pay rent that heretofore has never been asked for space and use of one piece of equipment. The reasons given are flimsy at best, citing liability, that good ol' standby excuse for gouging money out of anyone who dares to venture into the unknown, who doesn't kowtow to the highbrow Bluegrass elite, who has the insight to find and highlight artists who may never have been featured on a world stage, to those who aren't as powerful and influential as the Webbs and Lovelys of this world who seem to get a free pass for being pitifully and woefully selfish and whose ethics are questionable at best.

Michael Johnathon has brought a treasure trove of talented performers to Lexington every Monday night for years, for over 500 WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour shows. Nobody else wants to do it, nobody else would do it, and nobody else COULD do it...or they would (and they haven't). The fact that he has volunteers work for him to put on a quality show (talk to J.D.Crowe and Jean Ritchie if you think it's not done professionally and well), week after week, speaks to his ability to organize a group of people to achieve a common goal.

It seems that the City wants to start charging WoodSongs for the use of the Kentucky Theatre as well as other expenses for equipment use. What rings as totally ridiculous to me is that Mayor Newberry's budget crunchers are comparing the contract with WoodSongs, which is a proven idea that brings money INTO downtown and showcases Lexington as a crossroads of country and folk and bluegrass and pop music, with the dilemma they're faced with to reinvent, renovate and make successful the Lyric theatre, which has been in disrepair for as long as I can remember.

They -- Newberry, et al., -- are missing the big picture, but what else is new? The 'cost' of the use of the Kentucky Theatre for WoodSongs pales in comparison with citizens' money wasted for the Airport folks' proclivities and the Webb brothers' mudhole that sits like a big pile of dung squarely in the middle of downtown as a reminder that the little guy gets pushed aside while the big money ticketers have their way with our fair city.

Now, more than ever, Central Kentucky citizens need to unite and fight city hall. This is a cause that we can all get behind, but unfortunately, some people will want to point the blame at Michael Johnathon, who somehow has managed to get the funding, get the artists, get the volunteers and even more importantly GET IT DONE for years and years, every week, without fail.

It occurs to me that Johnathon
could just pick up his guitar case and move WoodSongs to another city, any of the hundreds of cities around the world that carry WoodSongs on their radio or public television stations -- has anyone else thought of that?

If that happens, Lexington is going to lose the one tourist attraction that has withstood the test of time and recession, all under the guise of 'tightening the belt' in the budget crisis. Downtown will lose an immeasurable amount of dollars spent in businesses if WoodSongs is thrown under the bus. Argh! Now I'm wanting to run for Mayor myself! However, I'm gonna support the one likely candidate who has unfailingly supported the arts and has a proven track record of doing what's right, and that would be none other than our current Vice-Mayor, Jim Gray!