Julie Greifer-Swidler-a lifelong lover of rock-and-roll-thought she had landed her dream job.
She sat in her office at Polygram Records and learned that as assistant general counsel she would coordinate the legal work necessary for the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of Woodstock.
Today, four months after Woodstock '94, Greifer-Swidler is still sorting through a mountain of legal work. “Looking back,” she says, “it was one of the worst-best things I've ever worked on, and am still working on.”
One week she has to handle a controversy about cleaning up the site; the next week, she has to answer questions about the release of the concert video and album; after that, she must deal with certain vendors who claim that Polygram owes them more money.
Still, Woodstock '94 remains something like the dream job Greifer-Swidler thought it would be. Consider, for example, that she was on stage when Crosby, Stills & Nash performed, and that her concert office was in a trailer just behind one of the two stages with a sound system few offices have ever enjoyed.
Besides, for a woman who had performed as a singer during college and had loved her radio show on WRUC as much as anything else at Union, Woodstock '94 proved to be a good place for a former litigator. In addition to negotiating deals with the three original producers of Woodstock and more than sixty artists, Greifer-Swidler helped negotiate permits from the town of Saugerties and Ulster County and pacified residents terrified that their town was about to be overrun by a mob of out-of-control teenagers.
Then there were the maintenance contracts, the vendor contracts, the pay-per-view contracts, the water contracts, the medical contracts, the helicopter contracts, and. of course, the 2,500 portable toilet contracts. And at the concert itself, Greifer-Swidler had to mediate between sponsors like the Pepsi Corp. and Greenpeace.
If it sounds chaotic, that's because it was.
“I think so many people wanted to re-live 1969,” she says. “That's why they all showed up without tickets, and there's only so long you can keep people out of where they want to be. You'll never be able to convince people that they have to pay for another Woodstock.”
Greifer-Swidler spent her first six years after law school litigating in some of New York's most powerful firms. Still, she couldn't shake the music bug. At one point during her seven-day work weeks at Shea & Gould, she was even invited to host a nationally syndicated radio show in her spare time.
“I wanted to continue my show from WRUC,” she says, “But I realized I had no time.”
At Union, Greifer-Swidler hosted what she describes as a “pretty eclectic” show. “I played everything from Hot Tuna to Bruce Springsteen to old rock-n-roll, and some jazz that was popular at the time, like Chuck Mangione. Not pop, though,” she insists, “and not Barry Manilow. But I'd do Bill Withers, who did R&B but wasn't all that big, and then I'd throw in the Supremes.”
She briefly thought about trying to sing professionally, but “Unless you have a voice like Whitney Houston's or Vanessa Williams, you have to write your own songs, and I'm not a songwriter.”
Her first venture outside the litigation world took her to the advertising firm of J. Walter Thompson, where she occasionally had to rein in the agency's creative team when they would wander into questionable legal territory. “They'd call me into the meeting and ask me just how far over the edge they were going,”
She enjoyed being part of a corporate team. “When you're at a law firm,” she says, “you're on the mountain and you don't get to see the day-to-day operations of the company team.” And, by
handling many of the talent contracts at J. Walter Thompson, Greifer-Swidler began to break into entertainment law.
After the agency underwent a hostile takeover, Greifer-Swidler landed at Polygram. These days, after her adventures at Woodstock and the good fortune of being able to work on a deal involving one of her rock-n-roll heroes, Pete Townsend, and his Psycho Derelict concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Greifer-Swidler isn't headed anywhere else anytime soon.
Except to the maternity ward; her third child is due in February.Read More