U.A.W.M.F. VS. BILL GRAHAM

Throughout 1968 U.A.W.M.F. became more greatly involved in social action in the East Village: providing free crash space, food, legal and medical advice, and serving as a confrontational force vis a vis the NYPD as necessary. In the fall of that year Morea and the group decided to have a discussion with Bill Graham, owner/impresario of the Fillmore East on Second near 10th St.

“We didn’t want control of the Fillmore East or anything like that,” said Morea, “but we wanted to have one free, non commercial night for the street people. Given the money they were making out of the community we figured that they could give something back.”

Graham, used to dealing with the likes of the NYPD, the Mafia, and local branches of Hell’s Angels on both coasts, wasn’t at first impressed. “During one meeting in his office he pulled out three silver bullets and lined them up saying ‘The Hells Angels made similar demands on me and sent me these three bullets and I didn’t give in.’ I got up and said ‘There’s one difference between us and the Angels, we’re not giving you anything to put on your desk.’”

Not long after, during a performance of the Living Theatre (whose founders, Julian Beck and Judith Malina, and participants were well known to Morea), the group came on stage with the performers.  “I made a statement saying that they were finished, but we were going to stay on stage for as long as it would take to get what we wanted,” said Morea. “It might take one night, two nights or two weeks, but we were going to stay. We occupied the stage and fights broke out through the night with Graham and his goons, but they lost and at about one or two in the morning he gave in and we got the Thursday night for free.”

Several bands of note — Canned Heat, the Mc5, and Country Joe McDonald — played for free during that first free night at the Fillmore and the two successive Thursdays following, and the group gave out free drugs and food. Then, Graham came to Morea with a letter he’d been sent by the NYPD, informing him that if the free nights continued the entire venue would be shut down permanently, due to the free drugs policy. And, the free nights ended.

“We accepted that that was it,” says Morea, “but in the end it didn’t matter that it had only lasted three weeks because we got to challenge the whole commercial world of rock n roll.”