Locals who watch Netflix' new documentary series “Trainwreck: Woodstock '99," will see a familiar face — former Marietta police chief Dan Flynn.
The series chronicles the three days of pandemonium in Rome, New York that were, unlike the original Woodstock in 1969, characterized more by rage and violence than love and flower power. The massive festival went down in music history for all the wrong reasons, marred by violence, fires, sexual assault, looting, poor sanitation, and a lack of food and water.
Flynn, who recently hung up his hat as Marietta police chief after a 48-year career in law enforcement, turns up as a witness, having worked on the security team at the festival. AT rang the chief to get his side of the story. Flynn tells us he was interviewed for eight hours. Most of that was left on the cutting room floor.
As a student, Flynn attended the original Woodstock festival in '69. More than two decades later, he was working in the Miami-Dade County Police Department, where he got to know a man, Wes Pomroy, who was security director of the 1969 fest. Pomroy was contacted about running security for Woodstock ’94, but by then was in his 70s. Pomroy recommended the organizers hire Flynn, who by then had plenty of experience running security for large events.
Flynn became a consultant and reviewed their plans. He determined they needed 1,450 security guards for the event, which was supposed to accommodate 200,000 attendees. Flynn said they were only willing to pay for 900 security, so he quit.
“They had that Woodstock and it was terrible, it was a big muddy mess. And they lost millions on it,” Flynn said.
Five years later, the organizers came a-knockin’ again. Flynn was resistant to working on Woodstock ’99. He was overseeing special operations for the Miami-Dade police, and some of his recent side gigs had included running security for Super Bowl XXXIII and the 1997 World Series. And, he said, he thought the festival was too large to be run safely.
“But they threw a lot of money at me and said, ‘Well look, name your price.’ So I threw out, just to shut them up, I said $100,000. And they asked me when I could start,” Flynn recalled.
Flynn drew up security plans and decided they would need 1,700 security. But organizers, he said, waited too long to start hiring the muscle. It was concert season in New York, security guards were in high demand, and most of the good ones were already working elsewhere.
“And so they wound up hiring people off the streets of New York and hiring all kinds of people who were not trained security guards,” Flynn said. “So that was a problem.”
Then it turned out all the security had to be certified by the state of New York in order to work the festival. In the days before the festival started, the guards were rushed through a training program, Flynn said.
Flynn describes Woodstock '99 as an “enormously complex event” — two massive stages, 200 entry gates, miles and miles of walls. Bags were checked for drugs and alcohol, Flynn said, but everyone knew the stuff would get in.
What didn’t make it through the gates was water.
The price-gouging at the event is now legendary. Attendees were forced to purchase overpriced food and water bottles at the festival, and the limited fountains broke, or spewed contaminated water that made people sick. It also didn’t help that the whole thing was held in late July at an old Air Force Base — too much tarmac, too few trees. All these factors led to people getting rowdier and angrier throughout the weekend.
There were so many constant problems during the festival that the festival’s security director had a nervous breakdown and had to be taken away in an ambulance, Flynn said. Flynn was allowed to work the event, but couldn’t be security director, due to Miami-Dade rules about outside work. But he took over after that, after getting permission from his boss down in Miami.
Flynn believes that management was hoping for something crazy to happen. And it did on Sunday night, when fires were lit across the festival and all hell broke loose. After the last act, festival-goers were tearing down speaker towers and cracking open ATMs, turning over cars and torching tractor-trailers.
“The history of Woodstock is to have pandemonium, to have crazy, out-of-control events. I mean, that's what they sell. And the money to be made from Woodstock is not in the 200,000 tickets they sold. The money is in the MTV and DVDs and videos and all that stuff later. And when they realized we were most of the way through it, and it was controlled, and the walls didn't come down, and we still had it under control, and it was almost over, they realized what they had was a big, well-controlled, mega rock concert.”
The state police were eventually called in to quell the riotous crowd Sunday night.
Whether the event was a complete disaster is “debatable,” Flynn said, but he thinks the chaos was what the promoters wanted.
“I made $100,000 to do it. I wouldn't do it again for a million,” he said.
AUNT FANNY DELAY: The July 1 deadline to move Aunt Fanny's Cabin from Smyrna to Carroll County has come and gone but the old sharecropper cabin, draped in yellow caution tape, remains off Atlanta Road. Smyrna City Administrator Joe Bennett said the city has been "working diligently" to get an update on the cabin's move, to no avail.
"At this point right now, the gentleman who has taken possession has not responded to our phone calls" as of Tuesday, Bennett said.
The cabin was built for sharecroppers in the 1890s but became a restaurant in 1941 when Isoline Campbell MacKenna Howell, a member of Smyrna’s wealthy Campbell family (after which Campbell Middle School, Campbell High School and Campbell Road are named), decided she needed something to do, according to Mike Terry, a former chair of the Cobb Planning Commission and unofficial city historian.
The restaurant, named for the Campbell family's longtime cook and housekeeper, Fanny Williams, became a success. However, the restaurant's reputation soured due to its glorification of the antebellum South and racist caricatures of African Americans, closing in 1992 due to competition from other restaurants, according to Terry.
The Smyrna City Council approved a bid from Jim Lane to move the cabin to his Carroll County cattle farm, Ashley Limousin Farms, in March. No progress has been made since the start of July, when Lane said he expected to have the cabin out of Smyrna.
"So, nothing right now," Bennett said. "We're working trying to get an update, but yeah, nothing yet."
TRANSITIONS: Dr. Michael Lewis, lead pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church, announced during his sermon Sunday he has accepted the position of lead pastor at Sarasota Baptist Church in Sarasota, Florida.
Lewis tells the MDJ he “sensed the Lord’s leadership in being open to this process and felt called to the church in Sarasota.”
Roswell Street Baptist’s advisory council will lead the effort in forming a pastor search team, which chooses an interim pastor to lead Roswell Street Baptist while the team works to hire a full-time pastor.
Lewis’ last day with the church is August 21, though he and his family will begin their time in Sarasota Wednesday, meeting church members before his first sermon at Sarasota Baptist Church on Sunday.
Lewis served as interim pastor at Roswell Street from December 1, 2015 to April 30, 2016, and began as the church’s lead pastor on May 1, 2016. During Lewis’ tenure, the church launched the International Learning Center, which he said has taught over 900 people in English as a Second Language programs over the past five years.
Lewis also oversaw the shift of the church’s demographics in a younger, more “multi-ethnic” direction, thanks to programs like the International Learning Center and the Upwards Sports Ministry, which offered athletic opportunities that attracted younger people to the congregation.
“The fellowship of other pastors in Marietta has been great,” Lewis said, discussing his friendships with numerous other pastors in and around Marietta and their monthly prayer breakfast with Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin.
Lewis, who served on the advisory board for Cobb County Schools and partnered Roswell Street Baptist with Marietta City Schools to offer advice to students, said he and his family will miss Marietta.
“We just love the Square, we love the vibes of Marietta,” Lewis said. “Just a lot of things I’ll miss here, but we certainly sense and feel God’s clear calling to Sarasota.”
Roswell Street recently made headlines when announcing it was considering the sale of some of its downtown property. The church owns 11 acres and its buildings total 250,000 square feet, Lewis told the MDJ in February. Only 15% of that space is being used on a regular basis.
ENDORSEMENT: Lisa Campbell, the Democrat running to replace State Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, in House District 35 has received the backing of the AFL-CIO.
The communications and business consultant, who’s set to face off against Republican Robert Trim, touted the union’s backing in a news release this week.
“I am honored that our campaign has earned the endorsement of the Georgia AFL-CIO,” said Campbell. “From minimum wage laws and workplace safety to gender equality, when working people come together, we create an inclusive, thriving economy that works for all.”
She adds, “As the first woman to represent District 35, I especially appreciate the Georgia AFL-CIO’s advocacy on issues of gender equality, family leave, expanded access to healthcare and look forward to standing up for all Georgia workers in the General Assembly.”
FBI RAID: Donald Trump’s Monday announcement that the FBI has raided his Mar-a-Lago residence set off a firestorm, spurring many Republicans here and nationally to rally around the former president.
“The FBI raid on former President Trump’s home is unprecedented and highly concerning,” U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, posted on Twitter. “If the FBI is looking for classified info or incriminating evidence, they should start with Hunter Biden’s laptop.”
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, denounced the raid, saying "This is the rogue behavior of communist countries, NOT the United States of America!!!
“These are the type of things that happen in countries during civil war. The political persecution MUST STOP!!!
"DEFUND THE FBI!" Greene added.
Herschel Walker, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, said "This happens in a banana republic, not in America. If they can do this to a former President they can do it to any one of us. Merrick Garland must resign or be impeached. This isn't a partisan issue, it's a matter of right and wrong."
And Dr. Rich McCormick, Republican candidate for the 6th Congressional District, had this to say:
“Just like the IRS under Barack Obama, the Justice Department has been weaponized to intimidate and punish political adversaries. It is indeed a dark day in our Nation and the American people – no matter their party affiliation – should be very concerned. If the FBI is willing to raid the home of a former President and influential conservative leader for political retribution, then no one is truly safe from this tyrannical government.”