Russian Imam Calls Elton John ‘the Devil’s Work,’ Urges Concert Boycott

Carnegie Hall concert goes on, after strike canceled performance

But sheltered inside a seafood joint, Mitchell Frank and Martin Fleischmann didn’t seem concerned with the weather perhaps because they were busy describing winds of change. “What we’re trying to do is create a destination for locals on the pier,” said Fleischmann, a veteran Los Angeles concert promoter. “Tourists are here all day long, but otherwise it’s underutilized.” Added Frank, another promoter hired by the nonprofit group that oversees the pier, “The mandate was to bring content here.” PHOTOS: Concerts by The Times Content in the form of musical performances isn’t unheard of on the pier, which last month wrapped its 29th annual Twilight Concert series with a free show by the reggae star Jimmy Cliff. The gig drew 30,000 people, according to some estimates. But this year the promoters expanded the menu with a slate of ticketed festivals, including All Bands on Deck! (with indie acts such as Poolside and Yacht) and September’s Beach Ball (featuring Aloe Blacc and Sly & Robbie). This weekend the pier is to host Way Over Yonder, an inaugural two-day roots-music event connected to the venerable Newport Folk Festival with performances Saturday and Sunday by Neko Case, Conor Oberst and Calexico. And Oct. 19 will bring the comedy-based Festival Supreme, assembled by Jack Black and his mock-rock band Tenacious D. The shows are part of what pier official Jay Farrand called “a larger effort to get people to take a second look at the pier to think of it not just as somewhere you take Grandma from Kansas.” But for Frank and Fleischmann whose respective companies, Spaceland and Rum & Humble, put on concerts at the Echo and the Hollywood Bowl, among other spots the activity also reflects their desire to establish a new home for music on the Westside, where a dearth of large and mid-sized venues intensified with the closing this summer of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. PHOTOS: Unexpected musical collaborations “People here need a place where they can gather in large numbers for music,” said Fleischmann, who pointed to high rents and restrictive permitting as reasons the Westside generally lacks such spaces. The century-old Santa Monica Pier, an instantly identifiable but historically significant landmark, makes for a complex solution to that problem. Jay Sweet, who supervises the Newport Folk Festival, said the pier appealed to him for Way Over Yonder because it’s an “iconic place that’s not a traditional music venue” similar to Fort Adams State Park in Rhode Island, where Newport has taken place since 1959. “There’s an overall vibe there,” said Cliff’s manager, Ernie Gonzalez, who added that the pier attracts an audience more diverse than at other venues.

A strike by stagehands forced the cancellation, but the union temporarily suspended its strike on Thursday, allowing the concert hall to open its doors for now. A union leader told Reuters he was optimistic the two sides could reach a permanent deal by Friday. The dispute hangs on whether the stagehands – mostly prop-makers, carpenters and electricians – should have a role in a new educational wing that the Carnegie Hall Corp plans to open above the hall next year. The corporation wants to hire cheaper labor at the education wing. Negotiations with the union took an unprecedented turn on Wednesday when Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees decided to go on strike for the first time in the history of Carnegie Hall. However, when James Claffey, president of Local 1, emerged from negotiations on Thursday afternoon, he announced the union had agreed to pull down the picket line for the day, citing progress in the talks. “This is a goodwill gesture towards Carnegie Hall,” said Claffey, whose local has negotiated some of the most lucrative pay in the industry. He later said further progress had been made, and that even though picketing would continue, he hoped to reach a deal by Friday. Carnegie Hall’s five full-time stagehands make an average of $400,000 per year including benefits, The New York Times reported, citing the organization’s tax returns. Claffey said there were many more stagehands represented by the union who work only sporadically. “This dispute is not about those employees,” Claffey said. “This is about everyone else. These are middle class employees.” The strike forced Carnegie Hall to cancel a performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra with violinist Joshua Bell. The concert was part of Carnegie Hall’s opening-night gala, the organization’s biggest fundraising event of the year.

Concert photos by the L.A. Times

Branding the British rock singer as “the devil’s work in the shape of a pederast” in remarks published on the website of Kazans Thousandth Anniversary of Islam Mosque, the imam warned that God could rain destruction on cities as revenge for supporting what he dubbed sexual delinquency. Sodomy is what the world-famous homosexual Elton John, who recently wed a man in public, is promoting, the imam said in undated remarks made public in the Russian media Thursday. The imam said followers of Islam should stay away from the music star’s Kazan concert, scheduled for Dec. 8, a day after his show at Moscow’s Crocus City Hall venue. John, 66, has long been a poster boy for gay rights. He is in a British civil partnership with his partner,David Furnish, and the men have a three-year-old son, Zachary, born in California in 2010 via a surrogate mother He has said he will defend gay rights during his Russian tour — a stance that puts him at risk of getting a sentence of 15 days in prison and a 5,000 roubles ($150) fine under newly-adopted laws here preventing the promotion of homosexuality to children. Last week, another Russian religious group, the Christian group Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods, called for a ban on John’s concerts. “The statement by this gay guy — Elton John — about his support for gays and other perverts during the upcoming concert in Moscow is an insult to all Russian citizens,” the group’s coordinator said. Another conservative group, the Ural Parents Committee, has called on Russian president Vladimir Putin to keep John from performing the Kazan concert. Madonna, Rammstein and Lady Gaga are among international acts that have made statements supporting gay rights at recent Russian gigs and escaped prosecution. John, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998, has sold more than 300 million records worldwide during his 40-year career.