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End of an Era
CONCERT PROMOTER'S LEGACY GOES BACK TO ROCK'S BEGINNING

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA) - Wednesday, August 5, 1998

Author: ED MASLEY, POST-GAZETTE STAFF WRITER

When Pat DiCesare walked away from the life of a rock 'n' roll concert promoter in yesterday's sale of DiCesare-Engler Productions to SFX Entertainment, he left behind a local history that's nearly as old as the music itself.

In the 1950s, DiCesare, then an aspiring songwriter, got his foot in the backstage door as stage manager for promoter Tim Tormey, working shows with names like Back to School Shower of Stars.

He dropped out of college in 1963 just in time to be drafted.

But first, he and Tormey secured a date at the Civic Arena for an up-and-coming British group, the Beatles. The going rate at the time for a headlining act was $3,500. The Beatles wanted $35,000. Apparently, this was before they'd come to understand that all you need is love. At twice the standard ticket price, the show was a sellout. But don't ask DiCesare for details. While the Beatles were shaking their hairdos for thousands of screaming girls at the Civic Arena, DiCesare was off in Oklahoma practicing on a howitzer.

It wasn't long after DiCesare's return from the Army that Tormey pulled up stakes for Hollywood. DiCesare pounced on the opening. By the end of the decade, the upwardly mobile stage manager held exclusive leases for concerts at the Civic Arena, Three Rivers Stadium and the former Syria Mosque.

Rich Engler, a drummer, got into the business of booking concerts by offering other local acts the shows his band, Grains of Sand, couldn't play.

He eventually started a company, Go Attractions, booking such '70s icons as Lou Reed and David Bowie, and then throwing the opening spot on the bill to his own band.

In 1973, he got a call from DiCesare. The following year, they formed a partnership.

Since banding together, they've booked and promoted the biggest names in pop, from The Who to Alanis Morissette, while earning what DiCesare has been known to refer to in passing as ``millions.''

One of the company's proudest accomplishments was taking the Stanley Theatre from a dying movie house to an award-winning rock 'n' roll venue.

In 1983, they sold the Stanley to the Cultural Trust, which converted it into Benedum Center.

They've had their share of bad times, too.

As the concert industry shifted its focus outdoors, DiCesare invested a decade and nearly $500,000 trying to get an outdoor amphitheater up and running. He bought land in Cranberry, Adams and Jackson, all much closer to Pittsburgh than Burgettstown. But nobody wanted an amphitheater in his back yard.

Pace moved in and built the Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheatre while DiCesare was hung up in court, a turn of events he still considers one of the lowest points in his life.

The I.C. Light Amphitheatre, a parking lot between two sets of railroad tracks at Station Square, is no real substitute, although this summer's Warped Tour seemed to draw more fans than a number of sell-outs at Star Lake.

In March, the partners assumed control of yet another slice of Pittsburgh life, the Three Rivers Regatta.

And now that they've sold the company?

Engler sees the sale to SFX as an exciting new chapter.

``We had 25 great years,'' he said, ``and I hate to make it sound like it's the end because it really isn't. It gives us the firepower, if you will, to do a lot of things that in the past we were reluctant to do. A lot of times, we'd go for certain shows and we were almost betting the franchise. Now, it makes it a little easier that we have these folks behind us.''