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Finally, Martin says, on December 29, he talked to airport authorities, who worried about people climbing on planes, but he assured them a security crew would be on hand. He says they directed him to Jim Straube at Hangar C and indicated that if it was okay with him, it was okay with them. "He had our permission," Straube says. "We were all for it, because it was a benefit for the homeless."
"Everyone's kid was going," LaRowe says. "That's how the fire marshal heard about it--his kid was going."
At about 4:30 p.m., a while after Gary Rucker left the airport in his truck, witnesses say Mohave County Sheriff Joe Cook turned up at the airport to check on his plane. They say he'd been on vacation that week and came to the airport in civilian clothes.
No one from the Mohave County Sheriff's Department would return repeated phone calls to Sheriff Cook, whose secretary said he was tied up in meetings all of last week. Calls to Jim Wilkinson, head of the Kingman Airport Authority, were similarly unproductive. "I can't tell you that Jim or anybody else at the airport has any comment on that," said a woman answering the phone. "We have nothing to say on the matter."
What Martin and the others setting up for the 8 p.m. show say happened was this: Not long after checking on his plane and surveying the scene, Sheriff Cook returned in uniform with a number of deputies in squad cars and told the ready-for-prime-time players that the event wasn't going to happen.
According to Martin, the sheriff said this was the first he'd heard of the show, even though Martin had notified the department a month and a half earlier. After consulting with another man at the scene, Sheriff Cook then told them the airport authority didn't know about the show, either. Various reasons for the cancellation were apparently given to different people: Martin hadn't obtained the proper permits; the airport feared vandalism.
Straube says Wilkinson of the airport authority told him that if he allowed the concert to take place, his lease at the hangar would be revoked. Even though he wasn't sure Wilkinson had the authority to issue such a proclamation, the threat was enough to sway him, since the businessman had already invested $50,000 in improvements to the hangar.
"This is someone who helped us out," LaRowe says of Straube. "And he's getting stomped on by The Man."
She says everyone was told to pack up and leave, "and they locked us in. There was no way anyone was leaving, and no way anyone was getting in. One of the bands had gone back to the hotel. They had five or six cop cars. We're a rinky-dink band from Phoenix, and they had flares all over the place. And they inquired about what motel we were staying at. I was waiting for some sadistic Andy Taylor to show up at the door and ask if we squealed like a pig."
Says Chamberlain, the security chief: "If it had been bluegrass, nobody's head would have turned. They thought we were all going to run out of the hangar with our heads on fire vandalizing the airstrip."
Jim Straube, too, was disappointed. "No one ever said no, you can't have anything like this here. I thought it was pretty shitty. They didn't give them a chance to prove themselves." Martin says: "We'd talked to the police department, the sheriff's department, the school board, everybody we could get hold of. They thought it needed to happen, since it's a night that everybody usually goes drinking. Jim from the airport authority said they were going to drink and do drugs, anyway, no matter how much we tried to help them."
While the bands cleared out of the place, squad cars closed off the airport and turned away dozens of cars showing up for the concert. Martin, based on his brother-in-law's estimates (he's a cab driver with a police scanner), says as many as 500 people were sent home. With a $6 admission charge and an average of three people per car, he says, that would have been $9,000, which, after expenses, would have meant about $7,000 for the charities.
Martin says he's out about $3,000 because of the mess, and he has plans to sue with the help of Phoenix lawyers, since, he says, those in Kingman won't take on the powers that be. "Nothing goes on without these people's approval," he says. "They don't want it to happen, it's not gonna happen."
A larger benefit concert with the original bands and more may be in the works, as well--in a different location, naturally.
"I don't think they realized how many people were behind this thing," says Elmer Graves, the trucking service operator.
"Jeff is the one I feel sorry for," LaRowe says. "I mean, we traveled three hours and everything, but he lost big. He put up a lot of money. He didn't have to do it for a shelter, and the kids would have still showed up. He could have made a lot of money.
"It just totally baffled me. It would have been a totally cool thing. They've never had a concert there, and now I see why."
LaRowe concludes: "We were railroaded. It was the night the lights went out in Kingman.