By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
It doesn't matter if a hip-hop act is booked and advertised in this city, there's no guarantee the show will go on until the act's on stage--anyone who went to see the disastrously aborted 2 Live Crew at the Longhorn Ballroom five years ago would tell you it's a tenuous guarantee at best--so the cancelation of Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur, Scarface, and surprise special guest Snoop Doggy Dogg, scheduled to perform January 5 at the Fair Park Coliseum, doesn't come as a surprise. It doesn't even come as a surprise that five days after the show had been canceled by promoters, no one in the media or at Ticketmaster even knew of the change of plan.
Laughingly advertised as a "Tribute to Eazy-E"--who died of AIDS in 1995 after years of feuding with ex-N.W.A. partners Dr. Dre and Ice Cube--this looked on paper like the hip-hop summit of the decade. Dre is rap's best producer, a man who graduated from the old school with honors; with Snoop Dogg (who's still standing trial in Los Angeles on murder charges) and now Tha Dogg Pound, Dre owns hip-hop, for better or worse: His tense and dense techniques define the so-called gangsta sound.
Tupac's got street credibility (he was sentenced this year to four and a half years for raping a female fan, pending an appeal, and was shot five times outside the courthouse), and former Geto Boy Scarface has the home-state attraction.
Between them, Dr. Dre, Snoop, and Tupac have sold more than 20 million records--a powerful combination that should have surely attracted about 8,000 people to the Fair Park Coliseum. (Lollapalooza would kill for half those record sales.) But promoter Jimmy Taite of the Las Vegas-based Premier Production Company says that as of the Friday before Christmas, only 250 tickets had been sold for the concert, forcing him to cancel it on December 22. It now marks the third time in three years Dre has been scheduled to come to Dallas and then bowed out.
Taite blames the poor sales on one thing: "Nobody believed they were really coming." Taite says even though he bought airtime on KKDA-FM 104.5--he paid cash, a station policy for concert promoters--the station refused to "get behind the show" because its promotions department was skeptical that Dre and Tupac were going to show up. (Snoop Dogg wasn't advertised, Taite insists, because Snoop apparently didn't ask the judge presiding over his ongoing murder trial if he could leave town. Executives at Snoop's label, Death Row Records, were out of town for the holidays and couldn't be reached for confirmation.)
"We gave KKDA 200 tickets to give away, and they didn't give them away," Taite says. "I asked if they wanted...Dr. Dre and Tupac to call the station and tell them the show was happening, and they didn't get back to me. We had no choice [but] to pull it. KKDA never got behind us at all. Even though we bought the airtime, they didn't get behind the show, and if they don't believe it's coming, they can't convince the audience it's happening."
Greg Duval, an account executive at KKDA, says the promotions department at the station wasn't skeptical about Taite and Premier--KKDA had never dealt with the promoter before--but they wanted some kind of concrete guarantee the show was going to happen. Their fears weren't alleviated when the original concert date, December 15, was pushed back to January 5.
"We don't want to make our listeners get hyped up and give away tickets," Duval says, "only to find out we have to pull the rug out from under them days before the show." As Omar Thompson, director of sales promotions at the station, says, "Any time you have a bunch of big names like that, if it can go wrong, it will go wrong."
According to Taite, the tour was originally scheduled to begin December 27 in Cleveland, followed by some dates in the Midwest. But Dre and Tupac said they needed more rehearsal time and pushed the start day to New Year's Eve in Atlanta, with shows in Miami, Dallas, Houston, and New Orleans to follow this week. Taite says the Houston show is also suffering from poor sales, though the numbers aren't as embarrassing as Dallas'--1,700 Houston tickets had sold though December 27. If he can't sell 4,300 more by January 4, the night of the show, Taite says he won't even break even.
Fair Park officials say they were notified of the cancelation December 27 in a letter faxed by Taite. But on January 2, Ticketmaster was still selling tickets for the show, unaware of its cancelation. (One source at Ticketmaster said the Houston, not the Dallas, show had been canceled.)
"I think the cancelation in Dallas was due to a combination of things," Taite shrugs. "The ticket buyers didn't believe it was happening, and they were waiting till the last minute to buy their tickets. Not only that, but we were going up against Christmas, and a lot of people aren't thinking about Dr. Dre tickets. They're thinking about Christmas presents.