Editorial Note: This post was written by Colleen. Have fun exploring the story of Forest Hill Stadium and check out the introduction to Colleen’s weekly live music history column here.
If you’re like me, you know that our concert memories remain in our hearts and minds long after the show is over. But, unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the venues where we experience our favorite concerts.
And sadly, what often happens is that the buildings and venues where our favorite or historic concerts take place don’t last as long as our memories do.
And when I heard about the possible sale and tearing down of the historic Forest Hills Stadium in this Wall Street Journal article, I thought I’d dive into the venue’s history to see why it’s such a special venue that once hosted the Beatles, Janis Joplin, Neil Diamond and other legendary artists.
Learning About Janis Joplin in Buried Alive
My research first began as I read Buried Alive by Myra Friedman, which details her friendship with Janis Joplin.
Myra was Janis’s friend and confidante but also her publicist who was hired by Albert Grossman in 1968, remember him from our first Gate of Horn exploration?
On August 1st and 2nd in 1970 Janis played at Forest Hills Stadium located in Queens New York two months before her death. In the book Friedman describes how Janis felt about the live performance and how she dealt with the pressure she was feeling from the concert industry.
“Look at that Janis,” I said, pointing to the ground under the block of rows that stretched back from the stage of the stadium. The area had been covered with huge pieces of asbestos. On top, the legs of the folding chairs looked like so many open pairs of scissors, and where the slabs curled at the edges you could see tiny patches of the sweet tender moss that was smothering under their weight.
Wear and Tear of Live Music on Forest Hills Stadium
Friedman goes on to explain that:
“The protection was necessary. The previous summer the gentle roll of green had been brutally gutted when ten, twenty, a hundred or more kids had jumped the barricades to dance. The damage had cost Janis several thousand dollars and had placed the future of the summer concerts in jeopardy.
If, as always in the past, promoter Leonard Ruskin was obligated to guard the lawn, he was not beholden to oversee an atmosphere of restraint. There, at Forest Hills Festival, as everywhere else that summer, the public mood was demanding that rock concerts be conducted with a minimum of excitement and a maximum of control.”
After reading about Joplin and Friedman’s pre-concert observation I decided to do some more searching to find any information on Forest Hill Stadium and what other music icons played there and how much fans paid to see a show there.
How Much Did A Forest Hills Concert Cost?
I discovered that tickets cost between 5 dollars and 6 dollars and 50 cents to get in. And besides a music venue, Forest Hills was also a tennis stadium and a famous one at that, which hosted the U.S. Open. And it was at Forest Hills that tennis slowly became a more mainstream sporting event.
What’s the Future of Forest Hills?
New Yorkers continue to fight to preserve the land and the stadium, but it looks like it might become condos according to that Wall Street Journal article, there’s still hope to bring it back to life again:
A cash infusion could help revive some of its former glory, said Mr. Ambron, a real-estate broker. “With a little bit of management in the right direction, I think it can become the place to be again,” he said.
That would be a shame to think a place like Forest Hills Stadium could become condos, knowing that the stage was graced with the classic acts like the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Barbara Streisand, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and played host to many music festivals too.
Forest Hills Fan Moments Captured in Time Photos
Since I love talking photos of concerts, I was excited to discover that Time Magazine put together some amazing snap shots of the fans moments at the Forest Hills.
Connecting Forest Hills To Our Celebrations Today
Looking back at all these Forest Hills concert moments I thought about our Fathers Day Festival feature last July.
In that post, we celebrated of over 80 years of concert stories as dads of all ages shared stories about venues where they saw their favorite shows.
And today, like Forest Hills Stadium, many of those classic venues are no longer around physically, but nonetheless those concerts memories live on in the hearts and minds and those dads.
To wrap up this post, here’s a few videos that feature a great look back at how Neil Diamond relaunched his career at Forest Hills, how Ringo lost and found his St. Christopher Medal before a show, and short tour of what Forest Hills used to look like and what it looks like today.
Thanks again for following along and I look forward to sharing my next live music history exploration with you next week!
If you’ve seen a concert at Forest Hills Stadium, we invite you to share your concert fan story in the comments section.
Ringo’s Medal Recovered Before Forest Hills Show
Neil Diamond Interview
Forest Hills Now and Then