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Longview pays off rocker Ted Nugent to not perform

By Richard Yeakley
March 21, 2014 at 11 p.m.

The city of Longview put the stranglehold on "Cat Scratch Fever" - but it cost thousands of dollars.

The city paid out $16,250 last month to end contract negotiations with rocker Ted Nugent, who was under consideration as the headliner for the city's Fourth of July celebration.

The payoff came as Nugent's earlier incendiary comments and song lyrics became an issue during a campaign swing with Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott.

City spokesman Shawn Hara said the campaign-trail controversy was just one of several factors that led to the city pulling the plug.

"(There were) a variety of reasons. Cost, structure, is it the right musical act for this type of event - a city-sponsored, family-oriented overall event," Hara said. "They decided no, we don't want to move forward, it is not the right act for this. At that point we decided to end discussions."

But when city leaders, including City Manager David Willard and Mayor Jay Dean, decided to scuttle negotiations there was a dispute over how far along in the process the groups were.

"We had, basically, a dispute amongst ourselves, the promoter working with us, and a booking agency about where were we in all these discussions," Hara said. "Their basic claim was ... 'You can't just simply walk away.' "

Breaking the verbal agreement required paying Nugent half his guaranteed performance fee of about $32,000.

Dean said the city manager's office contacted him with concerns about the possibility of contracting with Nugent.

"That didn't really fit what we trying to put together, a family oriented program ... and I confirmed with his thoughts that that probably wasn't the right act," he said. "And I still feel that it was the right decision. It just didn't fit with what we were trying to put together."

A small group of city staff members, along with Stan Allen of SA Productions, had been considering Nugent and a host of other artists for the celebration. Because of the confusion and payout required to step away from negotiations, Hara said, the city manager's office is taking more direct supervision of the negotiation process. No disciplinary action was taken against any city staffers involved.

The city in January had begun looking for an artist to headline the Fireworks and Freedom Celebration at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center this Independence Day. It will be the second year the city has organized the event. Previously, it had been a fireworks-oriented celebration sponsored by a civic organization.

Keith Rothra, outgoing chairman of the Gregg County Republican Party, questioned the city's action.

"We have paid $16,000 to Ted Nugent for political correctness," he said.

Rothra added that he did not buy the city's claim there were multiple reasons for the decision.

"It's directly related to the state level stuff," he said, referring to the flap that arose over Nugent on the campaign trail with Abbott.

In mid-February, a national hullabaloo was raised over comments Nugent made in January about the president. As the fracas continued about Abbott touring with Nugent, previous comments about immigrants and some of his song lyrics, seemingly suggesting child molestation, also were raised.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Rick Perry, both potential candidates for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, disavowed Nugent's slur of President Obama, whom he called a "subhuman mongrel."

Abbott, while saying he's moved beyond the controversy, has declined to back away from his decision to campaign with the rocker known as the Motor City Madman.



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