Dan Kellachan on Westbury Music Fair and what's ahead for the NYCB Theatre at Westbury
What do The Doors, The Who, Frank Sinatra, Britney Spears, Mike Tyson, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Bob Hope and Justin Timberlake all have in common? Aside from superstardom, these are all artists that have graced the stage of Westbury Music Fair. The venue -- now known as the NYCB Theatre at Westbury -- began as blue-and-beige striped tent in an abandoned lime pit in 1956. Now a state-of-the-art facility within the Live Nation family, the NYCB Theatre at Westbury seats close to 3,000 people in the round, providing a uniquely-intimate event experience.
Dan Kellachan started working at Westbury Music Fair in 1983, following time with Mark Goldstaub Public Relations. Since 1998, Dan has served as the theater's marketing director, marking nearly 30 years on Brush Hollow Road. Dan kindly answered some Q&A for No Place Like Long Island about what is ahead for the venue, which was recently inducted into the Long Island Music Hall Of Fame.
The upcoming NYCB Theatre at Westbury calendar includes performances by Jim Gaffigan, Paul Anka, Howie Mandel, Jay Leno, Kathy Griffin, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin and Buddy Guy, to name a few notable performers. More info can be found at http://venue.thetheatreatwestbury.com.
You're a resident of Bellmore and have been working in Westbury for many years. Have you always lived on Long Island?
DK: Yes, I grew up in Carle Place. I went to St. John's University, worked at Radio City Music Hall, and did some substitute teaching before landing with Westbury Music Hair in 1983. Coming up on the end of my 34th season...
What is it that keeps you based on the Island all these years later?
DK: Is there really any other place that is better than Long Island? I’ve traveled a great deal -- and there are some beautiful places -- but there is no where with better beaches or the culture that living so close to New York City provides.
Do you remember the first show that you had attended Westbury as a fan?
DK: The first show I saw at Westbury was the Bee Gees with Hall & Oates as the opener…
Was that your first concert on Long Island?
DK: My first concert experience was Bob Dylan and The Band at the Nassau Coliseum in 1974 and it changed my life. I remember when the music started I jumped up on my seat and did not get down until the show ended.
How did you wind up working at Westbury Music Fair?
DK: I had started working at a Broadway press agent’s office in New York City and one of the owners, Lee Guber, came in for a meeting in December of 1982. He was talking to my boss Mark Goldstaub and I was talking with Rick Gross, who ran their marketing department out of their Valley Forge location. Since I was so familiar with the Long Island music scene, we got the gig.
How has your job at Westbury changed over the past 10 years? Has what you do on a daily basis changed much?
DK: I started as a publicist working on an IBM Selectric typewriter, and we had a messenger service on motorcycle that delivered our urgent story pitches to writers, etc. We finally got a fax machine; it took 7 minutes to deliver one piece of paper to the recipient. And finally, we bought one of the first desktop computers for word processing. In 1988, I brought that very same computer to Westbury, the company’s first. So that probably gives you an idea of how much it’s changed!
Is there anybody who hasn't played Westbury that you're still hoping will be booked there one day?
DK: Neil Young, Bob Dylan...There is always hope!
Is it true that Jack Benny played a role in making your venue unionized?
DK: As the story was told to me, the building was opening in 1966 as a state-of-the-art, fully-enclosed and air conditioned year-round facility replacing the tent theatre. Jack Benny was scheduled to open and the musicians' union was picketing up at the entrance. He assured them that he would not perform unless there was a contract…and the owners made the deal and the show went on.
When you're not busy with your job in Westbury, how do you like to spend your free time?
DK: Free time? What is free time? (laughs) Seriously, I like to travel, do normal things, watch TV, go out to dinner, concerts, Broadway shows. I really like museums...
Finally, what do you wish more people knew about Long Island?
DK: Good question. I am not sure. As much as Long Island is a geographic place, for me it is more of a state of being a Long Islander. And there’s probably as much I hate about Long Island as I do love it. (laughs)