Television: Rock 'n' Riot

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Wrapped in a package called "The Big Beat," Disk Jockey Alan Freed has long rolled across the land, introducing rock 'n' roll stars and keynoting gone music, with the express intention of inciting his teen-age followers to happy frenzy. Fortnight ago, the acknowledged "King of Rock 'n' Roll" rolled into Boston and set up shop in its 7,200-seat Arena. Almost 5,000 hip kids poured in the Arena to catch his 17 acts, including four bands, and starring Dreamboat Groaner Jerry Lee Lewis.

Frenzy soon set in. The aisles filled with dancers, and others got into the groove by jumping on their seats. The head of the 20 cops on hand decided that more light on the subject would help curb the crowd's antics. The house lights were turned up. Then, according to Arena Manager Paul Brown, sincere-faced "Deejay" Freed huffed: "I guess the police here in Boston don't want you kids to have a good time." Whatever Freed said, the effect was magical. The Arena really began jumping—while Brown paced his office, "praying it would end."

A while before midnight the wound-up kids spilled into the streets. Just who was responsible for what happened next is a matter of dispute. All around the Arena common citizens were set upon, robbed and sometimes beaten. A young sailor caught a knife in the belly, and two girls with him were thrashed. In all, nine men and six women were roughed up enough to require hospital treatment. Boston police blamed Freed and his frenetic fans, but could not prove it, since they nabbed nobody. Freed's defenders pointed out that the Arena area has been the site of frequent muggings in the past; the toughs might simply have used the crowds pouring out of the Arena as a cover.

But Boston's Mayor John Hynes did not want to hear arguments or evidence. He ordered that no licenses be issued for any more rock 'n' roll shows, and a Boston grand jury returned an indictment against Freed—under an old "anti-anarchy" law—for inciting "the unlawful destruction of property." Professing alarm, and perhaps jumpy over growing criticism of juvenile delinquency, officials in New Haven and Newark seized on the Boston incident as an excuse to ban scheduled Freed appearances.

Freed promptly quit his $25,000-a-year job with Manhattan's radio station WINS because it "failed to stand behind my policies and principles," and returned to his Stamford, Conn, home to contemplate his grievances. Snapped Freed: "Those kids in Boston were the greatest —swell, wonderful kids. But the police were terrible."