We sat down with Heyen and Ladesich for a little Q&A. Check it out on Lawrence.com.
Joe Heyen wanted to make a stop in Lawrence ever since he and Anthony Ladesich started screening their film, “Cowtown Ballroom … Sweet Jesus!”, more than two years ago. He got his wish Saturday.
“We played 16 weeks in four different theaters, and I certainly wanted to do Lawrence all of that time. We just had trouble working out the details,” said Heyen, the film’s producer and director before Saturday’s viewing at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H.
“There are so many good filmmakers here in Lawrence. I wanted to give them an opportunity to see it,” he said.
“Cowtown Ballroom … Sweet Jesus!” is the filmmaking duo’s documentary about the renowned Kansas City, Mo., Cowtown Ballroom concert hall.
“Lawrence is a natural audience for ‘Cowtown’ just by the sheer nature of the fact that it’s kind of a story based in the early ’70s right at the tail end of the hippy movement. I think it was about progressive thinkers at that time, and Lawrence seems to be a fairly progressive town,” said Ladesich, directory of photography, editor and writer.
Despite being open for just three years, from 1971 to 1974, the Cowtown Ballroom featured several rock icons from the ’60s and ’70s, including Steve Miller Band, Alice Cooper, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Blue Oyster Cult. The team found itself in awe a few times while interviewing artists who played the venue.
“B.B. King was huge. I think that was probably the biggest interview that we got. He’s a god,” said Ladesich. “That was kind of a mindblower to be in the same room with him.”
For Heyen, Foghat stuck out: “They got us a room in their hotel so we could set up an interview. When it finished, Tony and I were like little kids. We were jumping up and down on the beds, you know? But they’re not our beds, so …”
Saturday’s screening not only gave Lawrence filmmakers a chance to see the movie but also it served as a fundraiser for a new community radio station coming to Lawrence in 2011, KAWR.
“I think it really goes to the spirit of the movie, which is Cowtown was definitely a community rallying point, and radio was a big deal to get people through the door at Cowtown. As much as we can support local radio, community radio, anything that’s subversive in any way or in the cracks and left of center — that’s kind of what we do,” Ladesich said.
While Lawrence could be the two’s last public showing, they hope to make two more stops in Missouri — St. Joseph and Columbia. The film will also be broadcast on KCPT at 8 p.m. June 11.
And why should rock ’n’ rollers check out “Cowtown”? Ladesich put it bluntly.
“It’s entertaining as hell. If you like sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, you’ll love ‘Cowtown Ballroom.’”