Jim Carroll

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The strange story of Rockefeller Productions

Oscar Wilde comes to mind when considering the story of Dublin-based promotions company Rockefeller Productions and its main man, James Delaney O’Neill. To have to cancel one gig may be regarded as a misfortune, but to have problems with five …

Tue, Jun 29, 2010, 13:52


Oscar Wilde comes to mind when considering the story of Dublin-based promotions company Rockefeller Productions and its main man, James Delaney O’Neill. To have to cancel one gig may be regarded as a misfortune, but to have problems with five high-profile acts – Ute Lemper, Marianne Faithful, Grace Jones, Tony Curtis and Marilyn the musical – in the space of a week looks like downright incompetence. Add in The Chippendales and, well, read on…

Delaney O’Neill and Rockefeller Productions first popped up on the OTR radar last Tuesday (June 22), when reader Overfriendly Concierge pointed us towards a post on the Grand Canal Theatre website.

Announcing the cancellation of that night’s Ute Lemper show, the post read: “it is with great regret we are forced to cancel Ute Lemper’s show that was scheduled on June 22nd 2010 at the Grand Canal Theatre Dublin. The promoters organising this event have failed to fulfil their contractual obligations, making it impossible for Ute to go ahead with the show.” This post was subsequenly removed from the venue’s website.

While we’re used to coming across “unforeseen circumstances” as a catch-all reason for show cancellations, we have to say that the promoter “failed to fulfil their contractual obligations” is a new one on us so we did some digging.

Our first port of call was Ute Lemper. When contacted by OTR, Ms Lemper explained that she was “terribly upset and sad” that the Dublin show had been 86’d, but she was left with no choice in the matter. “I had no idea about a cancellation until one week before the concert. The promoter stopped all communication with us. Tickets for the musicians, which were at the charge of the promoter, were not booked or bought and this man (Delaney O’Neill) just disappeared from the earth all of a sudden.

“We all had a bad feeling about the local promoter as he had not paid the deposit in advance and seemed to be somehow in financial trouble, but nevertheless he had a decent reputation and we trusted things would work out. After all we had a signed contract.”

But it was not to be and Lemper was left nursing financial losses from the cancelled show. “I on my end had to change all my flight tickets, pay out of my pocket compensation salaries to my musicians and my crew and missed out on other concert opportunities that I actually had for this date, as I was already on tour in Europe. Its a mess.”

Her booking agent, Henry McGroggan from Central European Organisation, was also contacted about this cancelled show. “The promoter was in breach of contract making the show an impossible to go ahead”, he told OTR. “I wish you could track down Mr James Delaney O’Neill of Rockefeller Productions but it seems he has buried his head deep in the sand!” He added that he’s now talking to his solicitor about this breach of contract.

But it seemed that Rockefeller Productions were only getting started with cancelled gigs. On Wednesday, a message appeared on the website for The Savoy venue in Cork stating that a forthcoming brace of Grace Jones shows in the venue were cancelled. These shows were part of a short Irish tour by Jones, which also featured two dates at Dublin’s Wright Venue. The promoter for Jones’ first post-Electric Picnic trip to Ireland? Rockefeller Productions.

It was inevitable that the Dublin shows would be pulled and, last night, Jones’ agent Michael Schweiger from Central Entertainment Group issued this statement: “the reported performance dates for Grace Jones in Dublin and Cork July 21 – 24 have been cancelled. The promoter James Delaney O’Neil of Rockefeller Productions is in breach of his contract by failing to pay deposits and advertising these dates without a fully executed artist agreement. We apologize to Grace’s devoted fans there in Ireland and hope to be in concert there in the near future.”

“Advertising these dates without a fully executed artist agreement”? This means that Delaney O’Neill and Rockefeller Productions were selling tickets for shows for which they didn’t have a contract, which is a very serious matter.

Rockefeller Productions were also initially promoting the Marianne Faithful show at Dublin’s Grand Canal Theatre, on June 23, as per the venue’s spring/summer 2010 programme. However, between the time the gig was announced and the date of the show, the Live Nation-operated venue had taken over promoting the show. OTR understands that this followed communications between Faithful’s representatives and the venue.

Rockefeller Productions were also involved in the mooted visit by Hollywood legend Tony Curtis to Dublin, who was due to appear at the opening performance of Marilyn at the Grand Canal Theatre on June 24 (Rockefeller’s third night in a row at the venue) and also appear at a public interview, An Affair With Tony Curtis, at the Irish Film Institute. According to sources at the IFI, problems emerged when a deposit for an alleged €40,000 fee to Curtis was not paid and the visit was cancelled.

Rockefeller were also promoting Marilyn, a dance-musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe choreographed by Laurence Olivier Award winner Peter Schaufuss. The musical was supposed to open for three shows at Dublin’s Grand Canal Theatre last week (which appears to have been Delaney O’Neill’s favourite venue in the city when it came to booking shows) and then visit Belfast, Wexford, Killarney, Limerick, Cork, Derry, Galway and Castlebar. However, the entire tour was cancelled. Per a source at Cork’s Opera House, this was down to “promoter problems”, while a source at Limerick’s University College Hall cited “poor ticket sales”. OTR has also learned that ticket sales for the Jones and Lemper shows in Dublin were slow.

OTR has been trying to contact James Delaney O’Neill and Rockefeller Productions since last week to get his side of the story. However, he has not responded to any of the phone calls, emails or texts to his office or mobile phone number. Meanwhile, the company’s Facebook page has been removed, though Delaney O’Neill’s LinkedIn profile and MySpace page are still live.

But it turns out that this batch of cancelled shows was not Rockefeller Productions’ first foray into promoting. In April 2009, the company appears to have been behind an Irish tour by The Chippendales with dates announced for Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Limerick. Unfortunately – yes, you guessed it – the tour did not go ahead.