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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey or Salmon: The Last Waltz at Winterland, Thanksgiving 1976

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 10:00 AM


In 1976, the band known as The Band decided to call it quits. Its recent albums hadn't been selling so well, the members were tired of touring, leader Robbie Robertson had (allegedly) turned into a major twit, and it would be a couple of decades before their hit "The Weight" would be used in the trailer for every third Boomer-nostalgia movie made.

So they decided to go out with a bang: a guest-heavy show on Thanksgiving night at Bill Graham's Winterland Ballroom, famously documented in Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz. Tickets were $25, about three times the average price in those days.


Part of that hefty charge went to the serving the audience of 5,000 people a pre-show Thanksgiving dinner.

In the Nov. 27, 1976, Los Angeles Times, Robert Hilburn reports that an estimate 5,600 pounds of turkey were served. (The April 1, 2002, Toronto Blade says there were 220 turkeys, if you believe post-millennial Canadians.)

Wishy-washy pescetarians like me wouldn't have gone hungry, because there was also a whopping 300 pounds of Nova Scotia salmon. I'm not sure whether the quotes are Hilburn's way of saying "um, fish isn't vegetarian" or his thinly veiled contempt for vegetarians. Both, probably.


The word "pescetarian" didn't exist at the time, and I bet he hates it now. (Who doesn't, amirite?)

The long-gone Winterland was at 2000 Post at Steiner. On the DVD commentary, Robbie Robertson describes the neighborhood during a drive-through, studiously avoiding using words such as words "black" or "urban."

"Funky," indeed.

I don't know what happened to the leftovers. I'd like to think surplus turkey was given to needy people in the neighborhood, but they probably got stuck with the salmon.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.


Sherilyn Connelly is a San Francisco-based writer. She also curates and hosts Bad Movie Night at The Dark Room, every Sunday at 8pm.

Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF (follow Sherilyn Connelly on Twitter at @sherilyn) and like us on Facebook.

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