5th Dimension in Auburn. Plenty of skin. But not THAT much.
Talked with Tom Sparrow today, Auburn’s former director of AU Athletic Facilities, mostly known as the dude who handled all the bands and speakers and stuff that came to campus. Anytime any band story came up–Rolling Stones, Elvis, Beach Boys–people would say ‘you should talk to Tom.’ But then they’d be all ‘if you get him to talk.’ Allen Jones, head of the archives before the dark times, pretty much made it seem like he’d have to introduce me and hope he was in the right mood, hope for the best, etc. So in the back of my mind, interviewing Tom was something that I’d have to, like, prepare for, something I’d get around to later, always later.
But I’ve been trying to gather up all the stories folks told me about the Rolling Stones concert at AU in ’69 for a TWER post, and I can’t find them, at least not a lot of the good ones I know I have. I remember them enough to use, but I wanted some actual quotes. And since a bunch of those quotes included ‘you should talk with Tom,’ I was just like, ‘whatever, come to me White Pages.’ I picked the Tom Sparrow (there were three) who lived on the grandparents’ old street (obviously a sign) I dialed. He picked up. It was the right Tom. And sure enough, difficult at first. He’s probably in his early 70s. I tried launching into it without really explaining what I was doing, just like it was totally natural that someone would be calling him as an expert on the Rolling Stones, like it was the Old Auburn Concert History hotline or something. Actually almost worked, too (it’s sometimes a good way to go with seasoned citizens). But he clammed up quick, started being coy, just like I’d imagined. Thought it wasn’t going to go anywhere, especially when, you know, he told me, no, he wasn’t here for the Rolling Stones. His first year on the job was ’70. Oh. Well. But it was Tom Sparrow, finally, so I kept at it, this time purely for the book’s sake. And it was good. And I actually probably got a TWER post or two out of him at the same time.
Halfway through, I could tell he actually did think about the good ol’ days a good bit, that he probably would be all about being an Old Auburn Concert History Hotline operator. His memory was fuzzy-ish, but useful. The main thing I’d always wanted him for was details on the girl streaking the Beach Boys concert (which he was convinced was the 5th Dimension Concert. It wasn’t. But sure. OK. Continue. What about this? What about that? Was it weird? Any other stories? How’d that go?). And he had them, at least a few, and they were good. I’ll obviously keep a few for the book, but what he most remembered was having “to answer for it” — to the cops, to Philpott… a girl got naked in front of 10,000+ Auburn students on his watch. For a dude in charge of making sure things like girls getting naked in front of 10,000+ Auburn students didn’t happen during concerts at the coliseum, yep, that probably was a pretty big deal.
We talked for maybe half an hour. And we hung up friendly. I made him feel important. And he should feel important — dude started getting Christmas cards from Col. Parker after the Elvis show and signing John Denver’s middle school yearbook or something. He insisted on calling him John Deutschendorf, and apparently Deutschendorf lived in Montgomery for a while or something, invited his old friends to show… so he obviously would have known about a town called Auburn before playing, so Mom’s story about him shouting out “Thank you, Augusta!” seems a little less likely–Tom obviously didn’t remember anything like that–but I’ll still tell it.