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The Rolling Stones & Tragedy at Altamont

Date Saturday - November 23, 2019
Host Ian Punnett
Guests Saul AusterlitzDavid Dastmalchian

Author and pop culture historian Saul Austerlitz writes about significant pop cultural moments in recent history (related article). He joined host Ian Punnett (Twitter) for a deep dive into the tragic and violent events surrounding The Rolling Stones' free concert festival at Altamont, where 18-year-old African American Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death. The Stones were coming off of a successful outdoor festival in Hyde Park in 1969 and the prevailing sentiment of the time was large-scale counterculture events like Woodstock just work out, Austerlitz reported. "There was no real need for extensive planning... and excessive thinking about minutia was irrelevant," he said about the bad decision-making that went into Altamont. They planned for a much smaller number of attendees than showed up as everyone wanted to be part of the next Woodstock, he added.

Austerlitz spoke about Meredith Hunter's challenging early life growing up with a self-medicating mother in an unstable home. According to Austerlitz, he was not particularly a fan of the Stones or other bands on the line-up but nonetheless attended the concert with his Caucasian girlfriend. Their interracial relationship may have been an issue for the festival's security force, the Hells Angels, he explained, noting the notorious biker gang was unabashedly racist and likely intoxicated. They descend on Hunter after he climbed a speaker box, pull him down then beat him up. At some point, likely after he had been stabbed at least once, Hunter brandished an unloaded gun, Austerlitz revealed. He is disarmed, stomped, and stabbed again multiple times, he added. "Meredith Hunter's death is often treated as a story about music and bands and concerts and Sixties counterculture... it's a story about race in America and a story about what it means to be African American," Austerlitz suggested.

Dastmalchian on Comics, Career & Life

First hour guest, David Dastmalchian, is most recognizable as one of the Joker's henchmen in The Dark Knight and more recently as the Russian hacker Kurt in Ant-Man. Between casting calls, on-set takes, and Hollywood meetings, Dastmalchian has found time to indulge his love of comic books with a fresh new horror series for Dark Horse titled Count Crowley. He discussed his new comic book project as well as his acting career. "My life changed in that moment," he said about getting his breakthrough role in Christopher Nolan's second Batman film. Dastmalchian outlined the plot of his Count Crowley comic which follows a late night Creature Feature host who discovers monsters are real and trying to control the world's news and information. He also spoke about his upcoming roles in Denis Villeneuve's Dune and James Gunn's The Suicide Squad. "I'm a nerd living in heaven," Dastmalchian quipped.

Bumper Music

Bumper music from Saturday November 23, 2019

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