10 DECEMBER 26, 1980 hippie energy, security men to guard exits and keep the peace, waitresses to serve customers food in the beer garden or cabaret, and additional kitchen and clean-up help to run a busy restaurant. The staffs for the different departments became havens for musicians, artists, and, later, students, who worked part time while pursuing their dreams elsewhere. A bevy of artists created posters for coming attractions, working nights, lettering the myriad signs posted about the grounds to direct customers. Cartoons, murals and over-sized Jim Franklin canvases adorned every barren length of wall. Carpenters, electricians and general handymen, all tired of working 40-hour weeks for straight companies, turned their energies instead to the ‘Dillo, wiring the new office space acquired in the front of the building, erecting walls to close off space for offices, constructing an elaborate cold-vault and tap system out of Van the Man miles of plastic tubing and metal fittings to supply the three main bars with beer whatever needed doing, they did. And the entire staff tried to come up with a way to make the dungeon-like hall corn But naivete in real-world matters probably provided the stability, the common link with supporters, that kept the place open. Hippies and business didn’t mix. Anybody who knew what he or she was doing at the ‘Dillo would have bailed out after a year or two. fortable* enough during the winter and summer to stay open all year. One winter, kerosene heaters were rented and placed strategically at side exits, but the heaters roared like jet en gines and fouled the hall with an agonizing odor. During the summer, giant fans strewn about the floor to cool the customers were a dismal failure, so the ‘Dillo tried renting various sizes of airconditioning systems. The last, a 40million-ton unit, broke down more than it ran. Even at peak pumping power, it failed to deliver a whisper of relief to a dripping, packed house. Despite prodigious effort, business during the winter and summer continued to drop off, even though the big-name bands were beginning to book in. The fly-by-night era of the Armadillo was over, and the national agencies feverishly competed for the Austin Music Scene dollar. By 1975, the staff, both full and part time, had swollen to 150, many of whom worked in administrative positions for a salary. New positions opened up for every task, the management maze branching out in all directions. Ideas were everywhere. With the backing of Lone Star Beer, the Armadillo gave birth to the Tina Tacky Agency, designed to coordinate advertisers with music and the “youth market.” Plans were in the works to syndicate an Armadillo radio show. Energy pumped around the expanded offices; the staff had great expectations of heavy-duty booking and big crowds year-round. The Force That Through the Quonset Hut Drives the Hotel On the brink of a hippie business miracle, the bad news started coming in. The economy of the nation slumped and sagged from the OPEC price squeeze two years earlier, in 1973. Recession took hold on growth and tightened the purse strings of the country. People had less to spend on frivolity and boogie-ing. The Armadillo blossomed at the wrong time. That Christmas season 1975 and into the winter, the Armadillo booked an impressive line-up of bands, sometimes as many as three or four a week, backing them up with thorough advertising. But the crowds didn’t come. In effect, the ‘Dillo had outgrown its market. The weight of performers’ fees and advertising costs slowly mired the company in debt. Amid crisis reorganizations of administration, day-to-day operations became last-ditch efforts. Eddie Wilson, spokesman for “management,” delivered impassioned speeches to the assembled staff. Paychecks would be made good when some money came in . . . whenever. Lone Star Beer backed out of the Tina Tacky Agency, effectively snuffing it out. The end appeared near.
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