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When the Stones almost came to Brooklyn — on film

The Rolling Stones’ two upcoming concerts at the Barclays Center, reportedly scheduled for November, may be a case of life imitating art.

According to Billboard.com, the website of the well-respected “bible” of the music industry, the Stones will go on tour to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary.

Yet, there was another time that a Stones concert was promoted in Brooklyn – in a movie.

The provocatively titled 2010 independent film, “White Irish Drinkers,” by Bay Ridge-born filmmaker John Gray, has as one of its elements a “secret concert” by the group.

In the film, which takes place in 1975, Whitey (Peter Riegert) is the proprietor of a failing Bay Ridge movie theater where the main character, Brian Leary (Nick Thurston), works.

The theater is on the brink of going under when Whitey tells Brian that one of his old friends is now the tour manager for the Stones. He soon reveals that he has arranged a hush-hush, one-night-only concert by the band and begins to sell tickets to neighborhood youth.Whitey (Peter Riegert), left, discusses his plans for a Rolling Stones concert in Bay Ridge with Brian Leary (Nick Thurston) in a scene from “White Irish Drinkers.”  Photo by Alan Tannenbaum

On the night of the concert, we see the fans waiting impatiently for hours. At first, Whitey tells them that the Stones’ limo is a few blocks away, and they all cheer.

A few minutes later, however, we see Whitey scooping up the money and telling Brian he has to leave. Although the film doesn’t explicitly say so, the implication is that the entire “concert” is a scam.

And the melee that follows ends up with a tragic murder.

Of course, the position of the Stones in music today is vastly different than what it was in 1975. Today, they’re the senior statesmen of rock. Back then, they were an active touring group, appearing in cities across the U.S. and selling millions of copies of records.

As for “White Irish Drinkers,” it played in 23 cities between March 25 and June 23, 2011, and is now available on Netflix and on DVD and Blu-Ray from Amazon.

Efforts to contact Gray’s production company, Ovington Avenue Productions, were unsuccessful, but those who were involved in the film are probably happy that the Stones are finally coming to Brooklyn – and this time, it’s for real.

The Rolling Stones aside, the film recalls a time when, as Gray told the Eagle in 2010, “Your friends were in the neighborhood. You went to school in the neighborhood and went to bars in the neighborhood. You were expected to meet someone in the neighborhood and get married.”

As for the title, it comes from a scene in which one of the characters starts to smoke a joint in a local bar. His young friends turn on him, and one of them angrily says, “We don’t do pills, smoke or needles. We’re white Irish drinkers!”


August 31, 2012 - 11:45pm


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