The Fall of Love

Chet Helms and his Avalon Ballroom were the heart and soul of the Summer of Love. Thirty years of stupid business moves later, love is all that's left.

To have created and squandered opportunity, formed and crashed companies, turned looming victory to sudden business defeat on a heroic scale -- to have repeatedly sought the business success scorned by his generation's vision of virtue, and to have repeatedly failed to achieve that success, because of too strong a belief in the vision -- may be Helms' ambiguous legacy. It may be a legacy absolutely fitting of his enormously ambivalent generation.

But none of his contemporaries seems to blame him for any of the failures that pockmark his career in music promotion, perhaps because, on one level or another, all of those contemporaries, for some period of time, to a greater or lesser degree, believed in the people-first, business-second ethic that led Helms on his own trip.

The ultimate judgments of those who've known him best are, therefore, as gentle as evening fog on a windless night.

"Chet is really remarkable. He's very calming," says Queenie Taylor. "Whether that is good for business, who knows."

"I just think that Chet is a person that I like. Chet is still among us. He is a very capable keeper of the light. He is a person of very high integrity," says Herbie Herbert. "He could just make a buck instead of doing something for the Love Generation, but he's out there making love."

"If Chet had the money, I'd work for him," says Pete Slauson, the man who recorded Tribal Stomp to no eventual business purpose. "The situation would be unique. Only Chet can do it. The guy's sat there with George Harrison and the Beatles, and he knows them all. He created a great space. There was nothing to compare to the Avalon.

"No one else can create that kind of spirit.

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