Coming up on the East Stage…naked breasts! (Oh, yeah, and some guy named James Brown.) On the west stage…bare butts! (Plus, um, Wyclef or somebody.) Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad, but watching the leering, flesh-obsessed pay-per-view coverage of Woodstock 99 often made you wonder whether you hadn’t accidentally ordered the Playboy Channel instead. Cameras constantly cut away from bands to ogle women (and very occasionally men) in varying states of undress, and split-screen shots often forced performers to compete for attention with gyrating unclad concertgoers. The jiggle, it too often seemed, was more important than the jangle.
Not so, insists Jeff Rowland, executive producer of the pay-per-view event. ”We did not make it a policy to focus on nudity,” he says. ”Our philosophy was to [show] what was going on at the festival. Watching people eat hot dogs is not going to capture what Woodstock is about. There were naked women everywhere, and that’s going to be represented in the pay per view.”
Well…maybe. While nudity certainly was a part of the atmosphere, it’s hard to swallow Rowland’s assertion that the pay-per-view feed — which featured prolonged close-ups of bare boobs, butts, and, occasionally, even more private bits — wasn’t exploitative. Rowland claims he has received no complaints from subscribers — including, presumably, parents who paid the $60 weekend fee for their young kids — and sees no problem with the barrage of NC-17 images: ”We weren’t trying to be salacious. I don’t consider exposed breasts to necessarily be dirty. I’m sure that sex acts, and overt acts of violence, and people shooting up all took place at the festival too, but we weren’t going to [show] everything if it was offensive, or borderline offensive.” Well, consider us offended. Okay, borderline offended.