(July 4, 2014) For the first time in recent memory, the Town of Ocean City has exercised its right to keep entertainment out of the convention center, posing the question of how exactly the city will be screening acts as it looks to expand its performing arts offerings.
The performance by Grammy Award-winning artist Mya at the OC Car and Truck Show on Saturday, June 21 would’ve featured an opening act, had the city not objected.
“On behalf of a request from the town, our opening entertainment did not perform,” said Brad Hoffman of Spark Productions and Live Wire Media, the event’s organizer. “I wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize our working relationship with the town and the convention center.”
The opening performer would’ve been Lee Mazin, an up-and-coming female hip-hop artist from Philadelphia. But Mazin’s online performances and music videos, at least one of which features both sex and firearms, apparently caused the city to question what kind of impression the artist was going to make.
“There was a bedroom scene, a handgun involved…I’m not going to say it’s X-rated music, but maybe a hard ‘R,’” said Convention Center Director Larry Noccolino. “That’s not the image we want to project, in my opinion, or at least not take the risk of people perceiving it that way.”
That the city would go to such lengths to protect a largely self-selecting crowd at the car show from what it considers lascivious music would seem odd – were it not for the impending opening of the town’s Performing Arts Center, currently under construction at the convention center.
“It was unusual for me,” Hoffman said. “I’ve always bee of the thought that if you don’t think its entertainment that fits you, you don’t have to come check it out. But I understand where they’re coming from. If that’s their model, then we’ll adapt to that.”
The PAC – a state-of-the-art, 1,200-seat auditorium – is slated to open at the tail end of this year. While many of the convention center’s existing clients plan to use the space for programs related to their existing ones, a select number of dates are open for outside theater and concert promoters.
But the possibility of attracting some headlining talent also comes with the possibility of attracting some programs that may not fit the resort’s image, whatever that may be.
It also raises the question of whether it makes sense, economically, for the resort to push away the potential economic impact of entertainment out of fear that it may tarnish the resort for some of its more traditional visitors.
As has been the case before, the best bet in the city’s eyes is to stay “family-friendly.”
“I wouldn’t want my grandchildren coming to see Lee Mazin, so I don’t expect that other parents would want their children or grandchildren here either,” Noccolino said. “That’s the bottom line, which I explained to Brad.”
However, Noccolino stressed, the convention center’s standard contract with promoters prohibits “any performance, display or exhibition that is objectionable to Lessor,” meaning the Town of Ocean City and ultimately the Mayor and City Council.
“It runs up the flagpole from me, to the City Manager and to the council,” Noccolino said. “This is just my opinion. But it’s ultimately their approval.”
For the time being, it would appear that elected officials are fine leaving such decisions in the hands of the convention center.
“We discussed it, but it’s usually done at staff level,” said Council President Lloyd Martin. “I would leave that up to Larry and whoever has the entertainment background to make the call. The content of the material is what it really comes down to.”
As for the OC Car and Truck Show itself, Hoffman said that the event this year was extremely fruitful despite the criticisms last year that it was bringing a bad element to town.
“We’ve never had any type of issue, and we didn’t have any this year,” he said. “Any thoughts that it was bringing the wrong element to town, I think this clears it up, because we had a very chill weekend. It was the same families that always come.”