Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
|Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival|
Coachella in 2012
|Genre||Rock, indie, hip hop, EDM|
|Dates||Consecutive weekends in April (currently)|
|Location(s)||Empire Polo Club
81-800 Avenue 51
Indio, CA 92201
|Years active||1999, 2001–present|
|Founded by||Paul Tollett|
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (commonly referred to as Coachella or the Coachella Festival) is an annual music and arts festival held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, located in the Inland Empire's Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert. It was founded by Paul Tollett in 1999 and is organized by Goldenvoice, a subsidiary of AEG Live. The event features many genres of music, including rock, indie, hip hop, and electronic dance music, as well as art installations and sculptures. Across the grounds, several stages continuously host live music. The main stages are: Coachella Stage, Outdoor Theatre, Gobi Tent, Mojave Tent, and the Sahara Tent; a smaller Oasis Dome was used in 2006 and 2011, while a new Yuma stage was introduced in 2013.
The festival's origins trace back to a 1993 concert that Pearl Jam performed at the Empire Polo Club while boycotting venues controlled by Ticketmaster. The show validated the site's viability for hosting large events, leading to the inaugural Coachella Festival being held in October 1999 over two days, just three months after the disastrous Woodstock '99. After no event was held in 2000, Coachella returned on an annual basis beginning in April 2001 as a single-day event. In 2002, the festival reverted to a two-day format. Coachella was expanded to a third day in 2007 and eventually a second weekend in 2012; it is currently held on consecutive three-day weekends in April, with each weekend having identical lineups. Organizers began permitting spectators to camp on the grounds in 2003, one of several expansions and additions of amenities that have been made in the festival's history.
Coachella showcases popular and established musical artists, as well as emerging artists and reunited groups. Notable appearances in the past include: AC/DC, Amy Winehouse, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Prince, Paul McCartney, Arcade Fire, Wu-Tang Clan, The Killers, Radiohead, Daft Punk, Madonna, The Cure, Kanye West, Eminem, Gorillaz, The Black Keys, Rage Against the Machine, Beck, Nine Inch Nails, The Strokes, The White Stripes, Jay-Z, Beastie Boys, Muse, Florence and the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Foo Fighters. Coachella is one of the largest, most famous, and most profitable music festivals in the United States. In 2014, the festival tallied an aggregate attendance of 579,000 over six days and grossed a record-breaking $78.3 million.
On November 5, 1993, Pearl Jam performed for almost 25,000 fans at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. The site was selected because the band refused to play in Los Angeles as a result of a dispute with Ticketmaster. The show established the polo club's suitability for large-scale events; Paul Tollett, whose concert promotion company Goldenvoice booked the venue for Pearl Jam, said the concert sowed the seeds for an eventual music festival there.
Around 1997, Goldenvoice was struggling to book concerts against larger companies, and they were unable to offer guarantees as high as their competitors, such as SFX Entertainment. Tollett said, "We were getting our ass kicked financially. We were losing a lot of bands. And we couldn't compete with the money." As a result, the idea of a music festival was conceived. While attending the 1997 Glastonbury Festival, Tollett began to brainstorm ideas for a festival of his own with multiple venues. His intent was to book trendy artists who were not necessarily chart successes: "Maybe if you put a bunch of them together, that might be a magnet for a lot of people." After looking at several sites, he and Goldenvoice co-president Rick Van Santen returned to the Empire Polo Club for the Big Gig festival, and, impressed by the location's suitability for a festival, decided to book theirs there.
Press coverage leading up to the inaugural Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was dominated by Woodstock 1999, a festival in July 1999 that was marred by looting, arson, violence, and rapes. Goldenvoice's insurance costs increased 40% as a result and they faced uncertainty regarding Coachella's tickets, which went on sale just one week after Woodstock 1999 ended. Organizers were already aiming to provide a "high-comfort festival experience" for Coachella but rededicated themselves to those efforts after Woodstock 1999. Advertisements boasted free water fountains, ample restrooms, and misting tents.
On October 9–10, 1999, the inaugural Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was held. Headlining the event were Beck, the Chemical Brothers, Tool, Morrissey, and Rage Against the Machine; other acts included Jurassic 5 and Underworld. Originally, promoters had hoped to make the event three days (Friday to Sunday) and even considered the UK band Massive Attack as the third-day headliner. The organizers strived to recreate European music festivals with small crowds in a great setting with plenty of turntables. By booking acts based on artistry rather than radio popularity, Coachella earned the title of "the anti-Woodstock".
Tickets sold for $50 for each day; about 17,000 tickets sold for the first day, and 20,000 for the second, falling short of the overall attendance goal of 70,000. Attendees were offered free parking and a free bottle of water upon entrance. The event went smoothly, with the well-behaved crowd starkly contrasting with the violence that plagued Woodstock '99; the biggest challenges to Coachella concertgoers were temperatures exceeding 100 °F and the decisions of which of the 80-plus acts to attend. The festival was well regarded among attendees and critics; Pollstar named it festival of the year, and Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times said that it "laid the foundation for what someday may be a legacy of its own". However, Goldenvoice lost $800,000 on the undertaking, forcing the promoter, in Tollett's words, to "struggle for almost two years to survive as a company". Prominent acts like Rage Against the Machine, Tool, and Beck agreed to receive deferred compensation.
Goldenvoice reserved tentative dates for October 2000 to reprise the festival, but ultimately canceled for that year; Tollett blamed it on the oversaturation of music festivals in Southern California. The electronic dance music festival Nocturnal Wonderland filled the void at the Empire Polo Club, taking place in September 2000. Goldenvoice opted to bring Coachella back in April 2001 in an attempt to beat the heat. Ticket prices were raised to $65. Organizers encountered difficulty booking acts for the festival and due to "available talent", were forced to shorten the festival to a single day. Issues with securing a headliner threatened to doom the event until Perry Farrell agreed to bring his reunited group Jane's Addiction to the proceedings. Amidst financial concerns, Tollett agreed to sell Goldenvoice to Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) in March 2001 for $7 million. Tollett initially retained full control of Coachella, but now shares ownership evenly with AEG. Like its predecessor, the 2001 festival went smoothly, and despite taking a loss again, Tollett estimates it was a "low, low six-figure sum".
In 2002, the event returned to a two-day format, featuring the reunited Siouxsie and the Banshees, as well as headlining acts Björk and Oasis. The strong supporting acts helped prove to the Indio community that the event could bring in money and take place without conflict. For the first time, the festival nearly broke even.
The 2003 festival featured Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beastie Boys, as well as the reunited Iggy Pop and The Stooges, and drew the largest crowd yet. The event began to develop worldwide interest and began to become nationally known. It was also the first year on-site camping was provided, improving accessibility as a destination music festival for concertgoers.
The 2004 event featured the reunited Pixies, as well as Radiohead, Kraftwerk, The Cure, Belle and Sebastian, and The Flaming Lips. It was Coachella's first sellout, moving 50,000 tickets for both Saturday and Sunday.
The 2005 event ran from April 30 to May 1 and featured Coldplay, Arcade Fire, Snow Patrol, Weezer, M.I.A, M83, Bloc Party, The Prodigy, Keane, Chemical Brothers, Kasabian, Nine Inch Nails, Bright Eyes, Wilco, Spoon, Stereophonics, Tegan and Sara, New Order, Rilo Kiley, and Jem.
The 2006 event featured Depeche Mode, Massive Attack, Tool, Daft Punk, Scissor Sisters, James Blunt, Gnarls Barkley, and Madonna.
In 2007, Goldenvoice inaugurated the Stagecoach Festival, an annual country music festival that also takes place at the Empire Polo Club the weekend following Coachella. The new event helped avert complications with organizing Coachella; the polo club's owner Alex Haagen III had been planning to develop the land unless a new profitable event could be created to make a long-term lease with Goldenvoice financially feasible. Along with the new festival's addition, Coachella was permanently extended to three days in 2007. The headlining acts were Red Hot Chili Peppers, the reunited Rage Against the Machine, and Björk, all of whom headlined for the second time. Other notable performers included Arcade Fire, who had made a memorable 2005 Coachella appearance, LCD Soundsystem, Manu Chao, a rare American performance by former Pulp-frontman Jarvis Cocker, and Scarlett Johansson, who sang with the reunited Jesus and Mary Chain. The festival compiled a three-day aggregate attendance of 186,636, a new best, and grossed $16.3 million.
In 2008, Coachella did not sell out for the first time since 2003. It featured headliners Prince, Roger Waters, and Jack Johnson, along with notable appearances from Portishead, the reunited The Verve, M.I.A., Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin, the reunited Love and Rockets, and the reunited Swervedriver. Another noteworthy performance during the 2008 festival was that of singer/songwriter Adele. The 2008 festival drew an attendance of 151,666 and grossed $13.8 million, but lost money, due to tickets not selling out and high booking fees paid for Prince and Roger Waters.
The 2009 festival occurred a week earlier than usual. The new dates were April 17, 18 and 19. The event featured headliners Paul McCartney, The Killers, and The Cure. On Friday, McCartney blew past the festival's strict curfew by nearly an hour. Sunday, The Cure had their performance end abruptly, with the festival cutting stage power after passing their own curfew by thirty minutes. Notable performances included Franz Ferdinand, M.I.A. (whose 2005 encore set in a tent was a first at the fest), Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and rare appearances from artists Leonard Cohen and Throbbing Gristle. The festival drew an aggregate attendance of 152,962 and grossed $15,328,863.
Organizers did away with single-day ticket sales in 2010, offering instead only three-day tickets, drawing mixed reviews. Headliners included Jay-Z, Muse and Gorillaz, along with LCD Soundsystem, the reunited Faith No More, a reunited Pavement, Thom Yorke of Radiohead and his live band Atoms for Peace, Tiesto, and supergroup Them Crooked Vultures. Other notable acts were Fever Ray, deadmau5, La Roux, MGMT, Florence and the Machine, Spoon, Bassnectar, Phoenix, Vampire Weekend, She & Him, Céu, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Specials, a rare Plastikman live set from Richie Hawtin, Sly Stone , and David Guetta. Despite Tollett's reservations about holding a festival in 2010 due to the economy, that year's Coachella drew 75,000 spectators each day, for an estimated average aggregate of 225,000 attendees, surpassing previous attendance records. The festival grossed $21,703,500.
Prior to the 2011 festival, Goldenvoice made several investments and improvements locally to help support Coachella. In addition to funding an additional lane for Avenue 50, which borders the festival, the promoter cleared additional space on the polo grounds by leveling a 250,000-square-foot area and moving horse stables. The headliners for that year's event were Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, Kanye West and The Strokes, while other performers included Duran Duran, Mumford & Sons, the reunited Big Audio Dynamite, PJ Harvey, and the Black Keys, among another 190 supporting acts. The 2011 festival grossed $24,993,698 from 75,000 paid attendees, for an aggregate attendance of 225,000 across the entire three-day weekend.
On May 31, 2011, Goldenvoice announced that beginning with the 2012 festival, Coachella would be expanded to a second, separately-ticketed weekend, with identical lineups for each. Explaining the decision, Tollett said that demand for tickets was up in 2011 even after "operations weren't the best [they've] ever had" in 2010 and that he did not want to satisfy that demand by allowing additional attendees to overcrowd the venue. Rolling Stone called it a "very risky move" and said there was "no guarantee that demand [would be] high enough to sell out the same bill over two consecutive weekends". Nonetheless, 2012 tickets sold out in less than three hours.
During Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's performance at the 2012 festival, a projection of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur came up from under the stage (a voice actor performed his introduction lines) and began performing "Hail Mary" and "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted". Although the media referred to the technology as a 'hologram', the projection was in fact created using the Musion Eyeliner system, which employs a version of Pepper's ghost. Following the performance, the projection disappeared. Dr. Dre had asked permission from Shakur's mother Afeni, who said the next day that she was thrilled with the performance. A projection of deceased singer Nate Dogg was also planned, but Dr. Dre decided against it. The 2012 festival also featured Swedish House Mafia, Alesso, Porter Robinson, Pulp, Refused, At the Drive-In, Radiohead, The Black Keys, The Growlers, The Hives, Jeff Mangum, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Arctic Monkeys, Kaskade, Miike Snow, Afrojack, Gotye, Justice, Frank Ocean, Flying Lotus, St. Vincent, M83, Bon Iver, Kaiser Chiefs, The Shins, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Squeeze, Zedd, Madness, Awolnation, Fitz and The Tantrums, Santigold, Band of Skulls, Azealia Banks, ASAP Rocky, Childish Gambino, and The Weeknd, as well as unscheduled guest appearances by Eminem, 50 Cent, Tony Yayo, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Warren G, Kurupt, Rihanna, Usher, and Zack de la Rocha. The 2012 festival grossed $47,313,403 from 158,387 paid attendees across the two weekends; 80,726 tickets were sold for the first weekend, and 77,661 for the second.
Featured performers for the 2013 festival included Blur, Descendents, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, The Stone Roses, The Lumineers, Metric, How to Destroy Angels, Of Monsters and Men, Infected Mushroom, The Postal Service, Wu-Tang Clan, Paul Kalkbrenner, The xx, Beach House, Redman, Vampire Weekend, Café Tacvba, La Roux, Phoenix, Social Distortion, Violent Femmes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, 2 Chainz, Modest Mouse, Danny Brown, Tegan and Sara, Baauer, Tame Impala, Passion Pit, Stars and Earl Sweatshirt among others. General admission tickets sold for $349, a $34 increase from the previous year. The festival grossed $67.2 million in ticket sales and was attended by 180,000 people, making it the top music festival in the world. Prior to the 2013 festival, it was announced that Goldenvoice had reached a deal with the city of Indio to keep the Coachella and Stagecoach Festivals there through 2030. As part of the agreement, Indio's per-ticket share of revenue would increase from $2.33 per ticket to $5.01. In July 2013, Goldenvoice finalized a $30 million purchase of 280 acres of land surrounding the Empire Polo Club, including the 200-acre Eldorado Polo Club. The land, previously leased from Eldorado, will be used to provide more space for parking and general use for the festival. Tollett said the purchase was intended to "help [Goldenvoice] put in some infrastructure so [they] don't have to keep coming back and do the same things each year".
The 2014 festival, held on April 11–13 and April 18–20, featured 184 artists. A reunited Outkast headline on Friday, Muse headlined the Saturday shows, and Arcade Fire closed out Sunday nights. The 2014 festival also featured Lorde, Pixies, The Replacements, Beck, Neutral Milk Hotel, Kid Cudi, Queens of the Stone Age, Nas, Calvin Harris, Broken Bells, Motörhead, Haim, Aloe Blacc, Bastille, Neko Case, MGMT, Zedd, Girl Talk, Pet Shop Boys, Foster the People, Ellie Goulding, Lana Del Rey, The 1975, Pharrell Williams, Young & Sick, Chromeo, CHVRCHES and Mogwai among others. Beyoncé made a surprise appearance during her sister Solange's performance. Justin Bieber also made a surprise appearance alongside Chance The Rapper. Jay-Z and Puff Daddy made surprise appearances during Nas' set. Jhene Aiko was joined by both Drake and Childish Gambino. Pharrell Williams had possibly the most guests which included Nelly, Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani, and Diplo. Deborah Harry joined Arcade Fire during their headline set to perform "Heart of Glass". General admission tickets sold out in less than 20 minutes, while all other tickets (including VIP tickets in excess of $5,000) sold out in less than 3 hours. That year's festival tallied an aggregate attendance of 579,000 and grossed a record-breaking $78.3 million.
The 2015 festival, held on April 10–12 and 17–19, featured headliners AC/DC, Jack White, Drake, and a surprise appearance by Madonna during Drake's performance. Other notable performers included Florence and the Machine, Azealia Banks, Kaskade, Alesso, The Weeknd, Tame Impala, Interpol, Steely Dan, Alabama Shakes, alt-J, and Ryan Adams. General admission tickets again sold out in less than 20 minutes.
In addition to hosting live music, Coachella is a showcase for visual arts, including installation art and sculpture. Many of the pieces are interactive, providing a visual treat for attendees. Throughout the years, the art has grown in scale and outrageousness. Paul Clemente, Coachella's art director since 2009, said, "I think the level of detail and finish and artistry and scale and complexity and technology, everything is constantly getting notched up, ratcheted up. We're obviously constantly trying to, for lack of a better word, (to) outdo ourselves and make it better for the fans." In Coachella's early years, art was mostly recycled from the previous year's Burning Man festival, due to smaller budgets. Between 2010 and 2015, Goldenvoice shifted its focus from renting pieces to commissioning them specifically for the festival, increasing their budget. Artists are given access to the grounds just 10 days before the festival, giving them a tight timeframe in which to assemble their pieces. Due to the high cost of re-assembly, only about half of them appear again outside of Coachella. Describing the festival's importance to art, Cynthia Washburn of Poetic Kinetics said, "With all the exposure here, I think Coachella is becoming as attractive for artists as it is for the musicians." In 2013, Clemente considered about 300 art proposals, the most in the festival's history for the time.
Some of the works have been featured at Art Basel, and involved participants from architecture schools, both local and international. A few of the visual artists, such as Hotshot the Robot, Robochrist Industries, the Tesla Coil (Cauac), Cyclecide, and The Do LaB, alongside avant-garde performance troupe Lucent Dossier Experience, have appeared for several consecutive years. Poster artist Emek has produced limited edition posters every year since 2007.
Coachella takes place in Indio, California, located within the Colorado Desert. Temperatures during the festival's history have ranged from 106 °F (41 °C) on April 21, 2012, to 43 °F (6 °C) on April 14, 2012. The festival is hosted at the 78-acre Empire Polo Club; when accounting for land used for parking and camping, the event covers a footprint of over 600 acres. The site is about 125 miles east of Los Angeles.
As the host city to Coachella and the Stagecoach Festival, Indio provides several services such as police and fire protection, private security, medical services, outside law enforcement, and city staff services. These services for the three weekends of festivals totaled $2.77 million in 2012. All public safety needs are coordinated by Indio's police department, requiring them to liaison with nearly 12 agencies, including police departments from nearby cities, the sheriff's department, California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, American Medical Response, and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. To avoid disturbing local residents, a curfew for music performances is enforced; since 2010, it has been 1 AM on Fridays and Saturdays, an hour later than the previous curfew.
Organizers of Coachella manage its carbon footprint by partnering with the organization Global Inheritance to promote several environmentally friendly initiatives. Global Inheritance's original project was its "TRASHed :: Art of Recycling" campaign, which challenges local artists to design and decorate recycling bins that are placed across the festival grounds. Another program is "Carpoolchella"; launched in 2007, it rewards festivalgoers who carpool in groups of four or more and display the word "Carpoolchella" on their cars by entering them in a drawing to win VIP tickets for life. Through the 2014 festival, the program had 140,000 participants and more than 70 winners of lifetime festival passes. In 2007, Coachella teamed up with Global Inheritance to start a 10-for-1 recycling program, in which anyone who collects ten empty water bottles receives a free full one. In 2009, the festival introduced $10 refillable water bottles, which purchasers could refill at water stations inside the festival and within the campgrounds. Other programs used at the festival include solar powered DJ booths and seesaws used to charge mobile phones.
About 600 staffers are required to collect the litter that accumulates during the festival. Resources are sorted individually on site before being taken to local landfills and recycling centers. Goldenvoice maintains a goal to "divert 90 percent of [its] recyclable and compostable materials". In 2013, staff diverted over 577,720,000 pounds of materials, comprising: 36,860 tons of aluminum cans, 105,000 tons of cardboard, 65,360 tons of PET plastic, 47,040 tons of scrap metal, and 34,600 tons of glass.
In 2003, Coachella began allowing tent camping as an option for festival lodging. The campground site is on a polo field adjacent to the venue grounds and has its own entrance on the south side of the venue. 2010 introduced many new features, such as re-entry from the campsite to the festival grounds, parking next to your tent, and recreational vehicle camping spots (recreational vehicle camping was offered one year only). For that festival, there were more than 17,000 campers. At the 2012 event, on-site facilities included recycling, a general store, showers, mobile phone charging stations and an internet cafe with free WiFi.
Tollett begins to book artists for each festival as early as the previous August. In addition to agent pitches and artists discovered online, the lineup is culled from acts booked by Goldenvoice for their other 1,800 shows each year. Tollett uses the promoter's ticketing figures for insight into who to book, saying: "There are AEG shows all across the country, and I see all their show lists and ticket counts. So I see little things that are happening maybe before some others, because they don't have that data."
According to the Los Angeles Times, booking fees for most artists playing the festival allegedly start at $15,000 and extend into the "high six figures"; top-billed artists for 2010 were expected to be paid over $1 million. Billboard 's sources estimate that non-headline acts can earn anywhere from $500 to $100,000. In booking the festival, Goldenvoice uses radius clauses that can prevent acts from performing in Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, or San Diego for up to three months before and after the festival. The promoter has allowed some of Coachella's acts to make appearances in the region prior to the festival and between weekends, but only at events and venues owned or controlled by Goldenvoice's parent company AEG; one such example was Jay-Z's concert at Staples Center in 2010. Goldenvoice now promotes these events, dubbed "Localchella", as a series of small warm-up shows for Coachella in Southern California.
Promotion and commercial partnerships
Organizers have been resistant to accepting sponsorship deals that would help Coachella turn a higher profit. In 2003, Tollett estimated that Goldenvoice could earn an additional $300,000 to $500,000 by adding a corporate sponsor to the festival name, but he did not want to violate the purity of the event. He said, "I hate it when you go to shows and you are bombarded with all this advertising. It just shows a lack of respect for your audience and the music." Organizers have relaxed their opposition over the years; recently, brewing company Heineken has sponsored a small indoor venue at the festival called the "Heineken House". Clothing retailer H&M also sponsored a small tent on the festival grounds in 2015 where attendees could purchase items from the company's clothing line inspired by the festival called "H&M Loves Coachella".
Since 2011, YouTube has live streamed the opening weekend of Coachella. Viewers can choose from three channels of performances to watch. Since 2014, AXS TV has been broadcasting the second weekend on television; over 20 hours of live performances from the 2015 festival were broadcast on AXS TV. Performances from the 2015 festival were also broadcast live on Sirius XM satellite radio for the first time.
The success of Coachella has led its organizers to partner with other American music festivals. In 2003, Goldenvoice agreed to work with the organizers of Field Day, a New York-based festival modeled after Coachella, to help promote and produce the event, although the show was completely overhauled from its original vision. In September 2014, Goldenvoice announced it had entered into a joint venture with Red Frog Events to help them promote and produce their Firefly Music Festival. In January 2015, a similar agreement was reached with the organizers of the Hangout Music Festival.
Impact and legacy
The success of Coachella in its early years proved that American music festivals could work and succeed in a destination form, as opposed to a traveling festival. In the years following Coachella's success, many other festivals have followed in its footsteps, copying its format as a destination festival with multiple stages, attractions, art, and camping. Some of these new festivals have grown to achieve the same success as Coachella, such as Lollapalooza in Chicago, Governors Ball in New York City and Bonnaroo in Tennessee. According to a 2015 ranking by online ticket retailer viagogo, Coachella was the second-most in-demand concert ticket, trailing only the Tomorrowland festival.
According to a 2012 economic impact study, Coachella brought $254.4 million to the desert region that year; of that total, Indio received $89.2 million in consumer spending and $1.4 million in tax revenue.
Goldenvoice's other festival at the Empire Polo Club, Stagecoach, has been called a "cousin" of Coachella, but it has grown at a faster pace, eventually selling out for the first time in 2012 with 55,000 attendees.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Coachella.|
- The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival official website
- Coachella Music Festival | The Desert Sun
- Coachella channel on YouTube
- The Art of Coachella – Short Film
- Howser, Huell (September 7, 2009). "Coachella Music Festival – California's Gold Special (141)". California's Gold. Chapman University Huell Howser Archive.