A couple weeks ago I finally finished writing something I'd been thinking about and researching and (very occasionally) attempting to draft for over a year: this history of rent control efforts in Philadelphia.
I'm mostly happy with how it came out, although if I had more time (and the ruthless editor I always fear/need) it could have been tighter. I DID manage to restrain myself from including the Richard Pryor Incident, though.
When I was up at Temple in the Special Collections Resource Center, going through the Tenant Action Group (TAG) files, I noticed a handwritten page mixed in with the typed Steering Committee minutes. It described plans for a TAG benefit concert at the Holiday Inn on City Ave and Monument Road, scheduled for August 13, 1977. Featured acts would include The Elegants and the Not Yet Ready for Prime Time Players.
The headliner would be Richard Pryor.
Beneath a quick cost breakdown ($611 deposit for Pryor's airfare plus $280 for hotel and limo), a note in what looks like blue Sharpie: "Promoter's fee is 5% of our profit. Promoter's name is Virgil Ginyard."
Pretty impressive act for a group of tenant organizers, I thought.
As I continued paging through the Steering Committee folders, though, a report from July 11 revealed that things were already getting a little unsteady. The date was changed, the venue was changed, the Not Yet Ready for Prime Time Players were out. There was an afterparty in the works but if the tickets for it didn't sell, it would be cancelled.
"The promoter, Virgil Ginyard, has been given a contract and a deposit, which was bonded. He has not yet produced written commitments from Richard Pryor or the Shubert Theatre, and the staff has experienced some difficulty in meeting with Mr. Ginyard to discuss the details of the concerts. He has canceled and/or postponed several appointments over the past month."
"It was decided to give Mr. Ginyard a deadline by which time if he does not produce commitments, we will cancel our contract with him and take our deposit back."
Uh oh, I thought.
By the next Steering Committee meeting, the whole Pryor thing had fallen through. Ginyard kept missing appointments. A TAG member contacted Pryor's actual booking agent, a Mr. Schwartz, who told them Pryor was too busy with his new TV series to take on any other performances. Did Ginyard even know Pryor? The Steering Committee voted unanimously to cancel the concert and try and recover the money they'd paid Ginyard.
Steering Committee minutes from August 8, 1977: "We paid Mr. Ginyard $1500, which he has not returned to us. We filed two separate actions against Ginyard."
TAG initiated a criminal action (Ginyard missed the hearing; a second was scheduled) as well as a civil action. In the civil action, TAG sought the original $1500 returned plus $5000 in damages. Ginyard failed to answer the suit, so TAG won the judgement by default.
In order to recover the $6,500, TAG paid $250 to have Ginyard's house put up for sheriff's sale on December 5th.
Sorry but a bunch of tenant organizers putting this guy's house up for sheriff's sale is VERY FUNNY TO ME!
When Ginyard found out about the sale, he got in touch with TAG's attorney, Phil Lord (still at TURN and a very nice dude btw). He promised he'd pony up $500 before December 5, and another $3k by December 17th.
That's the last thing I could find in my notes from the archives about Ginyard. Presumably they worked something out and he kept his house.
But who was he, anyway?
Virgil Ginyard led a local music group called The Elgins. But there were at least three groups performing as The Elgins around that time. There were the Philly Elgins, the Detroit Elgins (they were on Motown so their music is the easiest to find), and the Los Angeles doo-wop Elgins.
I couldn't find much information about the Philly Elgins. Fortunately, hardcore Motown fans are obsessive and they post on message boards.
Thank you Eli (phillysoulman), whoever you are, for this post:
"Believe it or not, there is a bogus Elgins here in Philly.
Their leader, even had the cohones to go on the NBC Philly morning show, live, to tell about his life at Motown and his "road stories".
I live near the tv studio and I was tempted to go over there and spill the beans, but chose not to.
BTW, he was recently released from prison on other offenses. His bogus cd even has the Motown "M" on it!!"
I'm pretty sure "This Child Needs His Father" is by our Philly scammer Elgins. The singer, Sharyn Ginyard, is Virgil's wife. I wonder if that photo was taken in the sheriff's sale house.
Ginyard was indeed sentenced to prison for fraud (bank AND mail). He scammed a local radio station, the A&E TV network, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, and the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Honestly, I respect it.
Virgil was still out there scamming as recently as 2013!!!
"Magee Rehabilitation Hospital will welcome Motown sensation The Elgins on Saturday, February 23. The group will perform a free concert for patients and their families in the 6th floor board room beginning at 3 p.m.
“We are all very excited and honored to perform for the patients and staff of Magee Rehab,” said Virgil Ginyard, member of The Elgins and a former Magee patient. “It’s great to give back to the people that gave me so much.”
The Elgins enjoyed great success in the early days of Motown, with hits including “Heaven Must Have Sent You,” “Stay in My Lonely Arms,” Darling Baby,” and “Put Yourself in My Place.” Today, Virgil Ginyard along with Sharyn Ginyard, Guy Isley and Tyrone Covington are continuing to tour, and have recently performed for the White House and across Europe."
NONE OF THOSE ARE THEIR SONGS! THOSE ARE ALL BY THE DETROIT ELGINS!
He also may have pulled the same re-using a popular band name trick as The Elegants -- one of the acts TAG originally booked for their fundraiser! So that must be how he talked his way into the Richard Pryor deposit.
No obits are popping up for Ginyard, who would be in his early 80s now. It also looks like he might live in (or at least own property) in my neighborhood!
Maybe I should see if he'd sit for an interview...
Oh right. Last time I said I would talk about the book. Well, as you can see, I prefer distracting myself from it. Next time. Really.