Nude Photos On Woodstock ’99 Website Raise Ire Of Women’s Groups, Promoter

Festival co-promoter John Scher calls Woodstock.com postings and captions 'repugnant.'

A message posted on www.woodstock.com, the official website of this year’s 30th-anniversary edition of the music festival, touts the site’s “growing archive of the excitement of Woodstock ’99″ as a place to share happy memories.

But women’s-rights advocates and other observers say that the most rapidly expanding segment of that archive — a gallery of more than 150 photos of partially or fully nude concert-goers — instead may be an unpleasant reminder of some of the worst aspects of Woodstock ’99.

Those observers call the photos — some of which include such captions as “Cute T—ies,” “Nice Pair” and “Show Your T–s” — inappropriate, especially given that rapes and other sexual assaults allegedly occurred during the festival.

New York State Police have arrested two men in connection with Woodstock-related sex crimes, and police are investigating at least eight other sex crimes that allegedly took place during the three-day festival, including two alleged gang rapes. Some have linked the sex crimes at Woodstock to a testosterone-charged, anti-woman atmosphere at the three-day event.

“I find it somewhat repugnant, especially in light of these reports [of sex crimes],” Woodstock ’99 co-promoter John Scher said about the posting of the photos, adding that he had not yet seen them.

Scher is himself under attack by women’s groups, who contend he is responsible for creating an atmosphere that may have led to the sex crimes and the destructive riot that ended the festival. Scher said he had no control over the contents of the website because Woodstock ’99 licensed its name to an independent music-marketing company, MusicNow Inc., which operates the website.

Rosemary Vennaro, supervisor at the Utica, N.Y., YWCA, which counseled several alleged victims of sexual assault during the festival, said she was concerned that women who were attacked at Woodstock might see the photos.

“That’s not very good, especially for the victims,” she said. “[What] if there are victims out there seeing that and feeling that they’re getting blamed for what happened to them?”

Vennaro was particularly disturbed, she said, by a photo that shows a naked woman, seen only from the waist down, standing among a group of fully clad males. The photo’s caption is a single word: “Danger.”

“It’d be quite interesting to know more about that one,” she said.

Joe Griffo, the mayor of Rome, N.Y., the site of Woodstock ’99, said he was offended that the festival’s official site is displaying nude photos. “We need to have some moral values,” he said.

In the face of such criticism, MusicNow CEO Rand Bleimeister is re-evaluating the website’s use of the photos, which are posted to the site by fans, according to Haley Sumner, a Woodstock.com spokesperson.

“It was supposed to be a creative outlet for these kids, but if it’s not moving in that direction, I’ll shut [the gallery] down,” Bleimeister said in a statement released through Sumner, who also works as a publicist for Woodstock ’99 organizers.

“This is a real-time gallery,” reads a warning posted on the website. “It is impossible for us to review photos or confirm their validity. We do not actively monitor the contents of this gallery and are not responsible for any photos posted.” The warning advises Web surfers who are offended by specific photos to complain by e-mail, and it promises that any offending photos will be removed.

Another legal disclaimer states that “the entire content of the Gallery is copyrighted by MusicNow, Inc.,” and informs users that by uploading their photos they give MusicNow the right to reproduce the pictures in any medium.

Woodstock founder Michael Lang, who co-promoted the latest festival, said he saw no connection between the photos and the reports of sex crimes at Woodstock ’99.

“Nudity and violence toward women are very different things. One is a crime, while the other is a form of free expression,” he said.

But Scher said he was concerned that the women pictured had not given permission for their images to be posted on the Web. “I think it’s appalling to exploit people like that, unless the people the pictures were taken of gave their permission to do that,” he said.

Website organizers claim that since the photos were taken in a public place, the women pictured were aware of the possibility they were being photographed, Sumner said.

Becky Fike, who counseled assault victims during the festival through the social-services group Family of Woodstock, said she agreed with Sumner.

“If the girls were willing to have their picture taken, they have to take the risk of it going public,” she said.

In addition to the photo galleries, which also display band photos and other images, Woodstock.com includes message boards on which participants have posted thousands of messages since before the festival began. The site hosted Woodstock ’99′s official webcast, and plans call for it to host webcasts of other, unrelated concerts, according to Sumner.

(Staff Writer Christopher O’Connor contributed to this report.)