Prominent Sewickley Heights concert promoter publishes book
Regional concert promoter Rich Engler said friends and music fans for years have been asking for behind-the-scenes stories from when musicians played in the Pittsburgh area.
In his self-published book, “Behind the Stage Door: A Promoter's Life Behind the Scenes,” Engler — who has promoted shows for many of the music industry's biggest artists, such as The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Pink Floyd, The Who, Guns N' Roses, and Simon & Garfunkel — details 80 stories from about 40 years of shows. Among them was the time during a Celine Dion event that the ceiling fell during setup, he said.
“Talk about bringing the house down,” said Engler, 67, of Sewickley Heights. He said Dion came back several months later after the building was renovated.
Engler was part of the DiCesare-Engler Productions team, along with Pat DiCesare.
An inaugural inductee into the Pittsburgh Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame next month, Engler said music lovers from the 1960s through early 2000s might recall some of the stories featured, such as the time a pornographic film appeared on screen before a Mötley Crüe show, which prompted police and the building manager to investigate why that happened.
“I looked at the stage, and it didn't look quite right,” Engler recalled.
Engler's book is a culmination of his four decades in the concert-promoting industry.
“It was kind of an evolution of 40-plus years in the music business and having a real tremendous ride of watching the business start, the growth and creation of the live touring business and the rise and fall of the record business, ticketing changing (and) all of the antics with backstage things that go on,” he said.
About five years ago, Engler began jotting down anecdotes he remembered.
Stories making the cut not only let concert-goers learn stories of shows they might have attended but can inspire young people, he said.
“Success doesn't fall out of the sky,” said Engler, who said he opened his first company when he was 21. “You have to have a passion and a burning desire (and) it has to come from your heart and your soul.”
Engler said he was part of a music “movement” in the 1960s.
“Our music back then was a sign of our generation, and it was our music,” he said. “I felt compelled to have people hear this music. I was either going to play it to them or produce it to them.”
Pittsburgh became a “must-play city” after Engler purchased the Stanley Theater — now the Benedum Center. Over the years, Engler helped to produce concerts at many major venues in the city.
Engler said he wanted to offer music fans great entertainment locally.
“People pay hard-earned money, get baby sitters, and pay for parking and dinner before or after (a show),” he said.
“It was a great night out. We wanted to promote great shows and be noted that when you heard ‘DiCesare-Engler' or ‘Rich Engler,' it was quality. You knew you were going to get the best of the best.”
Engler still produces shows, though the DiCesare-Engler moniker ceased in the early 2000s, as Clear Channel eventually purchased many regional concert-promoting companies across the country, he said.
But Engler said he misses the hustle of a time when he helped to bring major music shows to Pittsburghers.
“Time moves so quickly,” he said.
“There was hardly any time to take a breath. I do miss that — the action of the adrenaline rush of producing shows. I just loved that. It's a passion of mine to spread that.”
Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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