Friday, May 21, 2010

Mr. Magic Returns

Posted By on Fri, May 21, 2010 at 4:00 AM

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Former WFC entertainment director Rick Bartalini has a new plan.

Friday, May 14, and the buzz is on. It’s opening night at Napa’s newly restored Uptown Theatre and the place is sold-out, some 800 people packed in to witness Big Bad Voodoo Daddy inaugurate a new era in Napa culture.

Standing amid the buzz is a recognizable figure, Rick Bartalini, formerly the entertainment director for the Wells Fargo Center and the go-to guy for artist hospitality (above, with Olivia Newton-John). Bartalini made his name as the man who knows what kind of flowers Diana Ross favors for her dressing room or the kind of videos Johnny Mathis needs stocked in his hotel suite.

On this day, Bartalini showed up at the Uptown around 10am, took a look at the ordinary chaos of opening night and turned to Uptown executive director Sheila Groves-Tracey. “Girlfriend,” he reportedly said, “give me your credit card.” Eight hours later, special food and drink had been laid in and any other comfort the musicians might have wished for had been anticipated. Bartalini’s magic once again beamed bright.

He’ll have more than one chance to work that magic again in Sonoma County as he rolls out Rick Bartalini Presents, a newly formed LLC that will book and cosset acts at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, both inside at the Grace Pavilion and outside in the adjacent lot where the carnival is erected each summer. Bartalini, who installed Dolly Parton into the Grace for a 2007 Valentine’s Day show that was a pink-hued audio orgasm, knows the challenges and pleasures of such an unconventional venue.

He has also made connections with other North Bay venues; he envisions possibly placing jazz diva Diana Krall at the Green Center and definitely plans big-name country acts for the fairgrounds. His proposed outdoor arena could hold some 15,000 souls. Moreover, Bartalini promises economy in ticket prices, since a place that can hold so many can charge less for tickets than a place that accommodates a smaller audience. With country-music hotspot Konocti Harbor closed, Santa Rosa makes a perfect fit. Bartalini promises programming will begin in the fall. Keep checking these pages for more.Gretchen Giles

This story amended for factual errors and a new (thinner) photo uploaded on May 24, 2010.

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