February 28, 2014

Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Trotter was supposed to cover Billy Corgan’s “ambient/musical interpretation of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha,” a performance taking place Friday at a teahouse the Smashing Pumpkins frontman owns, a show he estimated on Facebook would last “8-9 hours.” Trotter said on Twitter Corgan’s publicist told him he couldn’t attend because Corgan was upset about a column by another Tribune writer that mocked the concept of an eight-to-nine-hour-long concert based on “Siddhartha.”

The column that got Trotter that view from the sidewalk? Rex Huppke’s Feb. 27 piece, in which he wrote, “Corgan has always struck me as more than a little pompous, and his tea-infused ‘Siddhartha’-palooza reinforces that impression.” (You can stream the performance from the teahouse’s homepage.)

Huppke wrote a letter to Lissa Christman, Corgan’s publicist, complaining about Trotter’s expulsion:

If Mr. Corgan took issue with my column, that’s fine. Reach out to me. Yell at me. Bar me from anything he takes part in. But to retaliate against the newspaper and an individual reporter sent there to cover the show as a news event is ridiculous.

Reached by phone, Christman said “the incident is over.” I asked whether Tribune writers would be banned from future performances. “I’m not going to speculate. I’m not going to predict the future,” she said. She noted that Corgan was still performing when we spoke on Friday evening. I asked whether she thought he might comment on the incident once he’s finished. “I don’t think he’ll be commenting on this anymore,” she told me.

Trotter’s account of the show, published Friday evening, makes a quick reference to the expulsion:

Just before the show began, a Corgan representative asked this Tribune reporter to leave and said the musician objected to a column written by Tribune reporter Rex Huppke earlier this week about the event.

I got Huppke on the phone, too. He said it was “a little frustrating” that someone angry with him would take it out on another reporter. “I’m more than happy to take the heat from Mr. Corgan,” Huppke said. Asked whether he’d go to the performance if it meant smoothing things over, Huppke said, “Oh God, no.”

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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