During the last thirty plus years in Woodstock, there were literally hundreds of readings, lectures, public meetings, concerts, symposia, and political debates on a vast number of subjects. At many, if not most, of these events, David Menzies was there filming and archiving them.
David Menzies began capturing local Woodstock area events in 1987, and in his Bearsville home, he has stored over 700 of his recordings some in boxes and many neatly arrayed in double rows on shelves in his studio.
I asked him how he became involved in taping so many events. “I thought videography would be interesting. But you need subject matter, and there’s plenty of subject matter in Woodstock.”
He began his 32 year film history with the 1987 Performing Arts of Woodstock production of Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child,” in which Menzies, in addition to filming it, actually played a part. Since then, for over three decades, he has filmed all PAW productions. He acquired a title maker which gives his tapes and DVDs a professional quality.
To list just a few of the events he filmed, I saw in his archive a video of the “cell tower debate of 2004 (whether to place in in California Quarry)”; the 2009 grand opening of the Walkway over the Hudson; a “Save (Overlook) Mountain” picnic of 1989; a 1989 Woodstock Forum program featuring attorneys Martin Garbus and William Kunstler; a Historical Society lecture in 2010 on Camp Woodland to the Woodstock Festival; the Woodstock Memorial Day Parade of 1986 led by the late Ludwig Baumgarten in full uniform; a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Zena Cornfield; Pete Seeger and Congressman John Hall doing a 2006 concert on “The Case for impeachment”; a 2008 memorial performance led by Brian Hollander at the gravesite of John Herald. He also captured around ten years worth of the Christmas Eve arrivals of Santa in novel ways at the Woodstock Green.
“I have a lot of funerals,” Menzies told me, including the memorials for Aileen Cramer, Gary Irving, for Mark the Monk, and Stanley Longyear’s memorial service in 2005 at the large side field at the Comeau, among many others.
Menzies filmed numerous interviews with prominent now deceased Woodstockers, such as Bill Van Kleeck who talked to Menzies with inside anecdotes from his youthful years taking care of the grounds of the Maverick Concert Hall. Menzies filmed the 1987 Woodstock Bicentennial Celebration, and hundreds of poetry readings, debates, political caucuses, and events at Town Hall and the Community Center. He captured the 1989 Hiroshima commemoration.
“I got a lot of (Mik) Horowitz and (Gilles) Malkine,” he told me. “I got a lot of stuff on Hinchey. I got a lot of stuff on debates about cell towers.” Plus heated events “about when they planned to put the Highway Garage on the Comeau. I have a lot of Democratic Caucus speeches.” And debates on whether or not to do the “Comeau Easement.”
Menzies is also an archivist of the succession of cameras he’s used in his work. VHS cameras, 8 mm cameras, DV cameras, and now cameras that use SD chips. He has them neatly saved on his shelves.
Dave has been partners with Pat Jackson for around 40 years. They purchased a house together on Dixon Avenue in the Flats in the 1980s. He has two grown children, by a previous marriage, who live in California. He has been active in local and area politics since the 1960s. He was a computer consultant for IBM in the early years, and lived in Saugerties where he worked with the young, energetic and rising Maurice Hinchey and the Saugerties Democratic Committee. He moved to Woodstock and became active in local politics in 1969. Later he served on the Woodstock Planning Board, and was one of the founders in 1990 of the Woodstock Greens. He has broadcast programs over the Woodstock Public Access Channel since 1990.
His huge collection of over 700 videos is neatly stored. If there is anything of historical value to the Town of Woodstock worth cataloguing and preserving it is this bounty of tapes and DVDs tracing a vast variety of Town issues, people and events filmed and saved by David Menzies!