On this day in 1973, Led Zeppelin lost $203,000 when a thief raided their safe deposit box and made off with the cash from two Madison Square Garden concerts in New York City. The theft took place at The Drake Hotel in New York where the group were staying.
All was going rather well for the English group. The years of constant touring in the U.S had paid off. Number 1 albums, sold-out shows; Zeppelin had been continually smashing attendance records. On May 5 at Tampa Stadium, Florida, they played to 56,800 fans (breaking the record set by The Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965), and grossed $309,000. In total, this tour grossed over $4,000,000.
During this period, Zeppelin were flying high, and rarely disappointed their fans live – their shows had developed into 2 and sometimes 3 hour marathons with the introduction of dry ice, laser effects, hanging mirror balls and pyrotechnics. You got your money’s worth at a Zeppelin show.
This ninth U.S. tour culminated with the three sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in New York. These dates were filmed for Zeppelin’s motion picture, The Song Remains the Same which, when released, documented the theft of $203,000 of the group’s money from the hotel just before their final show.
Tour manager Richard Cole, who discovered the theft, was arrested as a suspect and was taken ‘down town’ to be questioned by police. At this stage of his career, Cole was responsible for collecting box office takings and keeping receipts on behalf of the band. Cole was entrusted with the key to the safe deposit box and was the first person at the scene to discover that the money was unaccounted for. Cole took a lie detector test and was cleared of any involvement.
Rumours have always persisted that the crime was an inside job perpetrated by employees of the hotel. The NYPD continued to investigate but drew a blank. Whoever it was clearly got away with it scot free – $203,000 was a lot of money back in 1973!
The band later sued the Drake Hotel for the theft.
Someone somewhere made a lot of money from those Zeppelin shows!
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