From Sun archives: The faithful line up to see Springsteen

July 22, 1985|By Jack Dawson and David Simon

This article was originally published July 22, 1985.

Braced with food, drink, radios and lawn chairs, they waited for days in shopping center parking lots or at ticket windows for the chance to view rock 'n' roll superstar Bruce Springsteen from the front rows of Washington's Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

Springsteen, the native of Freehold, N.J., whose marathon four-hour concerts with the E Street Band have made him heir to James Brown's title of "the hardest working man in show business," is scheduled to appear at the stadium Aug. 5.

And although tickets only went on sale at area outlets at 10 a.m. today, hundreds of Springsteen devotees began waiting in lines throughout the area as early as Friday, making them, presumably, some of the hardest working fans in show business as well.

"He's just the best. He's totally committed to rock n roll," said Denise Ruby, 20, a student at Essex Community College and one of the first in line at the Hecht Co.'s Ticketron outlet in the Northwood Shopping Center in North Baltimore.

Ms. Ruby, a Parkville resident, was the keeper of the place list of those waiting in line at the shopping center -- a list that had already grown to more than 50 names by Sunday afternoon.

The rules governing the list were adopted by mutual consent, according to Ms. Ruby and others, and they allowed people to mingle in the shopping center's parking lot, sleep in their cars or stretch out on lawn furniture during the long wait.

"You have to be here or have a representative here at all times or you're off the list," Ms. Ruby said. "We have spot checks to make sure."

Since it freed them from waiting in an actual line for two days, most fans were agreeable. "We had a few people here who were trying to be lawyers about it," said Tim Staab, 31, a salesman and Jessup resident. "But most people want to go along with it to keep their place in line."

Fans are limited to a purchase of eight tickets each. The tickets are being dispensed by a computer on a first-come, first served basis from several locations simultaneously, including RFK Stadium, the Capital Centre, the Baltimore Civic Center and Hecht Co.'s Ticketcenter outlets.

All 53,306 seats for the event are reserved and cost $18.50, regardless of whether the buyer is in the nosebleed seats or one of 12,000 on the field. A sell-out is predicted within three hours.

Last year's appearance by Springsteen and his band at the Capital Centre in Largo sold out within three hours, and an additional performance was added. Many area fans went to all four performances at the arena.

The RFK appearance is the kickoff for a nine-week tour during which The Boss will play stadiums only. It stands in sharp contrast to his Washington debut 11 years ago when he played the 100-seat Childe Harolde in Dupont Circle.

"I could sell three shows if they were available," said Dave Williams, of Cellar Door Productions. "I'm begging for a second show, but I don't think I'll get it."

Interest in the Springsteen show has apparently eclipsed last fall's Michael Jackson epic at RFK, which also sold out.

"There's no comparison," Mr. Williams said. "Michael Jackson's was a wimp show for little kids and old ladies. This is a rock 'n' roll show for fans 16 to 50. I've had 40-year-olds call begging for tickets.

They know Bruce Springsteen has a true concern for his fans and really loves what he's doing," he added. "It's not just a job for him."

Springsteen is one of the few performers who does his own sound checks and often walks around large arenas to ensure that the music can be heard properly from every seat. His concerts, featuring working-class lyrics and industrial-strength rock, vary from night to night, but almost always break the four-hour barrier.

Ms. Ruby recalled reading a statement by Springsteen in which he said that "If you leave the stage without having done everything possible to make rock 'n' roll mean something to fans, then it isn't even worth playing."

"He's for the people," Ms. Ruby added. "And we're for him."

Tom Trently, a 22-year-old graduate of Loyola College and another of those in line at the Northwood Hecht's, spent time playing Risk on the sidewalk with two friends. The trio had arrived at about 11 p.m. Saturday and were about 45th in line.

Asked if there were any other performer besides Bruce Springsteen who he would wait on with such patience, he shook his head. "Just Bruce," Mr. Trently said. "He's The Boss."

"Maybe for the Beatles I'd do it," added Mr. Staab. "Or if the Who got back together."

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