PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia--They were all getting in or none of them was getting in.
A trio of rock and roll buddies with cash in their pockets and no tickets for the show left Baltimore at 3:12 p.m. yesterday in search of U2.
"I'll try anything," said Charlie Sank, who was the driver for the road trip from Rossville to the Philadelphia Spectrum and who also uses a wheelchair. "Sometimes the scalpers see I'm in a chair and they won't go so high on the price. I'm getting tickets. I don't go up there with the thought that I'm not getting tickets."
Mr. Sank, 35, and his friend Glenn Donithan, 32, a pair of computer analysts with the state Department of Education, are veterans of last-minute scalping gigs, having seen hundreds of shows in 20 years of following rock bands.
In 1987, they bought tickets for U2 at the Spectrum for $65 each from scalpers standing on the Broad Street exit ramp of Interstate 95.
"We tell them we'll take the worst seats they have, the seats up in the rafters," said Mr. Donithan. "It doesn't matter because they always put Charlie in the handicapped area and I sit with him."
Along for the adventure last night was their mutual friend, Lou Beach,a 35-year-old stadium vendor who brought $90, willing to spend it all to see a band that brings him pleasure and peace.
Face value of all tickets for last night's show was $25.
"There's certain songs on the new album ["Achtung Baby"] that take me away from myself and my environment," he said. "I've been playing it non-stop since I bought it a month ago. They transport me to a place that's both beautiful and sad."
There were no scalpers on the Broad Street exit when the Maryland fans arrived at 4:30 p.m. yesterday, and the first people they approached outside the arena wanted $150 per ticket for the performance by the Irish band -- which they refused.
After parking the van and circling the arena several times, they found no one selling tickets for under $100 (the last time prices ran that high was for Bruce Springsteen at the Capital Centre in 1988). But Irish flags made in Taiwan were readily available for $20 each.
The place was busy with police locking up scalpers, and the word was being spread that many tickets sold in the parking lot were counterfeit.
At the Spectrum ticket windows, a line formed early on the hope and rumor that single seats would go on sale at 7 p.m. Mr. Sank wheeled himself into line as rain began to fall over a gray and blustery Philadelphia, and Mr. Donithan leaned against a railing to talk rock and roll with a couple of guys from Harrisburg who drove here in a brown 1972 Ford Torino with U2 written on the roof in shaving cream.
"It was 30 degrees when we waited in line all night for these tickets three weeks ago," said Jeff Putt, 25, a janitor at Hershey Foods. "If you would have been here with a space heater that night, you could have gone to the front of the line."
A little after 6 p.m., Mr. Beach got lucky when a T-shirt vendor held up one ticket and let it go for $25. His friends, after learning like everyone else that no extra tickets were available at the box office, spent the next 1 1/2 hours negotiating with scalpers real and bogus, while dodging undercover police officers weaving through the crowd.
Within minutes, Mr. Sank got one ticket for $80 -- but Mr. Donithan was still looking. After refusing a ticket from a man because it was obviously counterfeit, the friends found themselves in the possession of four tickets when a man with a pair of spares refused to sell them singly and got his asking price of $120 for the ducats.
It wasn't hard to unload the unwanted extra seat for the $60 they had paid for it. As the trio entered the arena, the Pixies were already playing their opening set and U2 was waiting in the wings.
They were all getting in, or none of them was getting in.