The 33 hippest people in Washington were standing in line on 13th Street at 6 a.m. yesterday, smiling at the rain as if pennies from heaven were about to turn into $10 tickets to a secret Rolling Stones concert.
Which they were.
The tickets, printed up by Ticketron, had been listed in the corporation's computer logs as admissions to a concert by Jazz guitarist Earl Klugh. There were no newspaper ads, no radio ads and. theoretically, fewer than 10 people in town knew of the show. Even the half-dozen security guards were in the dark. They had been told to arrive at the Warner Theater at 6, when they would be picked up and driven to National Airport for a flight to a Richmond concert by Bruce Springsteen.
Instead, at 6:10, promoter Sam L'Hommedieu instructed one of the guards to spell the announcement out on the marquee: ROLLING STONES TICKETS ON SALE HERE.
A crackle of cheers! The rumors the 33 had been hearing were true: The group known as the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band was sneaking into town to play the 2,000-seat, acoustically ideal concert hall Thursday night.
"At 4 o'clock," said Jim Ailant, first in line, who'd gotten a call Monday from a friend in the record business, "I thought it wasn't really going to happen. I thought to myself, "Oh no, another gullible Washington.'"
"I couldn't sleep all night," said disc jockey Cerphe Colwell, who'd also heard about the concert on the record biz grapevibe.
"I feel like I'm waiting in line for the methadone clinic to open," says Bill Waller, a picture framer from Leesburg.
There was, of course, the requisite cosmic-conqueror, travel-anywhere, full-tilt-boogie Stones' fanatic: 27-year-old James Karnbach, who had abandoned his job as a Manhattan bank teller to follow his favorite band. On Saturday he went to Lakeland, Fla., where the Stones played a 10,000-seat hall billed as "The Great Southeastern Stoned Out Handwrestling Tournament." Then on Monday to Atlanta's 3.900-seat Fox Theater, an artfully restored deco movie theater where Patti Smith opened the show and, according to Karnback, was carted offstage by a security guard when she attempted to join the Stones on stage for their encore.
By 6:30, the initial crew had bought its two tickets for person, and the Warner looked abandoned - except for the enterprising few who attempted to reenter the line for more tickets. Some succeeded, like the fellow who initially arrived in jeans and a T-shirt and returned in a tux or the two guys who flagged a taxi and had the cabbie walk up and buy two. And there were the few, like Pam Porter, who were turned away for lack of cash.
6:57 WWDC-FM disc jockey Dave Brown, apparently tipped by a phone call, announced on the air that Stones tickets were on sale at the Warner. Ten minutes later four employes of the Cellar Door (which is producing the concert) arrived with bemused expressions, and said to employer L'Hommedieu, "Lucky we were playing an all-night card game and had the radio on or we would have known nothing.
And after that they were coming out of the woodwork, cars flying up to the crub, taxis arriving in flotillas: Michael Fiorenza, in pure white, direct from the G.U. Dental Clinic; Marine Ken Bell, who had been typing away at Henderson Hall. People rushing down the street, $20 clutched in their hands. Sighs of amazement after the tickets were procured.
And poor Pam Porter, you ask, the early bird armed with only a checkbook and her credit cards.
She dashed home, grapped a $20 rushed back and managed to buy the last ticket at 8:25
Lots of Washington's rock 'n' rollers were still asleep.*