The Boss himself has repeatedly denounced it, but for his fans, scalpers are now the only hope for gaining admission to the hottest show in town, Bruce Springsteen's Aug. 5 appearance at RFK Stadium.
Following failed assaults on TicketCenters and other outlets in the area, fans have begun trying the next-best opportunity -- their local scalper, or in '80s vernacular, the ticket brokers.
Yesterday, one day after Springsteen fans grabbed 52,000 tickets in less than 90 minutes, about 20 classified ads had sprung up in The Washington Post offering seats for sale. Today, nearly double that number appear, many offering a shot at rock's reigning hero at prices from $75 to $250.
Michael Malak of Fairfax placed one small classified advertisement in Tuesday's Post. The first call came at 5:30 a.m. and, as of 3:30 p.m. that day, the phone had been ringing "literally every 30 seconds," his mother Mary Malak said.
By 9:30 a.m., Malak had sold his eight tickets for $75 each, a relatively paltry fee compared with what some brokers are demanding.
Premiere Theater Seats Inc. of Gaithersburg offers its clientele the plush treatment. Members can charge their tickets and the company will deliver them to the office or residence. Manager Suzanne Couture reported a complete sellout yesterday of the 400 Springsteen tickets they had available at $30 to $40 each. Because members pay a yearly fee, they are guaranteed regular prices.
Top Centre, another ticket brokerage firm, is charging between $100 and $250 for seats, depending on their location, owner Marc Matthews said. Both firms hire area youths to stand in line and snag as many tickets as they can.
Couture said she wishes she could obtain more tickets. Her clientele, composed of corporations and professionals, will pay high prices for a good view of Springsteen's blue jeans. "We have people that will pay anything for them. We have corporations that 'have to have' two seats . . . and they'll pay anything," she said.
Matthews reported that half of his tickets were still available, but going fast.
The Associated Press reported that in Jersey City, N.J., eight to 10 uniformed police officers handling crowd control during the sale of Springsteen tickets had bought tickets without waiting in line. There were allegations that one of the officers had resold four of the $19 tickets for $150 each.
Alan Patterson and Jeff Lloyd, two recent high school graduates, and a silent third partner have invested substantial funds to finance the purchase of 130 Springsteen tickets.
Jerry Lloyd, Jeff Lloyd's father, answers his phone "Front Row Center" when his son is out of their home near Annapolis. "He seems to be learning a lot of organizational techniques, that's for sure," Jerry Lloyd said of his son.
Patterson, an Edgewater, Md., resident, said the two embarked on their first business venture to help pay for college. They will charge between $75 and $150, depending on location. So far, 40 tickets have been tentatively sold.
John Cox of Lanham, Md., learned his lesson early. He and his mother bought 18 tickets and sold a pair for a combined $75, an act of indecent generosity among scalpers. When a couple from Christiansburg, Va., sent him a telegram offering $250 for a pair, he quickly wised up.
"I'm not going to go for less than $100," he said yesterday afternoon. He had 10 tickets left, plus the two for him and his mother. The seats are in the 23rd row, where a fan can easily view the sweat on the Boss' receding hairline.