For Stacey Purse, it started two months ago as a vague dream in Frankfurt, West Germany -- and ended Monday night as a transcendent truth in front of 54,000 witnesses in Washington.
"I wanted to dance with Bruce Springsteen," the 25-year-old Purse said yesterday, the morning after she did just that before a madly cheering crowd at RFK Stadium. "I just thought there couldn't be anything funner. He's just so famous. Just to get up and dance with the Bruce Springsteen in front of all those people!"
Her inexorable odyssey to immortality began in early June.
An erstwhile Capitol Hill aide and sometime waitress, Purse was enjoying an extended tour of Europe when she experienced her first Springsteen concert at a soccer stadium in Frankfurt. She had long been an admirer -- "ever since I dated a guy in college who was a Bruce fanatic" -- and her heart leaped as the Boss, while passionately rendering "Dancing in the Dark," plucked a partner from the front row.
"Everybody hated that girl up in Frankfurt," Purse recalled yesterday. "I remember telling a friend who was with me, 'Let's find her and let's kill her.' Of course, I feel really bad about saying that now . . . I decided that if I ever got up there myself, I was going to dance with him."
In July she came home, visiting her parents in Callao, Va., and learned of the impending Washington concert from the 6 o'clock news. The night before tickets went on sale at a Hecht Co. store in Northern Virginia, she and two friends provisioned themselves with camping gear and claimed a spot among the faithful.
"It was 11 o'clock Sunday night. We were all on a sidewalk across the street because they wouldn't let us on the property until 6 in the morning. The police moved us around all night long so we never got to sleep. When they opened up the ticket sales at 10, we ended up 75th in line. I'm pretty sure they sold out right behind us."
On concert night she donned a milky white mini-dress, stylishly slit on either side, and a wide blue belt, gleaming with bright promise. Her ticket, however, placed her and four friends somewhere in RFK's Section 452, far from the stage and high above the floor, access to which was closely regulated by a legion of moonlighting college football players, shot-putters, wrestlers and the like.
"I don't know what came over me," Purse recounted. "I got up at intermission and just told the guys I was with, 'I'm gonna dance with Bruce.' They said, 'Okay, we'll come with you,' and I said, 'Just as long as you don't hang around me.' I didn't think I'd get through if they got too close. They did get thrown out, in fact, but the bouncers let me in. I guess, you know, because I'm a girl.
"I got up to the front and asked this guy if I could sit next to him in an empty seat. Then some girl came and made me move and told the security guard that I wasn't supposed to sit there. He asked to see my ticket and I said my parents had it, so he said, 'Well, you gotta find your seat.' I was furious with that girl. I mean, what's it to her?
"I got myself closer and closer to the center, which was great, and waited for Bruce to come on again. I looked for some place to sit down, but I knew the confusion of the music would protect me. Then he came on and it worked out perfect.
"He started 'Dancing in the Dark,' and I knew he was gonna pick someone. And he came up to the front of the stage where I was standing -- it could have been 10 feet away. He just kind of looked at me and I gave him a look like, 'If you don't pick me I'll slit my throat,' and there was no way he could not take me up there.
"The guards said 'You're on,' and they helped me up. They kind of carried me over the gap from the wall to the stage. He walked me up the stairs. I think I tripped on something. He held my hand. And I danced with him. I just kind of followed him, swinging back and forth. I was just staring at him.
"The crowd -- they were going crazy. I don't know how I felt. I guess like I'd died and gone to heaven. He was like an angel, lifting me up. I think I kissed him a couple of times. Who knows what I said? I think it was 'thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!' He just kind of said something. I thought it was like, 'Thanks.'
"And then he walked me back down the stairs and the guards flipped me back over and then I just got out of there as quick as I could. I didn't want to hang around. I thought maybe that girl would come after me again."
Yesterday, Purse said that while her life hadn't changed much as a result of her dance in the dark, "I'll never forget it, that's for sure. I'll get as much mileage out of it as I can."