According to the Sports Arena, a total of 1587 tickets — the best in the house — were unavailable to the general public.
When tickets for the upcoming Rod Stewart concert at the San Diego Sports Arena went on sale two months ago in the gray light of an early Sunday morning, the scenario resembled one of those trick pictures in a magazine. The closer you looked at it, the more you noticed peculiarities. Superficially, the event appeared to be the standard scramble for rock show tickets. It had begun back in early December, when the first die-hard fans of the British rock superstar began scheming to get tickets even though the exact date of the concert hadn't yet been announced. Some such fans, in response to the rumors, deposited money with ticket-scalping agencies; others waited until the ticket sale approached and then made plans to camp on the Sports Arena grounds as part of the traditional siege for the best seats. The action built until the ugly moment that exploded at 6:33 a.m. March 25, when the eight ticket windows at the arena finally popped open. If you looked closely, you could see that beneath the excitement of the moment, after the exhilaration of the anticipated rewards, there was anger. If you looked even closer, you could see that the prizes being sought in the scramble — many of the best tickets — never appeared where they were supposed to. Instead, they seemed to disappear into strange subterranean channels. A thorough look at the overall market for rock-concert tickets in San Diego, in fact, reveals something even more startling: the shenanigans at the Rod Stewart sale fit into a pattern.
Seats withheld for Rod Stewart concert. Marc Berman is vague about the number of tickets he pulled. At first he said the total never exceeded 500.
When that pattern occurs, members of the public who think they’ve done everything possible to get the best tickets to a rock concert don’t even get a chance to compete with scalpers for such tickets at their face value. When that pattern occurs, large blocks of desirable tickets are never even offered for public sale. Some such tickets wind up in the hands of people who claim to have a legitimate right to them: record industry representatives, radio station personnel, concert reviewers, and other such industry insiders. But many tickets end up in the offices of professional scalpers, after flowing through a series of exchanges which are murky at best.
Berman protests that he can’t stop providing radio stations and record companies with tickets because such favors constitute an integral part of the music industry.
Habitual concertgocrs seem to know that the ticket-buying game is stacked against them. At the least, they know the game is being played, even if they don’t know all the players and all the rules. Talk to the customers who regularly turn to the ticket-scalping agencies, and some will declare flatly that tickets commonly bypass the public on the way to the scalpers’ windows; that’s why many people go only to the scalpers. Other veterans of the concert business, such as one former San Diego promoter who has since left the business (but still asked not to be identified), say that clandestine — and possibly illegal — ticket deals are common knowledge. He started working in the business here in 1973 and says he learned of them almost immediately. He claims that he and his associates steered clear of such deals, “but we knew that other promoters were doing it. And there was even some general pressure from other promoters brought upon us to participate — asking why we hadn’t gone in on it.” The former promoter adds that despite the constant talk, he never saw any concrete evidence. “Everyone in the business is very, very careful about something like this.’’
The succession of events in the Rod Stewart sale. however, didn’t even seem very subtle. Confusion and uncertainty surrounded the scheduling of the concert, though that might be expected when one considers how rock concerts are born. Typically, the agent for an artist like Rod Stewart begins arranging a performance tour by checking with concert promoters around the country to see when various facilities might be available and how much promoters will agree to pay for the privilege of presenting the show. The promoters respond with potential dates and contract offers; subsequent negotiations can be delicate and elaborate. San Diego’s busiest concert promoter. Marc Berman, recalls that he probably didn’t receive confirmation of the June 19 Stewart concert until January, though rumors of the event had begun to circulate late last fall. By early December, at least one San Diego ticket-scalping agency, Trip Tickets, was accepting deposits of five dollars per ticket. By the end of February, tentative dates for the concerts in San Diego and Los Angeles appeared in print.and when tickets for the five Los Angeles shows finally went on sale March 19, rumors about the lone San Diego concert accelerated rapidly. Berman says he decided about that time not to sell any tickets early by mail order, both as an attempt to frustrate scalpers (who, by virtue of their diligence, tend to find out about mail orders before the general public and then flood the box office with requests), and because the Sports Arena thought that a mail order would be too much trouble. When the advertisements announcing the ticket sale here finally appeared, Stewart fans got word of an even more extraordinary arrangement. The ads warned would-be ticket buyers that no one would be permitted to line up in anticipation of the sale until 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning, and that the sale itself would not begin until 8:00 a.m.
It never worked out that way. In fact, by late Saturday afternoon, March 28, when the setting sun still lingered over Sports Arena Boulevard and the chill evening winds were just beginning to whip through the arena’s vast parking lot, the first of the ticket buyers arrived. By 6:00 p.m., when the box office windows closed for the day, at least a dozen vehicles squatted defiantly here and there in the lot. Among the early arrivals were individuals like Martin Parker, a big bearded man in his twenties, who had driven down to San Diego from Hermosa Beach with two friends from the Los Angeles area. Parker said he couldn’t get tickets to see Rod Stewart at the Los Angeles Forum because all shows had sold out almost instantly. “I'd heard there wasn't going to be a mail order down in San Diego, so I decided it would be worth it to come down and line up,” he explained. Curiously, he had called the Sports Arena on Wednesday and had been told that a line-up would be permitted (the day before the appearance of ads which stated the contrary). As the shadows deepened in front of the silent ticket windows and the small clusters of people drifted closer to them, Parker figured he indeed had received the correct information. By eleven that night, he could be sure of it; no one had interfered with the orderly lines. Eight of them, one in front of each window and each separated by sawhorse barriers, had grown to include well over a hundred people. Although the cold night air made the vigil uncomfortable, those in line yielded with good humor to the carnival atmosphere. At one point, lights from a Channel 39 camera crew brightened up the area already well-lit by the parking-lot lights; and music from a variety of sources — tapes, radios, harmonicas, and guitars — floated in cacophonous benediction over the crowd. Most people stretched out on sleeping bags and blankets spread over the concrete; a few even managed to snatch fragmentary bits of sleep in spite of the din. Then around 4:00 a.m. the mood suddenly shifted. Panic seized the group.
“They’re opening the windows!’’ someone cried from the back of the crowd. Instantly, the lines began contracting, shriveling into themselves like frightened snails. People surged forward, trampling mindlessly past those on the ground who had dozed off, and all traces of harmony and order quickly evaporated. Individuals waiting on the outer edges of the throng turned their backs to the newcomers arriving in increasing numbers. Tension in the crowd became palpable. By six, the entrance to the parking lot on Sports Arena Boulevard hummed with activity; cars rolled down the silent, deserted street and turned into the lot at the rate of at least two each minute. The expectant smiles soon disappeared from the drivers’ faces, however. for by the time they parked their cars and hurried to the area of the ticket windows, several hundred people greeted them. Those who arrived at eight, the announced time of the sale, found that nearly half of all the available tickets were already gone, for the sale had begun an hour and a half earlier than it was supposed to.
Phil Quinn, the vice-president and general manager of the Sports Arena, has an explanation for the contradictory information issued regarding the line-up and ticket-sale time. Quinn says the inspiration for the line-up sprang from the Los Angeles Forum, where ticket line-ups are restricted to certain physical areas. But Quinn says by the time Berman (the promoter). the Sports Arena personnel, and the city police sat down to discuss how they would actually prevent a line-up here, they realized that trying to stop one would force people to wait on the south side of Sports Arena Boulevard and would inevitably result in a madcap charge across the street. At the last moment they rejected the plan, but by then it was too late to get the word out. Quinn says that, similarly, the arena personnel decided to open the ticket windows early simply because the crowd had grown so huge and restive. “If we had waited until eight, there probably would have been a thousand people out there. We just opened early to relieve the congestion.”
The early sale may have relieved the congestion, but it did nothing to dissipate the tension, which exploded the moment the first individuals turned away from the windows. Some of those who held the first places in line did claim the rewards they had come for: tickets in the first few rows of sections B and C (two of the three blocks of seats that come closest to the Sports Arena stage). But many of those who endured the all-night wait within spitting distance of the ticket windows walked away from them with seats twenty rows back from the stage and farther, this in spite of the fact that it is the Sports Arena’s policy to sell the best tickets first. One of those whose seats turned out to be something less than expected was Martin Parker, the Hermosa Beach resident who’d spent the night, grinning, in a cozy spot at the very head of the second line, where he had propped his back against the wall directly under the ticket window and surveyed the growing crowd like a king. Parker says his jaw dropped when the window opened unexpectedly and he finally stared down at a seating chart. He says all of the choicest sections, A. B, and C, were crossed off. His drive to San Diego and all-night encampment netted him only four seats in section D, row seven. “They told me the promoter, Marc Berman, had pulled those sections,” Parker later related angrily.
It is a fact that Berman withheld tickets from public sale, but the exact number remains in dispute. Buck’s Ticket Service, a local ticket-scalping agency, commissioned about one hundred people to wait in line throughout the night. Although the majority of them stood in the first positions in the lines, they didn't obtain a single ticket from the six best lower-level sections, four loge sections, and forty-four rows in the first three sections in front of the stage. Based on the configuration of the 400-odd tickets the agency was able to buy at the windows. Buck’s subsequently estimated that more than 1400 tickets were missing. Quinn, the Sports Arena general manager, said later that 989 tickets had been purchased by Berman before the windows opened. The day after Quinn offered this figure, however, a source close to the Sports Arena indicated that an additional 300 tickets, which had been set aside but not yet purchased, had just been paid for by the promoter. Quinn, after checking with his box-office manager, verified the new figures and further stated that 300 more tickets had been held. Thus, according to the Sports Arena, a total of 1587 tickets — the best in the house — were unavailable to the general public.
Marc Berman is vague about the number of tickets he pulled. At first he said the total never exceeded 500, a figure he later revised upward to 1000. "It was definitely no more than a thousand, ” he declared. As for the discrepant numbers between he and the Sports Arena, he warned, “I’d be very careful in your figures. That’s all I can say . . . . The Sports Arena is wrong; they’re not even close.” Matt Curto, the arena’s box-office manager, countered by insisting that 1587 tickets had been pulled and that he had already deposited a check from Berman for 1287 of those tickets. However, Curto was unable to produce any kind of receipt or invoice for the money ($16,087.50) or for the tickets. He says only that he “wrote down on a notepad what Marc requested.” Curto subsequently admitted that he had merely taken “an educated guess” at the figures. Upon rechecking what records he did have, he claimed Berman withheld exactly 1359 tickets and had thus far paid for 1064 of them with two separate checks.
Though Berman refuses to comment on the latest figures offered by the Sports Arena, he does say that the tickets will be or already have been sold (at face value) to San Diego radio stations KPRI, KMJC (Magic 91), and KFMB-FM (B-100); to Warner Brothers Records (Rod Stewart’s recording label); and to the Stewart entourage. Berman says Rod Stewart and his friends will get 120 of the tickets. Warner Brothers Records paid for seventy tickets, according to Kay Grantham, who is secretary to Warner’s vice-president for artist development and publicity. (Warner Brothers will distribute their seventy tickets to San Diego radio stations, among them KGB, KPRI, KCBQ. B-100, 91-X, and KSON; and to record stores such as Licorice Pizza, The Wherehouse, and Tower Records.) Regarding the San Diego radio stations, Berman says, “There are a lot of these radio stations that have helped me throughout the years, and rather than have them wait in line, I gave them the opportunity to buy some seats through our office — so they wouldn’t have to fight the lines that were going to be there for Rod Stewart.” KPRI’s general sales manager, Ron Henninger, says his station took advantage of Berman’s generosity by purchasing forty tickets, all of which have been handed out to listeners. Richard Bartell, general manager of Magic 91, says he wrote a check to Berman for fifty tickets, which were also given away on the air. B-100’s assistant promotions director, Gina Koons, says she hasn’t yet received the fifty tickets her station bought, but she expects that most of them will be parceled out to listeners.
Including an additional thirty-two tickets Berman says he set aside for his personal friends, the total number of tickets accounted for comes to only 362. When asked to explain the confusing figures, Berman heatedly stated that there were still more tickets ‘‘on hold” for Warner Brothers and the radio stations. Twenty-two tickets, he claimed, were purchased by a salesman from KPRI; fifty more were awaiting delivery to station personnel at Magic 91; and B-100 had seventy more reserved. Warner Brothers, he said, had 120 more set aside. Spokesmen for Warner Brothers, B-100. and KPRI say they know nothing about such extra tickets, but Ron Wilson, a salesman for Magic 91, confirmed he placed an order with Berman for about fifty tickets and explained that he was “doing everybody a favor here [at the station] so they wouldn’t have to stand in line [at the Sports Arena ticket windows].”
If Berman is correct — that an additional 262 tickets were held in reserve for these various groups — the total number (624) still falls far short of the Sports Arena’s figure of 1359. While he will not acknowledge any contradictions, Berman admits, “It’s not the first time that people didn’t know where tickets have gone.” And he says he can offer no explanation for the appearance of many tickets ( in sections he withheld from sale) at Trip Tickets — a San Diego ticket-scalping agency — except to assert that no one in his organization served as a conduit. Nonetheless, the tickets did appear there, and also in Los Angeles at another scalping agency, Troy Ticket Service. Two days after the chaotic sale at the Sports Arena, a reporter paid Trip Tickets forty dollars each for two tickets (they were originally priced at $12.50) in the tenth row of section B for the Stewart concert. (According to the Sports Arena, section B, row ten, was held back from public sale by Berman.) That reporter was also able to obtain the names of numerous other individuals who emerged from Trip Tickets that day; they proudly flashed tickets for seats all over sections that had been unavailable at the box office the morning of the sale.
The Rod Stewart ticket sale thus represents a blatant case of tickets being unavailable to the public: the arena had allowed no prior mail order, and when those who were first in line scanned the seating chart to make their choices, they could see that major sections had been crossed off. However, not all cases in which determined ticket buyers end up frustrated are so obvious. Tickets for concerts at the Civic Theatre and Roxy Theatre, for example, may go on sale at several outlets simultaneously, thus complicating the issue of who was first in line for shows where the facilities accept mail orders, it’s even more difficult for the individual concert fan to know if he ever had a chance of getting the best seats; if he receives mediocre ones through the mail, he must always wonder about his timing; he may have heard about the mail order a day too late, right on the heels of some pack of buyers who gobbled up the best tickets in the house In contrast, the scalping agencies, because they devote full time and effort to getting tickets, are in a better position to know what’s available when and where. And ironically, some of the most detailed and extensive reports about missing concert tickets come from the mouths of the scalpers themselves.
By far the oldest, largest, and best organized ticket-scalping agency in San Diego is Buck’s, located on Garnet in Pacific Beach. A fast-talking, intense twenty-six-year-old law student named Paul Rys owns the business, though he remains in the background and rarely works in the office any more. Rys says he drifted into scalping gradually. In 1975 he was working as a cashier at the Fed-Mart across from the Sports Arena and he found himself buying tickets to concerts for his friends and himself. Rys says he quickly realized that the arena’s policy at that time — allowing unlimited purchases — permitted major abuses. He mentions, for example, how some 6500 tickets to the 1975 San Diego Elton John concert went to Los Angeles ticket-scalping agencies in one day. Rys says he pleaded with the arena management to impose a six-ticket buying limit, but when the facility’s directors didn’t respond, he figured the opportunities were simply too good to pass up. For the 1976 David Bowie concert, he bought 240 tickets, and shortly thereafter, San Diego Ticket Sales, later renamed Buck’s, was born.
Despite his role as the father of San Diego ticket-scalping agencies, Rys is an odd duck. He consistently expresses ambivalent feelings about scalping and he claims that he entered the business because he thought he could provide a service. “People did not want to wait in line to get the tickets. I thought it could be an honest enterprise.” Now he says his opinion has changed and he staunchly asserts that ticket-scalping agencies, his own included, should be outlawed. “Tickets are a dirty business,” he states flatly. “Although we run an honest operation, overall the public is being hurt. ” He says the public primarily is being hurt by being shut out of even having a chance to buy tickets.
Rys’offers case after case of apparent chicanery. One of the most notable examples involved the concert by the rock group UFO held at the San Diego Civic Theatre on April 2, 1979. Rys says his employees at Buck’s followed their standard procedure before the concert was officially announced — they anonymously called the Civic several times a day to find out what concerts had been scheduled. He says that during one of those calls on February 7, a Civic Theatre ticket office employee said that a UFO mail order had just begun, so Buck’s immediately had its agents send in orders for about one hundred tickets. The next day they ordered about 170 more. When the tickets were mailed back, however, and the Buck’s employees charted the seats they had received, they discovered that blocks of tickets in the middle of eight of the first ten rows were completely missing. Civic Theatre box office manager Rick Berry later painstakingly went through the records of the mail orders filled by the theater and confirmed that, indeed, 134 choice tickets were not released in the mailorder. (It is the Civic's policy to sell the best seats first.)
Berry has records showing what happened to some of those tickets, those issued as “comps.” A small number of such complimentary tickets are usually made available for each concert (the exact number is a matter of negotiation between the promoter and agents for the musicians). They belong to the promoter and can be issued to his friends, staff, reviewers, radio stations, or anyone else he chooses. The contracts between the promoters and artists usually strictly limit the number of complimentary tickets, however, since artists frequently receive some monetary percentage of the total number of tickets sold; if tickets go out as comps, those are tickets on which the artist makes no money. Berry’s records indicate that some comps in rows F and G went to radio station KPRI. nineteen tickets in F and G went to the UFO group itself, and some comps in row G went to members of the Civic Theatre staff. However, that left blocks of tickets in six rows (a total of about ninety) unaccounted for. They went out neither as comps nor in the mail order. These tickets had to have been purchased, and Berry says only two sources could have bought them before tickets went on sale to the general public: either promoter Marc Berman, or one or more of the Los Angeles-based record companies.
When questioned about the UFO concert. Berman, the promoter of it, hauled out a list of comps he pulled from the event. He says any other tickets, those he purchased, would be included in the figures, which show a total of 119 tickets pulled. Oddly, Berman’s figures don’t quite match up with Berry’s. They show sixty tickets going to KPRI (rather than forty), for example, and twenty comps going to the backstage crew (Berry says the backstage people normally would receive passes rather than tickets). In any case. Berry can’t confirm or deny Berman's figures, since Berry says the Civic keeps no permanent record of tickets purchased by the promoter or record companies prior to a ticket sale — only of complimentary tickets distributed.
If confusion surrounds the identity of the buyer of those tickets, it’s clear where large numbers of them wound up — like the Stewart tickets, those for UFO went to the Trip Tickets agency in Clairemont. A former Buck’s employee named Larry McCain runs the operation, which opened nine months ago in the Fed-Mart shopping center at Balboa and Genessee. A reporter purchased from McCain two tickets from the missing sections, seats one and two in row C, for $17.50 each (the tickets originally were priced at $7.75). McCain freely admits that he had for sale additional UFO tickets located throughout the missing areas. He vehemently denies he obtained the tickets directly from Marc Berman, but he does say he acquired large blocks of them through one or more “deals.”
Rys tells of another incident, one relating to the sale of tickets for the concert by New York rocker Lou Reed, promoted by Berman and held at the Roxy Theater on May 1, 1979. Apparently, the scene at the box office located upstairs at the former movie theater on Cass Street in Pacific Beach was a veritable festival of scalpers when tickets went on sale at 10:30 a.m. March 7. Two scalpers from the TNT Agency, another operation like Buck’s and Trip, stood first and second in line. Because the Roxy’s Ticketron ticket machine is programmed to issue the best tickets first, the TNT employees expected they would receive front-row seats, but they only obtained tickets in the third and fourth rows for the first of Reed’s two shows. (Rys, who observed the sales, later photocopied those tickets to document that the first- and second-row tickets were missing.) McCain, who stood third in line, personally bought no tickets for the first show. Yet two days later, a reporter was able to purchase from Trip Tickets two front-row tickets, A1 and A2, which were issued by the Roxy’s ticket machine, for the price of twenty-five dollars each. (Lou Reed tickets had sold for $8.50 at the box office.)
Jeff Carson, Marc Berman’s former partner, who now serves as the business manager for the Roxy, later noted that ten of the seats in the front row of the first Lou Reed show had been pulled for Louie Procaccino, Marc Berman’s production manager. Though McCain from Trip Tickets acknowledges that he and Procaccino are personal friends, he insists that Procaccino didn't sell him those tickets to the Lou Reed concert. “I’m sure there is a way we may have ended up with . . . front rows for the first show,” McCain concedes, “but I didn’t pick up anything at all from Louie.”
Although McCain waxes vague about the source of those particular tickets, he disclosed an astonishing amount of information about ticket “deals” in general. A plump-faced young man who sells his wares under a constant shower of rock music, he cheerfully admits to being “a bit scatter-brained,” but he can fire off past concert dates, seat locations, and ticket prices with an almost electronic memory. He says individuals frequently contact his agency offering to sell blocks of tickets — tickets which, because of their peculiar configuration, obviously didn’t go out through mail orders or at the box office. McCain declines to specify any names (“If I told you their names, they wouldn’t sell me tickets any more”), and he says in many cases he doesn’t even know who they are. As one recent example, he tells how a young man showed up at his agency and offered to sell him all the first row seats to the Roxy, an offer McCain eagerly accepted for a number of shows there. He says that particular source only dried up beginning with the Lou Reed concert, when the Roxy finally imposed a limit of ten tickets per person.
McCain steadfastly denies ever buying tickets directly from any rock concert promoter. “You don’t ever deal directly with the promoter. . . . That’s how you get in trouble. A promoter does not sell you a ticket directly. I mean, think about how much trouble Marc Berman could get into with the public if the public found out he was selling tickets to an agency.” However, the scalper says tickets also are sometimes available from various promoters’employees and former employees. For instance, he tells of one man, an exemployee of a well-known, Los Angeles-based promoter, “who dealt tickets all the time,” until the man finally went into the promoting business himself. "There are so many people [in some of the large concert-promotion organizations] that they could do it.”
In fact, Jeff Carson (Marc Berman’s former partner) even admits that temptation got the best of him last fall when he arranged to meet with the manager of Buck’s, Bill Snyder. Carson says Snyder initiated the contact; Snyder says Carson instead called the Buck’s office. In any case, Snyder admits that he sincerely wanted to arrange a ticket deal when he conferred with Carson at Krishna Mulvaney’s on Mission Boulevard, an attempt that Snyder now regrets and says was morally wrong. Carson has an even more peculiar attitude toward the incident. He insists that he detests scalpers and would do anything to stop them. Yet he talks candidly about the deal he agreed to with Snyder. “I was no longer in the [promoting] business,” he says by way of explanation. “When I was in the business, I really hated scalpers, and now that I'm back in the business, I hate ’em again.” Carson claims that the real victims of scalping are the artists and the promoters — particularly promoters who take large risks and often net slim profits. Scalpers, whom he sees as taking slight risks and netting large profits, obviously rankle him. “So I was thinking, ‘Hell, why should the scalpers make the money? Why should they take a free ride?’ ... It [the deal ] was a chance to make some money. ’ ’
Bill Snyder recalls that Carson seemed obviously nervous when the two talked for the first time. “He smoked a whole bunch of cigarettes and kept blowing smoke in my face,” the Buck’s representative says. Snyder got the distinct impression that Carson was new to the enterprise of “dealing.” The two talked about Carson getting Snyder tickets for the December, 1978, Linda Ronstadt concert — and also possibly for some other forthcoming Berman ventures. Carson today says he figured he would just buy the tickets in large quantities from the arena or from Marc Berman and then would turn around and sell them to Buck’s.
Unbeknownst to either man, however, Paul Rys (the owner of Buck’s) had different ideas. Rys had instructed Snyder, his office manager, to accept Carson’s offer, but he personally saw the situation as a perfect chance to catch someone in the act of illicit ticket dealing, so Rys called Mike Pieratt (who at the time was the assistant manager for the arena), and Matt Curto, the arena’s box office manager, to alert them to the fact that tickets were about to be pulled. (Pieratt confirms that Rys indeed did contact him; Curto says he “vaguely remembers” the conversation.) Rys’s Machiavellian machinations fell through, however, when someone from the Sports Arena called Marc Berman’s office and warned the promoter that the arena had been tipped off. Carson recalls, “Marc asked me about it and when I told him what was going on, he said no way did he want to be involved in it. So I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.”
If tickets didn’t successfully flow from a promoter’s former associate in that case, McCain at Trip says that tickets frequently come from “promotional people," and he adds that record companies are one of the biggest sources. “Record-company people do it all the time,” he says; they can get the tickets and often don’t need them all. “I mean, anybody would want to make some money on it. . . . If they can make five to ten dollars a ticket, they’ll do it.” Finally, McCain claims that some tickets are removed from public sale by employees of the facilities (such as the Sports Arena) in addition to the record companies and the promoter’s offices. (He denies, however, receiving any tickets under the counter directly from the arena.) Both Quinn and Curto of the Sports Arena deny that their employees have supplied tickets to scalping agencies. Curto notes that the Sports Arena’s policy is to allow full-time employees an opportunity to buy only two tickets each, and even then they are not the best seats. “I never sell anything [to employees] up close. The tickets are at least ten, eleven, twelve rows back.” However, a reporter did make arrangements over the telephone last fall to purchase from a Sports Arena switchboard operator tickets to several concerts, including the Bob Dylan performance. The operator, who has since left the arena, promised to sell two backstage passes to the Dylan show for the price of $150 each. When the reporter arrived at the Sports Arena to pay for the passes, they were not available; the switchboard operator instead offered to sell at face value a single ticket to the conceit.
McCain talks about all such deals nonchalantly; his attitude seems to be that they simply constitute a standard part of the business, a business he claims he learned at the knee of Paul Rys. McCain, in fact, says that Buck’s has made deals just like he does. “It seems to bounce from show to show who gets the best tickets.” McCain also fires off examples of concerts for which he claims that Buck’s obtained tickets not available to the public. Paul Rys, however, reacts to such charges in a radically different manner from McCain. Rys insists that ticket “deals” are unethical and that he’s made a constant effort to insure that neither he nor his employees have bought such tainted goods. “If the public is not even given the opportunity to buy those tickets because they’re pulled, then that’s a rip-off of the public. Those people who don't want to be our customers aren’t given the opportunity to get good tickets.” Rys also points to the efforts he has made over the years to warn the Sports Arena of suspected ticket deals. He even contacted the county district attorney’s office last fall seeking justice, and talked to an investigator named Jack Armstrong. Armstrong confirms that Rys gave him a variety of information, and says he simply hasn’t had time to investigate the charges; he adds that he does plan to seek an opinion as to whether laws are being broken in such. deals. Finally, confirmation that Rys has developed a reputation for being out to get ticket “dealers” ironically comes from McCain, who admits, “A lot of people won’t deal with him [Rys] anymore, because he’s always threatening to expose people.”
Rys’s outraged reaction to the undercover transactions seems to be a lone one. While those who are in a position to do something about the dealing uniformly say they hate scalpers, not one of them seems particularly inclined to take action. Marc Berman, for example, states that he loathes scalping — partly because it's bad for his business. ’’The people who are buying from scalpers could be going to seven of my concerts or eight of my concerts for what they sometimes pay to one scalper.” he says. Yet Berman protests that he can’t stop providing radio stations and record companies with tickets because such favors constitute an integral part of the music industry. “You only get one or two opportunities a year to take care of all these people who have been taking care of you all year,” he says. “I can’t stop doing what I’m doing now and be successful in the business. In order for me to get the kind of acts I need. I’ve got to help them out. ”
Berman says radio stations from which he buys advertising time help promote his concerts with impromptu announcements. Record companies also can help push concerts when they advertise their records. "If I give them tickets, they spend more money paying for concert ads,” Berman explains. “I don’t know where those tickets do go once I give them to the people. I don’t care. I’m in the concert business.” Phil Quinn at the Sports Arena similarly has no kind words for the ticket-scalping agencies, but he also flinches at the suggestion that the arena might limit the number of tickets that the promoter can withhold. “I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize concerts showing up in San Diego,” he states. “The way to stop it [ticket deals] is not for me to be a policeman down here with the promoter, but to have a state law [which would severely restrict scalping].”
Such a law would promise to limit the abuses even if it also would impose a hardship on those customers who honestly prefer paying a higher price to ticketscalping agencies rather than waiting in a long line to obtain a ticket for face value. Until such a law passes, however, the illicit ticket deals will doubtless continue. (San Diego Assemblyman Larry Kapiloff has twice tried unsuccessfully to push such a bill through the state Legislature. Currently, a renewed effort is being made by a group of Los Angeles men involved in the business of rock and roll music. If their lobbying efforts fail, they vow to turn to the initiative process and collect enough signatures to put a measure on the June, 1980. ballot.) As the concert scene in San Diego expands, so probably will the frequency of ticket dealing. And one reason for the promoters’ and facility managers’ lack of moral indignation likely springs from the nature of those most hurt by the absence of good seats at the ticket window. Undeniably, the most obvious “victims” are the scalpers themselves, at least those who are not involved in clandestine deals, and thus rely on the availability of good seats at the ticket windows. They are hardly an easy target for sympathy. Agencies such as Buck’s unquestionably supply the bulk of the individuals who tolerate the occasional all-night vigils, just as they make up the majority of those sending in the first mail orders. Perhaps because there are so few “real” members of the public walking away from the ticket windows in disgust, shaking their heads over what chumps they'd been to think good seats might actually be available — perhaps because their numbers are small, it’s hard to feel sympathy for such people. Perhaps it’s even harder for the promoters and facility managers, who blandly overlook the ticket deals, to sympathize with the members of the public who no longer even try to buy good tickets at the first opportunity — because they don’t know when the sales are beginning, or when the first mail orders are being accepted, or whether large blocks of tickets will be missing at those times — those, in other words, who’ve already decided that they can’t beat the system.