Sunday, March 25, 2012

No Joy for You: Disabled Tickets to See Bruce Springsteen Tough to Find

I just realized another way disabled people are screwed: buying concert tickets.
My experience is concert-specific -- Bruce Springsteen tickets in Los Angeles -- but I’ll bet it’s applicable to other venues and musicians.
I was aced out of handicapped-accessible tickets for the April concert after going the traditional route: getting online the minute they went on sale through Ticketmaster, specifying accessible tickets like I was told. I got a nice message in minutes from a Ticketmaster employee who said all accessible tickets were sold out.

When another concert was added within hours of the first one going on sale, I went through the motions again the second they went on sale, only to be told again the accessible seats were gone.
No problem, people who listened to my sad proclamations said, I can always find them on a secondary site, like Craigslist or StubHub.
Here’s the thing: there are thousands of tickets available to Bruce’s two concerts here on sites such as those. But not for me. Or for any disabled person.
While I can use a walker, I can’t walk long distances. So I need to use a wheelchair for shows like this. I know my wheelchair is comfortable for me. I cannot sit on a seat, bleacher or stand in the General Admission area.
Here's what I’ve learned in the last several weeks of trying to find accessible seats for purchase:
Craigslist LA comes up blank when I type in wheelchair or accessible Springsteen tickets and search. StubHub and other sites I’ve tried don’t list disabled seats as a feature for ticket sellers to highlight. You can narrow your search by section or a price range, but not accessibility.
The LA Sports Arena -- where both his concerts are being held -- does not sell tickets over the phone and while its website says wonderful things about how accommodating it is for the disabled, no wheelchair seats are evident on the map of the arena.
When I called a national ticket broker service in Chicago because it had a live person to talk to, he said there was no way of knowing which of their Springsteen tickets were wheelchair tickets, if any. I would need to contact the arena and have them tell me which specific seats were accessible, then I could search for those on all the sites I’ve previously visited. 
I emailed the arena with just this question. I got no response. But that would be a tedious search, even if I had those specifications. (Hello. I’m disabled, I’ve got back problems and it’s extremely painful for me to sit at a computer for a long period of time.)
Why, one might ask, do I even want to see Springsteen if the search is so physically wearing on me? If you’ve seen him, you know. I’m reminded of a succinct review Jon Stewart gave last time he saw Bruce on tour in New York.
“Joy,” he said. “If you like joy, this show is for you.”
Bruce has been giving me joy in live shows for more than 30 years. I first saw him live in Tucson on my date’s birthday in 1978.  (The date later became my husband.) The concert was unbelievable.  “Thunder Road” brought me to tears for the first of many times over the years. Bruce crowd-surfed. Clarence donned his Santa suit for a jubilant “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.
In the many times I’ve seen Bruce since, he has never failed to deliver the magic. It's not a show; it's a religious  experience full of power, energy and love.
In the old days, we would camp out for tickets or dial phones ferociously. We rarely got good seats, but we got them. A few shows were particularly memorable. I saw him on the “Born in the USA” tour in 1984 when I was pregnant with my first child. I went to his acoustic tour for my birthday in 1996 and got his autograph. After the show, Bruce was standing on a loading dock outside the concert venue. I remember my whole body shook as my friend Norma and I patiently raised our tickets over our heads in what seemed like a sea of extremely-tall seasoned autograph seekers. 
No one was saying a word. We were in the presence of The Boss. I sensed that his signing-time might be up, so I spoke. “Bruce, what if we are too short?” 
He stopped, looked at us and said, “I’ll take care of you girls.”
Before he left, he did: reaching down for our tickets and personalizing his autographs.
While I made my journey into cancer hell (and back) over the last seven years,  Bruce and his music played a role. “Radio Nowhere” from the “Magic” album served as my go-to song for MRIs.
I got more brain MRIs than I can count. Although I wore earplugs, I could still hear the annoying rhythmic beeps of the machine.  Bruce’s song was my silent sing-along backdrop to make the experience more endurable.
My daughter propped a picture of Bruce in front of my hospital bed at home. (I also had photos of my kids and family nearby: this was just an extra incentive to keep up my spirits.)

While I was shuttled between hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and home as I fought the lymphoma that left me paralyzed for a spell, I had many terrifying drug-induced hallucinations. But the only one that was pleasant involved Bruce.
Nearly four years ago, I imagined that my husband had  arranged for Bruce to perform a courtyard concert outside the room where I was getting my stem-cell transplant. It was going to be simultaneously broadcast on all the late-night talk shows. Like all of my horrifying hallucinations, this one seemed extremely real. 

I knew that Bruce had sung at Tim Russert’s memorial just months before, so it didn’t seem too far-fetched.  I believed my husband and the hospital staff were planning to cheer me up and to keep it a secret from me. When one of my kids (the daughter who attended the "Born" concert in utero)  said she had run into Bruce Springsteen’s mother in the restroom down the hall, I responded in a nonchalant way, not wanting to let on that I was in on the plan.
It was a drug dream, it turned out. My daughter wasn't even there. Nor was my husband late that night. And despite the fact that I thought I had heard the band warming up outside, as I flipped through the talk shows on my TV I sadly became aware that it was all in my head.
I last saw Bruce and the band in 2008 on the "Magic" tour with my son. The venue was the Honda Center in Anaheim. Getting those tickets was easier. I just called and got a wheelchair seat and a companion seat for my son.

As he performs his "Wrecking Ball" tour this year, The Boss still has the fire and energy for his legendary arena shows. But while Bruce is singing stirring new songs like "We Are Alive" and "We Take Care of Our Own," a lot of his fans have faded physically. We need more accessible venues and a handicapped-friendly, fair ticketing system.
We need some care.


  1. Laura, don't give up! Is there a phone number for the arena?

    1. I've called it and there is not a human to talk to. I've posted on their Facebook today. We will see what happens.

  2. Just hung up with the LA Sports Arena. I am purchasing two tickets from them. I will explain how it worked and what I've learned in a later post. Yay!