Celebrate the History of Roller Derby!

Today, we have another guest post from Jerry Seltzer, often referred to as “The Commissioner” of roller derby.

His father, Leo Seltzer, invented the sport in 1935 and Jerry has followed in his footsteps since 1957, going from roller derby promoter (SF Bay Bombers) to television syndicator, to co-founder of BASS tickets, to Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Ticketmaster and now, finally, to Brown Paper Tickets, where he is serving a role as an Outreach and Sales Representative. We are honored to have a living legend as part of our team and Jerry has a ton of great stories on derby history and the history of the modern ticketing industry as we know it today.

Today, on the eve of roller derby’s 78th birthday, he shares a little bit of history of the sport and who would know better than the son of the sport’s inventor?

So, without further ado, here’s the man himself: Jerry Seltzer, the Roller Derby Jesus!

Pictured above is the historic Chicago Coliseum.

It was built in the late 1800s, constructed largely from the bricks of the terrible Civil War-era Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, which was re-located to 1513 S. Wabash St. in Chicago in 1889. For a long time it was the main exposition and gathering place for Chicagoans:  the 1896 Democratic convention was held here, and events from sporting goods shows to basketball and horse shows utilized the building.
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Rollercon 2013: What To Do at Rollercon Besides Skating (Which I Don’t Do)

159524-250Today, we have another guest post from Jerry Seltzer, often referred to as “The Commissioner” of Roller Derby.

His father, Leo Seltzer, invented the sport in 1935 and Jerry has followed in his footsteps since 1957, going from Roller Derby promoter (SF Bay Bombers) to television syndicator, to co-founder of BASS tickets, to Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Ticketmaster and now, finally, to Brown Paper Tickets, where he is serving a role as an Outreach and Sales Representative. We are honored to have a living legend as part of our team and Jerry has a ton of great stories on Derby history and the history of the modern ticketing industry as we know it today.

Today, Jerry shares some memories of past Rollercons and lets you know where to find him at Rollercon 2013, happening Wednesday, July 31st to Sunday, August 4th in Las Vegas, Nevada.

So, without further ado, here’s the man himself: Jerry Seltzer, the Roller Derby Jesus!

The first Rollercon I attended was in 2006, and I don’t remember exactly why I went. I think it was because Loretta “Little Iodine” told me about it.

 

I had met the Windy City Rollers and my first derby wife Val Capone the year before. Judi Flowers sent along 300 pair of her flower slippers that had been featured on Oprah and Sex and the City and we gave them out…..anyone still have them? Loretta and I were so honored to be introduced and to get to say hello to everyone at the big opening dinner (which has since gone the way of the dodo bird).

Rollercon 2013 at the Riviera Las Vegas will be either my fifth or sixth Rollercon. Ivanna and Trish and all the people who put this amazing event together are wonderful…..at least to me. Rollercon has become the centerpiece of modern roller derby, even more so than the championships. Over 5000 attendees from all over the world will be there (anyone coming from the leagues in China, Russia, Korea, South Africa, Egypt or Israel?). This has become Roller Derby Mecca:  the best skating instruction, the best functions, seminars, trade show, etc.  Or, perhaps think of it as Roller Derby University, where it is not as much what you learn, but who you meet, hang with and make bonding relationships with.
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Part 3: Ticket Life After Derby Life

imagesToday, we have another guest post from Jerry Seltzer, often referred to as “The Commissioner” of Roller Derby. His father, Leo Seltzer, invented the sport in 1935 and Jerry has followed in his footsteps since 1957, going from Roller Derby promoter (SF Bay Bombers) to television syndicator, to co-founder of BASS tickets, to Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Ticketmaster and now, finally, to Brown Paper Tickets, where he is serving a role as an Outreach and Sales Representative. We are honored to have a living legend as part of our team and Jerry has a ton of great stories on Derby history and the history of the modern ticketing industry as we know it today.

Last week, in the second part of his fascinating story, he talked about the birth of BASS Tickets and Ticketmaster and essentially the creation of the ticket industry as we know it today. Today, he brings us the third part in his fascinating story. It’s amazing to read how much the ticketing industry has changed over the years, especially from someone who experienced it all first hand.

So, without further ado, I give you Jerry Seltzer, the Roller Derby Jesus!

Hal Silen and I were fully immersed in the ticketing industry. Hal, a lawyer, and I a promoter/entrpreneur with a ticketing background worked out well – it must have because we are still great friends over a half-century later (although I am not that old!) and he kept me out of as much trouble as he could.

We were able to do things that the ticketing industry hadn’t thought of before: selling advance movie tickets (“Jaws,” “Star Wars” series, etc) in the 70’s, ticketing the King Tut exhibit and other museum shows, night clubs and more; we literally invented those things.

Right from the start, we realized our community obligations: becoming a major sponsor of the AIDS Walk, with over 100 employees volunteering on their own and supporting local organizations throughout the Bay Area. We even set up a gun exchange for tickets donated by the Symphony, Bill Graham Presents, The 49ers, A’s Warriors, Giants, Raiders, colleges, etc. Four different exchanges in Bay Area cities took almost 1000 weapons off the streets. So many households were just anxious to get rid of them.
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Part 2: Ticket Life After Derby Life

imagesToday, we have another guest post from Jerry Seltzer, often referred to as “The Commissioner” of Roller Derby. His father, Leo Seltzer, invented the sport in 1935 and Jerry has followed in his footsteps since 1957, going from Roller Derby promoter (SF Bay Bombers) to television syndicator, to co-founder of BASS tickets, to Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Ticketmaster and now, finally, to Brown Paper Tickets, where he is serving a role as an Outreach and Sales Representative. We are honored to have a living legend as part of our team and Jerry has a ton of great stories on Derby history and the history of the modern ticketing industry as we know it today.

Last week, he shared stories about the early days of ticketing and Roller Derby and today, he brings us the second part in his fascinating story. It’s amazing to read how much the ticketing industry has changed over the years, especially from someone who experienced it first hand. So, without further ado, I give you Jerry Seltzer, the Roller Derby Jesus!

Hal Silen and I faced a difficult situation in the winter of 1973.

Not many people know that the International Roller Derby League was really a small family business that operated on a large scope and required continuous funding. We counted on our winter tour to create the revenue for the next season.

And in the fall of 1972 through winter of 1973, the worst happened. Because of the political crisis in the Middle East, fuel supplies were cut off to the U.S. resulting in  huge shortages. Unlike the price crises we have seen recently with gasoline and fuel, gas just wasn’t available at the pumps. Long lines formed each morning and many states went to alternate days that you could get fuel, depending on if your license plates were odd or even. And people stayed home to keep warm and not drive. Many arenas cancelled our dates as they weren’t able to keep their facilities heated. We probably lost over 50% of our schedule, and most dates were sold out in advance.

We fought to keep going and scheduled a larger and longer tour in 1973, counting on the revenue from the Shea Stadium date to bring us almost even; but instead of bringing in the additional $150,000 anticipated (a lot of money in 1973), we just broke even. We were forced to shut down the league in December of that year; ironically our final game was a sell-out at Madison Square Garden.
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Part 1: Hard Tickets? What You Talking About!

imagesToday, we have a guest post from Jerry Seltzer, often referred to as “The Commissioner” of Roller Derby. His father, Leo Seltzer, invented the sport in 1935 and Jerry has followed in his footsteps since 1957, going from Roller Derby promoter (SF Bay Bombers) to television syndicator, to co-founder of BASS tickets, to Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Ticketmaster and now, finally, to Brown Paper Tickets, where he is serving a role as an Outreach and Sales Representative. We are honored to have a living legend as part of our team and Jerry has a ton of great stories on Derby history and the history of the modern ticketing industry as we know it today.

Today’s post is the first in what, we hope, will be an ongoing series. So, without further ado, I give you Jerry Seltzer, the Roller Derby Jesus!

I first handled box office for Roller Derby in San Diego in 1957. They were having games every night at Jack Murphy Stadium, and we ordered 20 sets of tickets from Globe Ticket Company, which included all 3000 reserved seats; the remaining General Admission tickets were sold off of rolls, different colors each night.

We would have to “rack” the tickets in wood holders, by section and row, which took an endless amount of time, put on sale a week of games at a time. Tickets had to be counted out and given to cashiers for each night. Customers would have to go from cashier to cashier to get the section they wanted, and then we checked them in, did a box office statement after counting the unsold tickets (“deadwood”) and putting them in a box to save for any IRS or city tax audits.

In 1959 when I started operating Roller Derby in the San Francisco Bay Area, we established some outlets at various private box offices around the area, and paid them commission for each ticket they sold. Again, customers who wanted a specific section had to chase around to find it. And we had to pick up unsold tickets the day before the event so we could have all tickets on hand for the cashiers, losing sales in outlying areas.


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