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.
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.
Our support of Thunder Road, a teen-age drug and rehab center, with the creation of an annual event by rock critic Joel Selvin, had us being part of a roast and jam at a leading club in San Francisco, raising tens of thousands of dollars, with entertainers like Van Morrison, Boz Scaggs, Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis, Etta James, Sam (of Sam and Dave), Booker T, Sammy Hagar, The Doobie Brothers, and on and on. I, of course, was roasted one year by Bill Graham presents,the Smothers Brothers, Willie Nelson and Frank Deford. The day was designated as Jerry Seltzer Day in San Francisco by Mayor Frank Jordan, who also showed up.
We loved doing these things and you can see why I think Brown Paper Tickets with its continuing support of non-profits, “doers”, community, and on and on is so wonderful and surprising in this era of greed (there I said it) and excessive ticket fees. When I tell people the service charge is 99 cents + 3.5% and that 5 percent is donated back to the community and charities by BPT, people are incredulous.
I think what Hal and I were most proud of was our creation of the BASS Tickets Foundation which we funded. This non-profit organization worked with all the entertainment and sports producers in the Bay Area. Together we were able to give $1,000,000 worth of tickets to the organizations of the underserved from San Jose to Sacramento to Santa Rosa and of course San Francisco and Oakland.. We further provided volunteers, in some cases transportation, and were able to set up activities, like allowing inner city children to not only see the San Francisco Ballet, but also be able to go backstage to meet the dancers; giving them access to the arts that they may not have otherwise had.
All of you using Brown Paper Tickets realize that “not just for profit” and “fair trade” are not just words. As a result of our charity work, BASS Tickets became known as a very positive part of the community, as Brown Paper Tickets is today!
I may write again in the future about my time at Ticketmaster, which really defined the ticket system today. And if you want more on this subject, including my touring with Dylan, promoting the Hookers Ball, how the earthquake of ’89 destroyed our offices and so much more, go to www.rollerderbyjesus.com. I am also the subject of one chapter in the book “Ticket Masters” and I am on Wikipedia!