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, 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.