Living in Central Jersey, you probably know someone with a Bruce Springsteen story. A cousin who ran into him in Red Bank. An uncle who bummed a cigarette off him in 1978. A friend of a parent’s friend who swears he helped Bruce change a tire on 539.
The man’s ubiquitousness is legendary. He’s spotted at the gym, down the shore, watching football at a bar in Asbury Park. People can’t help but wonder if he’ll pop up at any local event that has even a whiff of relation to Springsteen. A Steven Van Zandt concert? Springsteen Appreciation Night at a Lakewood Blueclaws baseball game? Literally any performance in the State of New Jersey? Someone will whisper, “I heard Bruce is gonna pop up here tonight.”
And yet I, a certified Bruce Freak, have not had my face-to-face moment with The Boss. I’ve had many close calls, but it’s never quite worked out. Last month, though, I got the closest I might ever come.
Every so often, we get PR emails for events like album release parties and local film premieres. Blinded by the Light, a movie about a Pakistani teenager living in England who falls in love with Bruce’s music, was released in August, and the premiere was held in Asbury Park. Somehow, we were placed on an agency’s mass mailing list for the event, and when we were invited to cover it, I jumped at the chance. Literally. I leapt out of my chair and ran into managing editor Rob Anthes’s office to ask if I could go.
He OK’ed it, so I replied to the email with my name and outlet, and they told me I could pick up my press credentials at the event. I left the office early and headed down to Asbury, excited but also trying not to get my hopes up in case something went wrong. I wasn’t even really expecting Bruce to be there! I was just excited to cover a real premiere and finally see the movie I’d been looking forward to for the last several months.
I think you can see where this is going.
I got there and walked around in search of a person with a clipboard and press passes. I’ve never really covered an event like this before, so I spent a lot of time wandering around Convention Hall, nervous, sweaty, hungry, and very, very stressed.
I meandered from booth to booth trying to find a place to plant myself while fans and guests started to gather around the red carpet. The normally spacious Convention Hall was starting to feel claustrophobic. Finally, I found the press manager.
I gave her my name and outlet and waited for my press pass. My information wasn’t on the list. I didn’t argue or even really try to figure out what happened. I stuck around for another half hour or so, wondering what could have caused the mixup. I went back and forth between a couple of different reception booths, checking with other staff members just to be sure. Then I just accepted my fate and left.
Of course, as soon as I got home, my social media feeds were packed with pictures of Bruce walking the red carpet. Later on, he performed with Southside Johnny at a media-friendly party after the screening.
My streak of near-misses remains unbroken. I have just accepted my fate. I am in full “I’m not mad, I’m actually laughing” mode.
I’ve seen Bruce in concert many times. I won the online ticket lottery for Springsteen on Broadway and was extremely lucky to see the show for a really, really, REALLY discounted price. I was there when he joined Patti Smith onstage at the Beacon Theater in New York last April. All told, I’ve had it pretty good as a Bruce fan. But, perhaps selfishly, I still crave my own personal Bruce story.
This is all to say that my anxiety-induced stomach pains would hit immediately after coming within 100 feet of him. Frankly, I don’t think I would be able to approach him for a number of different reasons—not wanting to bother him, not knowing what to say, being too overwhelmed by the sheer presence of one of my favorite people on earth. It’s all too much!
Maybe this is all for the best. Sure, I don’t have a Bruce story. But I do have a handful of near-misses. And I’ve convinced myself that’s a pretty good tradeoff.