Although it pains me deeply on a personal level, I must admit at the outset that the hero of this next item is Sting.
Angela Long is a local substitute teacher who's legally blind, 20/200, even when corrected. Her husband, Kent, a certified attorney who works as a contract administrator for the State of Colorado, has eyesight that's even weaker--20/400. Both enjoy going to the occasional concert or sporting event, and Long says most venues in the area have gone the extra mile to accommodate them. She indicates that the management of Coors Field set them up in a handicapped section directly behind home plate at a Colorado Rockies playoff game last year, and the folks at Red Rocks regularly situate them in the handicapped area near the stage. "Sometimes we'll get flak because we're there," she allows. "But I have a prosthetic eye, and if we get problems, I'll pop it out and say, 'See? I'm blind.'" She adds that even in the front row at shows, "we have to use high-powered binoculars. One time when we saw Sting at Red Rocks, I could see him looking at us like we were crazy to do it, but that's the only way we can see much of anything."
Fan that she is, Long wanted to get seats in the first or second row for Sting's next local appearance, August 6 at Fiddler's Green, but she was unable to place her order on the day tickets went on sale. So she called Fiddler's Green and explained her situation to one of the representatives there. According to her, the Fiddler's staffer promised to call back as soon as she learned what could be done, but did not follow up. Long then called again and was told that Gene Felling, the vice president and general manager of the facility, could offer the Longs a place only in the amphitheater's handicapped section, behind the sound board near the rear of the first section of seats. To Long, this was unacceptable. "The handicapped seating in the theater is built for wheelchairs, but they are required by law to accommodate people with other disabilities, too," she says. "There was absolutely no consideration for limited-sight people such as myself."
Felling defends the placement of the Fiddler's handicapped sections, which were cited in an award bestowed on the amphitheater by Denver's Legal Assistance Center (a group of attorneys who donate their time to the handicapped). "That area is better than the seats that I have when I take guests," he protests. "We're required to offer handicapped seating in all price ranges, which we did. But Ms. Long felt that because of her handicap, she was entitled to front-row tickets--and at that point they were no longer available."
Long refused to take no for an answer. She faxed a letter to Felling claiming that her request was supported by provisions in the Americans With Disabilities Act. But she didn't get any action until she reached Sting's publicist at A&M Records. In short order, she was connected with the singer's booking agent, who put in an angry call to another employee at Fiddler's Green. In her initial conversation with Long, this worker contended that her hands were tied, but after more pressure was exerted, she finally came up with a pair of front-row seats. "She told me that one of Sting's bandmembers had dropped his tickets," Long maintains. "The only reason I got them was because Sting is a nice guy."
(Felling tells a slightly different version of this story: "Sting had some promotional tickets for radio giveaway on hold, and his management decided that rather than having a big problem, they would give them to her.")
Although she paid full price for the tickets she fought so hard to obtain, Long does not yet have them in hand; a Ticketmaster operator informed her that they should arrive at her door approximately ten days before the concert. Notes Long, "I won't feel comfortable until they do." In the meantime, she says she is filing an official complaint against Fiddler's Green with the U.S. Justice Department. "My husband is an attorney, after all," she points out.
"I'm surprised she's on such a crusade," Felling concedes. But he sees no need to alter the handicapped-seating policy at the venue. "We do what's required under the law, and in most cases we'll go beyond that. But it's not fair to the public to hold front-row seats in case someone in her position wants them. Our handicapped facilities have been fine for nine years, and I think they're still fine."
"We don't like to ask people for stuff," Long responds. "It's really embarrassing. But I'm not letting Fiddler's off the hook. They're going to have to change their policies. And if they do, I'll be happy. I don't want anything for myself. I just want other legally blind people to be able to get tickets at Fiddler's Green without having to go through all this hassle."
Cory Robbins, who co-founded Profile Records in the early Eighties, is forming a new label with corporate giant BMG. More astounding, he's actually soliciting demo tapes. Those musicians specializing in "original rap, dance, R&B and alternative rock" are advised to send a package to Robbins Entertainment, c/o Jonathan P. Fine, 30 West 21st Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10010-6905. Also soliciting tapes is the annual Cognac Hennessy Jazz Search. Folks interested in competing should send off packets by July 15 to the Cognac Hennessy Jazz Search, 2801 Ocean Park Blvd., Suite JAZZ, Santa Monica, CA 90405.
A benefit for cancer survivors takes place at Lyons High School (call 443-7563 for more details). Dubbed "Relay for Life," the event--on Friday and Saturday, June 21 and 22--includes Brethren Fast, Vermicious Knids and the Neil Bridge Quartet.
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The next step is up to you. On Thursday, June 20, Nnett King celebrates the release of a new CD, Magic Moon, at the Bluebird Theater, and the Jackmormons proselytize at the Fox Theatre (the same band appears on Saturday, June 22, at Soapy Smith's). On Friday, June 21, Stanley Milton's Mean Streak joins 33 and 1/3 at the Oriental Theater; the Christines do the CD-release-party thing at the Bluebird, with Space Team Electra; Jux County sets up shopkeeping at the Lion's Lair; and Planet Alice orbits the Blake Street Baseball Club, with C-Ment Gypsy. On Saturday, June 22, KTCL's Big Adventure, featuring Love and Rockets, De La Soul, 16 Horsepower and more, hits Fiddler's Green; Super Deluxe is both super and deluxe at the Fox; and Airto & Flora Purim go to the Ogden Theatre in the company of the Psychodelic Zombiez. On Sunday, June 23, Rob Ober and Henry Rainbourne drop by Penny Lane. On Tuesday, June 25, the reconfigured Specials skank at the Fox, and My Evil Twin explores the dark side at the Boulder Theater. And I almost forgot--on June 20, Ron Miles plays the Knitting Factory in New York City. Kind of a long commute, but what the hell.
Backbeat's e-mail address is Michael_Roberts @westword.com