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When I owned Madison Square Garden

By Ramona Jan
Posted 4/25/23

Probably the most dangerous thing anyone could tell someone like Ramona is that you can sneak into any rock concert at Madison Square Garden without paying for it…even when it’s sold …

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When I owned Madison Square Garden


Probably the most dangerous thing anyone could tell someone like Ramona is that you can sneak into any rock concert at Madison Square Garden without paying for it…even when it’s sold out. The Rolling Stones were coming to the Garden in the summer of ’75 with their Made in the Shade tour. Though I didn’t particularly like the Stones, I was game for getting into the Garden for free.

“This is how you do it,” explained a guy I hardly knew. “First you buy a cheap hockey ticket for like $2.75. Don’t spend money on a concert ticket. They’re like $4.50.” The Stones concert, had I actually bought a ticket, might have set me back twelve bucks. But I didn’t buy a Stones ticket. The concert was already sold out. I bought a hockey ticket at the Garden box office as instructed. No lines, no camping, no stress. 

“You just hand the hockey ticket to the first ticket taker,” continued the guy I never saw again, “They don’t even look at them. They’ll tear it in half and then you’re in. Then you switch the hockey ticket with an old stub from a previous concert.”

I just so happened to have a front row stub from Bowie’s Diamond Dogs for which I paid an outrageous $10.50 and now I was going to get two for one. There was no thought as to what I’d do or say should I be caught. Besides, no one would ever suspect an eighteen year old, who looked fourteen, of pulling a fast one. 

As usual, the Garden was bustling like Grand Central at rush hour. I was pushed toward the first ticket taker. There was no turning back even if I wanted to. I handed the hockey ticket to the taker. As predicated, he didn’t even look at it before ripping it in half. Passing through the turn style, I thought, I’m in! I stuffed the hockey stub into my right pants pocket and pulled out the Bowie stub. 

Walking tall and proud, I was escorted to the front row by usher after usher; my $4.95 Kodak Instamatic camera dangling from a loop around my wrist, flash cube number one at the ready, the rest in my purse. 

Arriving at the foot of the stage, the usher glanced at my ticket and then sailed a beam of light along the seats. The beam went back and forth and then he stared at me for an uncomfortable length of time. Uh oh. 

“There are only six seats,” he informed, “Your ticket says seven.” I stood there tongue tied. 

“Wait here,” he said and then disappeared only to reappear with two burly bouncers. I figured this was it. I didn’t mind being kicked out of the Garden. What I minded was the long walk back to the front of the building. 

Finally, after closely examining my stub, one bouncer said to the other, “Let’s just set up another chair.” (In those days, front row seats were folding chairs.) I waited while two of them went to get my chair and one stayed to continually apologize for the delay. When they returned without said chair, I figured this has got to be it! But then it was explained that the fire department would not allow an extra chair because it would encroach on the aisle. I made a sad face. And then all three bouncers aimed their flashlights at my stub. After an extended look one asked, “Do you know this is a Bowie ticket?”

“What?” I said dropping my jaw and leaving it there.

“Someone must have made a mistake at the box office, he continued. “We’re so sorry. Don’t worry. We’ll figure this out. Just follow me,” And so I did all the way to the press box, which was even closer to the stage than the front row.

I could tell the press, all middle-aged men with long-lensed cameras slung low on their bellies, didn’t like the sight of me, but it was too late. The concert was beginning.

“Oh hell,” they groused, “She’s ruining our shots with that freakin’ flash.” I flashed-on. After all, rebel, rebel, how could they know? Maybe I was the daughter of one of the owners. Maybe I owned the freakin’ joint. I certainly did that night. As for the Bowie stub, I soon discarded it so as never to be tempted to tumble those dice again.


RAMONA JAN is the Founder and Director of Yarnslingers, a storytelling group that tells tales both fantastic and true. She is also the roving historian for Callicoon, NY and is often seen giving tours around town. You can email her at callicoonwalkingtours@gmail.com.


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  • leah.casner

    LOL. My gosh, I wished I'd had YOUR nerve when I was that age!

    Tuesday, April 25, 2023 Report this