Let’s consider one of the nicer features of ancient culture: access to public events. I’m talking about ticket prices, and ticket availability, for everyday cultural events in early America. Like the early Seventies. I don’t mean events like dinner at the White House, I mean things like Broadway shows, big concerts, comedy shows and sporting events, common mom ‘n pop cultural gatherings. It was all so easy then.
Please bear with me. I only mean to give this dead horse a couple of good whacks, not a total beating.
It has come to my attention that the top ticket prices at the new Yankee Stadium have been REDUCED to one thousand, two hundred and fifty dollars ($1,250). Reduced from $2,500. That’s for one baseball game during the regular season. Most of the really good seats go for more than $600 a pop. Further complication: most of the good seats are sold as season’s tickets, so even if working people could afford them, they are not available. Allow me to whack another dead horse while I’m at it: this may be further proof that some people need to pay more taxes.
During the afore mentioned early Seventies, I lived in Flushing, New York, over in the Pomonoc Public Housing Projects near Queens College. From my living room I could see Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets. The Mets had great, winning teams in those days. I was married at the time, but I have always enjoyed spending time and going places by myself, so there were times that I would see the lights come on and decide to go and catch a game. I was always, always, able to buy a single box seat ticket on the baseline.
The boxes at Shea had four seats, and surely most of the boxes were more or less occupied, but there were always single tickets available in boxes that only had two or three people in them. The tickets were just under five dollars.
A lot has changed since the early Seventies, besides the obvious, considering the absence then of anything like personal computers; cell phones; fax machines; cable TV; personal music players; Blackberries; and God knows what all else. But consider how great a change it is to go from five dollars to six-hundred-and-fifty (which seems to be the top price at the new Mets’ field), not to mention thousands of dollars elsewhere.
It’s not just the price that has become elitist, it’s the availability. Groucho Marx gave a one man show at Carnegie Hall, it was the very early Seventies I’m pretty sure, maybe it was 1968 or ‘9. I remember buying tickets, I just went to the Carnegie Hall box office and picked up two tickets in the middle of the orchestra. (I think I’m repeating an old blog here to some extent, maybe just an even older journal entry.) My companion and I were surrounded by celebrities. When I bought the tickets it was nothing like the first day of their being on sale, and I was alone at the box office with plenty of seats to choose from. These days, the tickets for an equivalent event would be “sold out” in about one hour, except for the ones that were still available from ticket resellers.
Note that ticket scalping was illegal then, and remains illegal, at least for individuals. Now, however, large blocks of the good seats go to “ticket agencies” which resell them at greatly inflated prices, as high as the market will bear, and the market includes investment bankers, lots of them. Add to that: the fact that the prices now would be beyond my reach in the first place, beyond the reach of working people.
Something has happened. These are symptoms of the disappearance of the middle-class America that flourished between World War II and the election of Ronald Reagan. Egalitarianism is now well and truly out of style. Soon we’ll be tipping our hats and saying, “good morning, captain (of industry).”
I’m just complaining, I suppose. I offer no solutions.