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Commentary : Oh, No! Say It Ain't So, Ono

April 06, 1986|GREGG BARRIOS

The young saleswoman showed me where I'd sit to see Yoko Ono for the L.A. leg of her "Starpeace World Tour." I borrowed a line from the Beatles' "Hello Goodbye": "O no!" It was a few hours on a Sunday afternoon after tickets had gone on sale and already the entire center section was unavailable.

There was no long line. In fact, the music store was virtually empty except for some groggy customers returning stacks of videotapes. I was first in line for tickets. I was excited about actually getting a good seat to see Yoko in person.

When I looked at my tickets (all singles scattered away from the stage), I actually felt lucky. After all, for a woman who sells a scant amount of albums, she was going to sell out the Universal Amphitheatre on the first day of sales. Wonderful!

A few days later, I learned that the tour had been canceled for, the truth be known, Yoko had sold only 1,500 tickets for the date here at the 6,190-seat concert hall.

That was enough to make me go through the roof. What about those 2,000 seats in the center area and mezzanine? Was there a plot to make Yoko look bad? Were there hordes of scalpers afoot selling "Starpeace" ducats to the masses at inflated Reaganomic prices?

I finally confronted this guy at Ticketmaster. He said the Amphitheatre holds back tickets for subscribers and then "Universal execs want some for their friends and then the promoters. . . ."

Later, a rep from the Amphitheatre told me I was lucky I'd gotten a seat even remotely near the periphery of the stage. "But I can't believe that those tickets weren't released to Yoko's fans after it became apparent that no one was buying them!"

Now it was his turn to tell me to stop flogging a dead horse.

"Oh, well!" I said to myself (borrowing this time the final words from Mick Jagger's "Citadel"), "all is not lost." After all, Yoko plans to reschedule her tour to include smaller venues here. But I'll play it safe. I've already left a $50 deposit with a ticket service for "the best seats available." Now you know and I know that when I get to my last-row seats behind a partition, you'll be able to identify me easily. I'll be the one actually lip-syncing to Yoko's songs as the trendy bunch down in front complains about how boring this all is.

Universal Amphitheatre box - office treasurer Maggie Magennis gave this account of what might have happened:

No seats are "held," except a certain number for the house and artist, which varies from show to show (456 for the Yoko Ono date). There are 1,630 seats in the double-letter section--those are the closest seats, the ones below the aisle that separates the lower and upper reaches of seats. They run in an arc from one side of the stage to the other.

These seats are the ones that are sold first. Based on a survey that showed that concertgoers would rather be close to the stage than in the center, the computer first sells rows 1 through 6 in the center section, then rows 1 through 6 in the side sections, then the next rows in the center section, then to the sides, etc.

Maybe this is why Barrios' ticket wasn't in the center. Magennis said that if customers would prefer to be farther back but in the center, they should say so and they'll be accommodated. She pointed out that some Ono fans had apparently done so, because there were some tickets sold in the center and farther back. If Barrios did ask and they didn't comply, Amphitheatre publicity chief Jim Anderson suggests that it's because record-store employees don't have extensive training in computerized ticket sales.

The breakdown on the Yoko show: 536 seats sold to Universal Amphitheatre subscription members, the 456 artist and house seats, 636 seats sold to the public at remote outlets and the box office, 112 seats to radio stations (in the single-letter area). This basically filled the double-letter section.

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