From the End of the World


I like documentaries better than almost any movies. And I like non-fiction and history to read.

Showtime had really a great documentary on tonight:  From the End of the World, about the final tour last year of one of the world’s most popular groups.  It didn’t glorify them as indiviuals, and by the end you felt great compassion for them as they disbanded.

After having virtually nothing to do with the music business other than enjoying it during my Derby years, it virtually became my life and lifeblood for over 25 years that I was in the computerized ticketing business. I wanted to know all about it, so I made friends and worked with virtually all the clubs, venues, and promoters in Northern Califonia.  I heard Huey Lewis and the News at their very first date at the Old Waldorf, saw Prince at the Keystone, and the list of acts could go on and on as at the time most performers and groups played the clubs or the smaller venues like the Fillmore or other places where promoter Bill Graham presented them.

Then for some unkown reason I was asked to be ticket manager and advance person for the secret Roller Thunder Revue tour through the Northeastern US, featuring Bob Dylan (actually the promoter), Joan Baez, T-Bone Burnett, Roger McGuinn and others and saw the mechanics of a tour, so different from when we toured with Roller Derby.

And when I was back in the Bay Area I tuned in to what the FM stations and AM rock stations were playing and subscribed to all music publications so I would know who the artists were, often before they even toured so they could either be our clients or we could sign up the venues they might play in……I can honestly say that there wasn’t an artist from Rhythm and Blues to jazz, Rock and Roll to Punk and Country that I didn’t have a good idea what their popularity and ticket selling potential would be.

I would pour over the weekend papers and counter-culture publications to get an idea of who would be the next big act, and at that time the club scene provided a huge share of our ticket sales.  And through the popular club (long gone) Keystone Berkeley, the Hells Angels found me and for several years I promoted their outlaw country acts:  Willie, Waylon, Merle, etc.

Well finally in the late 90s my days ended with BASS and Ticketmaster, and I purposely wouldn’t look at the publications or listen to the radio to keep up with the music scene……I loved he fabulous Days on the Green, seeing Prince at the Forum in LA, Madonna at Madison Square Garden, backstage with Elton at the Universal Amphitheatre, but it was because my work required it…

I still listen to the music I like, and when the Stones tour I try to see them but damned if I will pay $500 for a ticket.

So that what was so strange about this wonderful documentary I saw; it was about a group of ex-djs who played electronic music that was rave oriented and drew crowds of 30,000 to 60,000 everywhere they went on this final tour.

Their name was Swedish House Mafia, and I had never heard of them.

So I guess my abdication was effective.

Jerry Seltzer bio


Jerry was born June 3,1932 in Portland, Oregon.  His father Leo operated 3 movie theaters in Portland but had become intrigued with Walkathons, a marathon-type event that he then produced until 1935 when he had the idea of putting the participants on roller skates on a banked track.  Thus Roller Derby was born.

Jerry attended Stanford and Northwestern Universities, then entered the US Army where he served in the Counter Intelligence corp in Austria.  A few years after his return to the US he took over the operation of the International Roller Derby League and ran it from 1960 to 1973 when it ceased operations.  Roller Derby became so popular in the Bay Area, that it outdrew all professional sports teams except for the Giants.  He produced a one hour tape series which was also distributed to over 110 stations  in the US and Canada.  He did color on many of the telecasts and announced on a few.

Live games were scheduled in major arenas and stadia across the country, and some of the attendance records set were 19,500 at Madison Square Garden; 14,727 at Oracle Arena, Oakland; 23,000 at Shea Stadium New York; 34,544 at The Oakland Stadium; and 50,114 at White Sox Park in Chicago.

He was contacted by Lamar Hunt and a group of AFL football owners to head up a group to buy the Oakland Seals of the NHL.  Although his group had the endorsement of the Oakland Coliseum Arena and local media, the NHL chose Charlie Finley who had to suspend operations within two years.

Photo by kaeska from stock.xchng.com

Photo by kaeska from stock.xchng.com

While with BASS he produced  concerts for Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard for a client. He also presented the Highwaymen (Willie, Waylon, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson) in two concerts for the BASS Ticket Foundation, which provided tickets for the underserved in the community.  BASS was also the exclusive ticketing agency used by Bill Graham presents, the Oakland Coliseum Complex, Shorenstein Nederlander theatres, The SF Giants, The Oakland Raiders, The 49ers, the Oakland As, Shoreline Arena, HP Pavilion, Arco Arena and dozens more.

He was also selected to handle the ticketing (and tour with) Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Revue.

In 1970 he produced “Derby”, a documentary about the players in the game, which was judged the best film at the San Francisco Film Festival , and which received excellent reviews from the New York Times, Saturday Review, and most of the critics of the day.

In 1974 he and partner Hal Silen started BASS tickets in the Bay Area, the first wholly owned independent computerized service.  It provided many producer and customer services that Ticketron hadn’t, and became the dominant ticket service in the SF Bay Area.  BASS systems were sold to Vancouver,  Houston, and Melbourne (Australia).  On November 18, 1985, Mayor Frank Jordan declared it as “Jerry Seltzer Day” in acknowledgment of his involvement with Thunder Road, a teenage drug and rehab center.

In 1983 Seltzer joined Ticketmaster as executive Vice President, Marketing and Sales, and created the same kind of services that BASS provided and within 5 years the company had virtually eliminated Ticketron from the marketplace.  He also provided management help for various local offices including New York, Chicago, Denver, Orlando and Miami.

After leaving Ticketmaster in 1993 he moved from Santa Monica to Sonoma, California, sitting on a number of non-profit boards including the Bay Area American Red Cross.  He was asked by Reverend Cecil Williams of Glide Church and arranged for a venue and helped produce the 30th aniversary production with Robin Williams, Bobby McFerrin, Maya Angelo and others that raised over $300,000.In 1997 he co-founded the Sonoma Film Festival which today is considered one of the leading independent festivals. Proceeds from the Festival were used to restore the classic Sebastiani theatre.  He helped present “Derby Baby” at the festival in 2012.  Also he and his sister Gloria Gurian donated land in Seaside Oregon to create Seltzer Park near Leo’s home, and presented concerts with Willie Nelson and the Smothers Brothers to raise funds. He served on the Bay Area Board of the American Red Cross and today is involved with the Red Cross and Brown Paper Tickets in co-ordinating blood drives in Northern Califonia….Last year over 700 lives were saved from the blood donated.

In September 2012 he joined Brown Paper Tickets in sales.  Brown Paper Tickets, not just for profit, has a mission to make ticket buying low cost and easy for the buyer and producers (www.brownpapertickets.com).  Brown Paper Tickets is a fair trade company whose primary purpose is serving the community.

He also serves as “The Commissioner” of modern day Roller Derby.  there are now 1647 leagues in 43 countries encompassing over 100,000 participants (www.derbyroster.com).  He has no official capacity other than advisor to the various leagues on a non-compensated basis.  The Seltzer Cup, named for his father, is presented by him at the annual USARS national championship.

He has a blog:  www.rollerderbyjesus.com.  Featured in “Five Strides on the Banked Track”, Frank Deford, Little Brown;  “A very simple game” Herb Michelson; “From Roller Derby to Rollerjam” Keith Coppage;  “Ticket Masters” by Dean Burdick; “Bay Area Roller Derby” by Keith Coppage and Jerry Seltzer.  and of course a wikipedia page. he twitters @jeryseltzer, and has over 8000 friends and followers on facebook….no high dusting.

Willie and Waylon and the Hells Angels and me


It was impossible to live in the Bay Area in the 70’s and 80’s and not be aware of the Hells Angels.

A number of them were fans and showed up at the Roller Derby games and never caused any problems.  Once when Charlie O’Connell promoted on our telecasts that he now had a bar in the East Bay Area a bunch of Angels showed up at his bar to drink and show support.  Charlie told them he really appreciated it, but it would scare away his neighborhood customers.   They understood, rode away and suddenly came back; “Charlie, would you like us to wreck the other bars around here?”  Charlie thanked them and said no.

After the Derby closed we were operating BASS tickets, a computerized ticketing service.  I was out making calls and forgot that I had made an appointment with Mr Griffin and Mr. Proudfoot that afternoon until I got an anxious call from my assistant that the two men were waiting patiently in my office in Oakland.  I told her to tell them I was sorry and would be there as soon as I could.

When I walked into my office there were two fearsome looking men, members of the Oakland Hells Angels.  Oh my God, was I going to get shaken down?  They politely introduced themselves as “Fu” Griffin (because of his drooping mustache and slight beard) and Deakon Proudfoot, a mountain of a man with beard and hair in all directions.  Thus began a strange relationship that went on for several years.

They explained that Deakon was doing security for Willie and at a recent concert at the Oakland Auditorium the stagehands had shut down the lights and sound at midnight while Willie was still playing.  Deakon was offended and asked Willie what could be done.  There hadn’t been a large crowd there that night and Willie suggested that Charllie Magoo productions, a name that the Angels has created to honor a fallen brother, take over the bay area appearances.  So they had gone to their friend Freddie Herrara who operated the Keystone Berkeley rock club and he suggested that they ask me to work with them.

Our biggest client was Bill Graham Presents, and I knew Bill was not the biggest fan of the Angels, especially after Altamount,  but BASS had made a policy of helping promoters and I offered them my services for 5% of the profit to BASS,  plus the service charge on all tickets.

Having been a promoter, I immediately starting contacting all the radio stations to find out who would be the best to work with and not just on the basis of a station buy (similar to the way we worked with TV stations for Roller Derby).  We bought little flights of time on each country station and through our computer ticket sales saw who had the best results.  We had scheduled another concert at the Oakland Auditorium.  It turned out that KNEW radio was far and away above everyone else, so I made a deal with the station manager:  if he turned over all open time on the station, we would guarantee a certain amount of dollars as a buy and they would do all the interviews, the introductions at the concert (Willie did not like that) and use their personalities however they wanted.

KNEW blasted away and before we knew it the Auditorium was virtually sold out.  I contacted Willie’s manager Mark Rothbaum (you will see him in almost every Triatholon event) and he was thrilled at my suggestion to move it to the Oakland Coliseum Arena which held 14,000 (now Oracle Arena).   The show sold out in advance and I told Deak and Fu that it would be best if all the Angels and their friends stayed in the backstage area.   They agreed and it was a double celebration as Sonny Barger had just been released from prison and there was a big party backstage.  I had arranged for a Marin company that had a hot tub on a truck to be there that night and it was widely used…….wherever I went knives were offered to me with some powder on the blade…..I politely declined.

We were able to duplicate our success with a sold out Waylon Jennings concert at the Arena and another sold out concert with Willie at the Cow Palace.  Then we put them together, added other acts and sold out Spartan Stadium (30,000 tickets) in San Jose at the then unheard of price of $25 per ticket.  Mark and Waylon’s manager and everyone was thrilled.

We produced one more concert for Charlie Magoo that was the best.  Mark called me and said they had an open date but were playing in Tahoe immediately afterwards and couldn’t play in a facility larger than 3000 seats.  I was trying to figure out how anyone could make money with Willie in a facility that small, when suddenly I remembered an old friend, Claude Jarman.   Claude had been the head of the San Francisco Film Festival when my film “Derby” was entered and considered the best film in the Festival.   He now was in charge of San Francisco’s beautiful and ornate Opera House, the home of the Ballet and Opera.

I applied for the date, and Claude carried the day through his board.  I really wanted it to be a special event and managed to get the San Francisco Symphony’s string quartet to play in the lobby.  Also, we held out the box seats by the Grand Tier for the Angels and their friends.  It was a secure area, usually the location of the blue bloods of the Opera association.  I requested of Deakon and Fu that all the Angels and their friends dress in formalwear.  Fu loved it, Deakon hated it.  On the night of the event, Deakon showed up in his coveralls and a tux tee shirt.

The string quartet (two men and two women) were in western shirts and jeans, and were the hit of the crowd.   They were mobbed as they played Vivaldi, Hayden and Mozart, reaching an audience that probably had not heard this music before.  Just as the lobby lights were flashing, a roughly dressed bearded man came running across the area towards the seats, but suddenly stopped as if struck in front of the quartet.  He listened until they ended their performance and reached across and dropped a hundred dollar bill on the group.  “We have never had a tip before”.

The concert was amazing;  I can hear to this day how Willie sounded that night in the acoustically perfect Opera House.  One of the aged ushers who had been fearful of this crowd told me “this was the most respectful audience I have ever seen.  They spilled nothing and were very polite, not like the snobs we usually get.”

Mark Rothbaum, Willie’s manager, told me Willie’s career really took off again after our promotions in the Bay Area, and they were kind enough to send me a platinum record of “Stardust” for my wall when the record had such great success.

I saw Willie again at the BR Cohn benefit concert two years ago a few miles up the road from where I live.  The Angels who were doing security were happy to see me and quite friendly……Willie did not recognize me.  I know they told him who I was later.  My God, we smoked in his bus in Seaside!

I personally promoted Willie again in Oregon (for a benefit for Seltzer Park in Seaside) and Willie, Waylon, Kris and Johnny at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland in 1991 for a benefit for the BASS Ticket Foundation, an organization we created to give away over $1 million in tickets to the underserved in the Bay Area.  Deakon attended and obviously had some heart problems.  Fu had been killed some years before in an auto accident.

Epilogue:  I recently found out that on July 4th 2009 Deakon was attending the fireworks in Jack London Square in Oakland when he suddenly died…..he was 79.  He had been told 20 years before he had a very bad heart and required surgery.  He didn’t do it and to my knowledge never did.  His funeral procession of Harley after Harley was one of the largest in the Bay Area, you can see it on You Tube.  One of my memories was the night he invited me to dinner at his house which was in an African American neighborhood  in Oakland.

His neighbors were delighted to have him and the Hells Angel clubhouse (yes I had a drink there) in the area because they knew no one would cause problems with the Angels around.  The house was solid stone and two things I noticed when I went inside:  the huge portrait of Adolf Hitler on the wall with Nazi flags crossed over it and the most beautiful silver dog I had ever seen.  I asked Deakon what kind of dog and he just said “Wolf”.  We had a great dinner and I asked him about the color photo of him on the wall in which he was walking down the street.  He told me the Feds had given it to him.

Deakon is not the kind of person you will ever forget.  My life was made a lot more interesting by knowing him.

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