Jerry Seltzer bio “Seltzer is the head of the third wave of American sports promoters this century” Frank Deford


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 corps 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 1959  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 weekly which was also distributed to over 110 stations  in the US and Canada.  He did color commentary 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; 27,000 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 consortium 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.

His PR firm (Gerald E. Seltzer and Associates) consulted for the Oakland Clippers of the NASL Soccer league, and headed the campaign to keep trucks off of interstate 580 through the center of Oakland (still in effect today!)

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. Mark Rothbaum, Willie’s manager, presented him with a Platinum record of Willie’s for helping to boost his career.  Also co-produced two Russian River Music Festivals in Guerneville, Ca.

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.  Roger Ebert gave it 4 stars….He also produced “First Position”, a cinema verite film centered on the American Ballet School in New York City, with appearances by many of the leading dancers in the world.

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, San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan declared it as “Jerry Seltzer Day” in acknowledgment of his involvement with Thunder Road, a teenage drug and rehab center.

Hal and Jerry also created the BASS Tickets Foundation, which provided over $ 1 million in tickets annually to over 200 underserved non profits in the Bay Area so their clients could see various entertainments, and they worked with the San Francisco Ballet to have special presentations with children from urban areas to meet the dancers and understand and appreciate areas they might never know.

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 to help to secure a venue and help with the marketing and fund raising for  the 30th aniversary celebration of the church with Robin Williams, Bobby McFerrin, Maya Angelo and others that raised over $300,000.  He was also an initial consultant for Stub Hub.

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. The following year funds were raised for lights for events at the Sebastiani.  He helped present “Derby Baby” at the festival in 2012.

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 had served on the Bay Area Board of the American Red Cross and in the past three years was involved with the Red Cross and Brown Paper Tickets in co-ordinating blood drives in Northern California, New England, Chicago, Florida, Pennsylvania, and  New York….over the last several years over 3300 lives were saved from the blood donated.

He also serves as “The Commissioner” of modern day Roller Derby.  there are now 1967 amateur  leagues in 65 countries encompassing over 100,000 participants (www.derbylisting.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 at the annual USARS national championship.  And Texas Roller Derby, the first modern Roller Derby banked track league, features the Ann Calvello Cup, which is presented annually to its championship team.

He joined Brown Paper Tickets in sales outreach in 2013 and recently resigned to concentrate on consulting.

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…, and his blog has had almost 400,000 viewings.  He was featured in a recent BBC presentation on Roller Derby, in a segment of “Strange Inheritances” on Fox Business Channel and in the Mark Greczmiel documentary on the late, lamented, Oakland Seals Hockey team of the NHL.  And he was featured in the CBS television program “Decades” on 8/13/2018.

Recently he was the subject of the April 2017 issue of Valley of the Moon Magazine and a feature in the San Francisco Chronicle relating to the 20th anniversary of the Sonoma Film Festival.  He also co-presented on behalf of Brown Paper Tickets the World Roller Derby Week in Chicago August 13 to 19 2017..the event on August 13 took place on the original site of the Chicago Coliseum, where his father and he presented Roller Derby.

The American Red Cross Northwest selected him as a 2018 Red Cross Hero for the blood drives, and he was honored at a function in Santa Rosa, Ca.

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back to the original colonies


It has been over 20 years since I was in New England.  And I go back next week (May25-27).

No place could be more deja-vuish for me.

Photograph by pablo0713 from stock.xchng.com.

Back in the days of Roller Derby in the 60’s we were on about 10 television stations in that region, and because of the wonders of videotape and our shipping department, each saw a different game each week;  some tapes might have been a year old, some 6 months, and some hot off the Kezar Pavilion telecasts from SanFrancisco.

And each week Walt Harris, he of the wonderful voice, Verle Starry and I would show up at 6 PM at KTVU, channel 2, Oakland,  for a one hour recording sessions to cut spots to insert in each of those telecasts for our upcoming tour.  And we did it all with written copy and signs that Verle would create and sort each week.  Walt would have 30 different 1 minute spots of copy, the engineer would start the two-inch tape machine, and for the next hour we would record an amazing 30 1-minute spots, each for a different station or a different week (for example, “on January 17 see the Bay Bombers and Chiefs in Springfield at….., next week see the Bombers and Chiefs……tomorrow the Bombers and Chiefs tangle..).

The station would cut them, box them, and Verle would send them off to the stations with instructions when they should air.  And in each of the New England spots, because there was such a cross over of markets that each station covered, there would be one card showing all the games in that area, sometimes as many as 6.

We would accumulate the commercials during the year in return for showing our tapes, and we would run full schedules within our games and without on the stations prior to our “live”  appearances.   And it worked; each game was a sellout whether at the Boston Arena, Garden, Springfield Coliseum, New Haven Arena, and various colleges and gyms throughout the area.  If I had to pick a hot bed of love for Roller Derby, it was New England.

The fans were great, highly opinionated (one sign:  The Bombers eat —–), but unlike anywhere else in the country.  Can you say Bruins, Celtics and of course, Red Sox?

So now I will be able to meet all the skaters and personnel of the modern era.  I will be with my good friend Doug Martin in his Roll Models booth displaying his highly professional uniforms (please have your league start growing with the game!) and we will have all kinds of fun and contests, and I will greet each one of you with great enthusiasm.  I  am also representing Mogotix, which is the paperless ticket service of the future…..in case you all somehow don’t know, I am considered a true pioneer in the computerized ticketing business, having entered it in 1974 (right after Roller Derby) and eventually becoming the executive vice president of Ticketmaster.

And of course on Saturday afternoon I will speak on something to the assembled group, and for those who would like a copy, I am bringing a few of “Roller Derby to Rollerjam“.

Buddy Atkinson Sr (the legend) and I were together during the last Roller Derby tour of that region in 1973.  It certainly was the winter of our discontent:  no gas, no money, arenas cancelling on us because they couldn’t get fuel to heat the buildings in winter;  we had our usual sellout at the Rhode Island Arena in Providence, but Springfield, Nashua, even Boston were disappointments;  people were not willing to drive because of the gas shortage.  And finally, I had to do what I had come on this trip for;  tell all my personnel that this was the end of the road.  No funds, and we could not continue.

I guess it seemed odd to me at the time that it came as a surprise to most of the skaters;  couldn’t they see the empty seats in the buildings?  They figured, as did I, that Roller Derby would always be there.  Many were quite angry and expressed it to me, and I understood and accepted it.  But I will  always remember Joan Weston – who made the most money and was most affected – coming to me, putting her arm on my shoulder and saying “Does anyone here realizes what this means to Jerry?”.  Nobody who knew her could say that Joan was anything but a class act.  the tour continued for several weeks, closing with a huge crowd at Madison Square Garden.

The skaters went on to other activities;  we had actually set up profit sharing for years, so even those who didn’t believe that the money was actually there received anywhere from $5,000 to $60,000, depending on their salaries and longevity in the game. These were 1973 dollars.  Some started businesses, others just blew it, but all were appreciative.  And you ask any of them today, and they will tell you that Roller Derby was the best time of their life.

I came back to New England in 1975 as part of  Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder review (no, not as an artist, but as the ticket manager).  Touring with Rock and Roll was so different from Roller Derby;  we were on the cheap, they certainly weren’t.  And with all the entourage and hangers on, there were probably 80 people in the group.  That six weeks taught me what I needed to know about the music scene, and I was part of it and loved it for the next 18 years.

In the mid 80s we at Ticketmaster had set up an office in Boston and Bob Leonard  (TM’s president) and I went there to represent the national company.  I arrived just in time for Bob and I and the local Ticketmaster staff to take a photo for the annual program for the Boston Symphony, as Ticketmaster had computerized them and also was a sponsor.  The photo is in that program somewhere.  And certainly no one who saw the photo of that man in a suit would have known of his strange journey to that point.

Bring it on, New England!

Derby to Dylan, Part 2


Once rehearsals were ended for Dylan and company for the Rolling Thunder Revue, my job began.

It was determined ahead of time that no venue over 3000 seats would be booked on the tour, and some more would be added as it went along, kind of like traveling troubadors  going from town to town.  The first concert was going to be in Plymouth Mass, the home of the famous Plymouth rock where the Pilgrims first landed.   The auditorium was a little over two thousand seats, all tickets were general admission and not very expensive.

My crew and I had handbills on which we printed the particulars of the concert which was scheduled for the following night…no ads, no promotion.  As we walked through the legendary town we stopped people and handed them the handbills.  One lady who was pushing a baby stroller looked at the piece and threw it back to me “Who the f— are you trying to kid?  Dylan in this town tomorrow and we haven’t heard about it on the radio?”

We immediately realized we were up against a major problem….even Springsteen does not just show up and play unannounced.  I was under strict orders not to let any media know about the events, and the building managers were told if any word got out the dates would be cancelled.  At this point I through this was the craziest thing I had ever been associated with.   So of course I called a radio station in Boston with a rock and roll format and said I lived in Plymouth and people were handing out handbills saying Dylan, Baez et al were performing the next night in Plymouth.  Well the word got out, we put tickets on sale at the building box office next morning, and the show sold out that night.

That show was the first time I was able to hear Dylan in concert; without trying he had the audience enthralled.  You could tell that he and Joan were happy to be performing together again and the rest of the show picked up the energy.  I was only able to see a couple of the nights of the tour as I was always out in advance but they were playing in small venues and the audience could reach out and almost touch them made me think they were playing clubs.

The subsequent dates became easier because obviously people were aware that the shows were for real.   We would show up, pass out some handbills in the cities, put tickets on sale the next day at the venue box office and then move on to our next city.

My younger son Richard who was 12 at the time had a vacation, so he flew into Hartford and I met him and he joined us.  We had a couple of days clear, so we met with the whole traveling party.  Joan Baez immediately became friends with Richard and told the members of the press who wanted to interview her that Richard was her bodyguard.  He also got to watch over the Dylan dog, an untrainable beagle.

After 10 days Richard had to go back to school and I had my longest conversation with Dylan; his son was joining the group shortly and was about Richard’s age and asked if he could stay longer.  Unfortunately  he couldn’t, so we never knew if my son could have eventually joined Jakob’s band The Wallflowers.  (My other son, Steve, played lead guitar in Sascha and Yuri, the first Russian  Rock and Roll band to play in the US.  They weren’t bad, featured on Walter Cronkite and other national media.  Unfortunately the Russians hated each other.   This was my first and only attempt and managing a band).

At the same time of the tour, Dylan employed the whole revue in a movie he was shooting in the daytime or after the show called “Renaldo and Clara”. I don’t know if it is still available, but the only scene I was in was when we were handing out handbills and announcing the date the next day at the University in Storrs Connecticut and we were rushing through all the dorms at night with the cameras following us.  Unfortunately, I never saw the film or my memorable scene.

Another night the performers had been invited to a house where a colonial pageant was being staged for them.   I was hanging out in front by the gate with security when some young women came up to us and volunteered to perform some unusual acts on us if they could get in…..We didn’t let them and I thought this is certainly different than Roller Derby.

We became aware that the tour was losing money so suddenly the decision was made to go into larger venues such as the Providence Civic Center, a building I rented for Roller Derby.  My phone calls were now going to many different stations.  I don’t know if Dylan or Barry Imhoff knew about them at this point, but I don’t think it would have made much difference to them.  Dylan became very involved with the unjust incarceration of Hurricane Carter, the prize fighter who many felt had been framed and jailed in New Jersey.  He wrote and performed “Hurricane” at one of the concerts and then went to New Jersey to try and visit him.

My six weeks were up and they wanted me to continue; Madison Square Garden  (another of my Derby venues) had been booked as well as buildings in the south, but Hal and Bill Graham would have  killed me if I didn’t come back.  I was able to get them someone to take my place and I returned to the Bay Area.

After that tour, I was very careful just to stay with ticketing and never get too close to the performers or those associated with them…I had had a great experience touring but realized that I never wanted to get in the middle between the arenas, theatres, and promoters who were my clients and the acts they brought in.

From Derby to Dylan, Part 1


When the Roller Derby was shut down I knew I had to find something else to make a living. Coincidentally I was approached by someone working for Ticketron who was leaving and starting a computerized ticketing system on a stand alone HP derivative computer, and would I be interested in the San Francisco Bay Area.  What went on after that was a whole unbelievable story (Harold Silen and I putting up our houses, having to go to Denver first and ending up with software we found out had been shall we say used without the legal owner’s permission.)  Somehow we overcame the problems and were up and operating by Fall 1974.

Our main client, Bill Graham, was to give us all his rock and roll business, but ended up holding back and having us share with Ticketron until he was confident that our system could operate.  The first big show we handled alone was “SNACK”, a concert at Kezar Stadium that Bill had put together with many of the top rock acts and MC’d by Marlon Brando and others to raise money for the arts in schools that even in 1974 were being cut back.  There was only one tiny drawback to handling this massive (50,000 plus ticket) event;  Bill wanted us to agree to donate our service charge (75 cents) to the cause.  We did and then had to go to our stores that sold tickets to get them to go along with it.  Many had to pay extra employees for ticket selling and bring in security, so they were not thrilled.

Hal and I found out that our cost estimates were low, our revenue estimates high, and it took 7 years for us to break even in spite of having virtually all the sports, music, theatre and other entertainment tickets in the San Francisco Bay Area.

One day I received a call from Barry Imhoff.  Barry had worked for Bill Graham for years and took care of the major acts (Stones, Led Zeppelin, etc) when they were in the area.  It turned out he had a super-secret tour coming up, and since I was the best ticket man he knew (probably the only one, and I had not been doing it long),  he wanted me to come to New York, meet with him, and help set up the tour.  I thought this would be a great way to really understand the rock and roll business which would become our major staple over the next 25 years.  We were in the midst of a number of problems at BASS tickets, and Hal was not pleased when I said I probably would be gone for six weeks or so, but he said OK.

Ticket stub from Rolling Thunder Revue, University of Southern Mississippi. This was the last concert on this tour. Image: Wikimedia Commons, Author:Dcurbow

When I met with Barry he swore me to secrecy and said this was going to be a Bob Dylan and Joan Baez tour, with other leading musicians (T-Bone Burnett, Roger McGuinn. Jack Elliott) with them, and others would join later for 1 or more nights (Joni Mitchell. Arlo Guthrie and many more.)  Dylan was the promoter and Barry was working for him.  Barry told me that Bob was fed up with the huge arenas tours and the difficulties that fans had in getting tickets.  Therefore, there would be no computerized ticketing (!) on this tour, and when I was shown the schedule I ordered pre-printed tickets from a bonded printer I knew with only the heading: Rolling Thunder Revue.  No artists were listed.  And there was to be no pre-publicity.  I was given a mobile home, two assistants and told to go to the various cities one day ahead and hand out handbills announcing the tour.

Well even in the 70’s this was an impossible way of promoting the tour, but I did as I was told.  First we all were booked in a resort in Falmouth, Mass,  in the Cape Cod area.  Since this was November, no one else was there.  Rehearsals were held in a conference center at the hotel and the musicians, technicians, personnel and those who traveled with them started to show up.  Now with Roller Derby, we traveled with 28 skaters, a physical therapist, two referees (one drove the truck with the track in it), and a manager.  The skaters and the  referees set up and tore down the track, programs and novelties were in the truck, one skater made extra money by sewing and repairing uniforms, and skaters drove from place to place in cars, 3 to a car and they were paid mileage.

This certainly was not rock and roll travel.  At least 100 people showed up including wives, girlfriends, hangers on, etc and they all had to be housed and fed.  The possible cost was overwhelming to me.  Security traveled with them also.  I made a number of friends including Tom Mooney whose wife Ann worked at Ticketmaster when I did in later years.  Also Mike Evans handled security and other jobs and today he works as a leading figure in the company out of Philadelphia that owns or manages major arenas, theatres, and sports teams throughout the world.

Rehearsals stared, and Alan Ginsburg also joined the tour.  He played the triangle.  The  music I heard was great.  I did not have much interplay with Dylan as he was either putting the show together or with his inner circle.  Everyone seemed to get along fine.  The local papers were getting curious about what was going on at the Hotel, and Barry and I were outside one night when a reporter approached and asked if he could go in.  Barry told him no and he left.  The next day in the local paper was a very dark photo of us with the caption “two hefty security guards keeping people from observing what is going on at the Falmouth Inn”…..I was upset, Barry was large but I certainly wasn’t hefty at the time.

One day during rehearsals all the equipment had to be moved out of the hall as the hotel had pre-booked a canasta tournament.  At a break in the action, the hotel manager came in and told the ladies they were in for a special treat:  he had booked two folk singers for them, Bob Zimmeran and Al Ginsburg.  Dylan came out played the piano and sang, Ginsburg played the triangle.  I don’t think the ladies ever knew who they were.

I will add part 2 to this blog tomorrow.