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
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.
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 amatuer 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.
Trivia: He has witnessed so many games in so many sports, including 3 Super Bowls and 6 World Series, and may be the only person you have encountered that saw the Cubs in their last World Series in 1945 prior to winning it this past year.
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.
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 Red Cross Hero and he will be honored at a function in April.