Meeting Boss is worth Colfax Ave. freeze-out
Forget about Bruce Springsteen the iconic rock star. Forget about the Bruce Springsteen the winner of countless Grammy Awards, an Oscar and, as of last week, a Presidential Medal of Freedom. And forget about Bruce Springsteen the harmonica-slinging folk hero who channels Woody Guthrie. Because the man who appeared at the Tattered Cover Book Store on Wednesday was Bruce Springsteen the author whose writing — not his guitar — does all the talking.
Of course, the roughly 1,200 fans who braved freezing temperatures waiting in a blockslong line outside the East Colfax Avenue store to pick up their signed copies of “Born to Run” and get a photo snapped with Springsteen have not forgotten any iteration of the man known as the Boss.
“He talks to all of us. He carries so much energy and passes it on to people. I wish everyone who wanted to come could have come,” said Mike Bieszad, who stood with the rest of the crowd waiting for Springsteen.
After the September release of his hefty autobiography, Springsteen launched a book tour, visiting select cities to meet and greet the lucky few with tickets and time.
“I’m not a lucky person at all, so this is a miracle that I got a ticket,” said Lynn Vickers, a fan since junior high school. “It’s life-changing.”
The Tattered Cover was not originally a planned stop for Springsteen’s book tour, according to employee Maggie Denning. She works at the LoDo store and was in line with her husband, Bieszad. The store’s owners told her that 15,000 people logged on to the event website at 10 a.m. Nov. 23 seeking tickets. The $32.50 tickets sold out in less than three minutes.
Denning credits a video that the Tattered Cover made and posted on YouTube for bringing the star to Denver. Denning and Bieszad appear in the passionate plea led by incoming owner Len Vlahos, who walks through the store playing guitar and singing Springsteen’s “Growing Up.”
“I was really glad the store was able to do this,” Denning said.
There are plenty of rockers who put pen to paper, producing memoirs filled with stories of sleazy bars and cheap motels, and tales of hitting it big and falling hard.
Here, Springsteen stands apart. Sure, there is the dive-bar and hand-to-mouth life of the starving artist as a young man
and the bright light of stardom, but his problems are much like the people he sings about: painfully honest and ordinary. A distant father. A failed marriage. Regrets. Depression.
All of this is laid bare in the book, unfolded in a tone so conversational that you can almost hear Springsteen telling the same stories over beers in the back of a dark New Jersey bar. (The audiobook, which Springsteen will narrate, comes out Dec. 6.)
His frankness about mental illness was surprising, but inspiring, to some fans.
“You think that he doesn’t have real-world problems, but he does. He has the struggles that we have every day,” said Patty Hakala. “He’s not just sitting up in his ivory tower. I love that he comes and talks to fans — he doesn’t have to do this.”
The things that make Springsteen’s songs beautiful and timeless come shining through in his writing — mainly Truth, with a capital T, with a dash of humor and plenty of lyricism. This man has given a lot of thought to his life, how he lives it and how he endures. And he shares it all with his audience. It’s his burden and his gift.
“He’s so smart, so wellspoken, and I love his words. He makes good songs, so he’s gotta make good books,” said Jodi McDonough, who traveled to New Jersey to attend a Springsteen show, an experience she considers to be the best event of her life.
There are happy moments in the memoir, too — the births of children, the magnetic pull of performing, and finding love, acceptance and antidepressants.
Fans respond accordingly — they see themselves in his songs and, now, in his self-deprecating and nakedly honest writing. It’s why people got up at ungodly hours on a cold Wednesday morning to stand in a line near a bookstore.
Some of the first 10 people in line arose at 4 a.m. for an event that started seven hours later. They wore Springsteen concert Tshirts and passed the time by singing his songs.
“It’s a spiritual experience,” said Taeler Houlberg. “I remember the moment I heard his music for the first time — and that’s when I became a fan. I was in high school. I was listening to ‘The Promised Land’ on an airplane from Hawaii to Utah.”
That Springsteen can share his story so eloquently in the poetry of his music and the prose of his memoir is what makes him the Boss.
“He’s just a typical guy. This has to be hard for him,” Denning said. “The touring and the decades of adoration. I really hope he keeps performing for a while yet.”
Cathy Esposito plants a kiss on Bruce Springsteen’s cheek at the Tattered Cover Book Store on East Colfax Avenue in Denver on Wednesday.
Waverly Kille and her 8-month-old son, August, are the first in line to meet – and take a photo with – Springsteen, commonly called the Boss.