Meet­ing Boss is worth Col­fax Ave. freeze-out

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Ali­son Bor­den

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.”

Pho­tos by Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

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.

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