On Bruce Springsteen fanship, greed and empowerment: how Bruce and his tour team helped me to recover from injustice

My fanship, that is the personal psychological connection with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band since the age of 17 years, represents the identity that I have as a music consumer. The emotional connection that I share with my 20-year old son (I will call him “Lucas”, he has given his permission for this blog text) and so many other Springsteen fans around the world in terms of fandom has been a unique journey upon which my identity as a Springsteen fan is built on. Lucas grew up knowing (and very much hearing) that his mother is a highly dedicated Springsteen fan and starting from the age of nine he came with me to the Springsteen concerts in Finland. The baby cloths, that I save from his early years, are tiny Born to Run and Born in the USA T-shirts that I bought him when he was two years old.

Back in 2013, during Springsteen concerts in Turku, I spent time with Lucas at the Turku Marina hotel, where we, Bruce and the band stayed. We were gathering autographs to the Clarence Clemons Big Man autobiography. I had bought the memoir from Oslo and together with Lucas we thought that it might help us in getting the autographs. Eventually, the only person who hesitated to sign was drummer Max Weinberg, but when he saw that it’s the Big Man book and 10-year-old Lucas asking, he happily signed. After and during each signing we took a photo of Lucas with the band members or Bruce. Lucas was also an active supporter of the photography hobby that I had as a part of attending Springsteen concerts. Altogether 14 of these photos ended up as framed prints with date marks on the walls of our home. Thus, Lucas has been a Springsteen fan in second generation for over ten years while I have been the tour organizer, photographer, and ticket byer in our family.

In 2022 as a part of a legal argument, I lost nearly all my photo prints and the Big Man book because a claim was made that they are not mine (nor Lucas’s for that matter). It did not help that I had photos showing me and Lucas collecting the signatures and Lucas’s written statement of it. It did not help that the Finnish trademark law clearly states that the photos are owned by the person who took them. The other party expressed their opinion in writing that I could keep the 3 of the 14 photo prints that I currently had in my possession, whereas the rest and the book would not be given to me. No reasonable justification for it was provided, except for “they belong to me”. Arguing about this with three lawyers for more than two years without any decent result cost me thousands of euros and few months ago, I gave up on it. I thought that it’s better to try to find the strength in me to somehow empower from this experience and compensate it for Lucas.

So, at that moment my question to myself as a psychologist was: What can one do in a situation like this? What would you do if the personal items that have a big effort and emotional significance to you and your child were unexpectedly taken from you, and you knew you would never get them back?

After recovering from the shock, I thought of it for a while. I had tickets for the two Springsteen 2023 Europe Tour opening shows in Barcelona. First, I thought of not going because the legal experience had left such a bad taste on my mouth. I felt that my Springsteen fanship had been raped and stolen and was severely wounded. I felt that Lucas’s rights for happy Bruce & mom related memories and the artwork I had done, was strongly violated. It was disgusting and so against my core values. Gradually, because of working on a daily basis on issues related to empowerment from trauma with my psychotherapy clients I started thinking that I can’t leave it this way. I can’t do it to myself nor to Lucas. Or my clients, with whom I talk so much of empowerment. I’ll have to do something about it.

Thanks to a fellow fan from the UK, I had a hint of the five-star hotel in Barcelona where Bruce would most likely be staying. I bought the Big Man book and against my expectations I was also able to book a room from the hotel about a month ago. From my history, I knew that this would not guarantee that I would get the book signed because I had stayed in same hotels with Bruce for several times, but only in Turku had I actually met him as he often keeps to his suite. I asked Lucas to join me for Barcelona, but he was busy with his university studies which I well understood. Being concerned that I would have to spend a lot of money on perhaps something with a zero result, ten days before the trip I still hesitated and thought of cancelling the whole trip. I spoke about it with a close friend who ordered me with her strict voice “nyt vittu menet sinne, se on sulle niin tärkeätä” (English translation: ”Now fuck you go there, it’s so important to you”). So, I went.

Few days before the start of the journey I learned that Barack and Michelle Obama, Stephen Spielberg and his wife Kate Capshaw as well as Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson would all be attending the concert and stay at the same hotel. ‘Fuck, I’ll never get close to Bruce’, I thought. Arriving close by the hotel on last Friday, the street was full of police and secret service agents who told my taxi driver that the hotel is closed. “Yes, but I stay here” I replied doubtfully from the backseat. And they let me in. And I got my room. It soon became clear to me that I was among the only about handful of Springsteen fans who were staying at the hotel. It’s a hotel with 70 rooms, and to me it seemed as if 60 of them were occupied by the celebrities, their staff, and The Secret Service.

After arrival I did what most fans do, sat in the lobby, and waited for Bruce to come. I was joined by only one other fan, a 15-year-old boy from Germany, who was a fan in second generation and had been to 20+ shows since the age of five. His name was Bruce. We hit off well and I very much enjoyed his company as he reminded me of Lucas.

It was a long wait. I increasingly got wondering looks from the Secret Service agents and Bruce’s team as I would always be sitting on the couch at the lobby with my laptop. The first time Barack Obama walked by on the first day got critical. The lobby was asked to be cleared by the hotel staff, but I was slow in my moves so before I realized a Secret Service agent stood 20 centimeters from my face and said: “Don’t move! Don’t do anything!”. I pretty much freezed and Barack Obama walked past me. I guess I somehow gained their trust because after this contrary to other people in the lobby, I was not asked to move further away from the couch when Barack, Michelle Obama or the Spielberg’s would walk past me. I would remain sitting on the couch. Only upon his arrival Tom Hanks got me kicked out, but on the second time he passed me and gave me a look, Bruce’s bodyguard said to him “she’s ok, she can stay”.

On the first day I talked shortly with Bruce’s personal assistant, Wayne (we had met in 2018 shortly at the Broadway backstage where I had been invited by Bruce’s co-manager Barbara Carr) and reminded him of the scientific study that I had done on Springsteen fandom. I gave him the prints of my article that had been published in the Psychology of Music Journal (entitled Bruce Springsteen fan behavior and fanship) and asked if he could give it to Bruce. “I’ll do that, but I can’t promise he’ll do anything based on that” he said. “It’s ok, I’m not expecting anything”, I replied. A short while later Bruce came to the lobby on his way to the stadium and signed my own article copy and took a photo with me. This had been my task number one. To get my own science paper signed by him. I also thought that this would be more meaningful for Lucas as a heritage item than the Big Man biography.

On the third day, Wayne walked pass me with a long look saying: “why is she sitting there all the time?” I stopped him and explained that I need to have the Big Man book signed and told him the story behind it. “I am here also for my son” I started. I could not finish the story without bursting into tears at the end of it. It just made me so sad. I rarely cry, but this was too much for me. Me sharing my personal life with Bruce’s right-hand man and asking to be noticed. Wayne looked at me empathetically and said that he is sorry for what had happened to me. After a few hours, Bruce was on the leave to the stadium for his second show and his bodyguard came down and told me and the young Bruce “he might not stop and sign because you already got your autographs and pictures”. I told him that we’re happy with whatever Bruce wants to do. Bruce came down with Wayne, walked right at me and asked for a pen and said “Oh, the Big Man book” and signed it after which we took the second photo. My second task was completed. Perhaps he had been told, I don’t know.

On my leave from the hotel, I ran into Bruce’s bodyguard and thanked for the special treatment in terms of being able to sit on the couch and explained to him why I had asked for another autograph. He nodded and seemed to understand and was happy that I got it. I also spoke with Bruce’s personal trainer, with whom I had sat on the first night at the hotel bar and gave her the story. “Oh, no! Did you get it?” she asked with shock. “Yes, I did, so everything is good, thanks” I replied.

Above all, this is a story of fandom, love, dedication, and empowerment. There is often a way to turn negative experiences into positive ones, I believe. At the same time this is probably the end of my Bruce Springsteen touring as a fan. I had already beforehand decided that these will be my last concerts. 21 concerts in three continents since 1988 is enough. It’s good to leave it here because the last memory trace is so positive. Not only did I get the job done, but I also got to stay for three nights under the same roof as Michelle and Barack Obama, Stephen Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, Tom Hanks, and Rita Wilson and to witness what happens in a small luxury hotel during those days. This and a lot more will be included on my forthcoming book on empowering from a shitshow.

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