It was January of 2003 and Bruce Springsteen was in the midst of a tour for his album, The Rising. Now anyone who knows me in the least, knows what a geekazoid Springsteen fan I am. 40 shows and counting under my belt, a wife I met when she ordered a copy of my fanzine Bruceness, 12 copies of Born To Run on vinyl because they were all pressed in different countries… you get the idea. But I was a dignified old man now. My fanaticism had mellowed. I’d grown the fuck up. Well, I thought so, anyway.
Springsteen, of course, has never performed in Winnipeg. Not that I didn’t do my bit to try and make it happen. I was involved in petitions to bring him to town in both 1980 and 1984. Both times were miserable failures. As much as I would have loved to have seen him in my hometown, though, I’d long gotten over it. The truth is I’m actually kinda glad he’s never played here. Too much pressure! I have way too geeky a reputation as the Official Winnipeg Bruce Nerd in this town and if he was to play here, first of all I would have to be seated front row center or risk being ridiculed by dopes that don't know A) how impossible that is, and B) what bad luck I have to start with. Plus, there’d just be too many people there looking at me, expecting that big Springsteen fanboy to be going crazy at the front of the stage or some damn thing. Nope. Who needs that? Gimme a decent ticket in a city where I don’t know anyone and I’ll be thrilled to death for the rest of my geekazoid life. But still…
I’m not the only Springsteen fan in Winnipeg, of course. It’s just usually felt that way to me for the last 30 years. Kevin Donnelly is a big fan too. I worked for Kevin designing posters for concerts when he was the talent buyer at Nite Out Entertainment, Winnipeg’s premiere concert promoter throughout the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. We talked Bruce all the time back then. He hadn’t traveled to see Bruce quite as often as I had, but then Kevin had friends and stuff. Anyway, by 2003, Kevin had worked his way up the entertainment food chain to become a bigwig at House of Blues Concerts, one of the premiere concert promoters anywhere, as well as running both the old and new downtown arenas. Throughout his career, the only act he’d never been able to book in Winnipeg that he really, really wanted to, strictly for personal reasons, was Bruce Springsteen. And this time, he was determined to make it happen. So determined was he, that in 2003, a date for Springsteen to play Winnipeg was actually confirmed. Well, for a moment at least.
Rumours of Bruce Springsteen’s first ever Winnipeg appearance had actually been running rampant for a while, but this was hardly the first time that I’d heard these sorts of rumours, and frankly I wasn’t paying attention anymore. Dream on, kids. I’ll believe it when it happens. But all of a sudden, there it was. April 16th, 2003. Confirmed. Bruce Springsteen in Winnipeg! Oh… wait a minute... stop the presses! Some news just in from Montreal. It turned out that the Montreal show that was scheduled to happen a few days after the scheduled Winnipeg and Ottawa shows, had to be moved up a day for some reason or other. So Ottawa got moved up a day as well, and the two Alberta shows and Vancouver – well, they can’t change those too can they, and that doesn’t really leave enough time in between Winnipeg and Ottawa to guarantee the equipment will get to Ontario in time to set up that show… so guess what? Yup, you know it. No Winnipeg concert. Big surprise. Thanks for trying anyway, Kev. Sure, they should have lost the Edmonton show instead since no one went to see him there when he played there for the first time in '92. But this way there were three days off in the middle of the tour that the band could use to fly home and spend with their families. They're all old folks now - who can blame them? Truth is, I didn’t much care. I’d go to the Alberta shows, nobody would be staring at me waiting to see if I was the freak they heard I was, and I wouldn’t have to stalk the Fairmont Hotel and get depressed when Bruce doesn’t wanna come over to my house for burgers and a Pepsi. I had zero faith that a show was going to happen in the first place, so I really, honest-to-God did not give a rip.
The day the news officially broke that a Winnipeg show was a) scheduled and b) not happening after all, it was a Wednesday. TwangTrust night. So obviously, I had to acknowledge this debacle in some way during the radio show. The Rising didn’t get all that much play on the TwangTrust due to it’s lack of down-hominess, but I did still like it a lot, so I played something from the album that night and related the saga of the show/not show. “So Bruce Springsteen’s equipment trucks are finally coming to Winnipeg and passing through, but not Bruce himself. Oh well. Maybe we should egg the trucks or something when they come through, whadaya think?” And on to another song.
Hey, did you ever hear about that guy from Winnipeg who was gonna egg The Boss when he drove through town? Ya, me too.
I’m such an idiot.
OK, this is my website, so I can say whatever I want. No sensational editors, TV journalists or humorless coat tail riders to mess things up. This, my friends, is the true story of The Egging.
Well, the next day I heard from a few friends who had been listening to the show the night before. They all said how funny they thought the idea was to egg the trucks. That’d show ‘im! Yuk yuk yuk! Next topic. Only thing was, it was a slow day for me. Not much going on in January for self-employed graphic artists. The idea of the egging kinda tickled me too, to be honest. I’m full of myself enough to laugh at my own jokes. So what did I do? I sat down and wrote out a fake ‘press release’ from Bruceness Productions, announcing plans to launch "The Egging"! Disgruntled Winnipeg Springsteen fans were going to rise up and show the Boss their frustration over being ignored for too long! An entire day-long festival was being planned at the side of the Trans-Canada highway, to culminate in the egging of Springsteen’s tour trucks. Negotiations were underway to have live concerts by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band as well as the first ever live performance by Arlyn Gayle to take place during the day! Start stock piling those eggs now! Make sure they’re good and rotten by April! We even had our own rock anthem for the event, sung to the tune of “The Rising”, called, of course, “The Egging”. Lyrics were attached.
After writing this thing (my pal, Ken Hoeppner actually wrote most of the song lyrics) I e-mailed a copy of the “press release” to everyone in my address book that I thought might get a chuckle out of my little joke. It’s not like anyone was going to take it seriously. My brother is a cop ferpetesake and if news of me standing at the side of the highway throwing dairy products at traffic got to him, he’d be only too happy to bust my butt. Plus, everyone knows that Arlyn Gale was a persona fabricated by Mike Appel and the guy doesn’t even exist! Don’t they? Sure enough, everyone replied thinking it was a great gag. Good one, Stu! You might want to clean out your basement or something with that much free time, huh?
What was it about everyone getting 15 minutes of fame? If only it really was only 15 minutes… Something started hitting the fan soon after I pressed "send" and it didn’t smell so good. One of the people I had sent the “press release” to was Rob Williams, then an entertainment reporter at the Winnipeg Sun. Rob actually called me, asking if I’d like to talk about The Egging for an article he was going to write about it for the paper and could he send a photographer down to my place to get a picture? Now, anyone who knows Rob, knows what a wicked sense of humour he has. Check out his punk-rock radio show on UMFM Friday mornings. You’ll pee yourself, I guarantee it. Ya, why not? I’ll play along. Hey, I can plug my radio show and maybe get some new listeners to the station. So I talked up The Egging with my tongue in my cheek as firmly as I could and posed for a goofy picture, eggs in hand. What a card…
Someone else I sent the e-mail to was famed Springsteen biographer Dave Marsh. I had corresponded with Dave off and on going back to my 1981 Bruceness days when he saw the fanzine backstage after copies had been confiscated by security outside a Springsteen concert in Chicago. About Bruceness, Dave once wrote “Bruceness is the best Springsteen fanzine of them all, by far, if only because of the cheek.” I have it in writing -- honest. Dave has even procured me tickets to Bruce concerts over the years (no comps though!) and after a story of his was published in a paper I worked for that went belly-up before he was paid, I gladly stepped up and personally donated what would have been his fee to his step daughter’s memorial charity. We were hardly tight or anything, but we were friendly.
Another friend that I sent the joke to had forwarded it to a friend of theirs, who it turns out corresponded with Dave quite regularly. He forwarded it to Marsh as well having found the gag funny and thought that Dave would get a big kick out of it too. Well,… not so much. I actually saw the reply Dave sent to this other guy before I saw his direct reply to me. I believe “jackass” was used in a not so playful way. Now, I’d read enough posts that Dave wrote to various internet message boards to know that he could be a bit of a bully. When you’re a bigtime elite industry insider, it’s hard to put up with fanboys thinking they know how things work in Springsteenland, and I always thought it was pretty funny as the dopes he bullied generally had it coming. It was a little weird though, to all of a sudden be one of those dopes.
Sadly, I didn’t keep the e-mail he sent me or I’d just copy and paste it here, but to put it mildly, Dave was not amused. In the least. Usually, when someone e-mails me a lame-ass joke, I opt to delete it and go on with my day, but Dave chooses to verbally rip folks new anal orifices. My favourite bit was when he claimed I obviously had no appreciation or understanding of the song “The Rising” because of the way I had misappropriated it in such a wrong-headed and flipant way. A few weeks later I had to stop and wonder what Dave thought when Bruce himself started a new schtick in concert where he’d mockingly start to chastise the audience for sitting on their butts, proclaiming that there was going to be an “ass rising tonight!” Even Springsteen didn’t get his own song it seemed. At least I was in good company.
Dave ended his note to me with “Grow the fuck up”. He had also questioned my logic of attacking an innocent truckdriver who had no knowledge of Springsteen tour history. Somehow he got the sense that I was an actual threat, in some fashion. So I wrote him back just to let him know that it was in fact a stupid joke that had taken on a bit of a crazy life of it’s own and that he might want to lighten the fuck up. This got another curt grumpy-old-man response and that was that. At least about that. It was Thursday and the fun was only starting.
The next morning I woke up to see my statement of slighted super-fan outrage on page 2 of the Winnipeg Sun. It wasn’t that I was misquoted or anything, but the piece was newspaper-report-dry and the obvious “this is a joke!” aspect of the whole thing was nowhere to be seen. There wasn’t even a mention of my radio show, so I didn’t even accomplish that. I suppose I should have known better. It’s not like I was talking to someone from The Onion. But there I am on page 2, looking not just a little like an idiot.
Then the e-mails started. Friends had a grand old time that Friday morning, sending me links to various websites the world over that deemed my story newsworthy. Turns out that the Winnipeg Sun piece had been picked up by a wire service and all of a sudden I was global entertainment section fodder. It started with the Sun chain’s website, but an hour didn’t pass that day without someone sending me the latest international report of The Egging. Some sites reported it dryly as fact, some took potshots at this clearly infantile Canadian twit and some, like Rolling Stone who put me in their “Week In Weird” section, actually had some light-hearted fun with it.
“Bruce For Breakfast: One of Bruce Springsteen’s biggest Canadian fans is distraught that the Boss is bypassing his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, on an upcoming jaunt to the Great White North – and to help change Springsteen’s mind, he’s going to whip up breakfast for the entire tour party. Oh, hang on a sec – on closer perusal we see that Stu Reid is actually planning on whipping breakfast at Broooce’s caravan as it whizzes past on it’s way east to Ottawa. Reid, who has previously launched several petition drives to convince Springsteen to make a pitstop in Winnipeg, is taking a more direct route this time – asking supporters to join him at the side of a local freeway to toss eggs at the E Street tour convoy when it arrives at the gates of his burg. We’d guess he’d get a lot further if Canadian bacon were added to the menu as well, but what do we know?…”
My favourite piece though, was the website from Estonia that appeared totally in Cyrillic characters except for the only four words readable by a westerner on the page -- “Bruce Springsteen” and “Stu Reid”.
With all of these reports out there, it was only a matter of microblips before every Springsteen fan message board on the internet was abuzz with talk of this idiot from Canada. My need for connecting with fellow Bruce geeks the world over had waned considerably from the old fanzine days, but I still checked out some of these boards, especially during Bruce touring time, just to gather information. Lemme tell ya – it wasn’t pretty. Like most such stuff on the internet, postings were mean, crude and ill informed. Fortunately, there were still a few folks out there who fondly remembered me and Bruceness Magazine and it was nice to come across posts from people I hadn’t heard from in years, defending me.
Actually, depending on the tone of the source of their Egging info, most people actually did take it in the spirit it was intended and got the joke. There weren’t really that many “what a jerk” comments, but there were enough of them to make me feel sick and embarrassed. So when the Winnipeg Sun called back, wanting to do a follow-up on this story that was all of a sudden gripping the world, it was my chance to clear my good name.
At this point, besides trying to ignore the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I was starting to think about what I could actually accomplish with this notoriety. It seemed a shame to not get that plug in for the radio show at least, so my next bad idea was to carry on the charade while trying to make it blatantly obvious that it was all a joke. Then on the day closest to a Wednesday when the Springsteen trucks would be rolling through town, I’d mount a bogus Egging on the radio. Kind of a War Of The Worlds style thing, with simulated crowd and traffic noises – it’d be a hoot! But first the key was to come across in the media as an obvious jokester. Unfortunately, Bill Murray I'm not. The second Sun story was again edited to omit anything that might have even hinted at the fact that I wasn’t deadly serious about this whole thing. Ugh. My stomach was really starting to hurt now. A call from a local TV station came shortly after that second story saw print. OK, I’ll do it right this time! I informed the guy doing the story in no uncertain terms that this was a joke and it needed to be presented as such ‘cause things were getting a bit ugly. No problem, he says. He gets it. He’ll make it work. The crew showed up at my house, I made my point all the while yuking it up, and I waited that night to watch the piece on the six o’clock news. It’s amazing what they can do in editing. The TV piece was even worse than the newspaper articles. The guy did the exact opposite of what he said he’d do and the story made me look like a pathetic lunatic. The only saving grace was that it was on the least watched station in the city. Still, my stomach hurt really bad now.
The following week, the phone calls started. Early. It’s 5:30 in the morning and Dickie and Trish from the KXBQ Morning Zoo somewhere in Idaho were on the phone wanting to talk to the Eggman. Holy crap. How did you people find out about this? Turns out The Egging and I had made it to some kind of radio industry tip sheet. I had a half dozen calls from other moronic stations in the U.S and Canada over the next couple of days. At least when Tom and Joe from hometown crap-rock station CITI FM called, I was able to get in a shot about having a show on CKUW Wednesday nights where I played REAL music. But I still played along as best as I could. Especially now that I had a real plan.
Something good had to come out of this nightmare, and all of a sudden I knew what it was. This was my new plan: for one dollar, you would be able to “sponsor” an egg to be thrown at Bruce Springsteen’s equipment trucks. At least that would be the schtick. Of course there would actually be no eggs. All money collected at record stores, concert events, or whatever else I could come up with, would be donated to the Winnipeg Harvest Foodbank in Bruce Springsteen’s name. Bruce has always involved local foodbanks at his concerts, letting them set up inside the arena and giving them a plug and a personal donation at the concert. If Winnipeg wasn’t going to get a concert, at least they’d still get some folks fed in the name of Bruce. I figured my radio station could sponsor the thing getting them some publicity, certainly the Sun would be on board, I could clear my name by making it blatantly obvious that it was all a joke, plus we’d do a good deed all at the same time!
The following week, after tickets to those Canadian Springsteen shows had gone on sale, I ran the idea past my old pal Kevin Donnelly. Oddly enough, Kevin wasn't pissed at me ("no such thing as bad publicity") but he was actually considering a similar idea. There was much more to it than just raising money for charity though. It turned out – duh – that the Edmonton concert was stiffing. Based on sales up to that point, the show was going to (and in fact did) lose House of Blues a ton of money. Kevin’s plan was to get them to cancel the Edmonton show and do the Winnipeg date after all, which would easily be a sell-out. We could launch a petition (oh God – not again!) and people could sign it for the cost of a dollar that would go to Winnipeg Harvest, and even if the effort didn’t change Bruce Inc.’s mind, we’d at least raise a few thousand bucks for a good cause. We could even go with the whole Egging schtick. But Kevin wanted to wait a while. He assured me he was on top of things and was convinced he could still get the powers-that-be to trade Edmonton for Winnipeg in the next couple of weeks.
I knew immediately that either that was a line he was feeding me so I would shut the hell up and quit making an international ass of myself, or that he was deluded. There’s no way that Bruce Springsteen would ever cancel a show due to poor ticket sales. Regardless of all the good it would do, the thought of “working class hero dumps fans for bigger paycheck” becoming a headline ensured that the Edmonton show would happen. But still, Kevin said to sit tight and see what happens and we’ll go ahead with Plan ‘E’ if we need to.
Well, sitting tight went on a bit too long and I finally got sick of reading about myself so the whole thing was ultimately shelved. A sad, gutless end to what could have been a monumental bit of culture jamming. I learned a valuable lesson in media insanity and I no longer make jokes about Michael Jackson. It was a semi-forgotten incident by then, but I went ahead on the Wednesday after those Alberta shows and had a mock egging on the TwangTrust after all. Pals Jeff and Garry came by to make noise and throw some spiritual eggs with me in the CKUW studio and it was a lot of fun.
I’m older and wiser now. I still love music and respect the artistry of Bruce Springsteen but I have other priorities now. I have a new daughter at home who takes considerable precedence over road trips to see rock stars. Bruce is rumoured to be touring again this year, but I don’t think I’ll be making the trip to see him anywhere. Maybe if he came to Winnipeg, though… hey! I have an idea…!