What Happened to the Phoenix Girls Who Tackled Bruce Springsteen on Stage in 1978?
It could be the dance moves, or the tight pants, or the man-of-the-people lyrics. It could be that video with Courtney Cox in it. Whatever it is, people -- ordinary, otherwise law-abiding people -- cannot resist rushing the stage at Bruce Springsteen concerts.
It's a phenomenon that's led journalist and Springsteen fan Julian Garcia all the way to Phoenix, the site of a stage-rush immortalized in the "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" video. He's working on a documentary about the phenomenon -- I Could Use Just a Little Help -- and he's got one last target for interviews: The girls who manhandled the Boss at the Coliseum in Phoenix on July 8, 1978.
We talked to him last week about the documentary, the allure of dancing with Bruce, and his "Rosalita" manhunt. If you have any information on these most-wanted Bruce fans, send him an e-mail or tweet @JulianG922. (We're probably past the period mandated by the FBI's statute of limitations.)
The urge to touch Bruce Springsteen is as old as "Blinded by the Light," but Garcia's documentary didn't take shape until a year ago, during the Wrecking Ball tour. "A friend of mine went to see Bruce," he says. "He was in the front row and he ended up in a video -- like someone's YouTube video, shot from behind the stage."
They got to talking about what it takes to get that close -- to end up in the pit. "He told me it was a really grueling process, [that] you had to really stand around for a long time. So I just said to him, 'That would be a pretty interesting documentary,' not really thinking anything of it.
"It sort of evolved into, 'Maybe I'll try to talk to people who have actually done that.'" Since then, he's been on a social media crusade for Springsteen stage-jumpers, peppering Twitter, LinkedIn, and Bruce Springsteen message boards to track down as many dancers in the dark as he could.
At this point, getting up on stage with Bruce Springsteen is more about careful planning than spontaneous overflows of affection. "He brings up people for basically two songs, nowadays," Garcia says. For "Waitin' on a Sunny Day," off The Rising, some children from the pit are brought up to sing along; for "Dancing in the Dark," of course, a young woman is brought in to play the role of Courtney Cox Surrogate in the dance that informed white-guy dancing for a generation.
That was not the case in 1978. If the girls rushing the stage in "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" are ringers, they were playing a long game; the video wasn't produced until 1984, when a song that predated MTV suddenly needed one.
They look, at least, like fans who were so enthusiastic (or so into Bruce's period-appropriate open-shirt look) that they had no choice but to leap onto the stage and tackle him during the never-ending saxophone outro. Which is exactly why Julian Garcia wants to find them.
The '70s were filled with fan interaction that seems impossibly dangerous in hindsight; "Rosalita" in Phoenix is kind of the musical equivalent of Hank Aaron rounding the bases accompanied by a phalanx of sketchy-looking fans.
But even for its time, there's something special about it -- something that points to something special about Bruce Springsteen. "I think Bruce almost gives his fans the invitation [to rush the stage]," Garcia says, "just by the way he behaves.
"He's so open, and so accessible to his fans, that when you go to a show you're like, 'Hey, tonight might be the night that I get invited up there by one of the biggest rock stars that has ever walked the planet.'
"It's not like, 'You stand over there and let me do my thing, and I'm going to put these security guards between us so you can't get close to me . . .' It's made very clear, like, 'Hey, we're in this together.'"
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