My First Hollywood Sportatorium Trip
It was the summer of 1977 when I attended my first concert, I was 13 years old and my mom let me go on package trip that included tickets and transportation via a school bus courtesy of the local record store ‘Specs Discount Music’.
Now this place wasn’t the Hollywood Bowl, it was an old rodeo arena that was turned into a concert hall. It was west of Fort Lauderdale in the middle of the Florida Everglades. A concrete wall and moat surrounded the arena, which had no air conditioning and looked all to similar to a prison.
It was general admission and there were no chairs on the floor. They were able to fit about 10,000 kids in the arena, making it absolutely packed from the front of the stage to the back of the house. My first show was a KISS concert during their ‘Alive Tour’ and honestly, it was scary. I can remember being disorientated after the show and not knowing where the bus was, but luckily I found it and made it back only five minutes before they were going to leave without me. Pretty crazy for a 13-year-old, right?
The music store where we booked the trip was right next-door to my moms arts and crafts shop and she knew the owner very well, so I probably wouldn’t have gotten left there but the thought of them leaving me behind stayed with me.
An Iconic List Of Rock ‘n’ Roll Bands
After the Kiss concert in 1977, I attendant dozens of concerts in that building and I saw some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time. I started to cut my teeth in the world of concert photography with a Vivitar 110 Instamatic and an old Olympus OM2 film camera. AC/DC, Bob Segar, Cheap Trick, Foreigner and more- I photographed just about every major rock band in the late 70s and early 80s who played in that building.
I had no photo pass and would work my way down from the rafters in the upper deck to right in front of the stage. I would use old beat up cameras that slowly helped me figure out what kind of photographer I wanted to be. When you get the opportunity to shoot Bruce Springsteen, REO Speedwagon, ZZ Top and Van Halen as a teenager, you figure out quickly whether you’ve got the chops to catch the moment or not.
Memories Of My Youth
I used to have to sneak my camera into the Hollywood Sportatorium by wrapping it up in bubble wrap, putting it in a cardboard box and throwing it over the wall with a friend on the inside to catch it or I would just let it bounce and then hope it didn’t break.
Some of the coolest memories of my youth were spent in that building and I’m pretty sure it was the first place that I got to second and third base. The place had no air-conditioning and it reeked of the sweet smell of Gainesville Green.
I used to keep the upcoming concert tickets wedged in the mirror on my dresser and there would always be at least three or four concerts coming up that I had to look forward to. Usually in those days if you purchased your tickets by waiting in line (not buying online) and you waited early before they opened, you could be the first to get tickets. This would guarantee you could always get in the first two or three rows. We were always in row AA, BB or CC and that gave me a great opportunity to stand on the back of my chair and make great images.
I was 17 when I saw Pat Benatar from the second row and man I fell in love. Back in the 80s, we used to be able to wait backstage and the band would come out and meet you and sign autographs. To this day I’ll never forget meeting the entire Def Leppard band and having them sign my ticket stub.
I still have a ridiculous collection of signature guitar picks that I caught during those shows. I even caught a couple of drumsticks from bands like Rush and the Rolling Stones. I miss the old Sportatorium; it is now a track home development with hundreds of single-family homes. Concerts will never be the same but at least I have the music, the photos and the memories.