"The Police are coming to the Omni!" Addison shouted across the campus quadrangle in early October of 1983. With widening eyes and a growing grin, he raced toward me. The biggest band in the world was coming to Atlanta on its "Synchronicity" album world tour. Less than an hour and a half away in Athens, there was no way we were missing this show. We – and most everyone we knew – had been fans of the group for years, and way back in high school Addison even saw the trio at the Georgia Theatre in downtown Athens when few folks had heard of the band.
"Fantabulous!" I exclaimed with a matching grin.
"November 2nd and 3rd. Tickets go on sale Saturday at 9 at Turtles," he announced.
"Definitely there, dude."
"Fifteen bucks a shot – thirty if Zenata can come. But I'll still go."
"It'll be worth it. Otherwise, we'll miss the year's biggest show." I smiled.
So early Saturday morning we camped out at the record shop for the best tickets – or hopefully any before they sold out. Arriving just after 7, there was already a line of about a dozen people, many in sleeping bags having spent the night on the sidewalk. Somebody had a boombox blaring Police tunes, a couple of folks were softly singing them, and a pretty gal wearing a red fedora hat was dancing. Addison and I didn't know anyone but were delighted with the music and relieved we weren't too far back in line. As a sure stream of fans slowly poured in behind us, we felt even better about getting up so early and increasingly confident about getting tickets. A few fellows were already drinking beer and soon the smell of marijuana smoke engulfed us. Though strangers, being fellow Police fans having gotten up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to stand in line in the cold and wind for hours did induce a friendly camaraderie. The conversation inevitably veered toward comparing bands.
"Man, I sure wish I'd seen Fleetwood Mac two summers ago when they played the Omni," I lamented. "I saw them at their 1978 concert in Atlanta, but we had pretty poor seats and it would have been great seeing them play so many swell songs they've put out since then."
"Oh, Stevie Nicks! Miss Babelicious – on steroids," exclaimed a fellow standing next to us drinking a beer. "I want you, Stevie. You are all mine."
"Hey, get in line." Addison laughed. "I've been a fan of hers since the "Buckingham/Nicks" album in 1973."
"Aw, y'all can have Miss Stevie all you want," another guy said before taking a swig of brew. "I'll take the Wilson sisters of Heart."
"But are you man enough to handle the both of them?" Still another stranger asked, already appearing somewhat inebriated at 7:19 a.m.
"Oh, you want some tag team action, do you?" The first Heart fan laughed.
"Y'all can play with Stevie and Ann and Nancy all you want. I'll take Pat Benatar," pronounced a big fellow in his mid-twenties. "Now there's a real rock 'n' roll star."
"Aw, Pat Benatar sucks tennis balls," yet another fellow shouted, his sobriety suddenly in question.
"Screw you, jerk-off," the Benatar fan retorted. "Let's see you come here and say that to my face, big boy."
"Oh, man, are these guys actually going to throw down over Pat Benatar?" I muttered to Addison. "Just what we need at 7:20 in the morning."
"Hey, they're ahead of us. Let 'em go at it so the cops get called to take 'em away, and we get better tickets," Addison chuckled.
Fortunately, there were no fisticuffs over the honor of Miss Benatar and we managed to get what we hoped were fairly decent tickets. Looking at a seating map, we guesstimated we were not too far from the stage and at least not behind it.
It turned out that Addison's girlfriend Zenata couldn't make the concert because of work, but on the day of the show, I enjoyed getting to ride in the front seat of his super cool sports car. As always, conversing with a friend made the road trip so much faster, and the parade of Police songs on the stereo sounded better than ever. Bands, girls, sports, classes, and some politics were discussed along the highway, and we were relieved to get seated in the Omni well in advance of the opening act.
To our delight, our seats were much better than we thought. We were only about halfway to the ceiling and not too far from the stage. I was grateful the stench of marijuana was yet to be detected and hopeful the folks in front of us wouldn't stand during the concert. If they didn't, we'd have a fine view of the stage. To our surprise, the pair of seats before us stayed empty the entire opening performance and, when the main event began, we dared hope they would remain so throughout the show.
When The Police came on stage, we were all on our feet cheering. The band sounded super swell as it energetically began playing its hits, and it was an added bonus seeing three very cute backup singers in tight-fitting police outfits replete with miniskirts. Though the entire audience stood for the first two songs, by the third everyone in our section sat down. With the seats in front of us still vacant, Addison and I high-fived each other for our tremendous view.
Before the third song ended, a college-age couple began to climb the aisle getting ever closer and walking ever slower as they neared the row just beneath us. Please, no, not here, I hoped. But they gradually made their way directly in front of us. Loaded with beer and a pair of expensive Police concert jerseys, they tossed the shirts in the seat in front of Addison and stood cheering and drinking. And remained standing.
Addison and I frowned at each other. Why was this pair stubbornly on their feet when no one was standing in front of them? Despite shaking our heads at each other, we didn't say anything at first, hoping they were perhaps just a little slow. I soon concluded they might need some help.
"Excuse me, Miss," I shouted above the crowd noise after the fourth song closed. "Would y'all mind please sitting down? We can't see for you."
She looked at me as if I had just broken wind, turned around, and resumed dancing at the start of the next number. At my exasperated look toward Addison, he tapped her date's shoulder, but got no response. Tapping him again, there was still no reaction. After gently pushing his other shoulder, the young man finally turned around with a glassy-eyed angry stare.
"We can't see for y'all standing," Addison pleaded. "Everybody else is seated. Can y'all please sit too?"
"Screw you," he barked, quickly turned back toward the band, and pointedly straightened his back.
His date glared at us both, one at a time, and responded to my Stan Laurel smile with a sneer until the start of the next song when she began bobbing to the music again.
My friend and I looked at each other with our mouths open and he let out a contemptuous laugh. I turned around to see the folks behind us shaking their heads and throwing up their arms. After sitting through a couple more tunes having to lean around the dancing pair to see the stage, but never able to keep the same position long because of their ever-changing moves, irritation warmed to anger, especially after apologizing to the young lady seated next to me when I realized my head was partially blocking her view.
Rising, I again tapped the girl's shoulder. Ignoring me for a while, she finally turned around.
"I don't mean to bother you, Miss. But can y'all please sit down? You're blocking our view and no one's standing in front of you."
"Bug off," she snarled and quickly turned around.
Her beau leaned toward me and pointed a finger in my face.
"Back off, asshole."
"What's your problem, man?" Addison exclaimed. "We paid just as much for our seats as you did yours. No one's blocking y'all's view. But y'all are blocking all our views." He pointed to the folks seated immediately behind us who nodded and waved at him.
"Oh, you think so?" Mr. Rude replied.
"Ah, yeah, I think so," Addison answered in exasperation.
"Fuck off," the fellow shouted, turned around, and remained standing.
At this, Addison pointedly flipped birds at the dancers in front of us as I put my chin in my hand and sighed. At least the band sounded terrific, the light show was a kinetic kaleidoscope of colors, and the energy level of the arena was ecstatic. Seeing cameramen on stage, it was exciting to realize the event was being filmed as well. Everything was just right for a splendid show except for Mr. and Mrs. Rude.
After sitting through another few songs, my friend and I reluctantly stood to get a better view. I cringed at the reaction of the people behind us.
"I'm sorry, but we just can't see otherwise," I apologized to the couple behind us. They nodded and slowly rose.
After a while, we figured it would be all right. We could now see the band better and, while preferring to sit, standing wasn't so bad if it enabled us to have a decent view of the stage.
But soon the couple behind us conveyed how the people behind them were asking us all to sit down. Resigned to our fate, we sat.
Since the gal in front of us had been less threatening, I tried once more to politely reason with her. Making sure to tap the shoulder away from her date, I cupped my hands near her ear in hopes of being heard above the loud music.
"We mean no disrespect, Miss. We can't stand because of the folks behind us, yet we still can't see for y'all. Please sit down. You'll still be able to see and hear the band just as well."
After giving me a look from hell, she hit her date's shoulder and pointed at me. He then leaned my way.
"Mess with my woman once more and I'm gone' beat the shit out of you," he slurred. I sat down and pointedly looked elsewhere.
The guy was big and gave off a mean redneck vibe, one of the last fellows Addison and I would ever want to have to defend ourselves against. So we sulked in our seats and tried to enjoy the superb show as best we could.
When somebody behind us started throwing popcorn at Mr. and Mrs. Rude, we shared a giggling fit. When the popcorn hit their targets, the couple faced us and the man-made a fist.
"It's not us, man!" Addison shouted. "Look, we don't even have any popcorn." We both raised our hands as Mr. Rude scoured the audience behind us.
When he turned around, Addison and I howled laughing, confident the music volume easily camouflaged our guffaws. We continued chortling but immediately went straight-faced whenever popcorn hit our antagonists' heads and they swirled around in search of the culprit. As soon as the Rudes faced the band again, we exploded in laughter, as did the folks behind us.
Later the selfish couple abandoned their seats and disappeared down the aisle. Addison and I and several folks behind us looked at each other and applauded. The pernicious pair remained mercifully gone for several songs, but eventually returned with fresh beer. To our joyful surprise, this time they actually sat. Addison gave a thumbs-up sign and I crossed myself. For the next few songs, the pair was content to lean back drinking more beer. But it turned out they were just taking a breather from dancing. So they soon resumed standing and swaying – drunken Caucasian rhythm in all its glory -- despite no one doing the same for many rows in front of them.
When the band left the stage, I dared hope the Rudes were too drunk to realize the musicians would likely be back for an encore. But they stubbornly stayed. To be fair, at this point virtually everyone was standing and either applauding or holding a lit lighter in hopes The Police would return soon. So we stood as well, suddenly grateful for the better view.
The band came back to deliver a few more hit tunes, left the stage, and returned for a second encore. Enjoying the performance more than ever, it was with sadness that, as the bandmembers put up their instruments, I realized this was likely the end of the show.
"Put your jacket on, man. Let's beat the crowd. I've still got an 8:00 class," Addison remarked. Slipping on my jacket, I marveled how my ever hot-natured friend only wore a sweater despite having to soon face a cold, windy November night outdoors.
All around us everyone stood and contributed to the deafening roar. Mr. and Mrs. Rude were hollering and spilling beer on themselves as they teetered from side to side, giving the impression that standing had become quite an effort by this point in the evening. I couldn't help but feel some envy for such selfishly satisfied schmucks, betting they slept better than me and would never get high blood pressure. For some reason, I happened to look at their empty seats with a jacket covering a purse in hers and the two pricey concert jerseys in his.
Suddenly Addison grabbed the shirts and stuffed them under my jacket. Shocked, I immediately looked at the couple in front of us and was relieved to see they were staring ahead, oblivious to all but the emotion of the crowd. I started to look at the people behind us but caught myself as Addison pulled my arm.
We darted across our row toward the aisle as quickly as possible amidst clapping, yelling fans completely caught up in the orgiastic conclusion of a sensational show. Not daring to look back or anywhere but directly in front of me, I frantically followed Addison to the aisle where we skedaddled down the blessedly empty stairs.
Then the house lights came on to signal the concert's close and my heart beat faster as everyone started to leave and we could clearly be seen. We raced to the big outer hallway and frantically found the nearest exit.
"This way, man!" Addison grabbed my arm and pointed in the direction of the car. We ran into the now surging crowd flowing out of the arena like a wave upon a well-lit shore.
To keep our new shirts, I had shoved the bottom of my jacket inside my pants, appearing rather pregnant. Neither of us ever looked back. Instead, we zigged and zagged through the crowd as if an enraged drunk redneck or the cops were right behind us. Since leaving our seats, I had been operating on autopilot, choosing the latter of man's fight-or-flight mode.
As we got closer to Addison's car, he began to laugh and I dared hope we might get out of Atlanta without a visit to the hospital or jail. Reaching his vehicle in the parking garage at the same time, we jumped in and he roared the engine.
"Lock the doors!" I shouted. We did and the car lunged in reverse before Addison turned us around and raced out the garage. Thankfully most folks had yet to reach their cars as we neared the parking lot exit. Without thinking, I lowered myself below the window, jerseys still hidden inside my jacket.
"Come on, redlight, turn green," Addison exclaimed. "Aw, the hell with it," he said as we ran through it out of the parking lot and onto the street.
Only now did I sit up and remove the shirts as Addison roared laughing while honking the horn. We quickly found the Interstate 85 ramp and were soon on the highway high-fiving each other and grooving to The Police's "Don't Stand So Close to Me" on the stereo.
"Yeah, I think so," Addison guffawed as my grin felt like it stretched from ear to ear.
"We've sure got a great story for life now," I got out before cackling. The further down the highway we got, the steadily more embellished our adventure became.
"There was no way Mr. Asshole was getting out of there scot-free," Addison declared. "I decided early on that clown was going to pay a price for being such a gigantic jerk."
"When did you figure on grabbing the shirts?" I asked.
"Man, I was bird-dogging those babes from the first time those drunks refused to sit down."
"How long before you think they realized what happened?" I giggled.
"Shoot, they were so loaded, they may still not know about it," he replied.
"Good for our sake." I grinned.
"The hell with 'em. I hope they both figured it out before we even got to the aisle." He laughed.
In my best Bob Dylan voice, I belted out "How does it feeeel?" and clapped my hands laughing. Addison howled as well and started hitting the horn again.
"I guess this is the best hustle we ever pulled." He smiled.
"Or the only one – though perhaps the first of many," I replied, reveling in the moment. "What are you doing with your shirt?" I looked at him.
"Wearing it tomorrow." He grinned. "And Zenata is going to be thrilled when I tell her I paid $20 for hers!"