STORY WRITTEN BY KAITLYN FOTI
@kaitlynfoti on Twitter
PHILADELPHIA >> A line of fans waiting to meet their hero, Bruce Springsteen, started forming outside the Free Library of Philadelphia at 5:15 a.m. Sept. 29, but for some, the journey began long before that.
Fans had come from New York, Chicago and San Francisco for a chance for a handshake or a hug from Springsteen during the meet and greet event to promote his memoir “Born to Run.”
“It’s that excitement that you don’t know what to expect. Excited and a little scared,” said Concetta White, from North Smithfield, RI. “It’s like meeting your kid for the first time, that’s the only other time I’ve felt this way.”
Some were fans from the start, bragging that they loved him before his first hit record. The younger set was raised on The Boss.
“It started when we were young, our aunt would play him for us,” said Jason Freeman, of Hoboken, NJ, standing with his aunt, Cindy Freeman, in line. “And now we’re here today, together.”
The line was full of fans telling tales of discovering Bruce, falling in love with his music, and scoring the highly sought after ticket to the meet and greet. Fans traded numbers of concerts attended, how close they’ve been to the stage and their favorite albums like swapping baseball stats.
(Full disclosure: For this reporter those stats are eight, fifth row, and “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle,” respectively.)
The lucky few — 1,200 to be exact — who were able to get tickets were lined up around the block. After about a two-hour wait, they were escorted inside, given a wristband and a signed copy of the memoir, and led into the room with the legend himself.
Steve Frankel, of Narberth, brought an enlarged photo of himself with Springsteen, from a chance meeting with The Boss in New York in 1983. Frankel said he waited more than 30 years for another chance to meet him.
“I just want to say thank you, tell him ‘you’re awesome,’” Frankel said.
The three men at the front of the line all arrived before 6 a.m., for an event that was scheduled to begin at noon. Bob Cappella, of Pottsville, got a hotel room the night before, so that he could be in line bright and early. He was first to arrive at 5:15 a.m.
“I’ve been a fan of his since eighth grade. It’s one of those bucket list things to get a chance to meet him,” Cappella said.
The atmosphere in the line was electric with nerves and excitement. Some wondered if they would be able to get a hug (yes, The Boss obliged to many hug requests) while others discussed how to get the best picture (it was settled that using the ‘burst’ option on phones to take rapid-fire photos was best).
After their encounter with the rock legend, some fans appeared dazed by meeting their idol. Others were excitedly recounting it over the phone. More than a few were crying.
“Our mother died in 1976, just after ‘Born to Run’ came out,” said Susan Walsh of San Francisco, Calif., barely containing her emotion after meeting Springsteen with her sister, Joan. “We just got lost in the music. I don’t know if I’d be the same person I am without it.”
And how was meeting her idol?
“Oh my god,” Walsh said. “He was so sweet. I asked for a hug and he was so sweet.”
The memoir, “Born to Run,” was released Tuesday, Sept. 27, less than three weeks after his record-breaking four hour, four minute concert at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia. Springsteen said he spent seven years writing the book.