BRISBANE: A CITY WITH TICKETS ON ITSELF
By Andrew Biggs
My good friend Tony Preece is going to sing at the Lord Mayor’s Senior Cabaret Concert at Brisbane City Hall this Sunday afternoon.
The concert is billed as featuring “famous Brisbane singing stars of yesteryear.” I had no idea Brisbane had such performers outside of the Bee Gees, and I know they’re not taking the stage.
Nevertheless I am thrilled to have a friend who is a famous singing star of yesteryear. He’s going to perform Lena Horne’s If You Believe, complete with flamboyant scarf, he claims.
The concert starts at 2 pm and finishes at 3.30. Tickets are five bucks each. And by a coincidence I am in Brisbane at the same time as the event!
Tony is thrilled. “You may have to dodge the Zimmer frames and mobility scooters on the way in,” he says via email. “But no need to rush to get there. I’m number 17 on the program.”
And so, at 2.30 pm, I rock up to the deserted Brisbane City Hall foyer with my 84-year-old mother, my sister and Thai friend. There is a young security official sitting just inside city hall wearing a single earphone and uniform.
He looks up at me slowly as I approach.
“I’m here to see the Senior Citizen’s Cabaret,” I say.
“Do you have tickets?”
“The ticket sellers left at 2.25,” he says. “Five minutes ago.”
“So … where can I get tickets now?”
“The ticket sellers left at 2.25,” he repeats, clearly insinuating I am either deaf or an idiot, with an emphasis on the latter.
“Oh — so the concert is full?”
“Oh no,” he quickly answers, as if that suggestion is ludicrous. “No.”
“Well can I just pop into the back of the auditorium and sit somewhere there?”
“You need a ticket,” he says, shaking his head.
“But the ticket sellers went home at 2.25,” I say.
Apparently that is the end of the conversation. Either that, or I am in a recurring scene that will stretch on for eternity.
Then, a miracle.
A smart young woman appears in a black suit carrying a clutch of tickets! The security guard calls her over and I explain my situation.
She is very accommodating. She smiles and furrows her brow. “I’m sorry but the ticket sellers left at 2.25,” she says.
“Yes I know that,” I say. “Couldn’t I just give you 20 bucks and you can let me in?”
“I can’t accept any money.”
“But what about all those tickets in your hands?”
She looks at them. “These are reserved tickets.”
I look at my own watch. “But they haven’t turned up.” This is a concert for the elderly, and perhaps some of the ticket holders may have unexpectedly shaken off their mortal coil between reservation and event. I don’t say this, of course; but I do stress the fact it’s now after 2.30 pm.
“Couldn’t you give me some of the reserved tickets of people who haven’t shown up?”
This is clearly not a Brisbane thing to do. She makes a very unhappy face. “But what if they turn up later?”
“The concert apparently is nowhere near full. They could sit anywhere.”
“But they are reserved seats.”
She bites her lip and looks around. “Hold on a minute,” she says, and darts off to another security man standing by the large Brisbane City Hall doors. They carry on a furtive conversation. He looks at his watch then shoots me arrows of disapproval. I want to run over and apologize — perhaps prostate myself at his feet — explaining that where I live, in Thailand, a 2 pm concert start means arriving at 2.45 (and then leaving at 3.10, though he doesn’t need to know that).
I am too far away to hear the conversation between Clutch of Tickets and Security Hitler, but I do hear snippets such as “rules are rules” and “the ticket sellers went home at 2.25” and “breach of security”.
Breach of security?
Brisbane is trying to brand itself as an international city, and with that comes all the accompanying terrorist threats. But come on. I know suicide bombers aren’t the brightest sparks in the Islamic bulb factory, but what jihadist worth his salt would press the button on his vest at a sparsely-attended assembly of geriatric infidels, as opposed to, say, a State of Origin match attended by ten thousand?
Oh but the Clutch of Tickets is back.
“Sorry,” she says.
Then she leans forward conspiratorially. “Look, I’ll tell you what I can do. I’ve got this one ticket here from somebody who tried to cancel at the last minute. I can give it to you, and one of you can go in.”
The situation just crashed and burned.
I came here expecting to enjoy an afternoon of Tony hopefully hitting the notes to a Lena Horne classic, and I end up with a Sophie’s Choice moment! Do I go in to see Tony perform and send my mother and sister to the gas chamber? Even I can’t do that!
It is time for me to pull out the big guns. “Look,” I say. “All I want to do is see my friend Tony sing. Forget Simon Gallaher and the rest. I won’t even sit down. I’ll stand at the back. We’ll stand throughout the whole damned concert if we must, behind all those empty seats. I promise to spend no longer than the entirety of Lena Horne’s If You Believe inside that auditorium. Could we at least do that?”
“Hold on a sec.”
She runs to the main doors of the auditorium to an older gentleman with a beard, another official paid by the local council, no doubt, to perform the exacting task of informing the general public that the ticket sellers went home at 2.25 pm.
While she is away it is my 84-year-old mother who makes the best suggestion of all; why not catch the elevator to the observation tower? On the way down we could get off at balcony level and just duck into the auditorium that way.
Ingenious! Now I know where I get my cunning from! And yet her idea is fraught with difficulties.
There are probably security cameras installed all over Brisbane City Hall. Imagine the four of us being spotted on the security system whilst committing the heinous act of breaking into the Lord Mayor’s Senior Cabaret Concert. Would I be detained and arrested? And what if the news gets out? I don’t think I could live with the shame of illegally trespassing into a geriatric concert. Katy Perry maybe, but a geriatric concert …
The Clutch of Tickets is back.
Again, the prognosis is bleak. There is no last-minute reprieve from the governor. Rules are rules. And the ticket sellers went home at 2.25, she reminds us.
“I’m sorry, but my head would be on the chopping block,” she says.
She is looking devastated, having now tried to negotiate with three security types, not to mention being swallowed up in a system that is as Orwellian as it is Monty Python. I feel as though I am falling in love with her; Stockholm Syndrome no doubt.
I touch her reassuringly on the arm, though only lightly, for fear of being slapped with a sexual harassment charge. Stranger things have happened this afternoon, believe me.
“It’s alright. I understand. You did your best.” And with that, she was gone, as we were too.
Tony calls the next day.
The concert had been a success; despite being sparsely attended, and his being number 17 on the programme, his rendition of Lena Horne’s If You Believe was well received that Sunday afternoon.
“Though the organization was a bit of a shambles,” he says. “The show didn’t start until 3 pm.”