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Fast ticket sellout proves a few points

To paraphrase the new Michael Jackson concert movie, "This is not it."

That’s the message Wynn Las Vegas is trying to send in the wake of the ticketing flap over the Garth Brooks comeback concerts in December.

The Wynn folk stress that the first batch of concerts are only 20 of potentially 300 shows; that Brooks plans to do 60 a year for five years. And that’s if he sticks to the minimum deal.

"Wait. Come back. There’s going to be other opportunities," says Wynn spokeswoman Jennifer Dunne.

But the instant sellout of Brooks’ first dates, and the casino’s unprecedented attempts to thwart scalpers, proves a few things.

1. The tickets were underpriced.

If the excitement dies down — especially if he holds to the one-man, acoustic guitar thing — $125 ($143 with tax and service charge) might be about right for Brooks. But for his first dates out of retirement? During the National Finals Rodeo and New Year’s weekend?

The major dispute in closing this deal was ticket pricing. The fan-conscious Brooks and casino executive Steve Wynn eventually compromised on the across-the-board price. "Garth Brooks understands what the threshold of his fans is," Dunne says. "He was really particular about keeping this ticket affordable and making this concert accessible to his fans."

But there is that Don Henley lyric about "a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac." It recalls a chat with AEG Live’s John Meglen back in 2003, when Celine Dion’s show opened at Caesars Palace with $200 tickets (which soon became $225).

"Why should a scalper who takes no risk make all that money? Why shouldn’t Celine make that money? Why shouldn’t the people putting up the money make that money?" Meglen asked.

The first question still holds. But the second now has a curious twist: Brooks doesn’t want (or need) the money. What happens to it then? Normally, it goes to the secondary market, where …

2. Brokers don’t see themselves as the bad guys. (They don’t even like being called scalpers.)

"There is a free-market aspect to all this," says Ken Solky, who runs the local Nevada Tickets and serves as president of the National Association of Ticket Brokers. "It’s tough for me to see people be told, ‘You have absolutely no chance of going to see this show if you weren’t lucky enough on that day.’ Why wouldn’t we want that guest of Las Vegas to be able to do what they want to do?

"We charge $300 for a $30 bottle of booze (in a nightclub)," he adds. "You’ve got a guy who is paying $5,000 a night for a suite. He wants to take his wife to Garth Brooks, but he can’t. How is that good?"

Solky argues that the whole town will suffer, because the well-to-do will go elsewhere, even after I argue they aren’t going to see Brooks elsewhere either. In the meantime, the crackdown on resellers proves …

3. You can’t make everyone happy.

"The intent is to keep the tickets in the hands of the fans," Dunne says. To that end, the casino set up rules unprecedented for a recurring event, ones which would seem to severely limit scalping.

Tickets won’t be given out until noon the day of the show. The entire party must enter at the same time, with ID’s rechecked. The ticket buyer must be among them. After selling all the Brooks tickets Saturday, Wynn employees followed up with increased measures: calls requesting the names of every person in the party.

"The vast majority of people are very, very positive, thanking us, applauding our efforts. They’re genuinely happy we’re doing this," Dunne says. "The only people giving us any problems are the brokers."

Leave it to the broker — Solky — to point out that if you get sick, you can’t give your ticket to someone else (you can get a refund). Solky talked to a woman who waited four hours to buy tickets on Saturday, then was given only three hours — though it was later extended — to select her group and make sure they could buy plane tickets.

And there’s the business owner who bought tickets as incentive rewards for the top three achievers on his sales staff; the whole point being not knowing who they are.

Well, there’s always Wayne Newton.

But Dunne says her staff will work with you. "If it’s between your sister and your neighbor, give us both names," she says. "Our intent is not to make this difficult for the fans. The idea is to take care of the fans, not the opposite." …

Angelica Bridges really wants this "Fantasy" job. The 35-year-old actress says she was crushed when a child-custody battle with her ex (hockey player Sheldon Souray) forced her to leave the Luxor show the night after her debut.

That has been sorted out now and she’s back. But the 12 days away "feels like it’s been a year to me," she says. "It just feels really comfortable for me. It feels like, this is what I’m meant to do. I’m meant to be a showgirl."

Bridges signed a one-year lease for a home here, and chose the steady routine for her two children over the pursuit of dates for her pop group, Strawberry Blonde.

That group will cut down on performing and just gave up a Halloween party at the Playboy mansion. "I just felt like I had really screwed up the show. It was obviously so not intended, but I felt like it was the least I could do to cancel the show this weekend and go full force in Vegas this week." …

The comedian known as Geechy Guy reports to work in The Venetian’s La Scena Lounge on Monday. His half-hour sets Mondays through Wednesdays thereby revive the almost-forgotten tradition of the lounge comic.

They were an old Vegas staple in the days before Don Rickles and Shecky Greene became ticketed attractions. But in the comedy-club era, an open-lounge comedian is a rarity indeed.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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