Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

THE BOSS SHOW; Springsteen Fans Compare Notes on His Importance in Their Lives

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

THE BOSS SHOW; Springsteen Fans Compare Notes on His Importance in Their Lives

Article excerpt

Byline: DIANA MIDDLETON

Bruce Springsteen's songs dog-ear some of Thom Gladman's most important or painful memories.

Born to Run has nursed him through a breakup and later, Thunder Road echoed his marriage. And two days after watching a 2005 Springsteen performance in Tampa, he crushed his back in a 27-foot fall off a roof. He needed Springsteen again.

"He's a kind of mentor," he said. "I know we'd be friends if we ever met."

Gladman was one of hundreds snaking around Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. They weren't complaining about the Friday night heat or the hourslong wait. Instead, strangers opted to compare notes on shows ("Where were you sitting at the Atlanta show?") or admire each other's hand-lettered signs.

To them, a Springsteen performance is an event worth traveling across state lines and even oceans for. Including Friday night's performance, Gladman has seen Springsteen 28 times, from Minnesota to Paris.

Brendan Flynn follows Springsteen's every move like a pilgrim, even studying each show's individual playlist. By employing that method, he was trying to decide what song to request via poster board.

"At a few shows I've seen him look at songs written on signs and take requests that way," he said. "I finally narrowed it down to five top songs."

The winner? Kitty's Back, a song Flynn determined Springsteen had not performed live since May. But it was his wife Carolyn's idea to get the song request closer to The Boss than their ticketed seats would allow.

"I went up and down the line to see who had the closest seats," she said. "Then I picked two pretty girls to have the best chance he'd notice the girls and the sign. I'm a girl, I know how it works."

The torchbearers, teenagers Caiti Wiggins and Brynne Pinho, were raised as Springsteen fanatics by their starstruck parents, who once met him at a New Jersey restaurant.

"He was a big tipper," Wiggins, 16, said.

Rebecca Kruiniger feels the same intimate camaraderie with the rock legend. …

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