Do you have a go-to story that you tell over and over? That one story of an experience that makes for a good ice breaker or belly laugh. For years, this was my go-to story — the one I would tell most often to new friends or co-workers. (Now, I realize it just makes me sound old and, possibly, creepy!) However, since we’re just getting to know each other, I will tell it one more time. It does give you an insight into my obsessive nature, especially when it comes to reading “the fine print.” Picture it: Denver, 1992. (Don’t you just love Sophia from “The Golden Girls”? My guess is only a few people will get the reference.) I was on summer break from the University of Northern Colorado, working as a tour guide for the Coors Brewing Company. I was a huge fan of Paula Abdul and knew she was coming to Fiddler’s Green (as part of her “Under My Spell Tour.” For the record, MTV held a contest to name the tour. I always thought my entry was better — “The AbracadAbdul Tour.” Okay, maybe not.) One day, while reading the Rocky Mountain News (I still miss that paper!), I spotted a sweepstakes for concert tickets and a backstage pass to meet the pop star before the show. Of course, I quickly clipped the entry form and mailed it off. However, I also noticed the fine print at the bottom of the ad, “For official rules, pick up a copy at the Rocky Mountain News.” (No clicking online here. You actually had to get in your car and drive to get information!) Given my obsessive nature, I headed to their main office on Colfax Avenue the same day. The woman working the front desk was clearly puzzled by my request. It seems no one asked for the official rules on any sweepstakes…ever. After several phone calls, she produced a copy. One rule, in particular, caught my attention.
I will never forget those magical words: “Enter as often as you wish.” The only stipulation was that your name, address and phone number had to be printed on a piece of paper. (It’s important to note here that it did not state “hand-printed.”) Nor did the entries have to be mailed. They could be dropped off at the Rocky Mountain News front desk. (Also, an important point in my story.) On the way home, I stopped and purchased a package of notecards. About 20 entries in, my hand was getting tired and my handwriting was getting sloppy. It did say “printed” in the official rules, right?
Being the genius I am (*cough, cough*), I decided to have a rubber stamp made with the required information. I expedited the order and had the rubber stamp in hand in a day or two. Of course, with this new tool, I pumped out the entire package of notecards quickly. That was easy! I decided to get another package of notecards. However, this time, I found notecards on clearance for 10¢. I bought a whole dollar’s worth! (I told you, I’m a born cheapskate.) So, for the next few weeks, the sweepstakes became my summer hobby. Every free moment I had, I was stamping away. I simply kept going back and buying more clearance notecards.
Now, here’s where it get interesting. I was not keeping track of my efforts. I just kept stamping, boxing my completed entries and stacking them in the corner. With the deadline approaching, it was time to drop them off. (Are you sitting down?) When all was said and done, I had 10,000 entries! Here’s where it gets sad and pathetic: I was too embarrassed to drop them off! (Surely, they would me see as nothing more than a freak, dropping off case after case of entries.) What to do? You make your mother do it, of course! (To this day, she still cringes every time she hears “Forever Your Girl”.) I didn’t even go with her, when she did the dirty deed. (No, I did not win “Son of the Year”.) She claims to have received several questionable looks. Apparently, the secretary even made a few you’re-not-going-to-believe-this phone calls.
You know how the story ends. I won! (Although, it might have made for a better story, if I hadn’t won, right?) The woman who called to inform me that I won mentioned that there were 14,000 entries total and 10,000 were mine. On the big night, I was not allowed to bring a camera. Remember, those were the days of no smartphones (or Internet as we know it), so no Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to share it with the world. However, there was a staff photographer on site to document the whole experience. (Side note: I never received the promised photos of me actually interacting with Paula. *wah, wah* I called every sponsor for weeks, but never received a reply. Remember, I’m a bit obsessive, so it was multiple calls and letters. I know they still remember me.)
Paula was so tiny and sweet. However, I did notice she was a bit cautious when we were introduced, “So, you’re the one who entered 10,000 times!” Let’s just say, I’m pretty sure security never took their eye off of me. Little did they know that I was not a deranged fan, just a fan of her music…and fine print. (If you notice, most, if not all, sweepstakes nowadays require all entries to be “hand-printed.” I like to think I played a small part in that rule change!) Okay, so, technically, there was no actual dinner. However, there was food backstage and I needed a good headline to catch your attention. (P.S. Ms. Abdul, if you ever read this, I would still like my photos or, at least, an autograph.) Full Disclosure: Guess who I took as my “plus one”? No, not my mother! I took a friend. Thanks again, mom!
Have you ever met a celebrity? (If so, who and how?) Better yet, do you have a sweepstakes story that tops mine?
I look forward to our next chat. And, remember, there’s always a deal, you just need to look for it. :-)
You are too funny! Your story reminds me of the sweepstakes in the fine movie “Real Genius.” I admire your willingness to share so publicly what a dweeb you could be 20+ years ago. I still am too embarrassed to admit some of my old deeds. Thanks for the chuckle.
Laura G … ditto here.
Bryan you’re awesome, and a bit nuts for sure — but everyone has their “thing” which makes life and people so colorful! Your story is absolutely hilarious, and God bless your mom! : )
I do hope your “MY PHOTO SHOOT WITH PAULA ABDUL … ” story makes it back to Paula and you someday get your photos — or an autograph?
I am sure those PR machines absolutely “get the photos OUT.” I’m wondering if they were concerned that by sending photos to you — should you be dangerous, that it might inflame any disordered obsessions? Little did they know it wasn’t Paula herself … : )
In light of this website, I’m hoping Bryan that you could perhaps share your savings? How much was a ticket THEN — AND how much did you ACTUALLY spend on clearance envelopes, an expedited rubber stamp and gas money for your mom to deliver the entries? (We do realize the backstage meeting was technically priceless!?)
Lastly. Just had to mention here that I similarly won two concert tickets and a backstage pass to see U2 at the old Mile High Stadium. BUT I used FREE recycled notecards — and I only needed 9999 entries … so there!
I did however, HAVE TO PRINT ALL OF EM BY HAND … yeah, THANKS BRYAN!!!
(Yeah. No U2 contest, just kidding here.)
Thanks for sharin the great story.
Brian, I quite enjoy reading “Brian Blathers”, as you’re very entertaining. I have one suggestion: please split your run-ons with shorter paragraphs, so that they’ll be easier to read. Thanks for listening.
Nancy — Thank you. I always welcome an opportunity to improve my writing. I’m reviewing my grammar book right now! – BKC
Haha – great story. Hopefully those photos will make their way to you! Just imagine if you showed up to audition for American Idol ;) Thanks for sharing.