If you want an example of how politics suck the life out of all worldly pleasures, you could hardly find a better one than the dustup over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's alleged nap during an April 9 Bruce Springsteen concert at Madison Square Garden.
At issue: During a performance of a plodding number off Springsteen's new Wrecking Ball collection, the portly Garden State chief executive shut his peepers for an indeterminate period of time.
Observers claim Christie, who had already been lambasted by another concertgoer during one of Bruce's signature shaggy dog stories, was catching a catnap.
Christie denies sleeping but does claim to have been in some kind of "spiritual" transport inspired by the E-Street Band's performance of "Rocky Ground, " which I'm not sure is any less embarrassing.
Here's the governor's description:
It's not clear whether Christie means Authorities Unit Director Deborah Gramiccioni was "in the hallway" during Christie's press conference or during the concert, but if it's the latter we'd have new proof of the old joke that no phrase empties a room faster than "Here's a song from our new album."
As with most political disputes, this is one where I'd like to see both sides lose. Christie's admirable efforts to control New Jersey's pension crisis and rein in the growth of state spending have not prevented him from wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on corporate welfare.
As for Springsteen, I have been a fan and feel some residual loyalty as a native of the Jersey Shore. And it's reasonable to say that, regardless of the material, he puts on one of the great rock shows.
But like killer bees and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Springsteen is one of those cultural forces that never went away and yet never really mattered once the seventies ended. His increasingly dire habit of offering prescriptive political advice to listeners and asking us to join in celebration of contemptible old commies like Pete Seeger makes one truth clear: For stadium-shaking anthem rock, you're better off with Meat Loaf.
There's something off-balance, and a little bit creepy, in the expectation that an audience member is supposed to be deferring to the performer rather than the other way around. Christie almost certainly paid good money for his ticket: Seats for Springsteen's upcoming Newark show start at $210. (The indifference of the actual working classes to Springsteen's music has long been an open secret, as embarrassing as the overwhelming whiteness of jazz audiences.)
No less a figure than Julie Andrews – that's Dame Julie Andrews to you – got a heaping helping of post-concert vituperation from her fans a while back, even though she had made no secret of the loss of her legendary voice and by most accounts tried valiantly to put on a decent "and friends" performance.
Why should fandom for a 62-year-old rock star be considered some badge of authenticity? Christie claims to have attended more than 100 Springsteen concerts. He's got a right to sleep at a slow point in a show. Even given the eggshell care with which a New Jersey governor must handle local heroes, it would have been nice to see Christie bring out a little of his trademark indelicacy and declare, "Yeah, I think The Boss has really lost something since the untimely death of Clarence and/or Danny, and at one point I just got bored. But it's cool. I won't be demanding my money back."