Frain is thoroughly determined to keep out fans who have not bought tickets—perhaps the biggest headache of a crowd engineer. "Ninety percent of the public," he asserts, "wants somethin' for nothin'. When you run a big sports event, every one of those seats is there to be cracked. They throw every gimmick in the book at you." The gimmicks of crashers and mooches, as tried on Frain, are legion: some seek entry by claiming to be a relative of his, some by dropping influential names, some by carrying ladders or buckets of ice. "Press photographers" look aesthetic and brandish cameras. Lady mooches faint at the gate to be brought inside for first aid or assume a patrician air and claim they left their tickets home on the chaise lounge. Sly mooches produce tickets a year out of date. At a recent prizefight a man tried to get in carrying a clock; he claimed he was the timekeeper. At a baseball game a man said he was from the health department and had to check the hot dogs. At the Derby a few years ago a fan offered a Frain usher $100 for his uniform; he was turned down. Some men claim to have gone to college with Frain; they are informed they need tickets. The most ambitious mooches carry wire cutters to cut the chains barring locked doors and let their friends in. But Frain has a fireman and an usher at each chained door, a plainclothesman watching the pair of them and another man watching him.
The late James Leo (One Eye) Connelly, the most celebrated gate-crasher of all time, was frequently in Frain's hair. Once at the Derby, Frain, who detests being stared at by mooches outside the gates, offered One Eye $15 if he would go away. "Hell," said Connelly, "I can make more than that in an hour touting horses." He soon crashed through and began touting. On another occasion, at a political convention, Frain gave his ushers a special pep talk on keeping Connelly out. "But when I went into the hall," Frain recalls, "there he was, in the middle of the floor, selling ice water to delegates at 50� a glass. The man was a genius." Frain finally hired Connelly to watch a gate at Wrigley Field, then had the entrance padlocked because he was sure Connelly would let his friends in. Later, stationed at an open gate, Connelly showed his integrity. He refused to let Phil Wrigley, owner of the Cubs, enter without a ticket. Connelly shortly thereafter returned to his specialty.
Crashing a tradition
The least subtle of gate-crashers, according to Frain, are found at the Kentucky Derby and at important prizefights. It is almost a tradition at these fights for large numbers of people in concert to rush gates, climb fences and try to overpower the defending phalanxes. Until Frain's reputation for keeping out crashers was established, the same was true of the Derby. In 1933—the first year Frain handled the Derby—a group of about 40 toughs, few of them teetotalers, charged Frain's ushers at several gates but were held off till Frain and reinforcements arrived. Then Frain and his scrappy ushers pushed and slugged like Leonidas at Thermopylae, giving as good as they got. All of them had black eyes, and one had broken ribs and a fractured skull when the battle was over, but the gates were held. About 10 years ago Frain was introduced to Derby crashers of a trickier sort. These were what he describes as hillbillies whom he found seated in the upstairs clubhouse boxes without the proper tickets. They had their shoes off and were eating chicken and drinking hard liquor. Frain had some ushers escort them out despite their protests that they were kin to a sheriff from the hills. The next thing Frain knew he was in jail, along with several of his ushers. Through the efforts of a federal judge he and his ushers were let go after an hour. They raced back to the track and threw out more friends and relatives of the sheriff. More ushers were jailed. But as fast as they were locked up, Frain bailed them out and sped them back to reinforce their beleaguered comrades. The ushers kept crashing to a minimum, considering their difficulties, though Frain lost money on the deal. Since then, by setting up a system of staggered defenses, Frain, his ushers, troubleshooters and plainclothesmen have made crashing by force an increasingly discouraging practice.
Fight fans, perhaps having some sort of empathy with the contestants, are always ready to crack fights. In many cases—as at the Robinson-Turpin fight at the Polo Grounds in 1951 and the second Patterson-Johansson fight there last year—they are amazingly successful. "For every guy who had a ticket to the Patterson-Johansson fight in Miami Beach," says Frain, "25 were outside, tryin' to bust in." Before the main event got under way, swarms of frantic crashers tried to batter down one of the doors of Convention Hall. Frain ushers were urgently summoned from other posts by walkie-talkies (a Frain innovation) to hold the door. A gigantic pushing struggle ensued, with the door the loser. It came partly off its hinges, leaving a breach. But Frain's ushers, helped by Miami Beach police, firmly locked arms, barring the open space, and none of the crashers got past.
Frain regards football and boxing crowds as the most bloodthirsty, racing fans the most restive, hockey fans the hardest to control ("They're always throwing hot pennies, coat hangers and hairpins on the ice") and baseball fans the most mellow. However, he feels there was one recent occasion when baseball fans might have become dangerously hysterical. If Roger Maris had come to bat with 59 home runs at Comiskey Park a couple of weeks ago, Frain would have dispatched 125 experienced ushers and 25 chiefs to the edge of the playing field to discourage fans from leaping out of the stands—regardless of the inning or the score—to give Maris their personal congratulations and maybe tear him to pieces. "I figured on a riot," he says complacently. "The fans would feel they were a part of history."
It is not really surprising that Frain became King of the Ushers. Even as a child he was involved in trying to organize chaos. He was the 16th of 17 children and lived in the back of the yards section of Chicago's South Side. His father was a hod carrier who had been born in County Roscommon, migrating to America in the 1880s. Because the jam-packed five-room shack the family lived in was woefully short of beds, the children slept in shifts. Since there weren't enough clothes to go around, the first one to get up was the best dressed, while the last to get up had no clothes at all.
Besides working in a slaughterhouse to supplement the family income, young Andy collected pop bottles in ball parks and sold newspapers. In the classic tradition he had to fight for his corner. When he was in his late teens he got a job ushering at the Benny Leonard-Pinky Mitchell fight in the Dexter Park Pavilion. Ushers in those days were tough, mean and crooked. A customer starting an argument was apt to be hauled to the basement and given a thorough going-over. Of the crowd of 12,000 at the fight, about 3,000 had entered without tickets, it being the custom then for ushers to supplement their pay ($1) by taking bribes with both hands. Unlucky customers with tickets for $10 and $20 seats milled around outside, none too pleased that their seats were taken and that they could not get in. Finally they rioted, and the National Guard had to be called out to restore order. The incident inspired Frain, who had turned down several bribes that night, to assemble some friends and convince them they could make a living as honest ushers—if they could earn $5 a night instead of $1. It was a revolutionary concept, but they went along.
On the way up
They bought blue ties and shined their shoes, and Frain landed his group a few small jobs. Having learned some of the tricks of crashers and ways of keeping a crowd on the move, he then made his pitch—clean, courteous, conscientious ushers at a reasonable price—to Major Frederic McLaughlin, owner of the Chicago Black Hawks hockey team. Aware that his gate receipts hadn't been matching the number of seats filled, McLaughlin experimented with Frain. He was happy with the result, and since then Frain has handled every big-league hockey game in Chicago.