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Frain got the job of handling crowds at Wrigley Field games in 1928 by offering to waive his pay if Wrigley Jr., then owner of the Cubs, wasn't satisfied with the job. To do the job properly, Frain had to fire most of Wrigley's ushers, inveterate bribetakers, many of whom felt it a point of honor to assault Frain after being fired. Frain accepted every challenge ("You can't walk away from a fight"), winning more often than he lost. Wrigley wound up pleased and even lent Frain $5,000 to buy uniforms. After persuading Charles Comiskey he could handle Comiskey Park, Frain wooed Colonel Matt Winn, the Derby impresario, in a dramatic way. To convince the colonel that gate-crashing was a cinch at the Derby, Frain climbed the fence, confronted a guard and demanded to be taken to Colonel Winn as a gate-crasher. At first stunned by Frain's audacity, Colonel Winn was soon impressed with the young zealot's knowledge of crowd flow and gate-crashing and hired him. His ambition unbounded, Frain thereupon landed the Republican and Democratic conventions of 1932, controlling crowds at both so well that he achieved a national reputation. Unfortunately, Frain's successes attracted the attention of hoodlums. On several occasions he flatly turned down their requests for a cut of his take. "No muscle is gonna clip me," Frain says indignantly. "I never had a nickel. Finally after a lot of hard work I made something of myself. They're gonna take that away from me?"
Attacks by hoodlums
As a result of his attitude, he was beaten up on several occasions in the '20s and '30s by hoodlums and once was shot at five times at close range while eating in the Chicago Stadium dining room. All five shots missed as Frain scurried along the floor toward an exit. "I think the hoods were just trying to frighten me," he says. "If they had been serious about knocking me off, I think they would've had a better average."
For ushering services Frain earns more than $35,000 a year, while his firm pays out salaries of $800,000. He has a $50000 white-brick Georgian home in Lincolnwood, a suburb of Chicago ("It's so ritzy there my neighbors go to bed with their tuxedoes on") with a swimming pool and a home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., also with a swimming pool. He drives around Chicago in an air-conditioned Cadillac. The house in Chicago has nine bathrooms and the one in Fort Lauderdale eight. Frain has never forgotten the desperately poor conditions of his childhood.
A crowd, for Andy Frain, is like a huge peach pie that must be sliced up and scientifically separated. Then the various parts must be installed precisely where they belong. "You cut 'em up outside the gates," Frain said a couple of weeks ago at Soldier Field. The Bears were about to meet the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he was on his way to his office at the stadium to supervise the manning of gates and stair wells. "Not inside, because there isn't room. You post directors outside to tell the crowd what gate to enter for what sections, or tell them the gate number is listed on the ticket. You don't want a cross flow caused by people with tickets for a north section goin' in a south gate. Keep 'em all movin' in the same direction. That's basic."
Frain, who sometimes walks 20 miles a day checking the interiors and exteriors of stadiums before events, marched briskly into his office. It was filled with ushers in various states of undress as they slipped into blue trousers and knotted blue ties. In one corner was a box of walkie-talkies, and next to it were several battery-operated megaphones for directors to address the incoming crowd. In one adjoining room ushers were trying on Andy Frain hats kept in three huge boxes. In another more ushers were dressing. Andy was handed the phone at his desk. A gray-haired man in a Frain uniform gave him a cigar. "What gates are the turnstiles on?" Frain said into the phone, lighting the cigar with an Andy Frain cigarette lighter. Andy Frain Jr., a serious-looking 26-year-old, was handing out slips of various colors to the ushers. "Spread out the blueprint," said Frain to Andy Jr. Andy Jr. spread a blueprint of Soldier Field on the desk. "How far north are you sellin'?" he said into the phone, staring at his cigar. "Gonna be a better house on account of the weather," he told Andy Jr., hanging up as more ushers filed in. One walked around blowing into a megaphone to test it. Andy told the gray-haired man to call up the head ticket taker, then bent over the map with Andy Jr. Like a general expecting an assault wave any minute, he pointed to various spots on the blueprint. "Go light here," he said. "Go heavy here." Mike Frain, five years younger than Andy Jr., was handing out instruction sheets to the ushers. "On gates 21, 22, 27 and 28," Frain said to Andy Jr., "I want four instead of three men." Andy Jr. nodded, and Frain took the phone. "How many police did they give us?" he said into it. "Are all the chiefs and assistant chiefs here?" he asked Mike. "Foof, foof," went the usher with the megaphone. Mike nodded. The room was filled with sharp-looking ushers. "The way the crowd is outside, I think we're gonna have to open," Frain said into the phone and hung up. "Make sure them kids don't roam all over," he told the ushers, poking his glasses higher on his nose with a forefinger. "Make sure the ropes are in place between"—he consulted the blueprint—"sections 1 to 11 and 2 to 20. Last year the kids cut the ropes with knives. Watch for that. Let the kids keep any footballs that go in the stands. The fans boo hell out of you if you take a football away from a kid." The phone rang. "I don't know anything about no tickets made out for Gate 42," said Frain, and hung up. "I'm going to take a look around outside," he told Andy Jr.