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Super-fan Dan Eitner of Hardy makes a move that links him to rock star Bruce Springsteen.
Photo courtesy of Dan Eitner
Dan Eitner of Hardy (right) stands with rock star Bruce Springsteen after a concert, part of The Rising tour, in Greensboro, N.C. Eitner used an all-access pass provided by Springsteen to get backstage.
Elizabeth Hock | Laker Weekly
Dan Eitner shows a pair of black jeans that once belonged to rock legend Bruce Springsteen.
Elizabeth Hock | Laker Weekly
Dan Eitner points out some of his Bruce Springsteen memorabilia that covers a wall in the Chestnut Creek home he share with wife Nancy.
Elizabeth Hock | Laker Weekly
Eitner has saved ticket stubs from concerts and other Bruce Springsteen memorabilia.
Friday, May 10, 2013
“I’m not a nut; I mean I don’t worship these or anything,” said Dan Eitner as he pulled the neatly folded pair of black jeans off the hanger.
He held them up in the same way a formerly overweight person would display old pants alongside the ones they’re wearing, proudly comparing the ones before to the ones after their weight loss.
The jeans have nothing to do with loss, but everything to do with what Eitner found.
In 2000, Eitner opened a box and discovered the Levis and a treasure trove of other personal belongings that forever will link the 58-year-old Hardy man to rock legend Bruce Springsteen.
Eitner got the box from a friend whose sister’s husband salvaged it from the garbage at Springsteen’s New Jersey farm, where he had done some work for the musician. The friend knew Eitner was a huge fan and brought it to him.
Eitner and Springsteen share Jersey shore roots. In the early 1970s, Eitner often watched him perform at the Stone Pony, a bar in Asbury Park , N.J., famous as the place where Springsteen and his E-Street Band got their start.
When Eitner opened the box, he found some of Springsteen’s old clothes and several VHS tapes featuring artists such as Sam and Dave, and Prince. But it was the cassette tapes the box held that ended up being the best find .
Eitner assumed the tapes were blank, but after he began listening to them, he knew he had happened upon something special.
As Eitner plays a tape, listeners can hear Springsteen and Patti Scialfa, his wife and fellow band member , at home, talking, laying down melodies for several songs and playing guitar. The recordings, which total about 90 minutes, are somewhat rough and amateurish, as if they were recorded on a small cassette recorder, Eitner said. But they provide a fascinating look into the couple’s creative process.
“You can actually hear Springsteen’s genius at work,” said Eitner. “What a find.”
Conversation between Springsteen and Scialfa reveals little about their personal relationship. At one point, Springsteen says he’s starving and ready to eat. Eitner said you also can hear Springsteen in the process of building a fire.
The tapes contain several songs, but only one that had been released. Eitner didn’t know what to do with them, but he knew he didn’t want them to end up in the wrong hands.
He considered trying to sell them to the highest bidder but decided against it.
“I’ve been a fan for 30 years,” Eitner recalled saying to himself. “What is the right thing to do?”
Return them to Springsteen, he decided.
It took months . The challenge was breaking through the singer’s entourage to find someone he could trust to deliver the tapes to Springsteen himself.
After several attempts, Eitner got a call from Springsteen’s personal assistant, asking what his boss had to do to get the tapes back.
“At that point, I probably could have asked for about anything,” Eitner said.
They decided he would deliver them in person. But first he made copies, “just in case ” they went missing, he said.
About six months after he opened the box, Eitner returned to the Stone Pony, this time with his daughter, for Springsteen’s band’s 25th anniversary show. In the back of the bar, Eitner found Springsteen.
The singer thanked him for returning the cassettes. Eitner asked if they could pose for a photo together, but in the confusion of the scene and with the music blaring, it never happened.
The next day, Eitner’s wife, Nancy, was rushing out the door of their Chestnut Creek home when the phone rang. She got to it just in time to hear Springsteen leaving a message, apologizing for not getting the photo with Eitner.
“I can’t believe your voice is on my phone,” Nancy Eitner gushes into the phone.
The answering machine had picked up, and the conversation between his wife and idol is recorded for posterity, much to the couple’s delight.
The recording has Springsteen telling Eitner, who was still in Jersey, to get in touch with his personal assistant to schedule a time for a photo.
A year or so later, after a three-hour show in Greensboro, N.C., Eitner would finally get his photo and an all-access pass to any of Springsteen’s shows.
That photo, a wall full of others and various Springsteen memorabilia are neatly displayed in the “Bruce room” at the Eitner s’ home. Eitner said his wife is determined to turn it into a guest room. Perhaps, a music room would be more fitting.
His encounters with rock ‘n’ roll royalty inspired the former convenience store owner and salesman, who calls himself “semi-retired,” to try his hand at writing music.
“I learned to write lyrics from Bruce. It just didn’t seem that hard,” said Eitner, adding that it’s more hobby than business.
Letting go of the “Bruce room” doesn’t mean Eitner’s admiration of Springsteen has waned.
Eitner, who said he’s seen Springsteen in person more than 100 times, still tries to catch a show whenever possible.
“He will go down as the greatest of all time,” Eitner said. “You either get Bruce or you don’t.”
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