Leadership / 03.09.22
Frankie Accardi-Peri Still Putting Out Fires … Just Not in Ticketing
This story is brought to you by the INTIX Women in Entertainment Technology Program.
Anytime one interviews ticketing legend Francine “Frankie” Accardi-Peri, it’s a bit of challenge. She is endlessly fascinating to talk to, but the demands on her time are often extraordinary — even though she is a number of years removed from heading mail-order ticketing operations for the Grateful Dead.
Case in point, when I sought to schedule a phone chat with her last month for this article, we had a date and a time all lined up. And then, about an hour before we were scheduled to talk, she emailed me and said, “Sorry, I’m going to have to postpone.” The reason? “I have to go help fight a wildfire!”
Yes, Accardi-Peri is a volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT) in California. More accurately, she is still an EMT having been one on a part-time basis since the early 1980s. “I don’t actually go fight fires,” she says, once we did connect via phone. “But I do know how to lay hoses and keep the guys hydrated and that kind of stuff.”
Being a part-time EMT so inspired her son, Jesse, that he eventually grew up and studied to be a paramedic. Born in 1990, he is today one of America’s youngest fire chiefs in Stinson Beach, California. “He grew up with me working on an ambulance, listening to radios and such,” she says. “I’m very proud that he’s technically my boss now!”
But part-time EMT is just one of the many hats Accardi-Peri has worn in a long and storied career. She grew up in New Jersey, moving from Atlantic City when she was 11 to nearby Ventnor where she spent her teen years.
California beckoned, though, and she ended up attending a city college in San Francisco during the late 1960s. “It was the hippie times,” she says, with great fondness. “San Francisco, Flower Power and all that. I became a hippie, and I’ve been a hippie all my life. We were the ones back in the ’70s who were saying, ‘Hey, what does this mean on this label? What am I eating?’ We were also crying, ‘Scientists are saying this about the planet. The climate is changing. What are we gonna do?!’ People don’t give hippies the credit they deserve.”
When asked to reflect on how she found her way to our industry, she related several jobs that she had growing up that involved ticketing. When she was 8 years old, for instance, her cousins would put on live “horror shows,” and she would sell tickets to them for a nickel a seat. In high school, she worked at her father’s arcade and sold tickets for people to play the games.
When Accardi-Peri moved to San Francisco for college, she worked the box office at one of the Loews signature movie theaters. “I worked the night they had the San Francisco premiere of ‘Dirty Harry,’” she remembers. “Clint Eastwood attended. And I’ll never forget that he came to me — me! — and said [doing her best raspy Clint impression], ‘It’s too loud! Turn it down!’ That was, by far, my top experience working as a movie theater employee.”
She continues, “Just before I started working for the Grateful Dead, I got a job on the East Coast working at a place called the Brigantine Haunted Castle in New Jersey. It was an eight-story-high castle with 15 or 20 different haunted scenes throughout. Everybody who worked there was mostly college kids or actors at the local college [Stockton University]. I sold tickets there. So, I guess I worked in ticketing for a long time and just didn’t realize it. The business just kept reeling me in!”
Her life changed, though, in 1984. She was friends with Carrie Rifkin, who was married to Grateful Dead band manager Danny Rifkin. In ’84, Danny asked her if she’d like to go work in Grateful Dead ticket sales. “I accepted and worked all the way through 2016, selling mail order tickets for the Grateful Dead and the band’s affiliates” like Bob Weir’s RatDog and Phil Lesh and Friends, she says. “In 2015, when they decided to do the Grateful Dead 50-year reunion, we were allotted 5,000 tickets. I thought, ‘Oh God. I hope we can sell them.’ My son put out a video for fans on how to do mail order, and we got 72,000 hits!”
The amount of mail-order letters she and her colleagues received amounted to $90 million. They did get their allotment increased slightly and sold $9 million worth of tickets. “But we had to return $81 million!” she still marvels at the memory. “At that point, we knew we needed to make tickets more convenient for the fans. There had to be a fairer way to get tickets. So, the mail order quietly went into limbo.”
These days, Accardi-Peri is still involved with music. She is currently a board member of the Owsley Stanley Foundation. The organization is dedicated to the preservation of “Bear’s Sonic Journals,” Owsley’s archive of more than 1,300 live concert soundboard recordings from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, including recordings by Johnny Cash, The Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac and more than 80 other artists.
But the hat she is now wearing most prominently is bar owner and operator. She and her husband are now in the process of reopening his family’s legacy Peri’s Bar in Fairfax, California, at the same location where her grandfather-in-law constructed the building in the 1940s. And, yes, it will feature live bands and performers. “We’ve actually signed up with a ticketing provider!” she exclaims, with a chuckle. “We obtained a shuttered venues grant, which saved us. We were about to sell the whole thing. But now we are set to reopen next week on March 17.”
She adds that “the joint,” as she calls it, has been closed for two years thanks to COVID-19. Upgrades to the stage and sound equipment have been made, along with additional soundproofing. “You get the grant, and you have to spend it on certain things,” she says. “You can’t just go to Hawaii with it. We’ve sanded the whole bar. We’ve painted. All of the electricity has been upgraded and is up to code. It’s going to be a hot, rockin’ music spot!”
When asked what her favorite job has been in her life, she was quick to answer “mother.” She was then equally quick to point out that she will be a grandmother come this June, with the fire chief’s wife expecting their first child. But despite all of the fun and important work she has done outside of the business, Accardi-Peri concedes that there are days where she misses the thrill of ticketing.
“When I started, there was no internet. I was just on a call where we were laughing about having to use adding machines,” she says. “A few years ago, my son walked by my bookshelf and my CD shelf. And he said, ‘Mom, get rid of these! Everything is digital now. We don’t need them anymore.’ At the time, I couldn’t imagine being without them. Eventually, I was like, ‘OK, put the CDs away. But I’m keeping my books! I can never get rid of those.’ Some things have definitely been lost in going digital, ticketing included. But, hey, we are the grandparents of fan club ticketing. We did start that, and I am a proud part of that legacy for sure.”
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