Leadership / 02.16.22
Remembering Patricia G. Spira, the Leading Lady of Ticketing
While an internet search for the term “leading lady” reveals hundreds of names, many from the Golden Age of theatre and cinema, there is no similar recognition for those who sold the tickets to the performances of these stars. Rather, for the better part of the 20th century, the ticket office was often simply a window behind which sat an anonymous ticket seller.
That all began to change when one ticket office maverick stepped up to take a leading role in creating the newly burgeoning ticketing industry. That rebel was Patricia G. Spira, who passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones on Feb. 12, 2022, at her home in San Diego, California, just two days after celebrating her 98th birthday.
Unlike the 1955 movie about the moral decay of American youth, this rebel had a cause — the box office — and she became its leading lady, an unfailing champion of live entertainment ticketing as a profession and a mentor for thousands of colleagues around the globe.
“She was the original Queen of Ticketing and will be missed!” commented Tracy Shunk Noll, Director of Sales and Development Services at Pennsylvania State University, past INTIX Board Chair and multiple award recipient, upon hearing of her passing. “I will forever be grateful for the part she played in creating BOMI/INTIX and bringing us all together.”
And bring together our industry, she did.
“I would never be where I am without her putting together BOMI and allowing us to all share ideas and best practices,” said Russ Stanley, Senior Vice President of Ticket Sales and Services for the San Francisco Giants and multiple award recipient. “Good or bad, I could always count on feedback from the community she started in 1980. I did not meet her until the New York conference in 1994, but she was very welcoming to this young kid from San Francisco.”
Patricia had four kids of her own, raising them all to be passionate lovers of the arts. At the same time, she held down two jobs, one as the first Box Office Manager of Milwaukee’s Performing Arts Center (now Marcus Center). While it was under construction, at the age of 42, Patricia returned to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to finish her studies. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and continued in her role with Milwaukee’s Performing Arts Center.
“My mom worked [in theater management or administration] at both movie theaters and live performance theaters in Milwaukee as she raised us,” said Patricia’s daughter Ellen Hattenbach. Ticketing pros talk a lot about not choosing this as their original career path and that you come to it via circuitous routes, and Pat’s path, on the surface, does not seem that different. But Ellen lends a different perspective that just may be a bit of divine intervention, “I think Mom would say she did not fall into ticketing but rather fell for ticketing.”
While unrelated to ticketing, Ellen shared another interesting yet largely unknown fact about Patricia’s impact on the world. “There were times Mom taught Evelyn Wood speed-reading courses for some extra income. [Wood was widely known for popularizing speed reading.] She should have taught speed typing; [she was] really fast on the keys.”
It was during Patricia’s time at the Performing Arts Center that she began her inspirational work that led to the formation of the world’s first organization dedicated to advancing the ticketing profession.
Chloe Watson, the very first INTIX member, who worked down the hall from Patricia as the Subscription Manager for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, recently recalled, “In those days (1979), We were scattered all across the country and sometimes only across a city, but there was really no way for us to meet or connect in any way. We basically needed to look an organization or venue up in the phone book and find out who we could talk to. There was no web to crawl … and get to know one another. Plus, new people coming into the industry, all they learned was from their predecessor. There was always the question, ‘Is there another way to do this?’”
From left: Chloe Watson, Patricia Spira and Angus Watson.
The answer to that question was “yes,” but it came as the result of Patricia being told “no.”
That “no” came when Patricia asked her general manager about attending a professional development opportunity in Banff [Canada] — a one-week course on box office management. Patricia was told simply that funding was not available. Over at the Minnesota Orchestra Hall, industry colleague Richard Carter (who went on to be a board member and the 1998 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient) also had his request to go to Banff denied by his organization’s leadership. Richard shared this with Patricia during one of their many phone calls to discuss ticketing problems, adding that he was told if the organization wanted a consultant they would hire one.
That was it. In that moment, on that phone call, the decision was made to have a gathering of ticket office managers to meet and discuss common concerns.
The first conference was held in 1980 at Patricia’s venue in Milwaukee. After the conference, she saw a need for a permanent association, and out of that was born Box Office Managers International, which later became Box Office Management International. Within months, Patricia opened the BOMI headquarters in New York and then ran the association as its President for the next 22 years (during which time it was renamed INTIX, the International Ticketing Association), growing the membership to over 1,000.
Patricia retired in 2002 but continued to volunteer and share her experience with theaters and arts organizations in San Diego while cheering from the sidelines as INTIX continued its phenomenal growth to become the world’s leading forum for open conversation, knowledge exchange from peers, technological advancement and networking in the live entertainment ticketing industry.
“Before her retirement, for 22 years Patricia Spira had one of those ‘rides of a lifetime’ as she saw the initial seeds of an organization blossom into the great representative body of our ticketing industry. She planted those seeds in 1980, some 42 years ago. But Pat’s firm hand and unwavering vision during those 22 years set the stage for the next incredible 20 years,” said Albert Leffler, Vice President Company Culture Ambassador for Ticketmaster, and a founder of the company.
From left: Patricia Spira, Albert Leffler and Connie Nelson.
Albert continued, “The first INTIX Lifetime Achievement Award was given in 1987. In 2003, it was renamed the Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award [to honor her years of service and her contributions to the association and to the industry], and no one was more surprised than me at receiving the award that year. Memories fade, but I distinctly remember while at the podium I thanked Pat for all she had accomplished and the honor of being the first person to have this award named after her. However, Patricia G. Spira will always be the epitome of lifetime achievement.”
Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award recipients in Anaheim 2016, from left: Albert Leffler, David Lowenstein, Jennifer Staats Moore, Angus Watson, Debra Kay Duncan, Roger Tomlinson, Patricia Spira, Karen Sullivan, Frankie Accardi-Peri, Gary Lustig, Maureen Andersen, Dan DeMato and Joe Carter.
“Patricia will be remembered for being a mentor, a colleague, a friend and a force. She provided us all with a world that was respectful and honoring of the work that we did and continue to do. Her spirit will live on in all of us who carry the torch forward in her honor,” said current INTIX President and CEO Maureen Andersen, who was also previously our INTIX Interim President and Board Chair and is a multiple award recipient. “All of us who call this life and career of ticketing are forever indebted to her.”
Patricia Spira (left) and Maureen Andersen.
The INTIX 20th Anniversary History Book has far more to say about Patricia and her many accomplishments — and it goes well beyond how our organization was formed.
As examples, Patricia was an early champion and staunch advocate of accessibility initiatives so that people of all abilities could enjoy live events. She travelled far and wide to represent our organization internationally — from London for the fourth annual conference where the conference committee hung a medal around her neck at the House of Commons to Tokyo where she brought congratulations from BOMI on the inauguration of a new ticketing service. Patricia was also the first industry association leader to invite accessibility experts to a conference to further the discussion of accessibility, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and inclusion according to INTIX 2022 keynote speaker Betty Siegel, Director in the Office of Accessibility at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Patricia brought her wry humor everywhere she went, too — even when she was not intentionally trying to be funny. When discussing the fifth conference, to be held in downtown Los Angeles, she asked innocently, “Does anyone have any objection to tickets?” This, of course, brought huge laughter! The LA conference would go on to be the very first [conference] to issue event tickets to attendees. Patricia even beamed into households around the world following a CNN interview about whether advance sales for unguaranteed tickets to the Atlanta Olympics was a fair practice (she said it was).
Following Patricia’s passing, tributes and remembrances have been pouring in from friends and colleagues around the world. They are arriving through social channels, via email and in conversations. Below we share some of those sentiments as we remember, celebrate and cherish a life well lived, a legacy built from the ground up, and a woman whose vision and service in demanding the respect that ticketing professionals deserve literally changed our profession and an entire industry.
“Patricia G. Spira has been and will continue to be the iconoclast for the entertainment ticketing profession. Pushing us toward the future. Encouraging us to be our best and brightest selves. Reminding us that our talents and skills can carry us further in our career and in our lives than we ever imagined. And even though she is no longer in our earthly realm, her spirit lives in all of us, as members of Box Office Management International and the International Ticketing Association,” said Jena L. Hoffman, INTIX President and CEO from 2009 to 2016 and 2017 recipient of the Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award. “May she rest in peace.”
“What can be said about the woman who single-handedly elevated our career paths by reminding us that the ‘box office’ just wasn’t enough — we are the international gods and goddesses who make the magic happen behind the scenes. Pat Spira was not only a visionary who pioneered our organization into existence, she nurtured so many of us with her grace, elegance and determination!” said Jane Kleinberger, founder of Paciolan, now retired, and 2018 Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
Kleinberger continued, “Even more important to her was her beautiful family and the love of her life, Marvin. After the Spiras moved to San Diego, my family took them to the Padres opening day game. They loved baseball, and my then-little boys asked if they could be their new baseball grandparents! Pat and Marvin were the epitome of a thoroughly modern couple who lived life to the fullest and touched lives far beyond their realizations. Together again, may their new journey be even better than the last.”
“Pat was my inspiration throughout all of the many years I knew her. She did so much for all of us in the ticketing industry and was a guiding light for the industry as a whole. Without her vision and her never-ending hard work with INTIX, the ticketing community would never be what it is today,” said David Lowenstein, Director of the Central Ticket Office at UCLA, former INTIX Board Chair and multiple award winner. “She was our leader and was a treasure to everyone. She will be missed. May her memory be a blessing to all of us. I know she will be happy to be back with Marvin again. May she rest in peace.”
From left: David Lowenstein, Patricia Spira and Jennifer Staats Moore.
“A force of nature and a class act. What she created for our industry is beyond comprehension,” said Shawn Robertson, Ticket Sales Director at Center Theatre Group, multiple award recipient and a current member of the INTIX Board. “Sad news and yet a reminder to celebrate the life she lived. We live in the glow of her light.”
“Mrs. Spira had a profound impact on my life,” added Chloe Watson. “Her guidance and patience when I assumed the Subscription Manager position at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra helped me to develop a more professional approach to the job. Her gentle insistence that I attend her first BOMI meeting in 1980 led me to meet other professionals in my field and form lifelong friendships that continue to this day. Without Pat, I might never have met and married the love of my life, Angus Watson. I am grateful.”
“Pat Spira had a profound impact on my life, both personal and professional, for which I will be forever grateful,” said Angus Watson, former BOMI and INTIX Board Chair, multiple award recipient and now retired.
Ted Geiss, formerly Director of Ticketing Operations at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, agreed. “She was the light of our industry that made many of us shine.”
“Our industry lost their ticketing compass today,” commented Linda Forlini, now retired from her position as Vice President of Ticket Philadelphia, former INTIX Board Chair and a multiple award recipient. “I was humbled to call her friend. Her loss means we will find our way without her, but she will always be our guide. Rest in peace, Pat.”
“She truly was a maverick and an amazing leader,” said Joe Carter, Director of Sales and Customer Experience for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a former INTIX Board member, Chair and 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. “She did truly make you feel like you were the only one in the room when she was with you.”
“Pat was a force of nature. I personally owe her so such. Her legacy will outlive all of us and her ‘family’ stretched around the world and across the decades. Her life was an example to all of us,” said Gary Lustig, Principal at LusTicks Consulting Services as well as a Past Chair and Board Member of INTIX and 2014 Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, pictured below with Patricia.
Gary Lustig and Patricia Spira.
“May you rest in peace, sweet Pat. I remember the day I met you. You were a force. You had a huge impact on my career, and I will always be grateful for your leadership, mentorship and vision for our industry through BOMI/INTIX,” said Former INTIX Board Chair Debra Kay Duncan, the 2007 Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, who retired as Director of Ticketing for the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“A woman on the frontier of an industry that was yet to be recognized,” said Leslie Zane, former Box Office Manager at Cal Performances from 1988 to 1997. “I will always be grateful to Pat for her knowledge, insight and paving the way for a career that I loved.”
“Patricia Spira was an inspiration to anyone who has ever issued a ticket, and through her vision for an international ticketing association brought so many people together from countries and companies who may never have met,” said Sue Uings, Sue Uings Limited; Director, ETT Conferences, Ltd.; former BOMI and INTIX Board Member, and 1997 INTIX Spirit Award recipient. “She inspired with her enthusiasm for BOMI/INTIX and gave us all so much to thank her for, and for making the ticketing world truly international through her vision, her legacy lives on and grows to fit the ever-changing world, and she will never be forgotten because of this.”
“I first met Pat Spira in 1979, shortly after she started the association,” said Ralph Beyer, former Vice President of Business Development, Venues and Promoters / East at Ticketmaster, now retired. “Pat was a visionary, and thankfully so. She accomplished everything she had planned and so much more. My own experience with the organization as a member, ticketing manager, vendor, board member and VP of the executive committee was to witness our ticketing ‘jobs’ become an internationally recognized and respected profession. Equally important, it brought together diverse colleagues who established wonderful lifelong friendships. Thank you, Pat, for your tireless and total commitment to an organization that does so much good. You are loved and appreciated. You were a wonderful mentor and genuine friend, and you made a positive difference in so many lives and careers.”
“It was a privilege to know and work with her during my years as a BOMI member and then as a colleague under her tutelage in steering the success of INTIX,” said Kathleen O’Donnell, who was Subscriptions Manager for the NYC Ballet and NYC Opera and a BOMI Board member, and then at INTIX as the Deputy Director from 1998 to 2010. “I am sure there is a house seat waiting for her on the other side.”
“[Melinda Gates has said that] a woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman. Pat started a path for us many years ago. We are proud to be able to carry on her legacy and vision that she set out to create with the INTIX organization. It takes courage, determination and fortitude to start something you believe in, and that is what Pat did for us all,” said Amy Graca, Vice President of National Ticketing for Caesars Entertainment and the current INTIX Board Chair. “As the ticketing industry evolves, our roots are strong. We are a community that supports each other. We celebrate the wins together and encourage each other through the tough times. Pat saw the impact that ticketing creates and acted on it. For that, we are thankful.”
Editor’s Note: In response to so many who knew Pat across the past decades and who have asked and made requests, INTIX has set up the Patricia G. Spira Memorial Fund. Memorial gifts in Pat’s honor will help INTIX to continue the legacy, vision and strategic work for the association.