Belly of the Beast "Now is the perfect time for the consumer to step up to the monopoly and say, 'No, we will not pay for expensive tickets.' Customers need to say that if they want lower prices." That's Ticketweb Vice President Andrew Dreskin speaking, and the monopoly he's talking about is BASS, the Bay Area outfit that dominates sports, musical, and event ticket sales in Northern California. So far, Ticketweb's survived in the shadow of the giant by selling tix over the Web. Dreskin's speaking out now because BASS is finally moving into cyberspace. BASS says that its first Website (www.bass-tix.com) will debut by the end of this month after an investment of more than $150,000. That means the little guys at Ticketweb not only have a challenger, but a Goliath barreling at them. After a humble beginning selling tickets for Bottom of the Hill shows a year and a half ago, Dreskin's company assembled a high-tech, user-friendly program to sell tickets over the Web for most clubs in the city, and eventually for clubs in 16 other states. (Locally, the Fillmore and the Warfield are conspicuously absent from Ticketweb's venues; they have a special exclusivity agreement with BASS.) The reliance on technology allowed Ticketweb (www.ticketweb.com) to whittle service charges down to a third of BASS prices on some tickets. For example, Dreskin points to a Chuck Prophet show at Slim's two weeks ago. Ticketweb added $1.50 to two $7 tickets, or 75 cents per ticket. BASS, on the other hand, charged $8.75 extra for the same two tickets, or over $4 extra per ticket. The Ticketweb system is successful. Dreskin, 28, says the company sold a quarter of a million dollars in tickets in '96, and is on track to quadruple the figure this year. But that's only if BASS -- which sold 4.1 million tickets last year through phone operators and ticket outlets -- doesn't get in the way. Dreskin doesn't have to worry immediately. According to CEO Doug Levinson, the BASS Website will offer only information for the next three or four months. Then, Levinson says, the site will offer form-based ticketing. (Customers would request tickets with an on-line e-mail template.) Six to eight months from now, BASS is aiming for a real-time system to sell tickets. Levinson hopes the system will eventually cut service charge costs, but he can't say when or by how much. (Despite countless technological advances in the past 24 years of BASS's existence, service charges have never dropped.) Dreskin, on the other hand, says his company is committed to keeping costs as low as possible. "Call us crazy, but we think the service charge should reflect how much it costs us to sell it," says Dreskin. That means people who buy will-call tickets off the Web will continue to pay around 75 cents, while those who use Ticketweb's new services -- a 24-hour touch-tone phone system or outlets at Bay Area Rasputin record stores -- will pay slightly more (up to $2.50 per ticket). BASS charges, by contrast, up to $4 for a $15 Warfield show; for big acts, the fee can be $8 or more. "We believe that BASS will not be able to compete with us on price," says Dreskin. "You've got two kids selling iced tea and one kid's got it for five bucks and the other kid's got it for 75 cents. Who you gonna buy it from?" (J.S.)

Razing Heller In response to journalist Greg Heller's bitchy treatment of the Hotel Utah in recent issues of BAM (see Heller's whiny guest-list-meanie-doorman tirade in issue No. 506), club manager Guy Carson chose to dedicate last Friday night's entertainment to the writer. "We just decided that the poor boy needed some love," explains Carson. "I mean, he is obviously not getting the respect that a venerable journalist like himself deserves." To prove the Utah's good intentions, the staff put together some special treats for the show, including "We Love Greg 'Fucking' Heller" T-shirts and banners, and "California Asshole" drink specials (in bar lingo, the residue left over in the bar mats). A large number of BAMstaff members made appearances, including Editor Bill Crandell and Heller himself, who was discovered at the end of the night passed out on the sidewalk out front. The musical entertainment included the Fabulous Hedgehogs, the Gun & Doll Show, and Rube Waddell. "It was a great bill," says Carson, "all for the love of Greg. I think he enjoyed it." (S.T.)

The Young and the Sexless Though Ecstasy Club has risen from this unworthy crag, soaring in warm, moist updrafts of profit and praise to seek its destiny as a cult classic, Riff Raff was overjoyed to see more of master (culture) baiter Douglas Rushkoff's illuminated prose gracing an issue of the Hungry Mind Review. The premise: "Writers Discuss Pleasure." Rushkoff's title: "Discovering Sex." Printed immediately following the engorged tale we excerpt below: an itinerary for Rushkoff's Ecstasy Club tour. The implication: a date with ecstasy, ladies -- Dougie's coming to town! (M.B.)

I feel like I've just discovered sex. The great conspiracy that everyone's been in on all along, except for me. It's been in the lyrics of the music I listen to, the subjects of the paintings in the museums, and the cut of every dress, but somehow I never realized it.

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