Hundreds of angry fans turned away from America's Got Talent taping in St. Petersburg
Hundreds of people were turned away from the first taping of NBC’s hit unscripted variety show America’s Got Talent this afternoon at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, despite the fact that some held tickets printed out in advance weeks earlier.
Organizers told some fans they stopped seating after about 1,200 people were brought inside the venue, leaving hundreds outside, including some who had seen their tickets marked by other attendants with assurances they would be seated.
Fans who had arrived early as 45 minutes before the noontime taping said they were turned away, though people in front of them entered violated portions of the show’s dress code — attendees were forbidden to wear t-shirts and shorts or carry cell phones, among other restrictions
The tickets, which fans obtained by signing up for a specific showtime online, did not say that ticketholders had to arrive early to be assured a seat.
Worst of all for some, attendants made little effort to inform the crowd when they stopped seating people at about 1:15 p.m., leading some to wait on line even longer before realizing they had no chance to enter the venue.
“This was horrible...just an outrage,” said Jerry Cabot, who drove to the Mahaffey from his home in Boynton Beach, spending his 77th birthday waiting on the asphalt road behind the theater for over an hour. “I’ve never seen a crowd handled this badly.”
Throngs of fans piled into the space between the Mahaffey Theater and Dali Museum along the edge of Tampa Bay, drawn by the possibility of seeing show host Nick Cannon or star judges Howie Mandel, Sharon Osbourne and Howard Stern. (at left, a picture of St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster with the judges at the 5 p.m. show, posed on Twitter by osbourne.)
The show seemed to use the milling crowds as a backdrop, urging fans to cheer as a town car and Cadillac SUV drove up bearing the judges. Later, Cannon visited with a few acts performing on the show in front of the waiting crowd, trailed by a camera filming footage for the program.
But staffers on site did little to direct the crowd as it came onsite. At times, attendants even directed newcomers to the middle of the line by mistake, causing others who had waited for long periods to shout.
As word spread among the crowd that no more people would be admitted, staffers began marking tickets of those who had waited in line, assuring them they would get preferred seating at the day’s 5 p.m. show.
But what happens, some fans wondered, to the people who show up with tickets for the evening show and expect to get in?
“I took a day off work and drove 90 minutes to get down here,” said Keith Douglas, 51, of Zephyrhills, who failed to get inside the venue despite arriving 45 minutes early. “What are they going to do when all these people from the noon show jump ahead of the 5 p.m. people?”