|Fake tickets cause havoc at Maxim party
By Darren Rovell
NEW ORLEANS -- Counterfeit tickets and unscrupulous scalpers in the Super Bowl host city used to be confined to the game itself. But parties surrounding the game, complete with elaborate settings and scantily clad models, are now so big-time that those vices have infiltrated the party world as well.
John Phillips, an attorney from Jacksonville, Fla., came to town for the parties, but he and three friends stood outside the party put on by Maxim Magazine and Sauza Tequila in disbelief Friday night, pacing the streets in search of the man who sold them two genuine tickets and two counterfeits -- at below face value.
Tickets for the event, hosted by "American Pie" star Tara Reid, cost $250 for general admission and $500 for VIP access, but scalpers lined the streets blocks away from the official ticket booth, offering discounted prices of $125 to $200 for general admission.
Shortly before Phillips arrived, ticket takers had realized there were counterfeit tickets in circulation and had begun inspecting every ticket more closely. The counterfeit tickets, made using a color copier, were missing the glossy sheen of the real tickets and had a brighter disclaimer on the back than on the real ticket.
Two of Phillips' tickets didn't pass inspection. After he was turned away, he reached in his pocket and pulled out an important business card -- an executive with Webtickets.com -- the broker who he says sold him the bad tickets. "Maybe he didn't know," Phillips mumbled.
While party security -- armed with walkie talkies and earpieces -- celebrated the capture of their first counterfeiter inside, mayhem ensued at the gate. As more and more people were turned away, one thing became apparent: This was an elaborate operation that involved many schemers.
Those that were caught faced fines of $500 to $1,000 and possibly a night in jail. For those that weren't, it was a successful effort to cash in on the Super Bowl hype. As game tickets have become more intricate, with hard-to-replicate holograms, local brokers have turned to the parties to make the quick buck.
And the victims of the scam who were turned away at the door commiserated with each other as they begged the ticket takers to allow them into the party.
Bill Roth, a Florida postal worker, bought a $2,000 ticket package from a Dallas ticket broker that included the NFL Experience, two parties (including Maxim) and a 45-yard line ticket to Sunday's game. But when his ticket to the Maxim party was rejected, he started to worry about the legitimacy of all of his package tickets.
"If that whole (package) is, like, fraud, then I really got a problem," said Roth, soon after leaving several messages with the broker. "I'm really shocked about this."
Equally surprised was Rich Drummond, a VIP at nearby Harrah's who received complimentary tickets to the party. Drummond said officials at Harrah's, a significant sponsor of the party, bought what turned out to be phony tickets at full face value after their sponsorship ticket allotment ran out.
"They're a corporation sponsoring the party, and even they got taken," Drummond said. His case was solved first, as Harrah's caught the ticket scalper, who showed up with two real tickets for Drummond and his friend.
Even a former New England Patriots player, who requested anonymity, was turned away with four other friends because their tickets were counterfeit. Maxim executives did not respond to requests for comment.
"Part of the lure of the Super Bowl is all the parties that go with it," said Ryan Hall, who drove from Jackson, Miss., with four friends. "We're some of the biggest football fans here, and on Friday night we're in New Orleans, and we're not even thinking about the Super Bowl."
As for Phillips and Roth, both eventually threw up their hands, bought real tickets and went to the party, ultimately being out nearly twice the cost of a ticket. But that doesn't mean the story is over. Both said they plan to take the issue up with the brokers who sold them the tickets.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
||Party's are big business
||The Maxim/Sauza party, which had more than 3,000 guests, had four other major corporate sponsors -- Fox Sports Net, Bud Light, Playstation and Harrah's -- whose logos were projected on curtains inside. All proceeds from the Maxim event go to charity.
A party hosted by Jerome Bettis on Friday night had sponsors such as Ultra Sheen and NewOrleansBlack.com arranged through Insights Marketing, an ethnic marketing firm.
Sponsorship revenues from the Playboy party, which takes place Saturday night, is up 194 percent from last year, according to company spokesperson Laura Sigman, thanks to the party's sponsorship from Southern Comfort, CyberCredit, Playstation, Don Diego cigars and Zippo.