BRUCE & PATTI: MEDIA SIEGE BEGINS

You’ve got to feel for the folks at the Antique Center of Red Bank.

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Up until now, the story that Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa were as lovey-dovey as they’ve ever been when they shopped and gave an impromptu concert Friday afternoon has been a redbankgreen exclusive. (See the two items immediately below this one, please.)

Frankly, we’d love for it to stay that way for two reasons. One is to assure a lot of hits to our infant site. The other is to spare store employees from pestering about two of their favorite customers.

But now, the national media appears about to descend, either in person or by telephone, on the West Front Street establishment. We hear that one publication is at the center at this very moment. And it seems logical to assume that others will follow.

Reporters will be looking both for dirt on the Scialfa-Springsteen relationship and confirmation of what dealers and customers saw when the couple went shopping there Friday, even as the rumor of a breakup was flying around the globe.

The people who work at the center are torn. On the one hand, they want this story, which originated with an unsourced item in the New York Post, to go away, fast, so they don’t have to talk about two customers they consider friends. The couple obviously treasure the cozy, barnlike atmosphere of the place in part because it is a refuge from the spotlight. And the employees there do all they can to foster that atmosphere, just as any number of restaurateurs and other merchants hereabouts do.

On the other hand, those same dealers—and, presumably, customers who haven’t yet been heard from—are in the best position to dispel, or at least throw some serious water on, the splitsville story.

We were just over at the center, and the sense of ambivalence is palpable. Some of the dealers have been selling antiques to Bruce and/or Patti for the better part of two decades. And nobody but nobody bothers the rock stars when they come through. Guy Johnson, who owns the center, has a strict policy prohibiting his employees from taking pictures of Bruce, Patti and any other celebrity who visits. They want them to feel at home, and to come back.

Bill Wigginton, a dealer, pointed to a used boxed-set of live Springsteen recordings lying on a table. “I would never ask Bruce to autograph that or anything else,” he says. “If I asked, I’m sure he would. But I wouldn’t ask.”

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And just talking about the couple’s visit on Friday has the people we spoke to worried about violating their privacy. They’re that protective over there.

By the way, Wigginton and other say they have no insights into the state of the Springsteen-Scialfa marriage beyond what they see with their own eyes, which they trust more than they do Page Six.

Neither does redbankgreen have any inside dirt. We have no idea if their marriage is on the rocks, or if they’ve been to the precipice and back, or find themselves somewhere in between, as most married people sometimes do.

All we know is that Bruce and Patti are members of our community with kids. This kind of story deserves better treatment than it got from the Post and its unnamed sources.

Well, you might ask, what about redbankgreen‘s role in this sordid mess?

We want to be as transparent about this as possible.

We didn’t report the rumor when it broke. To us, it was pure, unsourced gossip.

But when we learned that local businesspeople had eyewitness information that seemed to challenge the veracity of the rumor, which had appeared all over creation, our judgment told us that that was news. We stand by our decision to find out what we could and to write it up.

We also sent word about our scoop to every media outlet we could think of. Why? Because we thought the world should know that maybe it been sold a bill of goods by the Post, and if we didn’t put the word out, the chances of the story getting picked up in a timely manner were slim. Believe us, we are not yet even a tiny blip on on the Google News radar screen. (Type our name into a Google News search, and you’ll get the message, ‘Did you mean redblackgreen?) [Update: as of Aug. 28, we’ve broken through.]

And yes, we wanted credit. This is a three-month-old, shoestring operation, and we owe it to our business and our advertisers to try to leverage any scoop into clicks.

Given the supportive commentary we’ve seen on Springsteen forums in the United States and Europe, and from the e-mails we’ve got from readers from San Diego to Wales, we believe we did the right thing. Even the folks at the Antique Center have been nice to us.

Still, we owe them a beer or two over at Brothers’ Pizza.

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