New York, NY – “We do stuff in Madison Square Garden they don’t do anywhere else in the world.”
That’s how Adam Braunstein, IATSE Local 1 house head of stagehands describes the special allure of working inside “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
“The Pope doesn’t go many places — he came to us,” the 60-year-old New Jersey dad recently told LaborPress. “We get the biggest acts. You never have to go to work — [because] it’s fun.”
That fun, however, belies the incredible amount of expertise, commitment and dedication that goes into making people like the worldwide leader of 1.3 Catholics feel at home on 7th Avenue.
“We do more shows than probably any arena in the world,” Terry Dunleavy, assistant house head of stagehands says. “When [high-profile acts] are on the road and come into New York, they expect to get the high-end treatment that they get. They know we make their day pretty easy.”
The venerable building located atop Pennsylvania Station between 31st and 33rd streets, debuted back in 1968 and is unique in many ways.
“Where other arenas will have 300 yards to push gear out…we don’t have space,” the 56-year-old Dunleavy says. “Our trucks don’t back up to the stage — they’re five floors down.”
Logistics aside, the trade unionists also know that whether it’s Pope Francis, U2 or the 60th Anniversary Grammy Awards show, every production in their building must be unparalleled.
“It’s Madison Square Garden — it’s gotta look better than any of their productions that they do,” Braunstein says.
“It’s Madison Square Garden — it’s gotta look better than any of their productions that they do,” MSG Head of House Stagehands Adam Braunstein, IATSE Local 1
MSG’s house head of stagehands may not hesitate calling his arena crew “the finest in the country,” but simply knowing that is enough for him.
“My belief is we’ve should be like elves,” Braunstein says. “We’re not the show; we’re here to support the show and get it done quietly, efficiently and safely.”
That steadfast commitment to excellence demands a lot from working men and women, however. Dunleavy has spent 33 years at Madison Square Garden. A couple of years ago, his marriage ended under the stress.
“This business is a tremendous commitment,” Braunstein says. “And it’s very, very difficult to understand what that commitment actually is. We put in a lot of hours. It’s a sacrifice, but it’s worth it.”
When the Grammy Awards rolled into town this past year, the stagehands were once again presented with a Herculean task — but didn’t blink.
“It’s also a show that’s never rehearsed — it’s drawn on paper,” Dunleavy says. “It comes in, they hand us these plans and say, ‘Let’s make this work.’”
Despite the challenges, the New Jersey father of three has no compunctions about setting and maintaining the industry standard.
“When they come here, we set the standard for them to have the best experience with a labor union that they can possibly be had,” Dunleavy says.
Braunstein calls working at MSG, “the best job in the Local.”
“How we’re treated at Madison Square Garden is not at all in line with what’s happening in the Labor Movement today — we are very well treated, very well respected,” he says. “The management certainly understands what we do and appreciates everything that we do to help their clients and make sure their experience is one that is talked about.”