As a kid, Anthony Crivello darted around the stands at Milwaukee County Stadium like a little Phantom.
“I’m here!” “I’m here!” and “I’m here!”
This was during the 1960s glory days of the Green Bay Packers. Crivello, who as the lead in “Phantom -- Las Vegas Spectacular” helped the show celebrate its 2,000th performance at The Venetian on Tuesday night, grew up in Milwaukee. The city remains Packer territory, and for many years, County Stadium served as one of the home fields for the Packers.
“The team was trying to expand its fan base in Wisconsin, so half of its home games were played at County Stadium,” Crivello recalls while sitting for his hourlong makeup session before taking the stage as the caped, tortured oddity. “Fortunately, my father knew someone who could get us free tickets to the game.”
These were usually not real tickets that would provide Crivello and his father, Vincent, and brother, Frank, actual seats to the game. Vincent Crivello had befriended a man who took tickets at the gates leading into County Stadium.
The guy was a customer at a gas station Vincent owned near the stadium. Over time, on the weeks when no seats were available (which was often in the days the Packers were winning NFL championship games and the first two Super Bowls), the two worked out a system where the elder Crivello would be informed of the color of the ticket to that Sunday’s game. If it were red, the Crivellos would bring thin cardboard slips to the man’s station. He would tear those slips and allow the three Crivellos entrance to the stadium, where they would roam the perimeter until they found an area where they could satisfactorily view the field.
“It was standing room a lot of the time,” he says as a black silk cap is fitted over his head. “I mean, half the time we had real tickets, but other times, this guy was literally saying, ‘Just show up at the gate, and the ticket is going to be red.’ And we’d go and get some red cardboard paper and cut it out so it would look like a ticket. If he couldn’t get a real ticket, he’d tear these, and instead of dropping them into the ticket box, he’d drop them to the ground.”
Thus, the Crivellos were treated to games played by one of the mythic teams in NFL history.
“This was during the early 1960s, and up to that point, the Packers had gone through some terribly lean years,” Crivello says as a black silk cap is fitted over his head. “But then (Vince) Lombardi came in, and we saw Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Jerry Kramer, all the greats of that time. We saw virtually every Packer game played in Milwaukee up through when Lombardi left the team.”
It was a different era. Gaining such access today is phantom concept.
“The waiting list at Lambeau Field is I don’t know how many thousand for season tickets,” Crivello says as glue is dabbed on his forehead in preparation for the rubberized Phantom prosthetic facial abnormalities. “Season tickets are grandfathered to family members and are extremely hard to come by.”
And, of course, County Stadium itself was demolished a decade ago, almost to the day, on Feb. 8, 2001.
One of the city’s more accurate football handicappers (he’s usually a contender in the Sun’s celebrity NFL handicapping contest), Crivello still follows the Pack from Vegas. Asked for a prediction for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLV, he plays it close to the cape.
“I’m hopeful,” he says. “I don’t want to say anything more than that. I would hate to jinx my team.”
Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.