Jersey boys: Chris Christie's unrequited love for Bruce Springsteen

We are in a luxury suite at the Prudential Center—the Rock—in downtown Newark, the sort of suite accessible only to the American plutocracy, from which Springsteen seems to draw a surprisingly large proportion of his most devoted fans. (I know of three separate groups of one-percenters who recently flew in private jets to see Springsteen perform at Madison Square Garden.) Certainly not many residents of Newark could afford such a box, and the shrimp and steak that come with it. Christie’s bodyguards from the New Jersey State Police—he will sometimes play aloud on his iPhone Springsteen’s haunting and paranoid “State Trooper” while being driven by state troopers—keep the governor out of the cheap seats, where he says he’d rather be. Of course, he’s not opposed to upmarket seating and grilled shrimp—he’s a vociferous free-marketeer, who, for good reason, is a hero to the hedge-fund grandees across the river. He just likes mixing it up with his constituents, several of whom, by the smell of it, are enjoying high-quality New Jersey marijuana right below us…

Despite heroic efforts by Christie, Springsteen, who is still a New Jersey resident, will not talk to him. They’ve met twice—once on an airplane in 1999, and then at the 2010 ceremony inducting Danny DeVito into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, where they exchanged only formal pleasantries. (Christie does say that Springsteen was very kind to his children.) At concerts, even concerts in club-size venues—the Stone Pony, in Asbury Park, most recently—Springsteen won’t acknowledge the governor. When Christie leaves a Springsteen concert in a large arena, his state troopers move him to his motorcade through loading docks. He walks within feet of the stage, and of the dressing rooms. He’s never been invited to say hello. On occasion, he’ll make a public plea to Springsteen, as he did earlier this spring, when Christie asked him to play at a new casino in Atlantic City. “He says he’s for the revitalization of the Jersey Shore, so this seems obvious,” Christie told me. I asked him if he’s received a response to his request. “No, we got nothing back from them,” he said unhappily, “not even a ‘Fuck you.’”…

Christie isn’t surprised by Springsteen’s snub. He is, after all, a Republican, and Bruce Springsteen is known as an enemy of Republicans. Christie has cut taxes, demonized the teachers unions, and slashed spending on social services. Springsteen makes it clear he believes that the wealthy should pay to fix the tears in the social safety net. He doesn’t seem to care that Christie is the sort of Republican many Democrats find appealing, or that Christie breaks left on such issues as Islamophobia (he stood up for a Muslim judicial appointee under specious attack for attempting, his critics said, to turn New Jersey into a Sharia state—if you can imagine such a thing) and drug-law enforcement (he is campaigning for a new law that would divert nonviolent drug offenders away from prison and toward treatment). But Springsteen seems actively uninterested in engaging with Christie. When I asked to interview Springsteen about Christie, his people gave me the brush-off…

“You want to know what he’s saying?,” Christie asks. “He’s telling us that rich people like him are fucking over poor people like us in the audience, except that us in the audience aren’t poor, because we can afford to pay 98 bucks to him to see his show. That’s what he’s saying.”