Experience : Meeting Bono - Lightning Does Strike Twice - U2 Feedback

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Old 03-22-2003, 04:13 PM   #1
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Experience : Meeting Bono - Lightning Does Strike Twice

By Devlin Smith

Sometimes I forget that it happened - it’s become one of those events that’s just part of my life like graduating from high school or traveling abroad for the first time, every once in a while you have to remind yourself, “Yeah, that really did happen.” I’ll be zoning out at work, trying my best to come up with a really great lead for a story, and I’ll glance over, see the picture and I’m overcome with this giddiness, as I remember I met Bono.

I have had the honor, good fortune and pleasure of meeting Bono twice. Both times at his hotel in Los Angeles, both times as he was leaving for an awards ceremony, both times accompanied by my partner in U2 crime, my friend and co-worker Maggie.

February 27th, 2002 - Grammy Day, Los Angeles, California

(Me and Bono; Photo courtesy of Devlin Smith)

A VH-1 special gave me a pretty good idea of which hotel U2 uses while in LA. Last year’s Time magazine profile on Bono confirmed my suspicion. On Grammy day, Maggie and I took the day off work and drove to LA. As we neared the hotel, I still wasn’t sure if it was the one. Seeing a small group of girls camped outside made me feel more confident. We parked at a nearby shopping center and headed over. I asked one of the girls who they were waiting for, she didn’t answer but her U2 shirt gave me a clue.

One thing I’ve learned by standing out in front of hotels, lining up for book signings or whatever, you never, ever tell anyone why you’re waiting. People always ask and it may seem a little rude not to answer, or to give a smart-ass answer, but there’s a really good reason for this. If you’ve put so much effort into getting to this place, trying to meet your hero, you want other real fans to be there, not just people looking for an autograph, regardless of whose.

So, Maggie and I settled in with this group and began talking with Melissa, who is somewhat of a U2 fan legend. She has met all of U2 - Bono more times than she can remember. And most of the time when he sees her, he remembers her. She carries around this little photo album with pics of herself and the guys, starting with her first photo of Bono, taken when she was 17 and U2 was in the midst of ZooTV.

The afternoon seemed to go by quickly. I have no idea how long we were there because I rarely wear a watch, but we saw Ali Hewson go and come back from errands, saw sons John and Elijah leave on a car trip with their nanny, and watched a parade of stars that could only co-exist in Los Angeles - from Radiohead to Martin Landau.

As cheesy as it sounds, everything went into slow motion when Bono came walking out.
Two autograph hunters went to Bono straight away, having him sign posters that I knew were soon to surface on eBay. Bono sat himself down on a planter and smiled to all of us, motioning for everyone to join him. We all joined him.

Bono signed autographs for and took pictures with everyone there. We talked with him about the weather (it was 80 and clear in LA, very different from the slush permeating Dublin that same day), the Grammys (Bono said they had to get at least one, the band wouldn’t be able to return home empty-handed) and just made small talk.

Maggie lucked out and got two autographs, a flower and a self-portrait. I got a flower. When I went up to get my picture taken I said, “Our editors are going to be so jealous” to Bono, a completely true and horrifically lame opening line. Two of the editors at the magazine Maggie and I work for have been U2 fans forever but have never met the band; they were impressed and a little jealous that we had. Bono put his arm around me and said, “Oh yeah. Where do you work?” I told him, looking straight into those blue eyes as I do, those same blue eyes that mesmerized me in countless videos, and I lost the ability to hear.

Bono asked me a question, I could not hear him, and he gave me this really expectant look so I just said, “Yes,” and looked away. Maggie snapped the pic with me staring straight ahead and Bono looking down at me. I love that picture, although I still feel like a little bit of an idiot whenever I think about that day.

Bono stayed with us for a couple of minutes and then it was off to the Grammys with Ali, Paul and some associates. We all waved and wished them luck. As the car drove away, cell phones were produced and gushing, shrieking calls were made.

January 19th, 2003 - Golden Globe Awards, Los Angeles, California

Maggie drove to my house on Sunday, we both had cameras and Sharpie pens - she wanted her “Boy” sleeve signed, I had my first (and only) Propaganda. We parked in the same garage as last year and crossed the street to find a somewhat smaller crowd. This time I knew better than to ask who everyone was waiting for.

Melissa was there again, sharing her amazing stories and pictures. A few of the girls there were from out of town and had flown in to LA for the weekend hoping to meet Bono. Everyone was talking, finding out who had been there the longest and if there had been any sightings. I heard murmurs that Edge had been seen going into the hotel earlier. Edge? I turned to Maggie, wide-eyed, “You may need to punch me in the ribs.”
But for whatever reason he was there that day, just a few feet away.

Soon Bono came walking down the driveway. He paused at the planter he held court at last year and just looked across at the lineup, not sure if he should come over or invite us to him. He was straight across from Maggie and I, so out of some sort of insane bravery I yelled, “Hi!” and waved to him. He came right over to Maggie and I.

Originally I was going to have Bono sign the cover of my Propaganda, but when I found out he and Edge were on the premises, I flipped to their Q&As so they could sign their portraits. Bono glanced over the page for a few moments, I was hoping he would give me an original art piece, but he just signed it. He said, “It’s too bad this is coming to an end in a way,” I agreed but said the magazine looked really good (okay, we’re still dealing with baby steps, at least I could sort of converse with the man at this point).

Bono made his way down the line, pausing to look through Melissa’s photo album. He still had my pen in his hand, and as he talked with Melissa he calmly lifted her shirt and wrote “B.” on her stomach, then moved on down the line. Maggie wanted a picture with Bono so she followed after him, I just took in the scene.

I looked ahead and saw a thin figure with a black cap and black suit coming out of the hotel - it was Edge and Morleigh. They headed for their car, but I was determined to get him to come over. All he had to do was look my way and I could call out to him just like I did Bono, but it didn’t happen.

Back to Bono. He was flirting and posing, eating up all the adoration we girls were giving him. As he made his way down the line someone said something about his suit, he struck a little pose and said, “Don’t I look posh?” He absolutely did.

The two U2 cars, one for Bono and Paul McGuinness, the other for Edge and Morleigh, were starting up and it was time for Bono to go. He turned back, my pen still in his hand, and asked whose pen he was carrying. I told him it was mine and ran up to get it, praying that he would not throw it to me; I didn’t really feel like making a fumble and looking like a total idiot in front of Bono, or Edge. He handed me the pen, I said thank you for like the 12th time that afternoon, said good luck and he got into his car.

Paul and Bono waved to us as they drove away. We all shouted thank you and good luck a few more times. Morleigh rolled down her window and Edge leaned over to wave to all of us, his classic wave/thumbs up thing. Then they were off as well.

Two times meeting Bono really isn’t enough. One hundred times meeting Bono probably isn’t either. He’s an amazing person, unlike anyone else I’ve ever met in my life. When you’re face-to-face with Bono, that’s it, no one else matters at the point. He listens, he’s interested, he really cares.

I know it sounds ridiculous for someone as famous and powerful as Bono to care about a handful of fans, but I truly believe he does. How many other celebrities, regardless of status, would consistently make time to greet fans? Beyond that, how many remember the fans they have met? Bono does.

On February 11th, the Academy Award nominations are announced, Maggie and I are banking on a nomination for U2. We’re ready to spend another day in front of the hotel to wish Bono more luck and to see if we can meet the other guys, because at the Oscars the whole band performs.

And I’m bringing my Propaganda with me again, ever the optimist I have space saved for Edge, Adam and Larry.

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Old 03-26-2003, 09:27 PM   #2
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