October 30, 2009
The life of a journalist brings many disappointments, but in my life, this one takes the cake as the worst.
I’d been on the road for nearly two weeks following the U2 tour. I started in Las Vegas and ended in New York City, where the band was scheduled to perform as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s historic 25th Anniversary concerts.
My @U2 boss (Matt) had requested a press pass for me and been denied. Most of the time we’re granted access, but for something this large we knew it was only a “maybe” at best.
I accepted the response and as a “plan B,” I was going to purchase a public ticket to get into the show. We already had one correspondent inside, so the worst that could happen was that I wouldn’t find a ticket to buy and would have to stand outside to hear the music. It wouldn’t be ideal, but it would be better than nothing.
I got a text from Matt that morning saying that fans had just reported seeing U2 go into rehearsals at Madison Square Garden, so I headed over to the venue.
I saw Mick Jagger and the Black Eyed Peas outside the venue. and The Edge drove past us in an SUV (on his way out). After freezing for about three hours, I elected to go back to the hotel and get some lunch/dinner.
I scarfed down a salad from a nearby place and began scanning the Internet for show tickets. Most of them announced that sellers would be outside the venue, so I decided it would be best to draw some cash out of a nearby ATM and get down there.
I dolled up in my favorite Edun dress, put my hair in a professional ponytail and sealed the deal with red lipstick. One subway ride later, I was there.
As usual, the energy at the venue was palpable. People were bursting with joy at the prospect of what they were about to see and I was dying to be a part of it. I approached two scalpers, but their prices were more than double the face value and I only had about $50 over face value to spare.
The lights in the lobby began blinking—everyone was headed inside, and I was about to cry. As tears welled up at the thought of standing out there in the cold all night, my tiny little Samsung flip phone, which was low on batteries, rang. It was Matt: They had granted me a last-minute press pass.
I jolted into action and headed next door to Borders (RIP), where I purchased a notebook and a pen (the only things I had on me were cash and a camera). Next, I had instructions to report to the press tent. There I was given my press pass and literally escorted onto the elevator that took me straight to a floor that was only for the media. There were guards waiting at the elevator to check my pass.
Once I got inside, the mood was awesome—everyone was talking to each other (not always the case in these competitive situations), and the Rock Hall provided a lovely spread of food and hot coffee for us.
Each time a celebrity would approach for interviews, they’d give us a heads up of about five minutes. In between those times, we were free to watch the concert on our nearby monitor or head into the audience on our level and watch it live.
The stars milling around in the hallway made my head spin: Will.I.am, Metallica and others. I could’ve kicked myself when I went into the restroom and a fellow writer told me that Michael J. Fox (my first celebrity crush as a child) had just ducked in to our press room and said “hi.” My timing couldn’t have been worse.
But that was okay, because the interview of my life would soon take place (so I thought).
One by one I would marvel at all the folks who came in to speak with us. Annie Lennox was among the first, and she was so passionate and inspiring. Her work at the time was to dispel the negative thoughts associated with sufferers of HIV, so she wore a shirt that would make some believe she had it (though she didn’t). Aretha Franklin was delivered via wheelchair, but stood at the podium strongly when we asked her questions (I remember her saying that she wanted to work with Will.i.am). Ozzy Osbourne commiserated with other fathers at the thought of his baby Kelly getting married (lucky for him that wedding never took place). Jeff Beck and Little Steven were more humble than I thought they should be, given their years of delivering amazing music.
The whole time this was going on, my stomach was flip-flopping and my boss was texting me questions to ask U2 from our other staff members and readers. My excitement level on a scale of 1 – 10 was about a 35.
The best part is that when I told other media who I was representing, they all thought it was so cool I was dedicated to just one band. I helped them fact check stories they’d already begun writing about U2 (as I’m a bit of a walking dictionary in that sense); they were going to help me be sure to get at least one question in (they knew it would mean more to my audience than any of theirs). I’ll never forget that feeling of kinship. I was in Madison Square Garden surrounded by notable journalists who were treating me as one of their own.
And then it happened.
As U2 were wrapping up their performance, we were all collecting ourselves for their arrival. Writers began easing toward the first few rows of chairs; photographers began turning on the lights of their cameras.
The Rock Hall reps emerged and announced that U2 would not be coming into the press room. Apparently the band had somewhere to be directly following the show.
I had immediate flashbacks to 2005 when I stood on VH1’s red carpet all night waiting for their arrival only to be told they weren’t coming.
Was New York my bad luck charm, or was I just not meant to interact with this band?
I still don’t know the answer, but I cried a lot that night once I was safely out of range of the venue.