Well, maybe not the VERY best day of my ENTIRE life.... but damned close! I was a very, very Lucky Girlie today. I met Jon Bon Jovi. Really MET him. As in talked to him for a couple minutes. Told him my name, a little about myself. And he remembered my name. *sigh* Here's how it happened.
I live and work in the Washington DC area. Several weeks ago when I heard about Jon's scheduled participation in the USA Network's Characters Unite Town Hall, I started researching the event. I thought it would be interesting to attend, not just because JBJ would be there (though that's what initially caught my attention) but because I find the Characters Unite campaign quite innovative, and I love a good political discussion.
NOTE: Full disclosure -- I'm a PoliSci GEEK. Have Bachelors' and Masters' degrees in Political Science, as well as in Criminal Justice. Yep, full-on Social Science NERD.
When I saw the lineup of panelists, I couldn't resist. Not only JBJ, but Tom Brokaw (moderator), Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Columnist Kathleen Parker, Secretary Max Cleland, Rep. Xavier Becerra, Politico White House Correspondent Mike Allen, Dr. Michael Dyson... and the list goes on. Some All-Stars of PoliSci Nerddom, to be sure. So I started placing calls to my various contacts about town. It took some doing, but finally I got my name on the list for this invitation-only event. God, am I glad I did.
I showed up at the Newseum a half-hour early, a little nervous and slightly shaky. Murphy's Law is no stranger to me, so I wanted to be sure to have plenty of time to straighten out any problems should my name not appear on "The List." No such worries. I was ushered right in, straight to the check-in table, issued my credential, checked my coat, and headed in to the reception room. There I mingled for a very few minutes, then headed to the taping room to find my seat.
My contact was VERY good to me. Third row, aisle seat, right center of stage. About 25 feet from the chair on the dais with the placecard that read "Jon Bon Jovi." SWEET.
I pulled out my Blackberry to type a quick message to a friend, and suddenly found my hands were shaking so badly I couldn't push the buttons. I had to take a DEEP breath, blow it out, and try again. Finally I was able to complete the task.
Sidebar - In DC EVERYBODY is on their Crackberry ALL the time, so nobody noticed. Everyone else in the room was glued to their own little glowing screen.
I killed the 15 or so minutes before air time with a few messages, then listened as the girls sitting in the row in front of me were sternly told that no photography would be allowed during the taping, as official photographers would be recording the event. Dammit. I turned off my Blackberry and left my camera in its case.
At 10:00 (start time), two women strolled past me down the small aisle and slipped into seats in the front row. Had no idea who one was; the other was Dorothea Bongiovi. Little butterflies started in my tummy. Holy Crap, HE'S REALLY HERE!
About 10 minutes past official start time, we started. We had an introduction by Dule' Hill (Charlie from West Wing), USA VP Bonnie Hammer, then Tom Brokaw came out. He talked a bit about the Town Hall and his new documentary, then showed us a short preview. (Looks GREAT!)
Then the moment most of the people in the room were waiting for... Mr. Brokaw introduced the panel. Sixth in line, JBJ himself. Dressed all in black, blonde hair shining under the lights, looking very dignified, serious, and scholarly. No usual wave and megawatt smile as he bounds onto the stage, like on Conan or Fallon or Leno. This was CEO JBJ. Soul Foundation JBJ. A man with something serious to say. Lord, what a turn-on. *growl*
Immediately the room was filled with hundreds of *clicks* as every woman in the place, and half the guys, started taking pictures. I whipped out my camera, turned off the flash, and did the same, warnings about "no photography" be damned! No way in HELL was I missing out on THIS photo opportunity!
The rest of the panel followed, then all took their seats. Mr. Brokaw launched into the moderation with the polished skill of... well, Tom Brokaw. Seriously. There's no one better in the biz.
One by one the panelists addressed the opening questions asked of them, each in his or her area of expertise. Jon listened intently, brow furrowed and little frown or pout on his lips, depending on what he was thinking. He was holding a folder (the only one on stage with something in his lap), and he fidgeted with it throughout. Oh my God, I thought. He actually looks... nervous! Turns out he was... but we'll get to that in a moment.
Finally Jon got the chance to answer his question, about artists and musicians and involvement in various causes. He had a great answer, and he talked a little about Bob Dylan, which was really cool. He seemed to relax a bit, but there was still a little edge to his voice. He still wasn't really at ease.
Once each panelist answered an opening question, Mr. Brokaw started guiding the discussion to various topics about the state of life in America. Jon didn't say a lot; he did talk a little about his kids and how he is proud that they don't look at other people and see black, white, Hispanic, Asian... they see people. There were a lot of nods all around at that, from panelists and audience alike. He threw in a couple little comments here and there, but mostly he listened and frowned and nodded, and looked off at the back of the room, like he was trying really hard to concentrate on what was going on. There were a few times he cracked a smile, including one adorable grin, but it only happened a couple times.
The only exception was that, every once in a while, he'd glance over at Dorothea and the corners of his mouth would twitch upward ever so slightly. I don't know if anyone else saw it or not. I was looking for it. It was quite sweet.
There were some quite funny moments in the discussion once it got rolling, with Writer/Activist David Mixner, who is VERY openly gay, commenting on how fabulous Dorothea looked, stating "And I should know! I'm Gay!" Later Dr. Dyson responded that he noticed how beautiful Dot looked too, and HE should know because he's NOT Gay! Jon looked pretty darned proud at that, I must say, LOL!
Dr. Dyson also got Jon to loosen up a bit when he started analogizing public perception of race with music, talking about "Brother Bon Jovi" going from hair metal band to hard rock band to pop band to grunge band" (yeah, he didn't quite have that right), and quoting Alfred Lord Tennyson and Jay-Z in the same breath. It was pretty funny. And a very eloquent way to make a point.
After about an hour and a half of moderated discussion, the floor was opened for questions. Four high school students from across the U.S., who had won contests to attend the Town Hall taping, were allowed to present their questions to the panel. Jon didn't answer any of them, but he was very sweet in making eye contact and giving each student an encouraging little smile. Considering he was sitting RIGHT in front of them, dead-center, next to Tom Brokaw, that was the least he could do. I was lucky enough to be RIGHT behind the microphone stand, so I could look straight past the students at him.
After the students asked their questions, the floor was opened for questions from the audience. I took a deep breath... and raised my hand. And (HOLY CRAP!) I was the first person called upon by Mr. Brokaw. Out of nowhere, a microphone was thrust into my hand. Please God, don't let me screw this up...
I stood, glanced at Jon, then immediately looked away so my brain didn't freeze up. I introduced myself, hoping I wasn't squeaking like a guinea pig, and started to talk. I commented that I am both a military and law enforcement veteran, and that I appreciated the discussion the panel had on those topics earlier. I couldn't resist glancing at Jon, and saw those blue eyes staring intently STRAIGHT AT ME. HOLY CRAP!
I took another breath, looked at the other side of the dais, and started to ask my question. For those of you who care, it went something like this... "We talk a lot about our cities. There are certainly many problems to solve there, be it education or housing or whatever... but the majority of this country is made up of small towns and rural areas. Those communities face the same or greater problems as cities and often don't have access to resources or services to help them solve their problems. Often these communities are ethnically homogenous (yes, I used a big word). How do we overcome the obstacles of increasing understanding and tolerance of diversity in small-town America?"
No, I didn't write it out. That shit just rolled right off my tongue. Thank You Political Science degrees... See, Mom? TOLD YOU it wasn't a useless major... Then I sat down (on my Wonder Woman notebook and camera, which I had laid in my chair) and about fell OFF my chair when half the panel said "Good Question!" HOLY CRAP!
First Mr. Henderson answered, then Mr. Brokaw, then Ms. Parker. I really wanted to look at Jon, but considering all these other people were looking DIRECTLY AT ME and there was a camera in my face, I had to maintain eye contact with them. It was the polite and professional thing to do. (Dammit!)
Finally, what seemed like an hour later but probably more like 5-7 minutes, the panel moved on to the next question, from a young woman on the other side of the room. I exhaled, looked back at Jon, and just as I did he turned his head and looked straight at me. Our eyes met for just a brief moment, I smiled, and he gave a little half-smile and looked back at the girl with the microphone. I just about melted into a big puddle, right there on the floor. GAH!
But it gets better.
After the second question from the audience, Mr. Brokaw wrapped up the meeting. We all applauded, then everyone stood and started to mill about. Jon talked to several of the other panelists for a couple minutes, then stepped down off the dais and walked over to Dorothea. He gave her a little smile and reached out and squeezed her hand (AWW!). Then he started to walk up the aisle, RIGHT TOWARD ME.
I gulped, smiled what I hope wasn't a goofy/creepy/stalkery smile, held out my hand, and introduced myself. He stepped up, gave me a beautiful smile, and took my hand. OH. MY. FREAKIN' GOD. His hand was VERY soft. He said "Nice to meet you. So, you're the gun-toter, huh?" He had a little sparkle in those blue -- and I mean BLUE -- eyes, and the little lines crinkled at the corners. I giggled or chuckled or choked or something, and said something like "used to be, back in my glory days." He laughed at that, then asked me what I do now. I told him I work for the State Department, and he said "Oh, you work for Mrs. C, huh?" I nodded and said yes, then he complimented me on my question *swoon* and thanked me for being "involved" in the event. (I guess begging your way onto the guest list is being "involved", LOL!). I thanked him for his work with the Soul Foundation and his other projects, then said hi to Dorothea and shook her hand, and they moved on.
As I stood there dumbstruck Jon & Dot slipped out the back of the room. After a couple minutes I was able to move, and I wandered up to the front of the room where I talked to Dule' Hill and Cory Booker (who is VERY funny), then made my way through the crowd, headed for the stairs to the luncheon room. I stepped out into the lobby, which was almost empty, and froze.
Jon and Dorothea were standing in the lobby, chatting with the other woman who had sat with Dorothea in the front row. She seemed to be some sort of a personal assistant. As I started to walk past I heard Jon say "I think it went pretty well, I didn't look like too much of an idiot, did I?" or words to that effect. I had to stifle a chuckle at that. He really HAD been nervous. (NOTE: See Hath's blog for details of his open-mike comment...)
I hesitated and thought Well, it's now or never.... and pulled out my camera. I turned toward Jon and Dot and stopped about 5 feet away, and just stood quietly for a minute. Dorothea noticed me and gave me a little smile. Jon saw her look at me, then turned his head my way too. "I'm sorry to interrupt," I said meekly, "But would you mind if I got a picture?" Jon gave me a BIG smile and said "Sure!" and held out his arm. EEEP!
Dorothea offered to take the camera, so I handed it to her and moved over to Jon. He slipped his arm around my waist, I slipped mine around his, and we leaned in to each other and looked at the camera. He said "Smile, Cate," that rough, sexy voice right next to my ear. *swoon* And believe me, smile I DID! (I still haven't stopped.)
It was absolutely surreal... and let me tell you, the man smells GOOD. Don't know what his cologne was, but it was just.... GAH. The smell of pure sin, I tell you. Dot took the pic, and when she lowered the camera Jon said "You sure you got that?" to her, apparently because the flash didn't go off. I didn't even notice -- I was already seeing stars.
Okay, so it's not the greatest photo, and I look like a blithering idiot, but who cares? I wasn't gonna critique Dot's photography skills when she let me grope her husband!!!
Dot handed the camera back to me. I thanked her and turned to Jon and thanked him again. Then I said something about "see ya on tour," and he gave me another big smile. He asked if I'd heard the "new record" (I love it that he still calls them "records"), and I said yes, I loved it. He said "Well Thank You!" still with a big smile. He told me he'd see me on the road, then I shook his hand again, and Dot's, thanked them both again, then headed for the stairs.
How I made it up the stairs to the luncheon I have NO IDEA.
Jon & Dot didn't stay for the luncheon -- apparently they had to get back to Jersey. I had a great time there, and was completely awed when Tom Brokaw came over to ME and told me he really liked my question. Then he stood and continued his answer for another 10 minutes, LOL! Later Mike Allen (Politico) came over and gave me a pat on the back, as did Kathleen Parker and Dr. Christine Sierra. Dr. Sierra was VERY cool -- she's a Political Science professor, so we did Geek-Talk for about the next 20 minutes.
Finally, after the luncheon was over, I claimed my coat and stepped onto the elevator -- and found myself again with Tom Brokaw and Kathleen Parker. We chatted on the way to the main floor, then they headed out into the rain, to their chauffeured Town Cars. I practically floated out of the Newseum and back out to real life.
It still seems surreal. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As much as I love to see Bon Jovi in concert, to watch Jon perform, to do what he does, IMO, better than any other Frontman on earth, today was AMAZING. I saw Jon Bon Jovi the Man. Watching him in an environment where he was not in control or completely comfortable was fascinating. He was quite humble, very down-to-earth, and extremely gracious, as was Dorothea. He was exactly as I've always hoped I would find him to be, if I were ever lucky enough to meet him. He really is a Good Guy... as he would say, "warts and all."
NOTE: The Characters Town Hall was webcast on passtheball.com If you missed it, you can go to the site and watch it in "online events".