Wednesday, March 05, 2008

We need more Uncle Jerrys

photo by Henry Wagner

Bono's moving "We nearly lost a brother last night" tribute to Jerry Mele (the band's chief of security) the day after Jerry (like any good shepherd) proved willing to self-sacrificially "lay down his life for the sheep" is viewable as the intro to "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" in the PopMart DVD (but unfortunately edited out of this clip; though the emotion on the delivery of the song that night surely had much to do with it being a
prayer for Jerry)

Church has a lot to learn from "Uncle Jerry"...

who had to retire suddenly after being injured protecting the band and fans in that 1997 incident in Mexico City (see #17 here; more of the story here.)

Mele "earned a reputation in the touring industry as someone who did things differently. Better. He talked about the crowd as 'our kids' and told local security to work with the fans, not against them. This Vietnam special unit veteran believed it was better to talk to a troublemaker than to fight him. This was crazy, revolutionary stuff in the security industry!"
(Matt McGee). Respected as a beacon of kindness, and a mentor by those in the business.

He has a pastor's heart.
An avuncular apostle.

Thanks to St Matt for scoring this interview...
Exerpted from The @U2 Interview: Jerry Mele

Blessings to Jerry.

Matt: How are you feeling these days?

Jerry: Guess it depends on what day. Physically, I'm always in a fair amount of pain from the nerve damage, so I have to manage that. I work on keeping my health stabilized by walking several miles and working out every day so my muscles don't atrophy. Some days are easier than others. The main thing is I'm not giving in.

What's a typical day like?

Not what I'd like them to be since I'd rather be hanging with you kids somewhere on the road...
Most importantly, I get to hang out with my son, Sam, and his friends, go to his hockey games, baseball games and, whenever possible, take him to see some of the bands his ole man worked with.

What concerts have you guys seen?

We try to see most of the bands I worked for when they are in Phoenix: David Bowie, Michael Bolton, Slayer, Pat Benatar, Ozzy, Peter Frampton and, of course, U2. But other than that, it's just too frustrating. I can't help but watch what's going on with the security, how the fans are treated, all the details ... and I can't get involved. I'm powerless. And just imagine me trying to keep my mouth shut!

..You mentioned your book. Why are you writing your memoirs now?

After being out of the music industry for 10 years, I realize I was one lucky bastard to be in the business when it was fun, at the height of rock and roll when we made up some of the rules as we went along. I mean touring back then was like traveling with the circus. Now it's more like a business trip.

But mainly I want the book to be a tribute to you guys -- the fans and the bands I worked with for 20 years. I credit the music industry for helping me survive the aftermath of my deadly Vietnam special units experience. I used my special ops training to promote nonviolence instead of death and destruction, which has been my penance of sorts.

...How much will you talk about your work with U2 in the book?

Quite a bit. Since I worked with those guys for almost 10 years, there's no shortage of stories. Man, I burst out laughing half the time just thinking of all the fun we had. And they supported so many of my ideas that were all geared toward making the concerts safer and more fun for you guys. Just don't expect a lot of gossip or behind-the-scenes dirt. My legs may not work so great, but my integrity isn't broken.

...What do you think or hope your legacy is where concert security is concerned?

That I fought for the kids. Matt, if it wasn't for you guys, the fans, I mean -- you're what made me want to work as hard as I did. And when I say kids, I mean fans of any age.

With the support of the bands and their fans, we proved that good security doesn't have to include violence. And I believed in communication with respect and have 20 years of positive results to prove it works.
link to complete interview

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