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The Influences on Our Taste : BONO HEWSON : 'Life Is Always the Best Inspiration'

December 20, 1987|ROBERT HILBURN

This is Calendar's third annual listing of Taste Makers, individuals who have brought a distinct focus to 1987 and who we feel will continue to influence the world of arts and entertainment long after this year passes. They were selected not so much for specific contributions in their respective fields but because they are clearly creative forces who move and shape taste. They were interviewed to find out what kinds of influences have moved and shaped them.

We've selected these eight individuals to reflect a broad range of creative work, though each year we try to vary the disciplines. For instance, in 1985 we interviewed architect Arata Isozaki, composer Philip Glass and restaurateur Alice Waters, among others. Last December, the group included choreographer Mark Morris, jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown.

What follows, we hope, is a look at the thinking behind some of this year's brightest creators and commentators . . . 1987's Taste Makers.

This project was edited by David Fox, assistant Calendar editor.

Lead singer and chief lyricist for the Irish band U2. Keeps taking rock subjects in new directions.

"I saw the movie 'Blue Velvet' and found it fascinating . . . the way David Lynch juxtaposes two kinds of reality," Bono Hewson says, sitting in the bedroom of a West Hollywood hotel bungalow that he shared with the three other members of U2 during the Irish band's recent two-day stand that attracted more than 135,000 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

"But I'm more interested in the theater than movies these days. As people tire of what movie making has become--the way everything has to be a home run, filled with special effects, I think they will find the intimacy and spontaneity of the theater more and more stimulating. The size of the theater doesn't matter.

"I saw (Sam Shepard's) 'Fool for Love' in this small town in the south of Ireland, and the theater was no bigger than someone's kitchen. They turned up the heat so that you would get the feeling of being on the Mojave Desert, where the play was set. Pretty soon, people were sweating so much they started taking off their shirts. It was the most imaginative guerrilla theater you could imagine."

The theater connection makes sense. Hewson was known early in U2's career for dramatic, unexpected gestures on stage--including such antics as leaping from a second-story balcony at a 1983 show at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, a move he now regrets as reckless. It was his way of trying to break down the barrier between audience and performer.

"I always thought U2 used the stage in an aggressive way, not just a passive way," he explains. "We accepted that by being on stage didn't mean you had to stay on stage . . . that you could get off of it. I'd love to see actors leave the stage more often. I am writing a play at the moment with a friend and in the play a character will actually be very physical with the front rows."

Hewson, 27, walks over to two huge leather suitcases and unbuckles one of them and begins taking out some of the more than two dozen books. Unlike most musicians, he doesn't feel being on the road for weeks at a time interferes with creativity.

"I've heard a lot of musicians complain about being on the road because everything is so hectic that they can't get any songwriting done or find any time for themselves," he says. "But I find just the opposite is true. One of the things I value most about being on the road--believe it or not--is the privacy.

"You may be on stage at night in front of 50,000 or 75,000 people, yet most of your day is spent in isolation . . . in a hotel room or on a bus or on a plane. That's when you do your writing or reading. That's why I carry this big case with me."

Hewson takes out some of the books he has been reading on the tour. They range from collections of poetry by American Indians and W.J. Cash's sociological study, "The Mind of the South" to "The Moviegoer," the Walker Percy novel about a young man who only finds reality on the movie screen, and collections of plays by Tennessee Williams and Sam Shepard.

Hewson opens the other suitcase and takes out compact discs. There's a smattering of jazz (Miles Davis), country (Willie Nelson), gospel, '50s rock (Elvis Presley). Instead of young rival bands, the rock albums tend to be by veteran artists, especially Bob Dylan and Hewson's countryman Van Morrison.

"I am finding my heroes are all older men at the moment," he says. "I love Bob Dylan's music, and I'm not talking about Dylan of the '60s, but Dylan today. I went to sleep last night listening to Morrison's 'Poetic Champions Compose.' It's a great record. Listening to their work shows you just how much room there is in rock 'n' roll."

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