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A Chance Encounter

February 17, 2017

There are times when I miss having a studio in downtown Portland. Cities have a pulse that suburbs lack. Pioneer Square is Portland’s living room, a fun spot in the center of the city to watch people and soak up rays if it happens to be a rare sunny day. While strolling across the square I’ve encountered sandcastle contests, Cultural Fairs, Irish dancing, religious fanatics and political activists. When Bill Clinton was president I saw him and Hillary at Pioneer Square.


One sunny afternoon years ago I happened to be crossing the square when I saw a good looking young guy playing a guitar. Guys playing guitars aren’t a rarity in downtown Portland so at first I didn’t think much about him. He sat on a battered metal stool, his guitar plugged in to a portable amplifier. I know precious little about music but it didn’t take long for me to realize he was an accomplished musician.


There weren’t any chairs or benches from which to enjoy his music so I just stood there, listening. Others passed without stopping. I reached for my wallet to give him a few bucks, but noticeably absent was an open guitar case to toss money into. There was something familiar about this fellow. As a portrait artist I remember faces, and I was certain I’d seen him before, perhaps in magazines or on television.


I smiled at him when he paused between songs. That was when it dawned on me who he was, but was it possible? Why would he be performing for free in downtown Portland? This guy filled stadiums and probably earned more in a few weeks than I would in my entire life.  


I was struck by how happy he looked, playing his music in anonymity; his face was well-known and it was hard imagining him strolling about in public without being noticed, without people pointing at him and asking for an autograph. But no one paid him any attention, except me. He deserved a bigger, more appreciative audience—auditoriums packed with the adoring fans he was accustomed to.


Most of you probably enjoy contemporary music more than me, and I’d wager many of you would have recognized him long before I did. Here’s a picture of him I pulled from the Internet.





The fellow I met that day was Jon Bon Jovi, and for half an hour he treated me to a private concert. I have no idea why he was there, unannounced, without an entourage or backup musicians. I wasn’t familiar enough with his work to know if he was trying out new material and wanted an honest audience reaction.


After a while I returned to my studio, but I always remember the time I was treated to a private concert by a world class musician.


Have you had an unexpected encounter with a celebrity?  




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Nothing 1/10 as cool as that!
By: cranky on February 17, 2017
What a wonderful chance encounter!!
By: fishducky on February 17, 2017
What a terrific concert! As a reporter I was lucky to meet famous and powerful and even infamous people, but a chance encounter with Walter Cronkite was a favorite. Late one evening after night session of a national political convention a couple of us sought shelter in a bar. It was late enough the place was about empty. A couple of guys were sitting at the bar. The three of us took up seats and one of the gentlemen turned and said "you look like working stiffs, let me buy you a drink." He extended his hand and said "I'm Walter Cronkite and I've been working too."
By: Tom Cochrun on February 17, 2017
No- not that I can recall. What a wonderful treat that day for you! One never knows what is around the corner! Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on February 17, 2017
That's so cool! Thank goodness you recognized him before you gave him money. Too bad more people didn't. They missed meeting a star! I used to live in NYC, where a ton of celebrities live (like DeNiro), but I never saw a star in person.
By: Lexa Cain on February 17, 2017
I do appreciate Jon Bon Jovi's talent, but I've never been a fan because he seems to not need me to adore him. He's got himself.
By: Mitchell is Moving on February 17, 2017
I thought for sure you'd say it was Elvis. But still pretty cool.
By: PT Dilloway on February 17, 2017
Well isn't that fun!?! The Hues Corporation played a prank on me once, behind a radio station. Then again, they might be too obscure for you or your readers.
By: Kelly on February 17, 2017
I once had lunch at a table for 8 with Jackie Gleason but it wasn't a pleasant experience. He was a mean drunk--not to me but to his girlfriend. I like your story so much for your celebrity didn't disappoint. Kudos to Bon Jovi.
By: Arkansas Patti on February 17, 2017
I was going over a script with my reporter in a men's room at a political convention when a guy stepped and asked if he could use the sink. I glanced him and said "Woodward?" He responded with a smile "Nope, Bernstein." Then while he washed his hands I went on preparing my reporter, no longer paying any attention to the celeb in our midst. Too little time until deadline.
By: Catalyst on February 17, 2017
OMG Can't believe you got to hear Jon Bon Jovi up close!! I'm so jealous!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on February 17, 2017
Wow. Now that's a cool story. I would definitely have loved to have a moment like that. No chance encounters with a celebrity for this guy. But there's still time. Take care.
By: Mr. Shife on February 17, 2017
While i've met a few local celebrities, no one so famous as that. Maybe he just wanted to play.
By: messymimi on February 17, 2017
Wow - how cool is that! I have no idea if I've ever encountered a celebrity. Chances are if I did, I wouldn't recognize him or her. I have to admit I wouldn't have recognized Jon Bon Jovi.
By: Pixel Peeper on February 17, 2017
I've never been lucky enough to run into a star like you did. On the other hand you do run into some pretty good musicians.
By: red Kline on February 17, 2017
That is so cool. What a great memory to have tucked away! Nope on your question :)
By: jenny_o on February 17, 2017
Cool story. My celebrity was not quite that famous, not quite that cool. I once opened the front door of my childhood home to find Jim Hart, quarterback of the St. Louis football Cardinals, standing on the front porch. Yeah. So long ago that St. Louis still had a football team. And that team was the Cardinals.
By: Val on February 17, 2017
I wonder why he was just standing there playing and singing, how weird, but cool for you too. And even stranger that no one recognised him as he is so well known.
By: LL Cool Joe on February 18, 2017
I'm amazed that no one else recognized him. I've spoken to a few celebrities, but no encounter was unexpected. On one occasion the amount of attention the celebrity paid to me was unexpected. A number of years ago we saw Bon Jovi in concert in Chicago. They played for three hours! It was a great concert. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on February 18, 2017
Local celebrities, Terry Fox, some NHL players... oh and Jesus too. When I was seventeen some friends and I travelled to New York city. I saw Jesus preaching on a few street corners.
By: Daniel LaFrance on February 18, 2017
Cool story. I've read that Bono and Sinead O'Connor have busked in Dublin with Glen Hansard with similar results ... at least at first, but I think they eventually drew a crowd.
By: Tom Sightings on February 18, 2017
Part of the soundtrack to my adolescent years. This guy can rock! :-) Great encounter. Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on February 18, 2017
Wow! I love Bon Jovi. He was here in Alabama this week. He didn't lose his edge as he aged. I would have loved to have been there with you then. R
By: Rick Watson on February 18, 2017
Oh my, I would have loved to see the guy in the flesh. I imagine he wasn't recognised because nobody expected to see a celebrity there.
By: Valerie Daggatt on February 19, 2017
That would be amazing! I read about a concert violinist that performed, with a Stradivarius yet, in one of the subway stations by the Met. It was a test to see who would register that he was a star performer. He earned about 4$, and no one recognized him. So you are lucky, and obviously have an excellent eye. Cat, who is mildly jealous...
By: Cat on February 19, 2017
That speaks volumes about him - what a humble soul he was. And the fact that you were the one to intersect with his path and notice, and share this story. It's all awesome. My family sat behind Ray Boldger (the Scarecrow) at a show at Universal Studios. Afterwards, we asked if he'd be in photos. He readily agreed, and was the most warm-loving, humble celebrity I'd ever met.
By: Robyn Engel on February 19, 2017
How cool!
By: The Bug on February 21, 2017

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