Two years ago today, I saw my first NKOTB show and met Jon for the time. I wrote this blog the day after the show. I sound so different back then – so naive and clueless. Have a read!
I’m home. I’m sore. I’m exhausted. I’m blissfully happy.
The story of how I met Jonathan started Friday in Denver when one of my friends met him. Again, he was given a printed copy of the blog I wrote about how he changed my life (see the very first blog on my page). She told me (while I was sitting in the Salt Lake airport waiting for my wheelchair) that he remembered that someone else had given him that blog about two weeks before and he said, “Oh yeah, I know who she is,” and he told the friend that he had read my profile. I don’t remember if she said that he had read any blogs or not because as soon as she quoted him as saying, “Oh yeah, I know who she is,” it was like I went into a daze and I was trying to look composed because a United Airlines employee was about four feet away from me. She told me that he said I should find Robo or Zach, but try to find Zach more, and tell them my name and that I could get in to see him. I found out all of this only twenty minutes after landing in Salt Lake.
So we hurried through the airport and right as we got outside, the shuttle for our hotel showed up. It was fate, I’m telling you. There were two other girls in the shuttle who were going to the concert too. I was getting texts from Megan about where to go and stuff like that and we got to the buses by 2:30. Apparently, Robo had been outside about ten minutes before Megan got there and then they saw Donnie leave in a white van with a girl that he had been seen with at the Cracker Barrel earlier that morning. NKOTB fans really should work for the CIA.
My first Jonathan sighting happened about ten or twenty minutes after I got to the gates where the buses were parked. I’m 90% sure it was him. Most of the fans were on the other side of the bus bay where the gates were open but Megan, a few girls and I were on the back side of the buses where there weren’t so many people. We were very close to the back ends of Donnie/Danny’s bus, Joe’s bus and someone else’s bus. Jonathan and Jordan’s bus was on the other side parked perpendicular to those buses so we couldn’t really see much of it except the top of it. Well, I was talking to Megan and I happened to look between the buses. I saw a guy in skinny jeans, gray hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head, sunglasses and holding a see-thru Starbucks cup with that creamy colored iced coffee stuff he drinks. He was walking in wide strides, hurried, looking down at the pavement and he was walking from the direction of Jonathan’s bus to what I learned later was the crew/band/special people entrance in the back of the building. The way he was walking was very Jonathan with the wide, quick strides. I didn’t yell out to him because he had his hood pulled up and his sunglasses on, which is his “I don’t want to be hounded right now” look. I respect that. I took the signal.
A little bit later, I decided to go around to the other gate to see if I could get a better view of Jonathan’s bus. The gate was wide open with two old guys guarding it, which I found to be pretty funny. Before I even got to the other gate, this girl started jumping up and down and yelling, “Jessica! Jessica Jones, JonGirl since 1988!” I think a few other girls were yelling it too but I honestly don’t know who they were other than they know me from this community. They were asking me if I had met Jonathan yet and I said no but I relayed the story about seeing a gray hoodie guy in skinny jeans that I thought was him. Then one of the old security guys told me politely that the road had to be kept clear and I couldn’t get up on the grassy hill with the other girls, so I went back to Megan’s side with the back of the buses.
It was lucky that I went back because Robo sauntered outside a bit later for a smoke, I guess, and Megan approached him for me. I was not able to get over my own shyness so she started the conversation for me. I told him about what Jonathan had told my friend the previous night and he said, “Well, he [Jonathan] is in a meeting right now but I’ll ask him about you. If he responds, we’ll take care of you.” It was something close to that effect. I asked if he knew my name, just to make sure he was giving Jonathan the right name, and he said, “Jessica….” and I said, “Jones,” and he said, “Okay, like Jessica Simpson but Jones.” Something told me he was going to forget because he looked pretty distracted and even said that he had a lot of things to do but I did not push him. Ladies, don’t push Robo. If you are calm and show respect, he will be friendly with you and try to help you. I got two pictures of me with Robo.
I waited around until the meet and greet line started forming but I didn’t think anything was going to happen for me, so I went back to the hotel to warm up because I was freezing. Teri and I agreed to meet up with her friend for dinner at Applebee’s, which was really fun. After I calmed down. The restaurant was so crowded and I was frustrated that there appeared to be some breakdown in communication of trying to tell Jonathan that I was there. I started tensing up in the restaurant and warning signs of a panic attack were starting to appear. I did regain control by the time Teri and her friend got there though. I love them so much. They were a lot of fun and we sat there chitchatting about Jonathan over dinner. Our waiter knew we were going to the concert and he started singing Hangin’ Tough as we were getting ready to leave. That was pretty awesome.
We went to the venue and got a look at my seats. I was put in section 118, which is like the back of the arena. Teri and I were like, “No, let’s go over to 123,” where her seats were. That section was a bit closer and further on Jonathan’s side. Security in the upper level of the arena was non-existant. We were never asked for tickets and none of us sat where we were assigned. All of the security was down on the floor where the crazies were trying to jump the barricades, which was almost as entertaining as the show itself.
Whatever. Bring on Jonathan.
Meh. Okay. Bring on Jonathan.
When our boys finally started their show, I can’t really explain how it felt. The “15 years ago…” bit played on the screen and I thought, “Wow, this is really happening.” The guys started rising from the stage and the arena was so loud that I couldn’t hear my mother right next to me. I couldn’t see Jonathan at first due to a column of smoke in my line of vision but then the smoke started disspating and his black silhouette bobbing to the music came into view. He was right there, flesh and blood. It was so overwhelming to me that I teared up and I don’t think anybody else saw it, but as I was watching him dance to Single, I had a flashback of begging and pleading to see the Magic Summer tour. We were too poor back then, but there I was last night, watching Jonathan live and in person. Teri came up behind me so I could look through her binoculars and get a better view of him. It was very overwhelming, the whole thing, and I went back and forth from singing and yelling to tearing up and getting emotional sometimes because I honestly couldn’t believe how blessed I was to have this opportunity.
I made sure I saw everything I wanted to see. The thrusty at the beginning of The Right Stuff was in full effect (grin), the … um … grabby grabby (grin), the many like that poses – which, by the way, was sometimes the only way I could pick him out when they were all in white – the booty shaking on the jumbo screen, etc. I just sort of let myself be a sponge and soaked it all in while I could. My mother took off with the camera before Grown Man, determined to get closer for some pictures because he kept coming to our side of the stage. She got all the way down to the front, almost to the floor, and got some great pictures. When the show was over, she commented that, “I saw that he tends to keep his head up but his eyes on the floor a lot,” and I said yeah but I don’t know the reason beyond speculation.
I need to say that I have a newfound respect for how hard they work. The show is fast-paced but it’s not distracting from the music. I’m very impressed with what kind of live performers they are because so many groups and bands sound good on CDs but terrible on stage. Jordan and Joe in particular, in my opinion, sound better live than on CDs. They have amazing vocal ranges. The harmonies sounded on point and effortless, which is also what sets NKOTB apart from other groups in my opinion. I barely made it through Baby I Believe In You without having dirty non-Jon thoughts but I reminded myself that Jordan is Baby Bro and married at that, and all was well again. My mother, however, took pictures. She’s a groupie.
As soon as the show was over, Teri said we should go down to the floor and see if we could find Robo or Zach. I was skeptical but I knew I had to try everything. We went down to the floor as the crew was taking apart the stage and Teri was asking ushers where the NKOTB people were (God bless her because I was too scared to approach strangers myself). Nobody was stopping us for tickets. Nobody was turning us away. The first usher said they went off through the right side down a long corridor that started behind the stage. I thought for sure we were going to get turned away. We cut across the floor between the first and second rows – Teri was shoving folding chairs aside, we were dodging cleaning people, spilled beer everywhere, stage pieces flying overhead, cables, ramps, etc. It was very eerie. We got to the right side of the stage and an usher stopped Teri. She asked if he knew where Zach or Robo was and I thought for sure we were going to get turned away right there. But the usher went to look for Zach and we went to the entrance of the deeper backstage area! We were literally by the “NKOTB Pyro Room” behind the stage watching the crew disassemble the stage and take it out to the trucks. Teri talked to Zach for me and I didn’t hear everything that was said but Zach asked for my name like three times and then took off into deeper backstage to find Jonathan.
At this point we were alone among the crew. We stayed out of the way as Zach had instructed. My memory gets a little foggy here because I could feel myself freezing up and starting to panic. I don’t know if Teri was joking or if she saw me tensing up but she asked, “Are you breathing?” I kind of laughed and said, “No,” and her friend was telling me to breathe because it would do no good to pass out before he got there. So Robo showed up just then and I don’t remember what was said exactly but I think Teri told him that Zach went looking for Jonathan. Robo shook his head and said he wasn’t in the building, that he had just taken him out to the bus. I think he said hold on or something and he went after Zach. So we had Zach after Jonathan and Robo after Zach.
I’m not sure how much time went by. We were standing around talking and watching the crew disassemble the stage some more because it really was pretty interesting. I remember this part very clearly. I was talking to Teri, who was on my right in front of me, and behind her, I noticed a pair of legs walking a few yards behind her. I’m short so I see legs first most of the time. I thought the legs belonged to someone on the crew because those legs were walking in wide, quick strides, and the crew was moving fast too. I clearly remember thinking, “Geez, that guy has long legs.”
The legs went past Teri and stopped. I looked up and saw a big, bright smile and a man sort of pointing at me like he recognized me. Jonathan recognized me before I recognized him. How is that for irony? It took me a second but I went into autopilot, smiled as big as he was smiling, and I said, “Hey!” He strode directly to me, bypassed Teri and her friend, and pulled me into a hug for a long moment as he said in my ear, “Hey, it’s nice to meet you,” in an endearing, sweet kind of way. I honestly don’t remember what I said because I just got pulled into this hug. His face was up against mine and I thought, “His face is so cold!” and he was wearing a poofy coat. I almost got a mouthful of coat, really, if he had hugged any tighter. It wasn’t one of those bear hugs I read about but I got skin-to-stubble contact and his arm was fully around me. When he pulled back, he patted his coat and sort of said apologetically that he was all smoky, which he did smell like smoke. He gave quick hugs to Teri, her friend, and then he stepped around my chair to get to my mother, who proudly announced, “Hi, I’m the mom,” and he chuckled.
He came back to me, smiling, and I couldn’t resist what I said because it was the most surreal thing for me to see Jonathan hug my mother. I smiled and I said, “She’s the one that grounded me for putting up posters of you in my bedroom.” He laughed and then he gave my mother the stink eye and pointed an accusing finger at her as he said, “Ooooo…” like oooooo that wasn’t nice. We laughed and then he said something to the effect of that the other guys had already showered and gone through, and that he was always the last and late (he was saying this as he was backing up) and he was making washing motions. He kind of waved and it was very clear that he was in a big hurry, so I let him go without asking for anything else (no picture, no kiss).
Robo came back a minute later and asked if I was comfortable now and I said yes. He said he would take us outside to make sure we didn’t get hit or anything, so he led us down the corridor to the crew/band/special people entrance thing in the bay of buses. We went out the same way NKOTB did and I saw the crowd of girls. At that point it started to hit me what just happened and a couple of tears came as we were walking between the buses. Some of them were yelling at me, “Did you meet him?!” and I said yes and most of them started yelling and cheering.
We said goodbye to Teri and her friend, and we walked back to the hotel. I was told tonight that the buses left about twenty minutes after that and that I was the only one that Jonathan really made a point to see that night.
That is my close encounter of the Jonathan kind. I do not recommend asking ushers for these favors and such. Do not get any ideas from what I did because these people are extremely busy and have very little time. Please, please don’t get pushy with Robo or Zach because they have a lot of responsibilities and begging or craziness won’t get you anywhere. Be respectful and calm if you encounter them. I only did what I did because the message was relayed to me from Jonathan that I should talk to Robo and Zach. Otherwise I would not have gone backstage like that without a pass. Security was nil in Salt Lake, really.
P.S. I heard from Megan, who had the meet and greet in Salt Lake. Apparently it seems Jonathan forgot my name and that was why I didn’t get into the meet and greet. I forgot that he is prone to doing that. He has a history of pointing at people and saying, “Where do I know you from?” so he remembers experiences and faces more than names. Megan said she told him I was out there yesterday and he said he didn’t know my name. I wrote back to her and told her that I suspected that might have happened because he meets 600+ people a day, he has a lot of responsibilities, etc., so it’s not at all shocking that my name fell out of his head. He would have remembered the blog more than the name because he had remembered the blog from almost two weeks before. When I saw him though, there was recognition in his face. I do think he remembered.
To Jonathan — I cannot thank you enough for taking a minute to see me. I waited twenty years for that and I had the best time last night. You are a man who is true to his word and my respect and love for you is endless. Thank you.