I’m sad about the closing of Cafe des Artistes, a New York landmark. With its old-world feel and floor-to-ceiling murals and cozy warren of rooms, it felt like one of the great escapes from the frenetic pace of the city. I had two memorable meals there. One was to celebrate my mother’s 70th, which was of course a special occasion.
The other was to interview Bono, my last assignment for George. I was leaving the magazine, but the interview had been in the works for some time. Plus, I’m a big U2 fan, have been since Boy in 1980, so I was excited to meet him.
I arrived early, as one would. Clad in a long coat, black jeans, black boots, a sweater and a hat, Bono came walking up to the restaurant alone, which was incredibly appealing. The only other really famous person I knew who did that—arrived at an event without an entourage of at least one—was John Kennedy. But Bono explained that he’d recently bought an apartment on Central Park South (about ten blocks away), and he liked to walk.
We sat down in a booth and ordered and talked and drank a couple of bottles of wine. Bono, it’s safe to say, consumed a larger percentage of them than I did. He was charming and thoughtful and intense and charismatic—exactly as a rock star should be.
I asked if he remembered a U2 show I’d attended at Woolsey Hall at Yale, when I was a freshman, in the spring of 1983. (Holy cow, here’s the setlist—the web is amazing sometimes.) The last night of school, so not many students were there (U2 wasn’t really well-known then). It was an amazing show; Bono climbed a stack of speakers and walked along the balcony railing, which was pretty high and not at all a safe thing to do.
He answered that yes, he remembered the show, and I said how, and he said that he remembered every show the band played, which I found almost beyond belief.
We talked about more serious things and after we finished lunch Bono suggested we get a drink. There is—was—a small but gorgeous bar just adjacent to the restaurant entrance, part of the building, with about five stools. It was closed, but they opened it for Bono, and we had some whiskeys. I was hammered. He seemed wholly unaffected. When I started slurring my words, I knew it was time to bid him farewell.
And now it’s time to bid Cafe des Artistes farewell. Sometimes change is a bitch.
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