"As Close To Bono As It Gets"
By Cindy "Winogal" Lemos Exclusively For Temecula Night Out
Dressed in jet black down to the polished work boots, the diamond stud earring and of course the rose tinted shades, Pavel Sfera is the quintessential "Bono" double. And when he opened his mouth on my patio to belt out the familiar lyrics to "With or Without You" acapella, I was left with only one conclusion: BONO!
In addition to his role as front man for the internationally known #1 U2 tribute band "Desire", his charitable contributions to multiple causes are almost as legendary as the man he emulates nearly to perfection.
Pavel, by his own admission, leads a simple life. Which does not mean he won't indulge in the simple pleasures life can offer. He travels with a must have inventory of French press, water heater and supply of his favorite espresso. He likes his coffee "strong, hot & black" as he revealed with a mischievous gleam in his eyes. Lucky for me, he graciously brought a bag of this special espresso and a 1984 vintage Porto as gifts. Okay, I was officially charmed with my unique guest.
Pavel has quite a personal story, although he's reticent to talk about it in great length, he spent nearly an hour with me on the phone during a rainy day he was having recently in New York City. Even more recently, I was fortunate enough to play the role of hosting Pavel Sfera as my house guest for a day and we were also joined for a time by "Wishes for Children" founder Charlie Pate and board member Kat Ellis.
The afternoon began with a bottle of especially good wine from my cellar, after all I am "Winogal": Foxen's 2004 Tinaquaic Vineyard Syrah is the perfect libation to start a friendship which was my ulterior motive. I wanted to know the man behind the Bono shades, this guy who looks and sounds so much like the U2 front man who's written so many beloved, amazing and soul searching songs - a man who has sometimes been called an imposter.
Not so! Like the true Bono, Pavel is a multi-talented artist and genuine humanitarian. A man who champions countless charitable causes and outreaches. As a young man in his mid-twenties he traveled to orphanages in his parent's native Romania seeing first hand the less then fortunate all around him. Having learned to play guitar as a teenager in the former Yugoslavian republic he realized that troubled minds and bodies respond well to music which lifts the spirits and he set out thru his gift to help where he could. Bono himself at this time was a rising star and his story growing up in the turbulence of strife torn Ireland and his ensuing charity work spurred Pavel to follow a similar path.
While the world looked on in horror, atrocities against citizens were perpetrated on an alarming and continuing basis in this troubled region. Pavel's own father spent 10 long years in the reviled island prison of Goli Otok for refusing to take up arms due to his religious convictions during the Bosnia/Serbian conflict. Something Pavel said to me during our initial phone conversation sticks with me: "People have more in common than they don't, music can bring people together to bridge gaps, find common ground and to heal."
For the most part, you & I grew up in comfortable family situations in a stable political environment. We take a lot for granted. Our childhoods were not overshadowed by ethnic cleansing and the knowledge that your father was being beaten and tortured unjustly while being held in intolerable conditions - all because he stood up for his own personal beliefs and convictions.
One of Pavel's goals is to write a biography on his father, who died in 2001. He originally had plans to return to his homeland for an extended stay this fall to work on this project and to launch a humanitarian effort aimed at bringing music as therapy and as a healing force in his still war torn former country. However when approached about headlining in this special event at our own Stuart Cellars winery to support "Wishes for Children" foundation, he immediately agreed to delay his trip, to do this concert.
Back to Pavel the man. He revealed to me that he's not much of a drinker but in addition to a good wine, he'll indulge in a single malt scotch on occasion. He's also an amateur photographer. He entered my house with multi-lens camera bag in hand and proceeded to snap my totally-caught-off-guard visage. Hey - wasn't I the one doing the interview here?
Turns out he's working on a pictorial to benefit the Breast Cancer Foundation that includes a visual story of many women he's met who've been touched by cancer - some who are still with us and others not so fortunate. Although too lengthy to list all, he's worked with UNICEF, Amnesty International, various mission and faith based humanitarian and relief efforts including those targeted at helping the many victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In fact, he's been publicly recognized by Bono on multiple occasions over the past decade. On one notable day in Anaheim, Pavel happened to be towards the front of the stage during a U2 concert when Bono sees him and says "You look good, man you look good!" then he walks over to Pavel reaching down to him. Pavel hands him his rosary which Bono can be seen wearing for the entire rest of the show. Faith is important to Pavel and we had insightful conversations on religion and biblical origins that I never dreamed I'd have with a rock star personage of his caliber.
In addition to his passion for U2's music, Pavel writes his own as well. Although he only had three of his 15 original piano concertos on his laptop that trip, as I relaxed on my chaise lounge lulled by the subtle stroking of piano keys, images of water flowing kept running through my mind - beautiful and stirring - sweet, poignant with a story to tell. That same lazy Sunday morning was the anniversary of his mother's passing. His parents were a great influence on his life and molded him into the person he is today.
And YES, he can sing! It truly was uncanny to listen to him perform, hearing that familiar voice and not even having to close my eyes to complete the illusion. Although I was treated to an up close and personal concert on my patio, I can't wait to see him perform on stage with his band "Desire in full force and presentation. So join us for this exciting, one of a kind evening under the stars at Stuart Cellars on October 14th with the added bonus that you're doing something wonderful for our own local charity "Wishes for Children." Tickets are on sale now and will go fast, so reserve your preferred seating today, we'll be there "With Or Without You".
About Cindy Lemos
throughout our local wine country as "WInogal" Cindy is one of our premier writers and is also Editor of our
"TNO" Vine and Dine section. Cindy was a sommelier at the highly
regarded "Ahwahnee Dining Room" located in Yosemite National Parks
historical and world famous Ahwahnee Hotel and Lodge. She brings to
"TNO" her extensive wine knowledge and seasoned palate. She creates and
writes periodically about her "Vine and Dine" pairings which combine a
local wine and her original recipe for your enjoyment.