Tom Dunne: Even better than the real thing? Life as a Bono lookalike

Tom Dunne: Even better than the real thing? Life as a Bono lookalike

I spent a few hours recently with Pavel Sfera. Pavel is a Bono impersonator but this doesn’t do adequate justice. In a certain light, anything basically from dawn to dusk, stringent or soft, he is Bono. It is unnatural and spooky. As we talked I had to keep reminding myself, “It really, really, isn’t him!” He didn’t choose this path. He was living a normal life but the intrusions upon it by people convinced he was Bono became overwhelming. It was easier to go with the flow. With average appearance fees ranging from one to three thousand dollars, but with some far in excess, it was also more profitable. He was been Bono since 1992.

Seeing the photos will not prepare you for the impact of meeting him in the flesh. He arrived early for our interview and walked, unannounced, into the open-plan office. There was a collective sharp intake of breath. Even I wondered if the real McCoy had not also arrived.

Before I could get over to him he was descended upon. He surrendered to the adoring melee as previously cool researchers and producers got selfies and professed undying love. He posed casually and did not disabuse them. Who was I to break their hearts?

The tells, that this is not Bono, are tiny. Pavel is more athletic but most notably has spectacularly white teeth. These are LA teeth. No Irish person has teeth like that. They look like George Michael’s teeth in the video for Club Tropicana, which only looked that mad due to a fluorescent light. Pavel’s look that way all the time.

The previous day he had been in the Temple Bar for a photo shoot. I had heard that people had been coming up to him and crying. I asked him if this was a problem. He confessed it was and that sometimes people unburden on him before he can tell them that he is not the real deal.

They tell him tales of illnesses and deaths, troubled times made lighter through the music of U2 and the voice of Bono. When this happens, and it happens often, he just goes with the flow. It is easier to let them believe what they want to believe. No one gets hurts and they feel better.

He is a very sensitive soul and cried twice during the interview. It appears that even pretending to be Bono comes with onerous weight and responsibility. A burden more than a gift it seems.

I thought of him this week as U2 were connected, with a series of gigs in Vegas. The phrase ‘non-consecutive’ was bandied about, but I know a residency when I see one. Residencies can be a dangerous game, as likely to end a career as start one.

In Dublin, the entire indie music scene of the late 1980s owed its existence to a series of residencies at a tiny Dublin venue called T

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