U2's Bono has made some unusual new friends in his ongoing quest to secure debt relief for Third World nations.
Chief among them, perhaps, is Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who attended U2's concert Thursday night in Washington, D.C., at Bono's invitation, according to Helms' scheduler, Anne Chitwood.
It was Helms' first rock concert, and the Republican senator told Raleigh, North Carolina's The News & Observer that he enjoyed it, more or less.
"It was the noisiest thing I ever heard," Helms told the newspaper. "I turned my hearing aids all the way down and kept my hands over my ears much of the time."
But Helms rhapsodized over how the crowd moved "back and forth like corn in the breeze," and praised Bono for his endurance.
On the day of the concert, the U.S. Senate passed a Helms-sponsored amendment that pulls federal funding from schools that don't allow Boy Scouts activities on their property in protest of the Scouts' ban on gay members.
A spokesperson at U2's label did not return a call requesting comment from Bono on the Boy Scouts amendment and on Helms' history of opposing gay rights.
In September, though, Bono told The News & Observer, "I couldn't disagree more with Senator Helms on some issues. But I know he's a tough guy on a lot of things, and I don't need softies for friends on [the Third World debt issue]."
Bono also discussed debt relief Wednesday with Helms and several other senators at a lunch meeting (see "Bono Says Debt-Relief Campaign's Victories Not Enough"), and had a private dinner with Helms and his wife Wednesday night, according to Helms' scheduler.