Happy Birthday Larry Mullens Jr.


(oregonlive.com 10/31/04) At about 3 a.m., Denny Livingston Jr. went for one last walk through the Foghorn Tavern, just in case someone had unwittingly left something behind. U2, then an up-and-coming rock group from Ireland, had played that night. But by the time Livingston was packing up his sound equipment, the band and the 200 or so in the Portland audience were long gone.

That night 23 years ago, Livingston found a nondescript, brown briefcase, the kind lighting techs used to carry their equipment, in the dressing room. As he always did with items lost at a show, Livingston said, he figured he should take the case for safekeeping. He looked inside, found it belonged to the band, and decided he would return it at the show the next night in Seattle. But in Seattle, the band didn't mention it, and Livingston forgot to return it.

Little did he know, but Livingston had recovered 12 months' worth of work by lead singer Bono. The singer later struggled to re-create notes and lyrics for the band's second album, October, telling friends, co-workers and journalists that groupies in Portland had stolen the originals.

Then Livingston saw television accounts of U2's materials being returned to Bono in Portland Oct. 20, when the singer spoke to the World Affairs Council of Oregon at the Rose Garden arena. And he and Steve E. Graeff, 48, of Lakewood, Wash., wanted to set the record straight. The briefcase wasn't stolen, they said. It was lost, and they unsuccessfully tried to return it. Public records and documents the men produced back up their claims.

Their story is actually pretty straightforward.

Livingston said he tossed the briefcase into Graeff's van. Graeff said it looked identical to the cheap, "over-the-counter" briefcase he used to pack his lighting equipment. They drove home to Tacoma. Livingston said he was eager to get some sleep after a 14-hour day of setting up equipment for U2 and handling sound for the opening band.

"If I do this for them tonight," he remembered thinking, "then the band won't have to track it down from the road."

The next night at Astor Park, one of the larger clubs in the Seattle music scene at the time, U2 drew a large audience. "It was a packed house, a crazy night," Livingston said. No one asked Livingston for the briefcase, he said. And he forgot to mention it.

Within a few days, he and Graeff said they talked about the briefcase. Graeff remembered calling the office of John Bauer, the Seattle concert promoter who had handled U2's Northwest shows. A secretary abruptly said she wouldn't let the man on the phone meet John Bauer, assuming Graeff wanted to get close to him. "I left a message and didn't hear back from them," Graeff said. "From then it faded away. It didn't seem to be important to them, so it didn't seem important to us."

Many fans might consider any possessions of the band to be of crucial interest. But back then, Livingston said, U2 was little-known in the United States. As a sound specialist, he was up close to many bands during those years -- some up and coming, and some on their way out of popularity. "When you're working shows, you can't be a fan," Livingston said.

Graeff stored the briefcase at the house he and his brother Rusty were renting in University Park, a suburb west of Tacoma, where he ran his company, Northwest Lighting. Without opening the briefcase, he said he put it in the attic above the garage of the small rambler-style house. It sat among his Halloween and Christmas decorations.

When Graeff moved out later that year, he took all of his belongings but said he must have forgotten the briefcase. Two years later, tenant Dave Harris found the briefcase sitting alone in the attic. Harris kept the briefcase. Cindy Harris saved the contents in the garage, taking it to a new house the couple bought in 1983. She kept the items in a zippered plastic bag in the garage until October 2003, when her friend Danielle Rheaume insisted on storing it at her parents' house.

Rheaume sorted the contents and carefully grouped notes, photographs and letters into envelopes. She stored it in her father's safe, with his gun collection. She contacted U2's management, seeking to personally deliver the materials to Bono, whom she had always dreamed of meeting. After several failed attempts in the last 12 months, Rheaume and Harris met with Bono in Portland.

Rheaume said last week that Graeff and Livingston's story didn't surprise her. "That legend was just too perfect, it was too classic," she said. "Two girls. Who are the classic groupies of male rock bands? Girls."

The technicians provided documents and details of the evening that appear to back up their story.

Livingston still has two pages showing the layout U2 requested for the stage in at the Foghorn Tavern. The layouts show each band member's name and instrument. The letterhead at the top of the page includes an address, "45 Waterloo Road, Dublin4, Ireland," that Rheaume said matched some of the band's materials.