We are pleased today to start of The Celebrities of Dreamforce series, in which we’ve interview some of the most recognizable faces of DF16 and Dreamforces past. They are the stars that make Dreamforce the most memorable event of the year, the reason Dreamforce feels like the Mardi Gras of business conferences, the Coachella of cloud computing.
For the inaugural episode of the Celebrities of Dreamforce, we have a highly recognizable figure, Bono Double!
Pavel Sfera, more commonly recognized as Bono Double, is a renowned impersonator, performer and humanitarian. He has been performing with his Los Angeles based U2 tribute band for more than a decade, as well as making regular appearances at fundraisers, corporate and private special events. Much like Bono himself, Pavel has been heavily involved in philanthropy work. Pavel has used his knowledge and talents in many fields, helping rebuild homes following many natural disasters for the underprivileged throughout the USA and has spent time helping orphanages in many countries. He is a true renaissance man!
1. When did you first figure out you looked so much like Bono?
I must say that even still now, I don’t see what people see. I heard I resembled Bono for the first time in 1979, in 8th grade when I was just 14 years old. As U2 became more popular, the comments from people became more frequent. By the early 90s, people would just stop and ask for autographs, shake my hand, discuss with me their connections with U2 music et al, without me sometimes even opening my mouth. I used to stop people mid-sentence and try to explain that I wasn’t Bono, I just looked like him. People would give me awkward looks, some wouldn’t believe me. I have to be kind and gracious and just let them believe what they’d like. I have no intent on duping people or causing disruptions in their lives, but what does one do when the audience is already convinced and won’t change their mind?
2. What’s it like being famous?
I must say, “looking famous” is very different from “being famous” lol. I have gotten a glimpse of what it’s like for someone to be adored, worshipped, revered, respected and otherwise recognized publicly. The kind of energy that people put out your way can be extraordinary. A mob scene can ensue merely at a drop of a hat in a public setting. I wouldn’t like to be famous due to the hard work of someone else. It’s odd.
3. What is your favorite part about being a Bono Double?
My favorite part about being a double is that I do get a chance to travel, see the world a bit, meet with higher ups in society and get through some doors I would otherwise never have a chance to walk through. Many of my clients have made some great contributions to this world from CEOs of large corporations, multi-billionaires, artists, celebs, musical talent, political figureheads and just wonderful average run of the mill working class people that have a great interesting story to tell.
What are some of the drawbacks (if there are any)?
The drawbacks are there as well. The biggest drawback is that I’m still uncomfortable being the Bono Double at Dreamforce when people really want me to be somebody I’m not. I have in my contract with clients that I send out that states in big bold letters that they “cannot create, allude to, imply, state, or engage in a fraudulent circumstance using my image to create an illusion that I am, in fact, the real Bono from U2.” I do have clients that pass me off as the real thing and it becomes very awkward in those settings.
Also when people approach me and automatically think that I am Bono, I don’t have the heart to break the news that I am not. In most cases, I speak as little as possible, and when I do, I do so softly…I’ll take photos, hug folk, shake hands etc.…..and if I’m asked to sign an autograph, I usually scribble illegibly “Love deeply” or “All is possible with love”…all the while look at their faces and audibly state what I’m writing. I don’t sign a name.
Also, other drawbacks happen in my travels. I’m pretty self-sufficient and take coach in my travels, carry my own bags, take buses and cabs to my destinations etc. I make all my own arrangements and lead a diva-less existence. I’ve been offered upgrades on flights which I have to decline, free items representatives wish to share, free meals, drinks etc. I have a zero tolerance policy for anything free if people think I’m Bono. I’m an impersonator, not an imposter. Nothing is really worth that kind of fraudulent access. I’m in good standing with Bono, U2 and Principle Management, the administrative end of U2. I wish to keep it that way.
Other drawbacks include doing media interviews that are almost without a doubt, wrong, accidental or intentional. I’ve had an interview with the Boston Globe where the article that came out was horrible …even fabricated. I’ve gotten hate mail and even threats from people online as a result. I contacted the paper to file a formal complaint indicating that the content was nothing near the actual interview and the perception people have of me has been maligned and making me undignified. It was designed to make me look badly, buffoonly, etc. I’ve also had one article written in the Miami Herald in which I wasn’t actually interviewed by the writer of the article. Of course I was made out to be a jerk etc. I’ve also gotten a few stalkers and cyber bullies. Plus, there are some people out there in this world that don’t like Bono.
4. People are always taking selfies with you? Who is the most famous person that stopped to take a photo with you?
People these days are inclined to selfies over autographs. The most famous and probably the funnest person was Peirce Brosnan. My U2 tribute band played at his house for his son’s birthday party in 2005. I walked into this house and he just looked in amazement at me. Mind you, he’s Bono’s friend and The Edge’s neighbor. They all know each other very well. Then broke the moment and said “Pavel…. Would you mind taking a photo with me?” I replied, “Hi Peirce, how are you? Thanks for having us here….and you’re killing me! You want a photo with me? We both started laughing. I must say, he is a top class gentleman through and through, a loving husband, doting father and a hospitable host.
I’ve met many stars, like Jane Goodall. I did a performance for a fund raiser for her. The loveliest lady one can ever meet. Betty White is gracious and sweet. Mike Tyson was approachable but saw me across the room at the Urth restaurant off Melrose Ave and motioned me to come over to him. I did. He had several ladies with him and he said “Excuse me, would you mind taking a couple of photos with my friends?” I said “Sure, Mike!” I turned to the ladies and said “greetings, hope you’re well.” The President of Ireland was a gracious lady, the President of the United Nations was great to hang out with. We made an international scandal. He’s from Serbia. I was born in Serbia. We met in NYC while I was on promotional work for a film producer. He took a selfie with me unbeknownst to him that I wasn’t Bono, he then tweeted that he was with Bono to his 250K followers. The next morning around 5 am, in my hotel and cell phone, were numerous calls from reporters all over the world wanting to know what happened the previous night and wanted to know if the President of the United Nations was attempting to “dupe” the world with the selfie he took with me. Of course he wasn’t, but the news wrote otherwise.
Who do you wish you could take a photo with?
I’m a fan of movers and shakers of this world. The kind of people that bring a betterment for all humanity. Malala Yousafzai comes to mind. I think she’s just absolutely wonderful as a human presence in this world. Especially when so many in the Occidental divide are limited on their scope of knowledge of the 25th Parallel North. Also I’m a fan of Jimmy Carter. Besides leading an extraordinary public life in his post Presidency, he’s quite the writer, philosopher and humanitarian. Bill and Melinda Gates would be really fun to sit down over dinner with. And perhaps a few photos with them. Having done television work, film work, been on most national and many international publications, radio programs (2 NPR interviews), I’ve come to meet many recognizable and celeb status people. I have to say, I’m still a fan of decent everyday folk with a great story and a big heart.
5. What is your favorite part of attending Dreamforce? How does it measure up to other conferences you have attended over the years?
I have to tell you something about what I know of conferences. I’ve been traveling for years doing this Bono “thing.” Dreamforce is a huge on the scale of tech conferences. I’ve been twice. My favorite part about attending Dreamforce conferences is to watch how these dedicated people come up with technology that still behooves me. They are generally kind and considerate attendees that seem to have a soft sell approach to their business, but also have clever minds to explain what they actually do.
6. What are some of the lessons you learned in attending corporate conferences? What advice would you provide marketing departments trying to stand out of the crowd?
What lessons I’ve learned from attending corporate conferences and what advice I would provide marketing departments is this: Listen to everyone’s ideas and have energetic follow through. I’ve become an expert on being the secret shopper. I give pointers to my clients to help improve their business. I believe in win/win. I’m not just a presence as Bono, I’m also regular human being looking at ways to improve my business, the business of my clients and help create the better 5 year, 10 year, 20 year plan of action. They have to innovate. They need outsiders who aren’t yes men/women who are allowed to be free enough to provide insights. But longevity of a company is everyone’s business.
I used to run a jazz nightclub and high end restaurant in the Gaslamp of downtown San Diego. I had 35 employees. You know who’s opinion mattered? The soundguy who runs the sound board for the bands, that’s who. He’s worked in almost every high end place, convention conference, private parties etc in San Diego. He saw what worked, what didn’t. He saw the functionality of every operation. I’d buy him lunch and just listen to his stories and observations. He saw restaurants and nightclubs come and go.
Celebrities of Dreamforce – Bono DoubleConferences are places where organizations should have their brightest face shining at their booths. These are people that know how to connect to and with others. These are people who read others well. You are the first introduction to your company. You have only one opportunity to leave a first impression. It has to be clear, it has to be concise, it has to be delivered with deliberate confidence and above all,
7. What is your favorite U2 song to listen to?
I must say that I’m still an Achtung Baby fan. Joshua Tree is one of the greatest rock albums of all time. I’ve got about 75 U2 songs I could rotate on any given day. No one song in particular comes to mind as my favorite to listen to. Depends on the mood.
What is your favorite U2 song to perform?
Performing U2 music is magical and spiritual. It moves people. I’ve sung to 2 people and I’ve sung to 40,000 people. One of the best songs that I love getting people moved by is With Or Without You. There’s a few others no doubt, but yes, this one still rocks my world.
8. Besides U2, who are some of your favorite musicians?
Haha. Now you’re talking! I do play piano and have a cd out of my own compositions. Chopin any day of the week. I do love the big band era with the great voices of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima, Billy Holiday along with classic rock and Motown R&B, the Beatles, Boston, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, Guns & Roses, Radiohead. And a bunch of solo artist of the last 20 years.,…the list is huge.
9. Like the real Bono, you are heavily involved in humanitarian work. What philanthropy work do you enjoy doing most?
I do have to say that I’ve been active in charitable contributions since the mid 80s. My favorite charity work these days is orphanage work. I’ve had several groups with whom I’ve engaged in building schools, playgrounds, construction to code of buildings etc. in Mexico. I’ve been working on developing sustainable farming and agriculture using concepts of aquaponics and bamboo farming. It’s been tough serving several masters….Bono Doubling, art and humanity.
It has been great being able to share my thoughts and insights not only as a look alike celeb, but also as a regular human being wishing to make this world a better place. – Pavel