Midway through One Direction’s interview with “Good Morning America” Saturday outside Barnes & Noble in Old Orchard Center mall in Skokie, interviewer Cameron Mathison stopped the conversation and politely asked the 1,500 or so fans in attendance, some of whom camped out over night last week for wristbands to the book signing, to keep it down for audio purposes. The band members themselves stepped in to help, including Zayn Malik, who shushed the crowd.
Did the fans quiet down?
About as much as a crowd of mostly teenage girls can when the “it” boy band of the moment is right in front of them. These were the same fans who spontaneously sang the band’s single, “What Makes You Beautiful,” in unison two hours before the band was scheduled to arrive and shrieked at just the sight of the band’s tour manager, Paul Higgins, earlier in the afternoon.
Mathison, who was the only journalist granted an interview with One Direction that day, continued where he left off and asked the English-Irish quintet if it was difficult being in a band as opposed to a solo artist, which is what they all were aspiring to be when they were lumped into a group in 2010 on the UK version of “X Factor.”
“It’s easier,” band member Liam Payne said. “It’s a lot more fun on the road ... being with your mates.”
The band was in the Chicago-area for a show at the Allstate Arena, one of several arenas they will be playing on their U.S. tour this summer. And to think, it was only a few months ago that the guys were mostly unknown in this country. I would know: I’m the guy who turned down an interview with them in February.
In my defense, I was already scheduled to interview Nickelodeon’s Big Time Rush before their show at the Akoo Theatre in Rosemont that week. There was no need to interview the then-little known opening act, One Direction – or so I thought.
Fast forward four months. One Direction, which has since performed on NBC’s “Today” and “Saturday Night Live,” had over a hundred fans waiting for them before 5:30 a.m. Saturday for an appearance scheduled for 1 p.m. A young male in attendance later in the afternoon held a sign stating that he would "pay cash" for a wristband.
The scene wasn’t much different the preview week when 500 wristbands were distributed for the signing. Besides the fans who spent the night at Old Orchard for a wristband to meet the guys and get an autographed copy of their book, “Dare to Dream,” there were parents who tried to guilt security guards into giving them wristbands when there were none left.
“A mother told me ‘(My daughter’s) father just died,’” said one security guard. “Another said ‘(My daughter) already thinks I don’t do enough for her.’”
Considering the fanaticism surrounding One Direction, do I now regret passing on the interview? Of course. But this isn’t the first time I’ve passed on an artist right before they hit the big time, only to have their people poetically turn down my interview request later.
In 2010, I passed on an interview with rapper Wiz Khalifa, who few had heard of at the time. Not long after that, Khalifa released his hit single, “Black and Yellow,” and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. And in 2008, I had an opportunity to interview a B-list rapper but told his publicist to wait until the release of his movie, “Hurricane Season.” His career skyrocketed months later, due in part to his Album of the Year nomination at the Grammys, and the article never happened. That rapper's name? Lil Wayne.
For the record, I also recently turned down an interview with One Direction’s opening act at the Allstate Arena, Olly Murs. I’m not very familiar with the English singer/songwriter and UK “X Factor” alum, but I look forward to watching him headline next year’s Super Bowl.
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