Meeting Frida and Benny
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on 15 March 2010 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York. An article by Jim McGuire, San Francisco, California, USA…
A dream came true for this long time ABBA fan on Monday night in New York. I met Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson.
I have now been lucky enough to meet 3 out of 4 of the Swedish music legends, ABBA.
I would like to share my most amazing experience with the readers of icethesite, which is fantastic in itself. (Thanks Jim! – Ice)
Back in December 2009 when I learned that ABBA was going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here in the United States (courtesy of a world exclusive on icethesite), I just knew it was going to be special. Then I read on icethesite that Frida and Benny would definitely be attending the event!
I got tickets for myself and my partner of 28 years, Tom, back in December for this special event just knowing something magical would happen. My long time friend, Jimmy, from Montréal, Quebec is just as big of a fan as I am, especially a fan of Frida’s, so naturally he attended the event with us.
We stayed at the infamous Waldorf Astoria Hotel where the event was taking place, hoping that we would have an advantage of seeing Frida and Benny.
The energy in the hotel was magnificent. The night of the ceremony, Jimmy, Tom and I waited in the Lobby before the event with the hopes of seeing some of the famous rock stars as they entered. In our tuxedos looking quite handsome, I must admit, I was adjusting a photo of Frida that I had in my pocket in which I was going to ask her to sign should I be lucky enough to meet her.
After long deliberation, I finally chose the gorgeous photo of her from her box set Frida, on page 2, which is a beautiful black and white photo taken in 1996 for her Djupa Andetag album photo shoot. It is a stunningly perfect photo of her, just begging for an autograph. As I am fumbling around looking for my pen and trying not to bend the photo, Jimmy grabs my arm and in a shaky voice just says, “Jim – Frida, Frida, Frida!”
Then, my partner Tom says in a firm voice, “Jim! It’s Frida!” For a second, I just froze and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I stood up, turned around and saw about 12 people in a circle with lots of flashing lights and the sounds of cameras shuttering and clicking. And then my eyes focused and there she was…
Dressed in black leather from head to toe with a beautiful porcelain face and an amazing hair style was none other than Anni-Frid Lyngstad herself. Standing tall, with the most amazing poise, grace, class and fantastic smile…posing for pictures and signing autographs.
Out of nowhere, she was surrounded by paparazzi and fans holding classic ABBA vinyl albums for her to sign. She was surrounded by what appears to have been her bodyguard and her grandson Jonathan (very handsome young man with lots of tattoos) and Görel Hanser who looks amazing! Her entourage kept trying to move her along, but Frida was incredible with her fans – she was taking her time, signing autographs, posing for pictures while trying to walk along.
I said to her, “Frida – please sign one more for me” and she looked into my eyes and said “I will be coming back this way soon”. That in itself made my night – I was ready to just get on the plane at that point and come back to California – my trip was compete. Frida looked at me, spoke to me, and I thought I was going to cry. I managed to get a few shaky pictures of her at that point, which was more than enough.
But the woman was true to her word. Within minutes, she was coming back through the Lobby, being stopped by people. She was signing albums, CD covers and even guitars! I was almost frozen just to see this whole scene unfold in front of me. As she was walking forward, I knew that this was my moment. The 3 of us were walking along side of her, and my fantastic partner Tom took my camera and I made my way to the front of the crowd. Here is the conversation that happened next:
Me: “Frida, I love you so much, you are so fantastic and this is a dream come true for me to see you. I’ve loved you for 30 years.” I then asked her if she would sign her photo.
At that point, Frida stopped, looked at me and said “What is your name?” (in her gorgeous Swedish accent with a beautiful smile) and I said “My name is Jim” (I’m surprised I remembered my name at that point). She then took my photo and signed it and said “Thank you so much”. I then asked her if I could have a photo with her, and she said “Of course”. The photo of Frida and me, I think, is absolutely fantastic and I will cherish forever.
At that point, she made her way into the cocktail lounge at the Waldorf Astoria and sat down in the back of the room with her entourage. We, of course let her have her privacy. At that point, I was the seventh heaven.
Then, Görel Hanser came out into the Lobby and was speaking to some Swedish people. We waited for her to finish, and managed to speak to her and get a beautiful photo. Tom asked her why Agnetha was not there, and Görel simply answered “She doesn’t fly.” Görel Hanser is a stunningly beautiful, kind and polite woman. Another class act.
At this point, the 3 of us decided to have a cocktail in the bar that Frida was in. As we were enjoying our drinks, we saw a rush of paparazzi go into to the back of the bar and lots of flashbulbs going off. Something was obviously going on. I took a walk back and Görel was stopping people from getting closer. I looked over her shoulder and saw that it was Benny Andersson who slipped in the back door.
People were standing on their chairs taking pictures and trying to get a glimpse. There, before me sat Frida and Benny in front of news cameras and paparazzi giving an interview. It was just amazing. No other words can describe this scene that I witnessed. Frida and Benny sitting together, preparing for their interview, speaking to the U.S. media and journalists. It was fabulous.
It is now time to go upstairs to the cocktail reception before the dinner. Tom, Jimmy and I enter the room and I immediately see a table of 8 people with 1 very recognizable face. It is Thomas Johansson – ABBA’s concert promoter! What a very nice gentleman!
I wish I knew the other people at the table, but I know they are very important to ABBA, as they all sat at their table for dinner, or close by. What an opportunity to be amongst ABBA’s inner circle. Thomas, Görel, Jonathan, Frida and Benny.
During the cocktail reception, Benny made his entrance with his son, Ludvig Andersson. Benny was amazing! He was so friendly, cheerful and polite. My friend Jimmy had an ultra-rare 45” Japanese single of People Need Love that Benny signed and he found quite amusing, saying “I’ve never seen this before.” I reminded Benny that I met him in San Francisco and jokingly asked “Don’t you remember me?” And he said “I’m sorry, I don’t”, as he put his arm around me and posed for a picture. He got a lot of attention as he entered the room.
After an hour or so of a cocktail reception amongst the likes of Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty, The Hollies, The Stooges and Genesis, it was time to go into the Ballroom for the dinner, ceremony and show.
NOTE: I managed to sneak into the Ballroom the night before the event and snap a picture of the reserved ABBA table in front of the Ballroom.
As we entered the Ballroom, it was another surreal “Hollywood” moment. We mingled and chatted amongst the likes of Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas, The Bee Gees, Phil Collins, Iggy Pop, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Green Day, Maroon 5, Chris Isaak, Bruce Springsteen and others.
During the entire show, my eyes were fixated on Frida. Frida and Benny sat at their reserved table in the 2nd row from the stage. (The first row was reserved for corporate sponsors who paid over $100,000 USD for their seats). It was amazing to watch Frida’s reactions throughout the show.
Frida was recording almost the entire show on her portable phone, which looked very much like a BlackBerry – it was so cool to watch. There were moments when some of the artists on stage were using profanities and I purposely looked at Frida’s reaction, and, just as expected from a classy woman like her – no reaction.
At first, Frida and Benny were seated across from each other at their table, but half way through the show, they sat next to each other.
The show was quite long, but wonderful. During commercials, everyone got the chance to get up and walk around and mingle amongst each other. Then….the producer’s voice came on….”1 minute to the induction of ABBA….”
At this time, Barry and Robin Gibb were lined up to take the stage….the lights came up, and the induction began…the video montage (quite good), followed by shared introduction by Barry and Robin and then…Frida and Benny!
At this time, Jimmy and I took our spots just off stage left on the floor. We couldn’t get any closer – just heaven!
As Frida and Benny approached the stage, Dancing Queen was played. Frida spoke first. She was amazing. Calm, cool, grateful, gorgeous, incredible. She acknowledged Agnetha, Björn and Benny, her grandson Jonathan, and like the incredible person she is, the fans!!
Yes, at this point in the broadcast, you will actually see Benny and Frida turn to their right, smile and acknowledge the audience, as I screamed “I love you Frida!”. You can even catch a glimpse of me on the broadcast! (I know, I was excited).
Note: I was approximately 25 feet from Phil Collins’ table when Frida said a special “thank you” to Stikkan Anderson – I immediately looked at Phil’s reaction, and Phil looked at the other people at his table and rolled his eyes! Did I not read before that he was not really a fan of Stikkan? I saw it first-hand!
The most special moment of the night
It was now time for the music. Benny played the piano (along with Paul Shaffer from “Late Night with David Letterman) to The Winner Takes It All sung by Grammy Winner Faith Hill. In my opinion, Faith did an “OK” job, but we all know there will be nothing like Agnetha’s lead vocal.
As Benny took the stage, Frida exited stage left, came down the stairs and stood less than 12 feet away from me!
This was a moment in music history as Faith Hill sang The Winner Takes It All with Benny accompanying her as Frida watched off stage! I knew at this moment that I was the luckiest person on this earth to be next to Frida as this was happening.
As the song started, Frida was standing proudly, clutching her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Award watching in the shadow of the spotlight.
I could not help but wonder what was going through her mind during this 4 minutes and 55 second masterpiece sung by someone else on such an incredible evening.
Whatever she was thinking…I was there for it.
Here are conversations that I had with some of the stars that have ABBA connections. The stars were so awesome and in awe of ABBA. I have no idea why I turned into an interviewer – something just took over!
Me: “Ms. Streep, I loved you in “Mamma Mia!” – you were fantastic. Thank you for coming tonight and supporting ABBA.
MERYL: “Why thank you – I wouldn’t miss this for anything. This is such a fantastic night.”
Me: “Did you see Frida?”
Faith Hill and husband Tim McGraw:
Me: “Mr. McGraw, what ABBA song will your wife be singing tonight?”
TIM: “She will be singing The Winner Takes It All. Let me introduce you and Tom to her…"
Me: “Ms. Hill….you are stunning! How do you feel about singing one of Agnetha’s biggest songs?”
FAITH HILL: (Putting her hand on her chest)…”I know! I’m so excited!”
Me: “Mr. Collins, you are amazing. Did you see Frida tonight? What was it like working with her back in ’82?”
Phil Collins: “I did…she was and IS absolutely fantastic.”
Congratulations ABBA. I am so happy and proud to say I was there.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2010 images – courtesy of Jim McGuire
Jim is pictured with his partner Tom, friend Jimmy, Görel Hanser, Thomas Johansson, Phil Collins, Meryl Streep, Barry and Robin Gibb and of course, Benny and Frida in the various fantastic shots.