30 Seconds with Bono's First Cousin, Simon Hewson
The native Irishman and bar manager of Newark's Greene Turtle has been to over 300 U2 concerts.
Photo by Luigi Ciuffetelli
Simon Hewson is your typical friendly, chatty bar manager. But when the 51-year-old isn’t working at The Greene Turtle, he’s traveling and taking in U2 concerts. His first cousin is Paul Hewson, better known as Bono, the lead singer of the mega-popular Irish rock band. He shares what brought him to the states, how many U2 shows he’s been to and his favorite venues to see the band rock out.
What brought you to the United States?
I grew up in Balally, Ireland, which is south of the city [Dublin]. I moved to the U.S. in August of 1993. My first job was managing a restaurant in an Atlantic City casino [Trump Plaza]. I got that job for my green card; I had to have a job offer. I had cousins that lived near Atlantic City so they took a chance on me. It was a good initiation.
I have to ask: Did you ever come face to face with Donald Trump?
I met Trump a total of three times. One time he said to me, “Oh, you’re the Irish dude.” I said, “Thank you, sir.”
How did you end up in Delaware?
I used to be the general manager at Kildare’s Irish Pub in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Six years ago, the guy who owned it asked me to take over the one in Newark. I ran it for 18 months but left seven months before they closed. I’ve been at The Greene Turtle for four years.
How does Delaware compare to Ireland?
It’s about the same size. I’ve spent a quarter of my life in the states, but the people in Delaware are the closest to Irish people in terms of accessibility, friendliness and openness. They don’t take you for granted and people seem to want to get to know you.
What did you know about Delaware before you came here?
I thought I was being sent to Newark, New Jersey. I didn’t even know there was a Newark, Delaware. But from day one, being around the university, I’ve enjoyed the liveliness of the town when school is in.
How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
I used to go to New York and hang out but over the last few years we’ve done some good stuff at The Turtle. The Delaware State Police Pipes and Drums will probably pay us a visit this year. Being the only authentic, full-blown Irish guy, we will do an Irish toast around 3 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day [at the Greene Turtle].
What was Bono like as a kid?
He’s 7 ½ years older than me and grew up with his father and brother. His mother died when he was 12. They lived on the north side of Dublin, and my family lived on the south side (my mom still lives there). For family events and Christmas we would meet up—we have a big extended family. My father and Bono’s father had a love of music.
Do you call him Bono or Paul?
When we’re in company, I call him Bono. When we’re alone, I call him Paul. Bono is his public persona.
Did you think he was going to become a mega superstar?
I was probably 10 or 11 when he started getting noticed. I was 12 when the first album came out, but it wasn’t until “The Joshua Tree” (I was 19) that I first realized how big he was.
What’s your favorite U2 song?
I have favorite songs for different reasons, but my default favorite is “One.”
How many U2 concerts have you attended?
I’ve lost count at 300, but that’s my way of keeping the connection going. We used to meet up before shows for a few minutes and he would ask about my mom; he still sends her flowers on her birthday, and I always get a Christmas card from him.
Do you get backstage passes or other perks?
I have a direct line to his personal assistant so I deal directly with her; it is safer that way. He’s never given me bad seats. I get a couple free tickets, but [for the most part] I’ll pay just the cost price of the ticket level. But I do get free hospitality passes.
Where is the best place to see U2 perform?
It’s a toss-up between Madison Square Garden inside and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena outside.
Can you sing?
Hell, no! The only difference between him and me is he’s 7 ½ years older, he’s married, has four great kids, a lot more money in the bank and he can sing. Apart from that, we are exactly the same.