Sit Back and Enjoy a Nice Life? No, We Can't Do That

The Evening Standard (London, England), March 2, 2005 | Go to article overview

Sit Back and Enjoy a Nice Life? No, We Can't Do That


Byline: LIZ JONES

Bono's wife, Ali Hewson, is no ordinary rock chick. She has made a film on Chernobyl and is launching an ethical clothing label. Here she reveals the secrets of her 23-year marriage

HAVING lunch with Ali Hewson, the wife of Bono, lead singer of U2, at the Clarence Hotel in Dublin, partly owned by her husband. Their oldest daughter, Jordan, turns up dressed in the typical teenage wardrobe of skinny jeans, bomber jacket and trainers. At 15, she is already a beauty, with huge, blue eyes. "Her dad's," beams Ali. "I remember when I saw Bono on stage for the first time and all I could see were his eyes, it was as if they were lit up.

They were electrifying. Amazing."

I ask Jordan whether having Bono (Ali calls him "B") as her father can sometimes be a little embarrassing. Does he wear those wraparound dark glasses to breakfast? She laughs. "No," Jordan says, "he's kind of boring, but sometimes when he drives us to school he wears just his dressing gown, and has the music turned up really loud." Does he give her a hard time when it comes to boyfriends? "Well, I don't have a boyfriend yet," she says, squirming, "so he thinks I'm a real looser."

Ali and Bono, who live in the Dublin suburb of Killiney, have four children.

As well as Jordan, there is Eve, 13, Elijah, five, and John Abraham, three.

"We also have two dogs and a rock band," says Ali, who was terrified she was going to be late for our shoot as the nanny had called in sick. She ended up doing the "very complicated" school run in her husband's Maserati, and then haring into Dublin in the snow.

Bono is in Mexico, rehearsing for U2's American tour. The whole family, plus tutors, will be joining him next month, but he phones "all the time" according to Ali.

He wrote The Sweetest Thing when he missed her birthday.

"Dad is always going away," says Jordan, "but he always comes back."

"Elijah will never say goodbye to anyone," says Ali, "he just goes downstairs until they've gone, it's so sad and so sweet." "I think he's just plain rude," says Jordan.

Ali, who at 42 has pale skin, rosy cheeks and inky hair, prefers to be low-key, which is why the couple still lives in the city they grew up in and why they try very hard to make sure their children grow up appreciating how lucky they are. "We have taken them to the townships in South Africa," says Ali. "And although they have much more than Bono and I did growing up - Bono's dad was in the postal service, my mum and dad had an electrical business - we don't spoil them.

"When I first went to Ethiopia with Bono 20 years ago for Band Aid, we slept in a tent for five weeks, we saw children dying around us, and when we came back to Dublin we were in shock that there was all this food in the supermarket, that we had so much stuff. It was obscene."

Ali, who has just launched an ethical clothing range, has never been a typical rock star wife. She is the antithesis of bling; the only jewellery she wears apart from her wedding band is a simple pearl necklace, given to her by Bono but hidden under her black polo neck.

While Bono's career was taking off in 1987 with the release of The Joshua Tree album, making them the biggest band in the world, with album sales over 100 million, Ali was studying for a degree in political science at University College. "I gave birth to Jordan two weeks before my finals," she says.

She became involved in fundraising for the children of Chernobyl in 1993, making an Oscar-winning documentary; she is godmother to a child she met while in the Ukraine. Ali once left Bono with the kids so that she could drive an ambulance to Belarus. In 2002, she began a campaign to close Sellafield, the nuclear reactor across the Irish Sea in Cumbria.

ALI has been shot at in Sarajevo and El Salvador. But it wasn't Band Aid 20 years ago that first politicised her. …

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