Andy Guerrero on hugging the First Lady and having his fauxhawk blessed by the Dalai Lama
Last Thursday, Andy Guerrero had the kind of moment most Obama supporters will only ever experience in dreams: He met First Lady Michelle Obama in the radiant, well-toned flesh. He was, in fact, hugged and caressed by her. Guerrero was among the 3,100 people who waited more than four hours to see Obama in person -- and one of several dozen supporters she greeted while making the frontline rounds afterward.
The next day, Guerrero's Facebook profile was adorned with mementos of his Michelle moment. Where there used to be a photograph of the congenial, colorful Guerrero with his band Bop Skizzum, there is now an Instagram snapshot of Michelle and Andy locked in a lingering gaze. Obama's hand rests on the colorful Guerrero, who sports a tie and a brigh-red fauxhawk.
Guerrero has a history of auspicious celebrity encounters. He's been blessed by the Dalai Lama, for example, and he shared a backstage laugh with Conan O'Brien, one of his bona fide heroes, when Flobots performed on Late Night in 2008. In his two-minute encounter with Madame FLOTUS, Guerrero managed to cram in a message of patriotic gratitude as well as a pitch for a youth media studio project under way from Flobots.org, the organization he co-founded while serving as Flobots' guitarist. (Disclosure: Former Backbeat editor Laura Bond is a former director of the organization.) Still giddy from his Obama encounter and just in time for this evening's presidential debate, Andy Rok shared the play-by-play as well as tips on hugging the White House's most beloved occupant.
So. Tell me the story.
I got up at like 7 a.m. [We] got these special VIP tickets from someone we know who works with Nancy Pelosi, so we were in this special front-row area, right in front of the podium. They had a band playing, which was cool because we waited a really long time. It was Jeff Hughes, the violin player, the "Maestro," and a DJ and drummer, playing Earth Wind & Fire covers. They kept having these different speakers come out. There was a Bronco, and some volunteer, and a schoolteacher. Every time somebody came out, it was like, 'Oh. Not Michelle.' I feel kinda bad saying that, but we were just really excited to see her.
My friend next to me had her baby in an Obama shirt, and it was like a really sweet baby, not crying or anything. I was like, 'Dude, this is awesome. Michelle Obama is totally gonna love this baby, and she's gonna come over here.' But we waited so long. Eventually my friend had to leave to pick up her other kid. I was like, 'Oh, bummer.' And then my phone died. I was like, 'Great. I couldn't even get a picture if I wanted.'
But then Michelle came out and went straight to the podium. She spoke for fifteen minutes. And she's an amazing, great speaker, totally empowering. She's totally got those push-up arms. She looked great. She was awesome. Then she came down and started making her way around the front. She came across the whole line. She probably was there for like twenty-thirty minutes, just going through the whole crowd.
She gets over to me. I didn't know if she was gonna talk to me because I have this crazy hair. But she walked up, and I just went for it. I had a Flobots.org card in my pocket. The whole idea was to invite her to come to our youth media studio, which was inspired by an Obama administration initiative to end inter-generational poverty. And plus, she's like really into kids and stuff.
So I just said to her, 'Next time you're in town, we'd like to invite you to our center. We're working hard to improve graduation rates. Here's our card.' She took it and gave it to her page; she was like 'Okay. We will definitely look into this.' Then I gave her a hug. When you hug the First Lady, there's like six Secret Service guys around, so you can't actually hug hug her. You can't pat her on the back. You have to, like, hug her with your wrists.
How did you know you couldn't hug hug her?
The Secret Service guys were like, 'No hands!' I was like, 'Okay, okay, dude!' She hugged me; I just couldn't hug her. Then she grabbed my face, and her hands were super-soft and nice. I think she was just excited to see some youthful-looking guy at a rally with a bunch of women.
What else did you say to her?
I actually said, 'I want you to know I believe in you as much as you believe in America.' [Laughs.] It was all kind of a blur. I was thinking, 'Hey, I just gave the First Lady my card.' And then I was like, 'Damnit! Of all times to not have a Bop Skizzum CD.' I could have totally given it to the First Lady. She could have totally been doing push-ups to Bop Skizzum right right now.
Did she hug everybody? Is she a hugger?
No, not everybody. She hugged some of the kids and stuff. There was a lot of shaking hands and stuff. I'd say she's definitely a hugger, but it wasn't like everybody. There were these two little girls next to me, and for some reason they started crying. And she was like, 'Why are you crying? It's okay!' You can tell she's a mother. She's just not fake.
She genuinely cares about the country, about the people she meets. She's like our Jackie Kennedy. To me, meeting her is almost better than meeting the president. I mean, I want to meet the president, but this was just amazing. I was like, 'I'm in shock. The First Lady is talking to me. The FLOTUS. Yeah, she likes me. She saw me when she came out.' I had my leather jacket on, some good cologne. I looked Sexy Mexican.
You posted on Facebook that you were in love. How does your wife feel about that?
She was fine with that. She knows, if I was to be in love with someone, it should be the First Lady. I would give her a pass if she declared her love for the president. Plus, she's in love with Michelle, too.
You are one of maybe fifty people in the world who can say you've met an Obama and the Dalai Lama. How do the two experiences compare?
Flobots performed at the Peace Jam with the Dalai Lama and a bunch of Nobel Peace Prize winners, in 2006. I remember being backstage at DU. He has a mad amount of security. I guess people are trying to kill him all the time. It was just crazy. He walked in the room, and it was just instantly a different kind of energy. I don't want to sound too hippie-ish, but all of a sudden, there was just this positive energy in the room.
He was coming up the stairs, and blessing people with that hand gesture he does, that kind of triangle thing with the bow. He saw my hair, and he pointed at me and laughed, and then he did this whole blessing with his hands, like he put them in the shape of a Mohawk. He blessed me because I guess I made him laugh. It was pretty awesome.
So these are some pretty heavy people, obviously. Who could you possibly want to meet next?
I'm assuming every four years I'm meant to meet some kind of global leader, spiritual leader. It'll probably have to be some legendary rocker who's also really cool. Like Paul McCartney or Bono. There aren't that many people like that left. Like Springsteen, or Dylan. One of those guys would be cool.
Our generation needs to get on this. Lady Gaga isn't really gonna cut it.
I already met Lady Gaga. Flobots played this thing in Germany, a tiny label showcase before our record came out, and it was us and her and some band from Iceland. It was right before her first album, right before it blew up. I was like, 'What is this?' I kinda thought I was too cool for school. I didn't think at the time that it might have been good to get Lady Gaga's phone number. Meeting Conan, that was one big thing of my list. I've loved him forever. I got to give him my shirt after the show. You know, I'd really love to meet Jon Stewart, or Colbert. Jon Stewart is like my hero.
Well, I love Jon Stewart, too. But he's no Dalai Lama.
Yeah. Yeah. I guess I can say that is true. Gonna be hard to top these two. Gonna have to be somebody really legendary.
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