Discord Accompanies Filming of Rock Video in KC’s Downtown

The Kansas City Star by Tanika White and Chris Lester (1997-05-21)

If the hundreds of fans leaning over bridge railings Tuesday still haven’t found what they’re looking for, don’t fret: U2 will be in Kansas City filming their rock music video again today.

And just like Monday’s hubbub, when much of the downtown freeway system was shut down for several hours, Kansas Citians should expect a fair amount of delays and commotion.

Parts of Grand Boulevard, Baltimore Avenue and Delaware and Main streets downtown will be closed on and off today.

Traffic was sluggish at points Tuesday, as travelers had to be rerouted. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., eastbound and westbound Interstate 670 was closed, as were Interstate 35 at the southwest corner of the loop and several ramps onto Interstate 70.

By 10:30 a.m., most traffic delays were cleared up, said Capt. Joseph McHale, commander of the Kansas City Police Department’s traffic unit. “People (were) inconvenienced very little.”

Not all motorists agreed.

By late afternoon, complaint calls routed to Kansas City Manager Larry Brown’s office at City Hall numbered between 50 and 60, said Courtney Christensen, an assistant to the city manager.

The biggest surge of calls came during the morning rush hour, when motorists noticed that a street-closing sign was up long before the stated 9 a.m. closure.

“There was a message board set up,” said Steve Roark, personnel director of Safe-T-Flare Rental Service Inc., which served as a contractor on the job. “But it was turned away from traffic. We got it turned off as soon as possible.”

Some West Bottoms companies also complained about a lack of access to I-670, which is their primary roadway, Christensen said. And some callers questioned the wisdom of closing a freeway for an Irish rock band.

One man from out of town pulled over to the side of the road to angrily query a police officer about how he could get off I-35 onto I-70 eastbound. When he was told he’d have to travel several miles to an exit, he slammed his car door and grumbled.

“I’m not from here. I don’t know how to get back east,” the man said. “I’m mad. I’m just mad.”

But most of the day’s real problems began before streets were closed and had nothing to do with U2.

In the middle of morning rush hour, a truck jackknifed across Interstate 70 westbound, causing a multicar pileup and slowing traffic for miles, police said. And soon after, a power outage between Truman Road and 23rd Street, the Paseo and Holmes Street left commuters without streetlights.

“I had guys prepared to shut down the streets (at 9 a.m.),” McHale said, “but all the manpower we had dedicated to U2 had to be diverted not only to the truck accident but also to the power outage.”

McHale said officers also were trying to keep 400 to 500 spectators out of the camera shots and out of harm’s way. About 50 fans gathered on a footbridge at 16th and Summit streets overlooking Interstate 670, watching a scene being filmed.

On the deserted highway below, about 25 beat-up, vintage cars topped with 1960s furniture and suitcases drove up and around a short stretch of the road, swerving in and out of lanes. The decades-old Impalas, Buicks, Volkswagen bugs, Corvairs, Chevelles and Caddies and were made to look as if they were speeding on a congested freeway.

Most spectators hoped to get a glimpse of the band’s lead singer, Bono.

“People up on the bridge, they’re not here today!” yelled an exasperated man who stomped up and down the highway.

Sam Kirk didn’t believe him.

“I think they just want everybody to go home. It’s the oldest trick in the book,” said Kirk, 23.

But even if he didn’t get to see a band member, Kirk said he wouldn’t be disappointed. “It’s not every day something like this happens here.”

City officials balanced the inconvenience with the economic and publicity benefits.

“I’d never heard of U2,” said Mayor Emanuel Cleaver, wryly noting that his tastes run more toward the Beatles and the Temptations, “though I now know they’re one of the most popular bands on the planet.

“They apparently like our skyline, and their video shoot here will generate as much as a half-million dollars for the local economy.

“It also enhances our growing film industry. I hope that people understand that with growth there is sometimes a little inconvenience.”

The city points to the group’s $250,000 film budget, and officials are doubling that estimate in deference to the “multiplier” effect of fresh dollars being spent repeatedly in the local economy.

Those dollars will generate earnings, sales and other taxes.

But direct dollars for city coffers are less plentiful. The band paid $15 for the initial street-closure permit, Christensen said, and is compensating the city $3 a day for every parking meter out of commission. On-street parking will not be permitted in those areas. The group is also paying for traffic control and security.

Despite a lack of specifics, city officials also have divined some themes of the video.

Christensen said the band is going for a “gritty” video in which an “airborne disease” has killed a city. She said there’s also a “military thing” in today’s shooting.

Such descriptions don’t mesh with rumors on Monday that the video is for the song “Do You Feel Loved.” Although unconfirmed, the video sounds more appropriate for “Last Night on Earth.”

“They don’t really have a script,” Christensen said. “Last Wednesday, they didn’t even have storyboards.”

Don’t take the themes in the video as an indictment of Kansas City’s, shall we say, tranquil downtown. Christensen said the band considered shooting the video in Chicago but chose Kansas City because the band’s schedule opened for the required 2 1/2-day shooting schedule.

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