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The license plate on my Toyota says it all: 4NRFAN.

Just between you and me, in retrospect, it should really read LOUFAN.

My love for the rock group Foreigner began, ironically enough, with my foster sister. Kelly and I never agreed on anything, let alone music. She and a high school boyfriend, whose name has long been forgotten, entered a dance contest and won a copy of of the group's self-titled first album. She brought it home, put it on the turn table and, magically, this divine voice came wafting through our home and reached my budding teen ears. By the time the second song was finished, I was thoroughly hooked.

KonoctiMickMore 25 years later, I can say I've had the privilege of meeting some of the men who have comprised Foreigner thanks to sheer luck, the kindness of my dear friend Carol Zanetti and the internet. Who would have imagine all those years ago that computers would link me to other Foreigner fans? Or that these fans often gathered to enjoy concerts together as often as time, money and the reality of our lives allow?

Truly amazing.

I've been lucky enough to meet the man behind the voice, Lou Gramm, and the man behind the band, Mick Jones. I've been touched by the warmth and genuine kindness of bassist Bruce Turgon, stood in awe of former drummer turned wood-turning artist Dennis Elliott, and been enraptured by the talents of sax man Tom Gimbel, keyboardists Jeff Jacobs and John Purdell, and drummers Brian Tichy and Mark Schulman.

I've learned that while I admire and respect the various men of Foreigner, it is the voice of Lou Gramm that sustains me. I still thrill to the "claRenoDonssic" Lou sound – full of power, intensity and emotion – but I absolutely lust for the "mature" Lou sound – still full of power, intensity and emotion, but now a bit deeper, a bit raw and devastatingly honest.

Through Lou's most recent venture, The Lou Gramm Band (LGB), I've been blessed to meet the two men who mean the most to him – his brothers Ben and Richard, both amazing in their own right. The LGB also allowed me to live out a long held dream: I finally got to meet Black Sheep guitarist Don Mancuso. His guitar work is just as soulful as I imagined and his high-energy stage presence surpassed my greatest hopes.

I cherish the souvenirs of my adventures with Foreigner and the LGB: The Schulman, Tichy and Gramm drumsticks, the Jones "sweat towel," the Turgon bass picks, the Jones and Mancuso guitar picks, the autographs and photographs, the numerous ticket stubs, the t-shirts, keychains, coffee mugs and CDs. Yet above all, I cherish the friendships I've made with other fans, great people I would have never known otherwise. And for that reason alone, I am truly indebted to these men who unknowingly served as our personal pied pipers.

LVBruceI have dealt with the powerful, the beloved and the amusing in my two careers, yet, I can barely speak – let alone do it coherently – when in the presence of Mick Jones. Just this year – seven years after first meeting him – I finally met the gaze of Lou Gramm, but it took every fiber of my being to do it. And God knows my hands will tremble should I once again have Bruce Turgon kiss my cheek or Don Mancuso offer me a parting hug.

Why? Because they are my modern day muses; spiritually-gifted beings who have literally guided my heart and soul through the good and bad. In a world where so much is taken for granted, ours is a relationship I will never take lightly.

After all, everybody needs a Jukebox Hero.

BEFL – 1/2007