She is standing in the crowd, 13 rows back, with a florescent orange thong on her head with the flower on the front directly in the center of her forehead above her rock star shades. She sings her heart out to the group of men on stage singing back to the 50,000- person crowd she’s among. Merle Bronson is in her glory at a Bon Jovi concert.
Looking at the 58-year-old Bronson on the street or walking across campus, you might not expect this other side of her.
Go to her office, though, and the clues are everywhere.
There’s a bulletin board with 17 photos of concerts she attended. There are six photos of album logos, the Jon Bon Jovi background on her desktop computer and her jean jacket with Bon Jovi patches.
There’s even a Bon Jovi Smurf playing a keyboard that her co-worker gave her near her board and a Bon Jovi CD playing.
“I’m and idiot fan,” she said with a big smile.
Bronson heard Bon Jovi for the first time on MTV in 1986. She was living on a Navy base in California with her now second ex-husband, rocking her newborn son. She was immediately smitten with Bon Jovi and his music, saying she thought to herself, ‘boy he can wear the hell out of a pair of jeans.’ She never saw him live until 2003 because as a single mother she said she had other financial obligations.
She has been married twice, but Bronson said the first one wasn’t long enough to count. It was a year and two months exactly from marriage to divorce. Bronson has lived as far away from Castleton as California and as close as Poultney. She has one son, Dennis Bronson.
“[Dennis] thinks I’m nuts,” said Bronson.
That’s an accurate depiction, he said.
“Sometimes she gets carried away with what she likes,” explained Dennis Bronson, “but what ever makes her happy I guess.”
It’s obvious Bon Jovi makes her happy, proven by the huge smile while watches videos online of the band or reminiscing with her scrapbook. Every page of the scrapbook is crammed with photos, confetti, decorations, her seven or eight fan club cards and even the thong from her first concert that was given to her as part of a concert survival kit that her colleagues in the registrar’s office gave her. In addition to the thong, it contained sunglasses, earplugs and three types of liquor among other items, she said.
Going on her eighth concert now, she still has not opened anything from the kit – aside from pulling the thong out, of course.
“Merle is just a very happy person at a concert and so focused,” said Judy Holcomb, a fellow Jovi go-er.
“It is a hellacious good time,” said Bronson.
But Bronson also has fun outside of the concerts, saying getting there is half the fun. Getting there has also provided some memorable moments, though. It was going to her first concert in 2003 that she had the “limo ride from hell” to The Pepsi Arena in Albany, N.Y.
The limo was late and was covered in dirty tissues and cigarette butts on the inside – and there was no heat. The driver got lost causing her to have to hustle down the streets of Albany to make the show. Another night she managed to get a ride home from a state trooper because she could not find her cab. She convinced the officer to give her a ride by explaining her blisters on her feet and her C-O-P-D lung condition.
Her longest trip to see her beloved band took her to Rutherford, N.J. It only took her four and a half hours to get there because of her lead foot, which explains the “I drive like a Cullen” bumper sticker next to the Bon Jovi one on her grey Toyota Yaris.
Bronson has worked at Castleton in the registrar’s office for 26 years now. Everyone knows of her love for this band. President Dave Wolk even jokes with her about it. Members of the Castleton community may joke about her Bon Jovi obsession, but they still respect her and her dedicated work at Castleton.
“Merle is a hard worker, very frugal, does a good job and is modest,” said Melissa Paradee who has sought information on a Bon Jovi concert from Bronson before she went.
Bronson will be going to another concert in March, and has already requested for the time off to go, said Paradee.
“This stuff keeps me young. I’m like a kid at a concert,” said Bronson, swaying her head back and forth to her “boredom breaker mix” of all Bon Jovi songs.