I think about Warren more than anyone I've ever interviewed, and that's a list that includes a wide spectrum of people ranging from DJ Khaled to a 60-year-old porn star named Sally. We met for the first time last February at the Bruce Springsteen concert in Sunrise, Florida, where I spent the majority of the night trying to casually observe him like Jane Goodall.
He had my attention the moment he scurried into the seat next to me carrying a white poster that read: “Lizabeth — My Little Girl. I want to marry you. Love, Warren.” And he wasted no time filling his neighbors in on his plan: to win back the love of his life, Lizabeth. She had ended her relationship with Warren a couple of months earlier, leaving him with nothing but a wedding ring.
How exactly Warren was going to win her back, though, was slightly foggy. He hoped that somehow Bruce would see him and his sign, pull him
And that was where we left off. Since then, I imagined Warren was somewhere in the pouring rain with a boombox hoisted over his head. Maybe one day I'd be watching the Super Bowl and see him
But then I saw him again, sitting there in my inbox. Subject: The Most Heartbroken Man. Contact Name: Warren Malone.
"I've got the end of your story," he promised in the email. And a week later we were on the phone as I listened carefully over the pouring rain outside, which I sincerely hoped wouldn't prove to be some sort of cheesy metaphor for another sad chapter in his story.
"It didn't look good for a while," Malone told me. After Bruce strummed his final chord back in February, the 60-year-old former investment banker went home empty-handed. His sign didn't work. And Lizabeth still wanted nothing to do with him. Though I told Malone I would write about him in my review, he wasn't aware of the article until a few days later when his cousin Sean, who was at the concert back in February with Malone's niece Grace, spotted it on a Springsteen fan website.
Malone read the article with a mixture of excitement and disbelief, but not
Though feedback from friends and family ranged from thinking it was "anywhere from cute to brilliant to crazy," the one person who mattered was not impressed. "I thought that she would — at a minimum — [think] what I did was, if not cute, at least an effort. And that's when she told me it was silly." That was at the end of February. March came and went and nothing changed.
But then, in April, a switch flipped. He finally convinced her to visit him at his home in Singer Island. "The way I looked at it was: I gave it a shot and I'm not embarrassed. I gave it a try and that didn't work, so I'll try something else. I'm not going to give in, so if it takes me another five years of presents and love notes or whatever the hell you want, I'm going to keep going. So maybe she just gave in by virtue of the fact that she was just tired of saying no."
Slowly but surely Lizabeth was warming up to him. "I was just working my way to get back into her good graces. And I ultimately found out that just being myself and not pushing too hard was the way back into her heart."
That same month, Malone was poking around on the web when he came across a video from Springsteen's Baltimore concert, which happened a couple months after his failed attempt at the BB&T center. A cellphone video was circulating online that showed Springsteen pull a couple onstage right before he played "I Wanna Marry You." He had noticed them holding a sign in the crowd.
The two walked towards Bruce in disbelief as he handed the man a microphone. The man then got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend over the sounds of a roaring crowd. "You are now pronounced, in the name of rock and roll, husband and wife," Bruce screamed. The three hugged, even kissed each other on the cheek before walking away, mouths agape, to presumably begin the rest of a lovely life together.
Malone felt like he was watching a live feed from an alternate universe. His plan had unfolded perfectly — for somebody else. "I said to Lizabeth, 'Hey look. This guy stole my freaking idea!'" But, when Lizabeth watched the video, she had a shift in perspective. Suddenly Malone didn't seem so crazy. "Today she looks back on it and says, you know, it was a terrific gesture, and I know you put a lot of time and effort into it… So my guess is maybe Lizabeth needed a little bit of reinforcement that maybe my idea wasn't so insane, and maybe it would have worked if Bruce had just taken a peek to the right instead of looking up for Carl in section 310 or whatever the hell he was in."
Malone is now pleased to say that he and Lizabeth are better than they've ever been. On April 25, she flew to Brooklyn with him to watch Springsteen close out the River Tour at the Barclays Center. She had two rules: "No signs and no talking to reporters." Malone complied with both and they had a wonderful time. He swears he saw a tear in her eye when Bruce played "I Wanna Marry You."
And though Malone has gained so much in his reborn relationship with Lizabeth, he's also lost something when it comes to Bruce's music. He admits that now, as a content man with a belly full of love, the songs don't mean as much. He still loves them, of course. But it's just easier to relate to a Springsteen song with a swollen heart.
"Most of his songs have to do with heartbreak. And in fact, the prelude to "I Wanna to Marry You" is a story about love, but it's
But Malone wouldn't trade what he has now for any song on this planet. "I've never been happier in my life." And he's optimistic that the ring — which Malone would like to point out actually cost $75,000, not the $8,500 I initially reported — will soon find a home.
When I first met Malone, I asked him if he had anything he wanted to say to Lizabeth, and he had to hold back tears as he tried to choke out a message to her from his seat at the BB&T Center. At the end of our phone call, I asked him again.
"My message would be, I adore you. I thank you for letting me back into your life. And I will take care of you forever."