• Chris Cornell watched the Kingdome implosion, March 26, 2000

    By: Casey McNerthney

    Updated:

    Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell was remembered Friday in a somber memorial service in Los Angeles. A mixture of celebrities and music elite remembered Cornell’s love for his family, and his musical achievements as one of rock’s leading voices.

    In Seattle, fan Lee LeFever recalled a day when Cornell and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder stood together on a Seattle rooftop as a couple of locals, watching the Kingdome implosion.

    It was a Sunday, March 26, 2000. The Kingdome, which was the longtime home of the Seahawks, Mariners, boat shows, rock concerts and the occasional religious gathering, was packed with nearly 6,000 dynamite charges. Thousands of locals crowded together on rooftops and overpasses to get a view of the early-morning implosion.

    LeFever had a buddy with a construction job downtown, and he and three friends went there for the rooftop view. There were about 50 people milling around, passing time before the 8:30 a.m. implosion.

    Then someone said, “Wait, isn’t that Eddie Vedder over there?”

    It was, and he was there with Cornell.

    Cornell was one of the first people Vedder met outside his Pearl Jam bandmates after moving here in 1990. For a time, the two were neighbors.

    “I had no idea how it would affect my life and my views on music and my views on friendship and what a big impact he would have,” Vedder told a crowd before performing with Cornell in September 2011.

    After LeFever's story about the Kingdome implosion day appeared in a Seattle Magazine story by Michael Rietmulder, he was told the two rockstars had the same entertainment lawyer who had a penthouse in the building, which was the Newmark Tower at 1415 2nd Avenue.

    LeFever, 43, discovered Pearl Jam and Soundgarden as a college freshman in fall 1991. He remembers watching one of the band's videos in which Vedder falls into a crowd during a Moore Theatre concert, and thinking, “Wow, that’s what’s happening in Seattle.”

    That was a part of what brought him here in 1998 after graduate school, moving to Capitol Hill from Charleston, South Carolina without a job but in love with the idea of living in the Northwest. He felt at the time there couldn’t be two places further apart in so many ways, “and I loved it,” LeFever said.

    Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder went to the roof of the Newmark Tower at 1415 2nd Avenue to watch the Kingdome implosion at 8:30 a.m. March 26, 2000. (Photo copyright 2017 by Lee LeFever)
    Copyright 2017 by Lee LeFever

    On the rooftop, Cornell and Vedder casually mingled, holding coffee mugs.

    “They were definitely the only people there that were dressed like rock stars, especially Chris Cornell,” said LeFever, who wore a button-down fleece that morning. “He just had the spiked hair and the tight pants and the sort of look of a rock star. And I think Eddie Vedder at the time and even now has an unmistakable look.

    “It was just sort of unbelievable to look up and see these people that you only see in TV and magazines and music videos. But they seemed totally normal and totally at ease.”

    LeFever thought about approaching. He hatched a plan: Ask them to take a picture of him with the Space Needle in the background. That would be a pretty simple request, and wouldn’t make it weird.

    But “I couldn’t work up the courage to say anything at the time,” he recalled.

    And maybe that was best, LeFever said. If the same scene had happened today, 17 years later in the era of smartphones and social media, maybe it would have been a mob scene with everyone wanting selfies. It wouldn’t be the same.

    “I’m glad," LeFever said, "that maybe at the time it was a place where they could be safe at home in Seattle among their Seattleites and know that people aren’t going to be too crazy.”

    LeFever now writes a blog, Camping on Tuesdays, and co-founded Common Craft, an educational video company, with his wife, Sachi. They live in Seattle with their two dogs, Bosco and Maybe. (Yes, they have a dog named Maybe.)

    Editor's note: The headline for this story has been updated since the initial publication

    Information from The Associated Press is included in this report. This story also was updated to correct the Pearl Jam video filmed at the Moore Theatre. 

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