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7 Pampered Celebrities and their Ridiculous Pre-show Demands

Everyone knows rock and roll is about thrills and excess—we just didn't realize that spirit was supposed to extend to the greenroom buffet. The following are seven very pampered acts that made sure their laundry list of demands got tacked onto their contracts.

1. Van Halen and the Whole M&M's Thing

Van Halen first gained notoriety for their stipulation that, at every gig, their dressing room was to contain a large bowl of M&M's, but with all the brown ones removed. And while this has often been cited as proof of the band members' towering egos, it was actually included by tour promoters as an easy way of seeing if the concert venues had read the contract thoroughly (particularly the parts about technical requirements). But sneaky M&M tactics aside, Van Halen's riders are also notorious for the sheer volume of alcohol they stipulate. One rider specified that their dressing room was to contain a case of beer, a pint of Jack Daniel's, a pint of Absolut, a 750 ml bottle of Bacardi Añejo rum, three bottles of wine, small bottles of Cointreau and Grand Marnier, and a 750 ml bottle of one of five specific premium tequilas. Don't forget six limes, margarita salt, shot glasses, ingredients for Bloody Marys, and a blender. Sure, there are only four dudes in the band, but shouldn't you expect this sort of behavior from a group whose bassist plays a guitar shaped like a bottle of Jack?

2. J-Lo's Trailer from the Park

200px-Jennifer_Lopez_-_This_Is_Me_Then_-_CD_album_cover.jpgThere are divas, there are superdivas, and then there's Jennifer Lopez. That's right, the same sultry soulstress who preaches the "keep it real" street mantra also happens to require a trailer at least 40 feet in length, in which everything is white. That means drapes, couches, candles, tablecloths, lilies, and roses (she also requires yellow roses with red trim thrown in as well). And if you're hoping to keep a prolonged smile on "Jenny from the Block's" pretty mug, you can't forget the selection of current CDs she requires, chosen from a list of 43 artists, or her three favorite scented candles from Diptyque—Tuberose, Figuier, and Heliotrope. And that's just from her contract for a charity song benefiting AIDS victims in Africa! Oh, and did we mention Jenny was only at the event for a total of 90 minutes? It's almost as if her ego's as big as her . . . nope, too easy.

3. Guns N' (Long-Stemmed) Roses

Cher's wig room, Weird Al's weird water demand and the star who needs 24-pieces of chicken and a pack of condoms before every show, all after the break.

images-12.jpg They were one of the biggest bands of the 1980s and '90s. Just ask them. And in a band of big egos, the very biggest was lead singer Axl Rose. He had his own dressing room, stocked with plenty of the things a vocal professional needs: hot water and honey (Sue Bee brand only); a rib-eye steak dinner; a large pepperoni pizza; a deli tray with a heavy emphasis on lean roast beef, ham, and turkey; and a bottle of Dom Perignon. His bandmates had much simpler tastes. Their dressing room was to contain lots of chips, nuts, exotic fruits, and cheese. Of course, they went a little less simple on the drinks. Aside from a few cases of soda, the band also required four cases of beer, two fifths of Jack Daniel's, two fifths of Stolichnaya vodka, two bottles of Chardonnay, and a bottle of Jägermeister. Oh, and don't forget to throw in a couple bottles of . . . carrot juice? Clearly, it's the cornerstone behind every successful rock act. As are the four cartons of cigarettes and the assortment of adult magazines you'll need to provide.

4. Meat Loaf (Just a Little Overdone)

Yes, that Meat Loaf. The man who brought us Bat Out of Hell obviously requires quite a bit in return. His rider states that the promoters are to recognize that they are dealing with an international "superstar" and therefore all provisions must be first class, as befits a "superstar." And that's two words: Meat. Loaf. Sheesh! His dressing room spread must include, among many other things, a loaf of 100% multigrain bread (preferably Vogel's Flaxseed & Soy), two bags of potato chips, a package of low-fat chicken or turkey wieners, four Gala apples (specifically, hard and crunchy ones), four low-fat fresh-baked muffins from a bakery, steamed broccoli and green beans amandine (not too soggy), a sliced roast pork tenderloin, a sliced roast beef tenderloin, and two baked potatoes. And this is supposed to feed two people. We're guessing they're both for the Loaf.

5. Poison's Poison

Pretty standard for a rock band, really. Deli trays, condiments, lots of booze, etc. But what
was Poison's poison? Apparently, pyrotechnics. Their contract also required that all the venue's smoke and fire detectors be switched off due to the band's flair for flares. So how do we think the concertgoers would feel knowing that little tidbit? Also very odd, Poison's rider stipulates that an American Sign Language interpreter must be made available on request for the band's deaf fans. And the band will need 24 hours' notice if the ASL interpreter needs the lyrics beforehand. Of course, some critics claim that most of the band's fan base was deaf (records sold being proof).

6. The Village People's Payment Plan

Village-People-YMCA-23090.jpgYou might think that a bunch of guys as past their prime as The Village People would just be glad to get a gig. Nope. They still draw a crowd, so therefore they still have demands in their rider. The front page of their rider contains one stipulation: that all balances to The Village People be paid in "CASH" (yes, it's in all caps). It goes on to say that they can only be photographed in costume, that they won't fly in prop planes, and that they prefer certain seats in the plane (as specific as "aisle, rear right side of plane" for the Navy guy) and certain airports of origin. Disco may be dead, but ego certainly seems to be staying alive.

7. Various Spoiled Artists

040503_KFC-bucket.jpgOh, there are just so many. Celine Dion requires a children's choir with 20 to 24 children of all races. Pavarotti used to demand that there be no noise backstage or distinct smells anywhere near him; but he did want a golf cart. Cher can't perform without a wig room, cable TV that gets Turner Classic Movies, and a room for her massage therapist. "Weird Al" Yankovic is a strict vegan and forbids Dasani water. Elton John demands that his dressing room be kept at 60° in summer and 70° in winter. And Busta Rhymes insists that there be no pork or beef anywhere near his dressing room; but he does want a 24-piece bucket of KFC and a box of Rough Riders condoms (ribbed).

Ed. Note: This list was pulled from Forbidden Knowledge.


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Dodo: © Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Background: iStock
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science
Head Case: What the Only Soft Tissue Dodo Head in Existence Is Teaching Scientists About These Extinct Birds
Dodo: © Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Background: iStock
Dodo: © Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Background: iStock

Of all the recently extinct animals, none seems to excite the imagination quite like the dodo—a fact Mark Carnall has experienced firsthand. As one of two Life Collections Managers at the UK's Oxford University Museum of Natural History, he’s responsible for nearly 150,000 specimens, “basically all the dead animals excluding insects and fossils,” he tells Mental Floss via email. And that includes the only known soft tissue dodo head in existence.

“In the two and a bit years that I’ve been here, there’s been a steady flow of queries about the dodo from researchers, artists, the public, and the media,” he says. “This is the third interview about the dodo this week! It’s definitely one of the most popular specimens I look after.”

The dodo, or Raphus cucullatus, lived only on the island of Mauritius (and surrounding islets) in the Indian Ocean. First described by Vice Admiral Wybrand van Warwijck in 1598, it was extinct less than 100 years later (sailors' tales of the bird, coupled with its rapid extinction, made many doubt that the dodo was a real creature). Historians still debate the extent that humans ate them, but the flightless birds were easy prey for the predators, including rats and pigs, that sailors introduced to the isolated island of Mauritius. Because the dodo went extinct in the 1600s (the actual date is still widely debated), museum specimens are very, very rare. In fact, with the exception of subfossils—the dark skeletons on display at many museums—there are only three other known specimens, according to Carnall, “and one of those is missing.” (The fully feathered dodos you might have seen in museums? They're models, not actual zoological specimens.)

A man standing with a Dodo skeleton and a reconstructed model of the extinct bird
A subfossil (bone that has not been fully fossilized) Dodo skeleton and a reconstructed model of the extinct bird in a museum in Wales circa 1938.
Becker, Fox Photos/Getty Images

Since its extinction was confirmed in the 1800s, Raphus cucullatus has been an object of fascination: It’s been painted and drawn, written about and scientifically studied, and unfairly become synonymous with stupidity. Even now, more than 300 years since the last dodo walked the Earth, there’s still so much we don’t know about the bird—and Oxford’s specimen might be our greatest opportunity to unlock the mysteries surrounding how it behaved, how it lived, how it evolved, and how it died.

 
 

To put into context how old the dodo head is, consider this: From the rule of Oliver Cromwell to the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, it has been around—and it’s likely even older than that. Initially an entire bird (how exactly it was preserved is unclear), the specimen belonged to Elias Ashmole, who used his collections to found Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum in 1677. Before that, it belonged to John Tradescant the Elder and his son; a description of the collection from 1656 notes the specimen as “Dodar, from the Island Mauritius; it is not able to flie being so big.”

And that’s where the dodo’s provenance ends—beyond that, no one knows where or when the specimen came from. “Where the Tradescants got the dodo from has been the subject of some speculation,” Carnall says. “A number of live animals were brought back from Mauritius, but it’s not clear if this is one of [those animals].”

Initially, the specimen was just another one of many in the museum’s collections, and in 1755, most of the body was disposed of because of rot. But in the 19th century, when the extinction of the dodo was confirmed, there was suddenly renewed interest in what remained. Carnall writes on the museum’s blog that John Duncan, then the Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, had a number of casts of the head made, which were sent to scientists and institutions like the British Museum and Royal College of Surgeons. Today, those casts—and casts of those casts—can be found around the world. (Carnall is actively trying to track them all down.)

The Oxford University Dodo head with scoleric bone and the skin on one side removed.
The Oxford University Dodo head with skin and sclerotic ring.
© Oxford University, Oxford University Museum of Natural History // Used with permission

In the 1840s, Sir Henry Acland, a doctor and teacher, dissected one side of the head to expose its skeleton, leaving the skin attached on the other side, for a book about the bird by Alexander Gordon Melville and H.E. Strickland called The dodo and its kindred; or, The history, affinities, and osteology of the dodo, solitaire, and other extinct birds of the islands Mauritius, Rodriguez and Bourbon. Published in 1848, “[It] brought together all the known accounts and depictions of the dodo,” Carnall says. The Dodo and its kindred further raised the dodo’s profile, and may have been what spurred schoolteacher George Clark to take a team to Mauritius, where they found the subfossil dodo remains that can be seen in many museums today.

Melville and Strickland described Oxford’s specimen—which they believed to be female—as being “in tolerable preservation ... The eyes still remain dried within the sockets, but the corneous extremity of the beak has perished, so that it scarcely exhibits that strongly hooked termination so conspicuous in all the original portraits. The deep transverse grooves are also visible, though less developed than in the paintings.”

Today, the specimen includes the head as well as the sclerotic ring (a bony feature found in the eyes of birds and lizards), a feather (which is mounted on a microscope slide), tissue samples, the foot skeleton, and scales from the foot. “Considering it’s been on display in collections and museums, pest eaten, dissected, sampled and handled by scientists for over 350 years,” Carnall says, “it’s in surprisingly good condition.”

 
 

There’s still much we don’t know about the dodo, and therefore a lot to learn. As the only soft tissue of a dodo known to exist, the head has been studied for centuries, and not always in ways that we would approve of today. “There was quite some consideration about dissecting the skin off of the head by Sir Henry Acland,” Carnall says. “Sadly there have also been some questionable permissions given, such as when [Melville] soaked the head in water to manipulate the skin and feel the bony structure. Excessive handling over the years has no doubt added to the wear of the specimen.”

Today, scientists who want to examine the head have to follow a standard protocol. “The first step is to get in touch with the museum with details about access requirements ... We deal with enquiries about our collections every single day,” Carnall says. “Depending on the study required, we try to mitigate damage and risk to specimens. For destructive sampling—where a tissue sample or bone sample is needed to be removed from the specimen and then destroyed for analysis—we weigh up the potential importance of the research and how it will be shared with the wider community.”

In other words: Do the potential scientific gains outweigh the risk to the specimen? “This,” Carnall says, “can be a tough decision to make.”

The head, which has been examined by evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro and extinction expert Samuel Turvey as well as dodo experts Julian Hume and Jolyon Parish, has been key in many recent discoveries about the bird. “[It] has been used to understand what the dodo would have looked like, what it may have eaten, where it fits in with the bird evolutionary tree, island biogeography and of course, extinction,” Carnall says. In 2011, scientists took measurements from dodo remains—including the Oxford specimen—and revised the size of the bird from the iconic 50 pounder seen in paintings to an animal “similar to that of a large wild turkey.” DNA taken from specimen’s leg bone has shed light on how the dodo came to Mauritius and how it was related to other dodo-like birds on neighboring islands [PDF]. That DNA also revealed that the dodo’s closest living relative is the Nicobar pigeon [PDF].

A nicobar pigeon perched on a bowl of food.
A nicobar pigeon.
iStock

Even with those questions answered, there are a million more that scientists would like to answer about the dodo. “Were there other species—plants, parasites—that depended on the dodo?” Carnall asks. “What was the soft tissue like? ... How and when did the dodo and the related and also extinct Rodrigues solitaire colonize the Mascarene Islands? What were their brains like?”

 
 

Though it’s a rare specimen, and priceless by scientific standards, the dodo head is, in many ways, just like all the rest of the specimens in the museum’s collections. It’s stored in a standard archival quality box with acid-free tissue paper that’s changed regularly. (The box is getting upgraded to something that Carnall says is “slightly schmancier” because “it gets quite a bit of use, more so than the rest of the collection.”) “As for the specific storage, we store it in vault 249 and obviously turn the lasers off during the day,” Carnall jokes. “The passcode for the vault safe is 1234ABCD …”

According to Carnall, even though there are many scientific and cultural reasons why the dodo head is considered important, to him, it isn’t necessarily more important than any of the other 149,999 specimens he’s responsible for.

“Full disclosure: All museum specimens are equally important to collections managers,” he says. “It is a huge honor and a privilege to be responsible for this one particular specimen, but each and every specimen in the collection also has the power to contribute towards our knowledge of the natural world ... This week I was teaching about a species of Greek woodlouse and the molluscs of Oxfordshire. We know next to nothing about these animals—where they live, what they eat, the threats to them, and the predators that rely on them. The same is true of most living species, sadly. But on the upside, there’s so much work to be done!”

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