CLOSE
Original image
wikimedia commons

11 Items in Van Halen's Contract Rider (Including No Brown M&Ms)

Original image
wikimedia commons

Van Halen is back! Featuring David Lee Roth and three Van Halens, the band has reunited for a North American tour, and their new record was released just three days ago. So I thought I'd take a look back at the band's infamous early-1980s tour rider*, the document that specified no brown M&Ms, among many other things.

First a historical note: the "no brown M&Ms" thing was actually a business strategy (this has been discussed on This American Life and confirmed by David Lee Roth). The complexity of the show -- with its massive lights, sound system, rigging, and dozens of crew members -- required attention to detail, or the show would be in jeopardy...and so might people's lives: the gear was sufficiently heavy that it could destroy floors that weren't strong enough, and we're talking about serious electrical requirements too. By embedding hyper-specific details in their contract, Van Halen and its tour managers created a way to spot-check the attentiveness of the venue. As someone who has worked as a front of house engineer, I can attest that many bands have riders containing specific clauses like this, and they are there for a reason: because the venue signs a contract agreeing to provide x, y, and z services. If "z" is "no brown M&Ms" but "y" is "sufficient electricity to power our lighting system," it's crucial that every spot be thoroughly examined. So, with that out of the way, let's have some fun.

1. Salt & Pepper, on Penalty of $100 Fine

Part of the "Misc." clause of the "Dinner" section reads: "Salt & Pepper (any caterer not providing adequate condiments, utensils, or ice will be subject to a $100.00 fine.)" Oddly, the rest of the dinner menu doesn't mention any condiments aside from salt and pepper, so we must assume the boys really liked to shake it up. (Later, under "Supplies," it is specified that salt and pepper must be provided "in shakers.")

2. Six (6) Gallons Chocolate Milk

Throughout the contract, meals are specified in great detail. In total, I found six gallons of chocolate milk (not including the many gallons of regular and whole milk necessary for the crew). The contract also requests fruit [sic] loops.

3. Three (3) fifths Jack Daniels Black Label bourbon, Two (2) fifths Stolichnaya vodka, One (1) pint Southern Comfort, Two (2) bottles Blue Nun white wine

"NOTE: These drinks to be served at room temperature."

4. Two (2) gallons non-carbonated, bottled spring water, One (1) bottle Rose's Lime Juice, grapefruit juice, apple juice, grape juice, Twelve (12) bottles Perrier, Eight (8) quarts Gatorade (non-carbonated, lime flavor), various soda pop

Presumably to be served as mixers. A note on the "Food Requirements (Band)" section, which mentions all of the above booze and mixers, also says: "When not specified, quantities should be sufficient for four (4) people." I refer to the previous list including five fifths of vodka and bourbon, a pint of whiskey, and two bottles of wine...sufficient for four (4) people, of course.

5. M&Ms (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES)

The idea here was to get some poor caterer to pick through the M&Ms and remove the brown ones, so the band or producer could glance at the bowl, verify no brown, and feel good -- if brown candies were present, all hell would (and did) break loose (read the Snopes article for one first-hand account of what David Lee Roth did when he spotted this problem, among others, at one venue). Note that directly beneath this requirement, in the section labeled "Munchies," are requirements for Twelve (12) Reese's peanut butter cups, and Twelve (12) assorted Dannon yogurt (on ice).

6. Ten (10) dozen doughnuts

For breakfast and lunch, the crew required a large quantity of doughnuts. I recall working a gig where doughnuts were referred to as FTUs, or Fat Transfer Units.

7. One (1) large tube KY Jelly

I can really only speculate what this was for. It certainly couldn't have been related to the requirement for "one (1) day bed" to be provided in the "Band Room." Nope, it was probably for surgical use, as Wikipedia suggests. Yeah, that's the ticket!

8. A pleasant temperature

The rider repeatedly discusses temperature, insisting that various rooms and spaces be heated or air-conditioned to "maintain a pleasant temperature." While this demand isn't outlandish at all, it's interesting that it had to be specified three times in order to stick -- I'm guessing the band encountered some venues that were of an unpleasant temperature! Oddly, the "Crew Room" was specified to be at only a "comfortable temperature."

There is also mention of a "Tuning Room" which is used to tune stringed instruments. It has a specific requirement that the room be kept at a temperature identical to that of the stage, plus or minus 5 degrees F. While this may seem persnickety to non-musicians, it's crucial to proper tuning of instruments -- a significant temperature change can cause a guitar or bass to expand or contract, going out of tune in the process.

9. Herring in sour cream

Under the otherwise unremarkable "Deli Tray" section, the band specifies this rather particular item. Herring and rock 'n roll clearly taste great together. Oh yeah, and it should be provided in quantities sufficient for four (4) people.

10. Five and one half (5 1/2) cases of Coke

The soft drinks specified in the rider are remarkable. Over the course of the day, at least 5.5 cases of Coke are required, but there are also calls for 6.5 cases of 7-Up, 1/2 case Tab diet soda, 1 case Pepsi (heresy!), 1 case Country Time lemonade, "assorted other soft drinks," and endless requirements for many gallons of orange juice. The crew dinner alone calls for 6 gallons of "various juices, including orange juice."

11. Beer!!!

The section marked "Food Requirements (Crew)" says "NOTE: No beer to be provided until dinner at 6:00 p.m." Clearly, someone had learned a lesson. In all, the rider calls for five (5) cases of beer prior to the show, three of those Budweiser and two Heineken. Additionally, the band required four (4) cases Schlitz Malt Liquor (16 ounce cans) just for themselves. (Note that the five cases of beer appear to be mostly for the massive crew; the Schlitz and booze are another matter.)

* = What's a Rider?

A rider is a portion of a contract in which the performer lays out a series of requirements (like food, stage space, electricity, etc.) necessary in order to perform. Riders are part of the contract the venue signs with the performer, and thus have some legal weight. In practice, many venues (at least the ones where I worked in the '90s) are somewhat lax on the specifics of most riders, though we did tend to read them and make an effort -- if the thing said "deli tray" we'd go buy a deli tray. You can read a bunch of riders from The Smoking Gun to get an idea of what these documents are like.

Further Reading

You can read the good parts of the rider, along with some analysis, at The Smoking Gun. It's well worth a read, as there are lots of items I left out of this list (Tupelo honey, anyone?). See also the This American Life discussion of the rider and the Snopes page about it.

Original image
Magnolia Pictures
arrow
Lists
8 Gonzo Facts About Hunter S. Thompson
Original image
Hunter S. Thompson in Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson (2008)
Magnolia Pictures

Like any real-life legend, there are many myths surrounding the life and work of Hunter S. Thompson. But in Thompson’s case, most of those stories—particularly the more outlandish ones—are absolutely true. The founder of the “Gonzo journalism” movement is one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century. In celebration of what would have been his 80th birthday, here are some things you might not have known about the eccentric writer.

1. HE WAS NAMED AFTER A FAMOUS SCOTTISH SURGEON.

Hunter S. Thompson was reportedly named after one of his mother’s ancestors, a Scottish surgeon named Nigel John Hunter. But Hunter wasn't just your run-of-the-mill surgeon. In a 2004 interview with the Independent, Thompson brought along a copy of The Reluctant Surgeon, a Biography of Nigel John Hunter, a biography of his namesake, which read: "A gruff Scotsman, Hunter has been described as the most important naturalist between Aristotle and Darwin, the Shakespeare of medicine and the greatest man the British ever produced. He was the first to trace the lymphatic system. He performed the first human artificial insemination. He was the greatest collector of anatomical specimens in history. He prescribed the orthopaedic shoe that allowed Lord Byron to walk."

When pressed about what that description had to do with him, Thompson responded: "Well, I guess that might be the secret of my survival. Good genes."

2. HE MISSED HIS HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION … BECAUSE HE WAS IN JAIL.

Just a few weeks before he was set to graduate from high school, at the age of 17, Thompson was charged as an accessory to robbery and sentenced to 60 days in jail. 

“One night Ralston Steenrod, who was in the Athenaeum with Hunter, was driving, and Hunter and another guy he knew were in the car,” Thompson’s childhood friend Neville Blakemore recalled of the incident. “As they were driv­ing through Cherokee Park, the other guy said, ‘Stop. I want to bum a ciga­rette from that car.’ People used to go park and neck at this spot. And the guy got out and apparently went back and mugged them. The guy who was mugged got their license number and traced the car, and within a very short time they were all three arrested.

“Just before this Hunter had been blamed for a nighttime gas-station rob­bery,” Blakemore added, “and before that he and some friends got arrested for buying booze under­age at Abe's Liquor Store on Frankfort Avenue by the tracks. So Hunter had a record, and he was already on probation. He was given an ultimatum: jail or the military. And Hunter took the Air Force. He didn't graduate with his class.”

3. IT WAS A FELLOW JOURNALIST WHO COINED THE TERM “GONZO.”

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

While covering the 1968 New Hampshire primary, Thompson met fellow writer and editor Bill Carodoso, editor of The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, which is where Thompson first heard him use the word “Gonzo.” “It meant sort of ‘crazy’ or ‘off-the-wall,’” Thompson said in Anita Thompson’s Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S. Thompson. Two years later, in June 1970, Thompson wrote an article for Scanlan’s Monthly entitled “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” which became a game-changing moment in journalism because of its offbeat, slightly manic style that was written with first-person subjectivity.

Among the many fellow journalists who praised Thompson for the piece was Cardoso, who sent a letter to Thompson that “said something like, ‘Forget all the sh*t you’ve been writing, this is it; this is pure Gonzo.’ Gonzo. Yeah, of course. That’s what I was doing all the time. Of course, I might be crazy.” Thompson ran with the word, and would use it himself for the first time a year later, in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

4. HE TYPED OUT FAMOUS NOVELS TO LEARN THE ART OF WRITING.

In order to get the “feel” of being a writer, Thompson used to retype his favorite novels in full. “[H]is true model and hero was F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Louis Menand wrote in The New Yorker. “He used to type out pages from The Great Gatsby, just to get the feeling, he said, of what it was like to write that way, and Fitzgerald’s novel was continually on his mind while he was working on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was published, after a prolonged and agonizing compositional nightmare, in 1972.”

"If you type out somebody's work, you learn a lot about it,” Thompson told Charlie Rose in 1997. “Amazingly it's like music. And from typing out parts of Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald—these were writers that were very big in my life and the lives of the people around me—so yeah, I wanted to learn from the best I guess."

5. HE RAN FOR SHERIFF IN COLORADO.

In 1970, Thompson ran for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado on what he called the Freak Power ticket. Among his political tactics: shaving his head so that he could refer to his opponent as his “long-haired opponent,” promising to eat mescaline while on duty, and campaigning to rename Aspen “Fat City” to deter "greed heads, land-rapers, and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name 'Aspen.'" Unfortunately, he lost.

6. HE STOLE A MEMENTO FROM ERNEST HEMINGWAY.

In 1964, three years after Ernest Hemingway committed suicide at his cabin in Ketchum, Idaho, Thompson traveled to the late author’s home in order to write “What Lured Hemingway to Ketchum?” While there, according to his widow, Hunter “got caught up in the moment” and took “a big pair of elk horns over the front door.” Last year, more than a decade after Thompson’s death, Anita returned the antlers to the Hemingway family—which is something she and Hunter had always planned to do. “They were warm and kind of tickled … they were so open and grateful, there was no weirdness,” Anita said.

7. HE ONCE USED THE INSIDE OF MUSICIAN JOHN OATES’ COLORADO CABIN AS HIS PERSONAL PARKING SPACE.

Magnolia Pictures

Earlier this month, musician John Oates—the latter half of Hall & Oates—shared a story about his ranch in Woody Creek, Colorado, just outside of Aspen, which is currently on the market for $6 million. In an interview with Colorado Public Radio, Oates recalled how when he first purchased the cabin, there was a red convertible parked inside. “I happened to ask the real estate agent who owned the convertible, and he said ‘your neighbor Hunter Thompson,’” Oates said. “Why is he keeping his car in a piece of property he doesn’t own? The real estate agent looked at me and said ‘It’s Woody Creek, you’ll figure this out. It’s a different kind of place.’” After sending several letters to his neighbor to retrieve his vehicle, Oates took matters into his own hands and deposited the car on Thompson’s lawn. Oates said that the two became friends, but never mentioned the incident.

8. AT HIS FUNERAL, HIS ASHES WERE SHOT OUT OF A CANNON.

On February 20, 2005—at the age of 67—Thompson committed suicide. But Thompson wasn’t about to leave this world quietly. In August of that year, in accordance with his wishes, Thompson's ashes were shot into the air from a cannon while fireworks filled the sky.

“He loved explosions," his widow, Anita, told ESPN, which wrote that, “The private celebration included actors Bill Murray and Johnny Depp, rock bands, blowup dolls and plenty of liquor to honor Thompson, who killed himself six months ago at the age of 67.”

Original image
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
15 Memorable Quotes from George A. Romero
Original image
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Hollywood has lost one of its most iconic horror innovators with the death of George A. Romero, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 77. “He died peacefully in his sleep, following a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer, and leaves behind a loving family, many friends, and a filmmaking legacy that has endured, and will continue to endure, the test of time,” his manager, Chris Roe, said in a statement.

Though he rose to prominence as the master of zombie flicks, beginning with Night of the Living Dead, Romero honed his filmmaking skills on a far less frightening set: shooting bits for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

“I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made,” Romero once said. “What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.” (Rogers returned the favor by being a longtime champion of Romero’s work—and even called Dawn of the Dead “a lot of fun.”)

It’s that high-spirited sense of fun that made Romero’s work so iconic—and kept the New York City native busy for nearly 50 years. To celebrate his life and career, here are 15 of his most memorable quotes on everything from the humanity of zombies to the horror of Hollywood producers.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A SENSE OF HUMOR

“For a Catholic kid in parochial school, the only way to survive the beatings—by classmates, not the nuns—was to be the funny guy.”

ON THE HOLLYWOOD WAY

“If I fail, the film industry writes me off as another statistic. If I succeed, they pay me a million bucks to fly out to Hollywood and fart.”

ON BEING PIGEONHOLED

“As a filmmaker you get typecast just as much as an actor does, so I'm trapped in a genre that I love, but I'm trapped in it!”

ON ZOMBIES AS A METAPHOR

“I also have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters.”

ON FINDING OBJECTIVITY AS A FILMMAKER

“There are so many factors when you think of your own films. You think of the people you worked on it with, and somehow forget the movie. You can't forgive the movie for a long time. It takes a few years to look at it with any objectivity and forgive its flaws.”

ON THE REAL VALUE OF THE INTERNET

“What the Internet's value is that you have access to information but you also have access to every lunatic that's out there that wants to throw up a blog.”

ON THE HORROR OF DEALING WITH PRODUCERS

“I'll never get sick of zombies. I just get sick of producers.”

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COLLABORATION

“Collaborate, don’t dictate.”

ON THE BEAUTY OF LOW-BUDGET MOVIEMAKING

“I don't think you need to spend $40 million to be creepy. The best horror films are the ones that are much less endowed.”

ON HUMANS BEING THE REAL VILLAINS

“My zombies will never take over the world because I need the humans. The humans are the ones I dislike the most, and they're where the trouble really lies.”

ON BEING IMMUNE TO TRENDS

“Somehow I've been able to keep standing and stay in my little corner and do my little stuff and I'm not particularly affected by trends or I'm not dying to make a 3-D movie or anything like that. I'm just sort of happy to still be around.”

ON THE HUMANITY OF HORROR

“My stories are about humans and how they react, or fail to react, or react stupidly. I'm pointing the finger at us, not at the zombies. I try to respect and sympathize with the zombies as much as possible.”

ON THE ENDURING APPEAL OF HORROR

“If one horror film hits, everyone says, 'Let's go make a horror film.' It's the genre that never dies.”

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SURROUNDING ZOMBIES WITH STUPID PEOPLE

“A zombie film is not fun without a bunch of stupid people running around and observing how they fail to handle the situation.”

ON LIFE AFTER DEATH

“I'm like my zombies. I won't stay dead!”

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios