Great Moments in Televised Show Business History!
Van Halen, US Festival ‘83
As many of you will remember, Apple Computer threw a weekend festival called the US Festival ‘83 at the Glen Helen Park in Southern California. Among televised highlights (at least as far as I remember) were The Pretenders, The Clash and an overly theatric U2 with Bono climbing the stage’s scaffolding, almost breaking his neck in the process. What a goon.
Well, as luck would have it, Van Halen closed ceremonies on the middle night. They were paid $1.6 million for their performance, which was, at the time, the most a group had ever been paid for a gig. As legend has it, they insisted on being paid more than David Bowie in order to play. Bowie was paid $1 million. Not bad for a night’s work. Now, David Lee Roth is a man who conjures up equal amounts of sheer amusement and respect around the Chunklet offices, but on this particular night, he couldn’t have been more whacked out of his mind. Here’s the deal....
What We Saw On Television: Right before Van Halen went on stage, millions of viewers saw a pre-taped (read: staged) skit go on backstage involving Diamond Dave, a piano, two groupies and a bottle of Jim Beam. However, the reality of the situation was far more rock (read: hilarious).
What Really Happened: Moments before going out on stage in front of 670,000 fans (not to mention all of the viewers on then-two-year-old MTV), DLR was barely able to stand up, after a day of rocking and/or rolling. As the rest of the band went on stage to earn approximately $200,000 per hour per person, their soon-to-be-shitcanned lead singer puked and followed that up with two lines of cocaine, then rushed on stage! Now, that, dear reader, is rock’n’roll!
Below is the transcript of the “stage banter” after the second song. Elapsed time is five minutes! The time was necessary to get Roth to sober up, but what transpired was nothing short of hilarity! Please keep in mind that Roth is performing in front of what The Guinness Book of World Records called the largest attendance for a concert. Let’s take a look at the damage:
(“Runnin’ With The Devil” ends) Well, hello, Glen Helen Regional Park! Look at all the people here tonight! Oh, man! I’ve got to make an announcement right here. Can you hear me out there? (screams from crowd) Hey, man, don’t be squirting water at me! I’m gonna fuck your girlfriend, pal! I just wanted to say that as of right now, this time tonight, more people have been arrested today than the entire weekend last year, man! You a rowdy bunch of motherfuckers! (extensive screaming, 48-second pause) Who likes rock’n’roll? Yeah! Yeah! I’ll tell ya, this is the time of the evening when the band gets to have a drink, right here. Ooooohhh-ohhh. (Roth’s midget assistant comes out and hands him a bottle of whiskey.) Is everybody having a good time so far right here? (screams, whistles and cheers, 40-second pause) I want to take this time to say that this is real whiskey here. The only people who put iced tea in Jack Daniels bottles is The Clash, baby! (segue into “Jamie’s Crying”)
DLR transcription by Sarah Jacobson