Today I Will Launch My Infant Son Into Orbit

2021-12-27

Brown M&Ms

That video has David Lee Roth laying out the truth about the long-standing legend around him trashing a dressing room in Colorado because he found a brown M&M on the snack table. The truth about this has been known since the 90s; Crazy from the Heat, The Dave's wildly popular and well-regarded autobiography, was published in late 1997, and even before that he had given a handful of interviews where he had explained the entire story, in much the same manner as in the video.

I'm not going to rehash the entire story, but the salient bits are as follows: Van Halen was the heaviest show on the road at the time and many venues couldn't actually meet all of their technical requirements, and those that could had to follow the tech rider to the letter to make sure everything was safe and correct. They buried a clause in the middle of the rider requiring a bowl of M&Ms with no brown ones, and if any brown M&Ms were found the contract specified they could call the show without refunds, and had the right to trash the dressing room. This gave them an easy way to spot-check that the rider had been fully read and followed, and every time that clause wasn't met they would find serious technical issues with the setup, some of which could be life-threatening.

The real story is better than the legend, especially when you understand that the entire purpose was, as so much in technical theater is and has been as long as theater has existed, to keep people from getting killed. One thing that always stuck out to me, however, that The Dave doesn't really bring attention to and other people talking about this never really bring up, is that the way the contract was set up kept the heat on the band, and in particular on already-notorious capital-R Rockers Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth. It didn't put the burden of dealing with contract deficiencies on their crew, whether the road crew or their management. They found a way to handle it themselves and to make sure the venue owners and promoters, who only care about the bottom line, had a very immediate reason to care. Trashing a dressing room isn't great, but it set the tone and as far as I or anyone else are aware they never did it again or had to do it again.

Whatever else we might think about Van Halen, every stagehand loves and appreciates Eddie and Dave for this. They set a new precedent for the whole industry; these days, riders usually go straight into the hands of the local crew instead of being filtered through the venue owners or promoters, so that we can do things right the first time, and if that includes spending a paid hour picking brown M&Ms out of the snack bowl, hey, that's fine by me.

Capitalists and landlords often just want to cut corners and pocket the difference; we want to keep people safe, and so did Van Halen.

Expect better. Expect the people whose back you have to have yours as well. You deserve it. We all do.

Posted by decay on Monday, December 27th 2021 at 6:43 pm PST
Last updated by decay on Monday, December 27th 2021 at 6:45 pm PST