SOME STARS ARE JUST FULL OF THEMSELVES
(Yet Some Aren't)
Backstage Contract Demands
By Steve Ludwig
Are you as fascinated as I am at some of the things that appear as part of a performer's contract rider?
A contract rider is a list of requests or demands by the performer for a concert promoter to follow.
Reading these riders gives one a good idea as to the personality of the performer; they're certainly not an end-all glimpse into a performer, but they can be quite telling.
Jennifer Lopez has more talent in her pinky (or in her case, her left buttock) than I do in my entire body.
But once I checked out her contract rider, she proved to be the type of person I had heard she was for so long: one of the biggest, most self-absorbed divas in the world.
The phony baloney appeared for a charity concert a few years ago; a charity concert, ok? Before she would perform, her rider included that she must be provided with a forty-foot private trailer adorned with white curtains, white carpeting, and white furniture. Add to that expensive French candles at fifty bucks a pop; I wonder how much those demands set back the charity. And when she agreed to be part of a recording for the same charity, yup, she insisted on the forty-foot, custom-furnished trailer. Grrrr...
Mariah Carey's just as full of herself. Her backstage area has to include furniture with "no busy patterns," two dozen white roses, and $200 bottles of cabernet sauvignon.
Christina Aguilera demands a full police escort to and from her concert venues, so she doesn't have to endure traffic jams (like us common folk).
Sure, the argument can be made that, hey, these people have earned the right to demand these things. I say BUNK! They've earned the right to be idiots and to look down at people? Or maybe they were this way before they "earned" this "right."
Compare Carey and Lopez's riders to Alicia Keys's. Ms. Keys puts both of those divas to shame, talent-wise, as well as rider-wise. What does this performer who has sold over 15 million records demand? Only tuna fish sandwiches and some simple Glade candles. Why do I get the feeling that Alicia Keys would be a cooler friend to have?
Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis the King, could be demanding. Being Elvis's only kid automatically brings with it a sense of unreality. Keeping Princess Presley happy must be near impossible, wouldn't you think? She must "require" thousands of flowers at least, before she can give a representative performance. Nope. Lisa Marie's rider states, "Flowers are OK, but not necessary."
I developed an interest in these things a few years ago after I had read that one of the stipulations in Van Halen's contracts was that, among other things, their backstage dressing rooms must be supplied with M & M's; however, all the brown M & M's had to be removed, or else the band may not play that night.
I thought to myself, What a bunch of friggin' prima donnas. But after I discovered the full story, I found myself giving credit to Van Halen for being pretty darn smart. One of the first things their handlers and roadies check when they arrive at a gig is the M & M dish. If there are brown M & M's in there, they know the promoter has not properly read the contract, and there may be more important issues to address before the band takes the stage. Pretty clever, huh?
The Beach Boys have a similar instance in their riders. They want BIC lighters available backstage, but none of them may be green.
Some of the biggest, most influential performers (not necessarily the biggest-selling...are you listening, Jennifer, Mariah, and Christina?) are the coolest.
Bob Dylan: a dozen clean towels, 2 ashtrays, a bar of soap, and a table for a food spread.
The velvet-voiced Smokey Robinson? His rider stipulates that whatever he is entitled to backstage, so are his band members and backup singers.
Bruce Springsteen projects an image as being a man of the people. Is he the same way backstage? You bet! The Boss insists on an area large enough so the band and crew can share their pre-concert meal together.
Some riders might surprise you, as they did me.
Rapper Eminem insists on no alcohol backstage (he's a recovering alcoholic). He asks for "Dannon Light and Fit Yogurt" as well as Gundelshein pickles to be available.
Marilyn Manson wants Gummi bears, Doritos, and 2% milk in his dressing room.
Obviously in response to a bad experience, the Black-Eyed Peas stipulate that the sound board engineer must have a command of the English language, and he must be sober throughout the performance!
One part of Donny Osmond's rider doesn't surprise me. He seems like a good guy. So it makes sense that if a fan runs up onstage, she/he is to be removed quickly but kindly.
Ditto for Elton John. He threatens that any of the venue crew will be relieved of his or her duty if any concertgoer is dealt with in an excessively hostile manner.
Even if you're familiar with Iggy Pop's persona, it'd be hard not to laugh at two of his demands: There must be a Bob Hope impersonator backstage, as well as "...seven dwarfs dressed up as those dwarfs from that marvelous Walt Disney film about the woman who goes to sleep for a hundred years after biting a poisoned dwarf, or maybe pricking her finger on a sharp apple...or something." After listing tons of these superbly outrageous demands, Pop's contract states, "If you can't do these things, it's OK."
Did you know that Willie Nelson's concert venues must be smoke-free? (Yeah, I raised my eyebrows at that one, too.)
I got a laugh out of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Before the concert, they ask that among other things, 12 bottles of beer be out on the food table. After the show? Five cases of beer!
I saved the two most sobering riders for the end, and they both have to do with the Beatles.
No doubt as a result of John Lennon's murder in 1980, as well as George Harrison being nearly stabbed to death by an intruder in 1999 (two years before his death from cancer), Paul McCartney's dressing room must be checked by bomb-sniffing dogs before he enters it.
And we go back to the Sixties for the greatest request of all from the most influential band of all time.
The Beatles, while touring the US in the midst of our country's civil rights protests, had it written into their contract that they would not be required to play to a segregated audience.
Just one more reason why they're the best of all.
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