Meeting Eddie Van Halen

I the early 1980s I had the opportunity to work back stage for Van Halen, at the peak of their popularity. It was just a one off thing via my brother in law, but it actually paid and I was even surprised to get a W-2 tax form form the work.

As far as job, I had to stand at the top of a section of seats behind the stage and make sure nobody sat there. Eddie had just married Valerie Bertinelli and I was surprised to see her on the stage just in front of me watching the show from behind a stack of speakers.

Halfway through the show, during a solo, Eddie smashed up his guitar. The crowd loved it and thought it was part of the show. From the reaction of the roadies backstage I could tell it wasn’t.

After the show my brother in law and I loitered around back stage, mostly getting in the way of the roadies moving equipment. I saw Eddie running around with his broken guitar trying to hustle up repair tools. I remember he had a power drill. His new wife was following behind him.

I was hoping to meet David Lee Roth, and later realized I had seen him sitting on some crates before the show. He was smaller than I expected and somehow I figured it was a guy trying to dress like Roth.

Around this time a burly guy walks up to us and asks how we liked the show. It was Michael Anthony, the bass player. We chatted for a while, moving to stay out of the way of the roadies. Part of the show was Anthony’s bass solo, where he would throw his bass on the ground and jump on it. My brother in law inquired as to how the instrument stayed in tune after that sort of abuse. He paused looked concerned and said “I’m not sure”. I’ve been a fan of Michael Anthony ever since.

A limousine came squealing toward us in reverse, almost hitting us. Michael Anthony yelled and smacked the fender and the driver apologized. Alex and Eddie (with an armload of broken guitar and tools) dove into the car. My brother in law hit up Michael Anthony for an autograph before he got into the limo. People were yelling at him to get into the limo but he took his time signing the autograph. Then my brother in law asked: could we get Alex and Eddies autograph, too? Michael Anthony went to the limo and made the Van Halen brothers get out and sign an autograph for my brother in law. I can’t say they were friendly but they weren’t rude or anything.

So I suppose “meeting” Eddie Van Halen is a bit of an exaggeration, since we never really spoke. It was one of the more interesting evenings of my youth. It definitely disabused me of any notions of the glamour of a touring rock band.