The Time Eddie Van Halen ‘Really Got Me’

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eddie van halen really got me“Hey man…let go of my hand.”

His tone was measured but stern. And he was none too happy.

It was 1998…Houston, Texas. I was still knee-deep in to my drumming career and had just seen one of the greatest all-time American rock bands tear it up in the Lone Star state…

Van Halen.

My close friend had family ties with the band, and as a result we received ‘The Treatment’: Backstage passes, hospitality (girls lacking upper torso attire) and great tickets (you get my drift).

Pretty much what every red-blooded male dreams of.

And of course, girls too. 🙂

So immediately after the show, we are hastily ushered in to some vans to be shuttled back to the band’s hotel (yes, we had a room there too).

As I settle in my seat with my friend and and the band’s tour manager, Eddie Van Halen plops in to the seat right in front of me, lights a cigarette and mutters ‘hey man’ at me, shooting me a glare.

I had previous interactions with arguably the greatest rock guitarist of all time, including earlier in the day at the hotel…which were, shall we say, uncomfortable:

“Why is your hair wet?” he asked me three times.

“It’s hair gel.” I replied uneasily. He would then shoot me a disgusted stare and turn away.

I can only imagine over the years all the people that hounded this guy…wanting a picture, an autograph. Wanting whatever they could get. To be blunt, he was not the nicest guy around.

I figured as a result he wasn’t the most trusting person…could you blame him?

But as we rumbled back to the hotel it ate at me. “Why is he being mean to me?? He doesn’t know me from Adam. I’m a cool guy. You know…I don’t give a rip who is or that he’s famous!” I’m muttering to myself.

I’m getting more irritated…and I’m drunk.

Bad combo.

So I see Eddie reach to grab a cigarette and while he is in the middle of a conversation with his manager I interrupt him:

“Hey man…can I bum a cigarette from you.”

The van goes silent.

I don’t smoke.

He turns around, shoots me a bothered look and says “sorry man…it’s my last one.”

I can now feel my friend’s stare at me without me even looking. It’s one of those ‘what the hell are you doing just shut the f#%@ up what’s wrong with you??????’ kind of looks.

I settle back my seat and a few minutes later I notice Eddie pulling a fresh pack of smokes out of his shirt. As he grabs another cigarette he sees me looking at him.

“Here…want a cigarette?” (He probably thought he was busted)

“I don’t have a light.” I respond as I stick the cigarette in my mouth.

‘Shuuuuuuuuutttt Uppppppppp!!!’ my friend is pleading to me with his eyes.

As Van Halen lifts his lighter towards me, I grab his hand to steady it.

“Hey man…let go of my hand.”

“Sorry.” I respond. Then I retort…no doubt in a drunken slur: “Your hands must be insured by Lloyds of London, right?”

At this point I think my friend is about to cry…

I had seen that stare before. It was right off the front cover of Van Halen I (go look and you’ll see) and I think for a second he was going to jam his smoke in my nose.

But the rest of the van trip went without incident (and Kenny’s drunken rambling), and as we were dumped off at the hotel Eddie walked up to me.

“Hey man. I was just f#$@*!@ with you.” he quipped with a wry smile. Then he quickly walked away.

There ARE a few important lessons here:

Never assume because someone is rich and famous they have ‘the life’. I’ve been around my fair share of celebs. Most of them are pretty tweaked.

And I can see why.

Be the bigger person and conduct yourself with class. I was an immature dick. In business (and in life) you cannot afford that. And if you think you can, it WILL catch up with you, no matter how big and powerful you are (as we’ve seen lately).

It pays to have humility and manners.

Always.

I’m gonna put on some VH now.

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