Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love? Then Sit Down, Waldo!

Diamond David Lee Roth. ToastMaster General for the Immoral Majority and general all-around flamboyant Rebel-Rouser, who taught me how to “Talk the Talk” and “Walk the Walk”. I spent a large portion of the mid 80’s trying to emulate my hero. From his brash tone to his witty banter. Never at a loss for words, he showed me in bright technicolor what it meant to be an egocentric, controversial and uninhibited pain in the butt. I’m reaching a point in life now where I look back a lot more than ahead.(For God’s sake, you’d think someone died wouldn’t you? Far as I KNOW, he didn’t. . .Close maybe) I am not writing a “preemptive obituary” for my boyhood hero. Rather, I’ve decided to look at what it is that I hoped to accomplish in life, in large part based on this “Highly Fictional” individual. By all accounts, I’m unsure WHAT he was, WHO he was; or as a result, what I hoped to become in adulthood. Was it even “Real”? I’ve been looking through video, audio and about every other kind of media, I could get my hands on to try to find the “lightning” he’d trapped in a bottle, only to find, at this late stage, it’s more like a jar of dead “lightning bugs”. Funny, how your memory can play tricks on you. Well, if there’s one thing I did succeed at when trying to imitate my hero, it’s that I’ve been a Tour Bus Guide AND a School Bus Driver (both of which, he was in music videos – so. . .yeah). Though, there aren’t as many scantily clad women bouncing around in my world. Unless, you count my wife and girls fighting over who gets to take a shower and who took the last of the hot water. Typically, I don’t count that one.

So what was it that “Diamond Dave” embodied in my mind? Was it the American Dream ? Well, sure, if that dream was based on his “Persona” . But, I think “MY” American Dream has been revamped and retooled as the years have passed. But ONE memory endures . . .
I “was” in a Rock Band in high school. I was the lead singer, just like Dave. I even got down his “growl” and his “blood-curdling” (and quite annoying in hindsight) signature yell-scream thingy. I grew out the hair (evidenced in a prior entry-NO, I won’t make you look again). I played no instruments (just like the MASTER lead frontman-unless you count the piano and the saxophone-and the guys in my band didn’t). We worked up a few Van Halen tunes, someMotley Crue and some KISS and practiced every day in our guitar player’s garage.
We even had fights like the band he belonged to. My guitar player was a HUGE Eddie Van Halen fan and I think we all KNOW what I thought about Dave. So, just like our heroes in this tumultuous time, (They broke up in ’85), we had MORE than our share of “infighting” in the band. We would snatch up every article we could find from Rolling Stone, Heavy Metal, Tiger Beat (just kidding) and every other Hard Rock magazine we could find. (at this time Rolling Stone was BIG into Hard Rock-I’m sure they featured other artists, but somehow we never SAW those articles). In fact when I came up with a name for the band, I “lifted” it from an article in RS. “Adventures on the Crocodile Coast”. Some article about conservation of some Rain Forest Area, blah,blah – I don’t know. I just “knew” that the name “Crocodile Coast” was GOLD. (and sounded like something Dave would think of) My guitarist “Kris”, hated that band name, insisting on something like “AXE MAFIA” or “HAMMER OF THE GODS“, but I never wavered. Like the front man of any “real” Rock Band, I’d be having the last say in this one.
When we got our first (and subsequently last) gig. We were “stoked”. We had a set list that consisted of 6 songs: Jump (they didn’t even let me play keyboards), Runnin’ With The Devil (my screams were awesome) Beth (KISS would later help name my daughter) Heaven’s On Fire (My parents LOVED this one) Smokin’ in the Boys Room (another parent-pleaser) and Home Sweet Home (We were kind of wimpy and I didn’t play ‘keys’ on this one either-I KNOW. . . a real ‘jip’) We had spent nearly 2 SUMMER months practicing in my friend’s garage, when we got the call. . . “Jenny Schuster” was turning Sweet 16. We got the call from our agent, Jenny’s brother “Scott”, who played the drums. We had a GIG! And they were gonna’ PAY us! It seemed like something out of a dream! 50 dollars split 3 WAYS. “John” was our bass player and Scott said he was doing it for Jenny’s birthday, so he wouldn’t have to get her anything. He’d been working at Super Value bagging groceries for 3 months now and would be damned if he was going to spend his money on a “woman”. He wanted a new “kit”. Had his eye on a ‘Pearl’ knock-off since the Christmas before and SHOPKO was going to have a SALE the next week. So we, had two weeks to practice before the “Big Day” and we were totally jazzed about it! I thought for sure the “Rock Gods” were smiling on us. Word was even spreading in school! We started having some of Jenny’s friends asking us if we were really “in the band?”. Are you kidding me? These girls were juniors and seniors! We were freshman! They, prior to this, would regularly call us a bunch of “skeezy dorkwads” and regularly hurl other tasty insults at us. Especially when we were trying to look very masculine and tough while puking after running the mile in gym class. (which I think should be BANNED in physical education for those states that still have the funding to require it) “I” even got a girl (Kristy Hanson) to agree to be my “semi-groupie”, by passing me a note in History, saying she’d go to watch me, if I didn’t tell anyone. . . I told EVERYONE.
So the two weeks preceding the “blessed event and our obvious first step on the road to Super Stardom was AWESOME. We had become “quasi-celebrities” and the world had become ours for the taking. Nothing was going to stop us! . . .
Until, my phone rang on Wednesday morning (three days before the show). It was Kris. He was practically crying and I couldn’t understand him. He said he’d tell me in school, but it was something about Van Halen. I didn’t have MTV then (we had bare-bones basic-13 Channels and a PBS affiliate) I had heard the rumors, but could see the confirmation in Kris’s glance as I saw him waiting for me at the bicycle stand, me pedaling my undersized 10 speed slowly towards him, as if to delay the inevitable. (My 10 speed was undersized, because it was a girl’s starter model-Huffy–it was a rough few years in high school) As, I locked up my Shuffy, Kris proceeded to tell me that Van Halen had broken up. How it was all Roth’s fault and something about the End of Rock and Roll. I don’t know for certain. I was kind of mad after the “Roth’s fault” accusation. The next two days were torture. We practiced the set in Kris’s garage, barely speaking. When we got to the VH numbers we kind of hurried through, not looking at each other. Scott and John did what they could to console us, but we were spent, emotionally. The whole thing had really put a “wedge” between us. But we knew we wanted the gig. It’s all we’d talked about for two months. . .
I would like to tell you that we were a HIT. In fact, I’d LOVE to tell you that, but we weren’t. We were awful. I forgot the words to “Heaven’s on Fire” and Kris was all over the place on guitar. . . . But during the Van Halen songs, I was Diamond Dave and he was Eddie Van Halen. We “rocked it right” and we “knew” it. Our band folded about a week later. Kristy Hanson didn’t even show up. Apparently, it was considered “Jerk-Like” to tell EVERYONE she was gonna’ show ‘cuz she was “my woman”. Whatever. Kris and I still kept in touch. (Wow, didn’t realize how much this sounds like “Stand By Me) He never got murdered trying to keep the peace(or died in front of the Viper Room), later in life. In fact, I saw he and Scott at a Van Halen concert (with Sammy Hagar) some years later. We joked around, but it was never the same. . .
So what was it that I saw in Dave, that I wanted? Was it the Fame? Was it the Money? Was it the Babes?
I think Dave taught me something else over these years. I think maybe I should’ve played the saxophone and the piano. Dave never really liked the keyboard. In fact, I hear now, that he really never wanted to record “Jump”, because Eddie had decided to start experimenting with the synthesizer. But guess what? They got back together, just last year. WAY OLD and making the “Stones” look like “Aerosmith”, but they put together a show. But you know what else? I never went to see them. You know why? Because I wanted to keep the show the way I’d imagined it. . .in my friend’s garage. . .“When We Were Rock Gods!”
‘Til Then. . .Go Figg’r!
Peace Out-Later
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