Friday, March 30, 2007



Rock stars. They’re just like you and me. Except for the global fame, money and groupies. OK, scratch the groupies … a few privileged "regular" folks – for instance, certain über-cool newspaper columnists – are privy to the rabid adulation of enthusiastic female fans (translation: middle-aged ladies at my church).

Groupie love aside, music performers are lavished with luxuries unlike no other breed of human, including film/TV stars. Much of this indulgence is due to a little piece of paper that says they can have what they want, when they want. It’s called a rider and it’s pretty much the pre-nup of concert negotiations.

The rider is the part of the artist’s contract outlining facilities and amenities the concert promoter must provide before, during and after a show. Besides lighting, sound systems and other equipment needs, this list includes food, beverages and in some cases, animals. Hey, you never know when Ozzy Osbourne might have a sudden craving for bat's head soup.

The most infamous rider is Van Halen’s "no brown M&M’s" clause. Actually, there was a method to the band’s madness. Touring with elaborate, complex equipment left no room for mistakes, so they issued meticulous set-up instructions for safety and liability reasons. In the middle of the contract was the proviso to remove all brown M&M’s from the group’s candy bowls. If there were no brown M&M’s, the band reasoned, the promoter had read the contract thoroughly and the show would run smoothly and free of technical errors.

Unfortunately, the shrewd thinking behind Van Halen’s legendary rider got lost in the translation. What remained was a seemingly outlandish, spoiled-brat command that has influenced many of today’s artists to go overboard with their eccentric and egocentric demands.

Backstage riders are intended to give the artists the comforts of home and then some. Requests range from the ordinary – sandwiches, fruits, bottled water and other beverages, towels, ironing boards – to "oh, puh-leese!" – e.g., P. Diddy’s behest for napkins with his name printed on them. That’s no small order, considering his name could change before the ink dries.

Some rider requests belie the performers’ senses of humor. For instance, ‘70s rockers Foreigner asked for a dozen blueberry pies for an end-of-tour pie fight – a much sweeter way to blow off steam than say, bashing a paparazzi vehicle with an umbrella.

Shock rocker Marilyn Manson requires that his dressing room be air-conditioned practically to sub-Arctic temperatures. Now we know how he maintains that flawless, Night of the Living Dead pallor. Manson also asks for Kool-Aid – the next-best thing to pig’s blood – and gummi bears, so he can savor the sweet, sweet tang of their sugary blood as he tears into their soft, gelatin flesh.

On one tour, singer-rapper Pharrell demanded 20 crates each of Bacardi Rum and Grey Goose vodka, 15 magnums of Perrier champagne, a troupe of belly dancers and a Rolls Royce with driver. Who does he think he is … P. Diddy?

You can read more backstage riders at, which lists the requests of some 200 performers. In the meantime, I need to go call my groupies. Hey, somebody’s gotta dispose of those brown M&M’s for me.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Rehab is the new “I’m sorry”


Once upon a time, celebrities checked into rehab because of the things they put into their mouths. Nowadays, it’s because of the things that come out.

Sure, there will always be celebs entering rehab for chemical dependency – or as they call it in the business, “exhaustion” – but that’s soooo five years ago. There’s a new fad – or cliché, depending on how you look at it – in town: Stars seeking professional help after an “oops, did I say that out loud?” moment threatens to send their careers spiraling down the ol’ porcelain whirlpool.

The redemption routine has become so predictable, you can pretty much set your watch to it. Celebrity blurts out derogatory slur pertaining to race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc. Celebrity issues carefully scripted (by a paid PR flak) apology. Celebrity goes to treatment for a quick image fix.

Michael Richards did it following his cuckoo-bananas racist rant. Mel Gibson did it after unleashing Mad Max: Beyond Hitlerdome on the cops who pulled him over for drunken driving. Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington did it after assailing co-star T.R. Knight with an anti-gay epithet.

It’s not just celebrities who are jumping on the therapy bandwagon. After being outed for what I’ll tactfully call consorting with a male professional specializing in pleasures of the flesh, the Rev. Ted Haggard – a staunch anti-gay activist – has been pronounced “cured.” Charles Atlas promised, “In just seven days, I can make you a man” … apparently, in just 21 days, a therapist made Haggard heterosexual.

Even politicians have gotten into the game. Florida Rep. Mark Foley, nailed for sending suggestive e-mails to teenage male congressional pages, blamed alcohol and a former clergyman for his actions before finally checking himself in for a little personality makeover.

Seeking psychiatric/psychological help isn’t the only thing these people have in common. No, they share something else: They all got caught. Obviously, Gibson genuinely needed rehab for his alcohol problem. But he didn’t seek it until his mouth put his butt in a sling. And Richards’ meltdown left no doubt that the man is grappling with some serious mood issues. His comedy club outburst most likely was not his first angry explosion, but it happened in public and pulled the scab from a sore that had probably been festering for years.

As for Washington, he simply behaved like a jerk and voiced an opinion that would have been best kept to himself. But this is America, where freedom of expression is among the things that make this a great country. However, with that freedom comes the willingness to accept the reactions your opinions provoke and to take responsibility for your words. Unless you’re famous, that is. Then you blame it on your “issues” and do damage-control therapy.

Here’s a simple tip for Gibson, Richards, Washington, et al.: Don’t do it and you won’t get caught. This is the Basic Law of Not Being a Doofus. If you hate people of a certain race, religion, etc., so be it. Again, this is America, where you’re allowed the luxury of independent thought – no matter how odious – until you’re caught saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong people.

Which raises the question: Would any of these guys have gone to therapy/rehab had there been no public backlash or their images weren’t on the line? Would Mel Gibson have bolted upright in bed at 3 a.m. with the revelation, “Gee, my career is going great and no one’s upset, but I’ve suddenly realized the need to eradicate my negative perception of Jews.” Somehow, I doubt it.

And if you believe a few days or weeks of treatment has truly “fixed” any of the aforementioned, I’m sure there’s an open bed for you at Rehab for the Gullible.

Friday, March 09, 2007



For the past few weeks, we've been knee-deep in the hoopla surrounding Britney Spears' impromptu head-shaving episode. Without a doubt, the poor girl is 10 pounds of crazy in a five-pound bag, but she's certainly not the first famous woman to bare her noggin.

Traditional standards of femininity dictate that a woman's hair is her crowning glory, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the entertainment business, where what's on top of a woman's skull garners more attention than what's inside it.

Tradition, schmadition, I say. There are numerous follicularly-challenged females who exemplify shear beauty. As proof of this, I present to you my personal Top 10 Hottest and/or Coolest Bald Women in Entertainment, in no particular order:

1. Grace Jones: Pull Up to the Bumper was a big hit for Jones, who pulled up to the barber to become one of the first chrome-domed women in popular music.

2. Lieutenant Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Persis Khambatta lopped off her raven locks to portray a Deltan dish who exuded pheromones to attract human males, thus bypassing the expense of Bud Light and ESPN.

3. Evey Hammond: Natalie Portman went all Edward Scissor-head two years ago for this role in V for Vendetta and looked absolutely stunning. Of course, Portman would still be gorgeous with a dead possum atop her head, whereas Donald Trump has never been able to pull off that look.

4. Ellen Ripley, Alien 3: As one of filmdom's few bona-fide female action heroes, Sigourney Weaver kicked butt in this 1992 sequel without the annoyance of a hairstyling posse spritzing her every five minutes to maintain that "I'm all sweaty from fighting a drooling space monster" look.

5. Lt. Jordan O'Neil: Demi Moore rocked a buzz cut as a Navy SEAL in 1997's G.I. Jane. She won rave reviews and dazzled moviegoers — including future hubby Ashton Kutcher, who had to be accompanied by an adult to see this R-rated flick.

6. Sinèad O'Connor: No list of baldy babes would be complete without the controversial Irish rocker who's as well-remembered for shredding a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live as she is for hits like Nothing Compares 2 U.

7. Melissa Etheridge: Wearing her smooth scalp as a badge of courage from her battle with breast cancer, Etheridge stole the show at the 2005 Grammys with a medley of Janis Joplin's Cry Baby/Piece of My Heart.

8. Queen Elizabeth I: While not officially an entertainment figure, Elizabeth of Tudor, who went bald at age 29 due to smallpox, has been portrayed on TV and film, most recently by Helen Mirren on last year's great HBO mini-series.

9. India.Arie: A champion of self-love over societal standards of beauty, she crooned, "I am not my hair/I am not this skin/I am not your expectations," in last year's I Am Not My Hair.

10. Prymaat Conehead: Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd as matrimonial companion Beldar were noted for the uniform consistency and gradual diminution of their subcutaneous cranial regions. Yeah, I had to consult a dictionary to understand 'em, too.

Honorable Mention: Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager.

While I applaud the courage of women who break the bonds of conventionality and dare to go bare, I won't be shaving my head any time soon. This isn't merely a matter of vanity; it's just that it would be terribly embarrassing to have Linus mistake my freakishly round noggin for The Great Pumpkin come Halloween.