The story behind the classic 1980 David Lee Roth poster by Helmut Newton

When Van Halen’s Women And Children First was released on March 26th, 1980, a three-foot black and white poster of David Lee Roth, bound to a chain-link fence, was included in the first million pressings. The photograph was taken by famed fashion photographer Helmut Newton. It was used for shock value. Many fans are unaware of the story behind this very rare, classic poster.

In 1979, when Van Halen would take breaks during their “World Vacation” tour, Roth would head right for Studio 54, where he would sometimes spot Helmut Newton there. When it came time to do the third Van Halen record, he told the band that Newton should shoot a picture for the album.

In his autobiography, Crazy From The Heat, Roth recounts the story of how he met Helmut Newton and how the classic poster came to be:

Everybody said, “Who’s Helmut Newton?”

I said, “He’s the shit. He’s legit.”

The record company’s art department said “Oh, no way. This is a fifty-thousand-dollar-a-shoot guy. He doesn’t deal with this kind of rigmarole…”

Lo and behold…(which sounds like a legal firm)… Helmut Newton is having a showing at the G. Ray Hawkins Gallery on Melrose. And I says to myself, “He can only be staying at one of four hotels, let’s start calling.”

I called the Beverly Hills Hotel, on Sunset Boulevard: “Excuse me, may I please speak to Mr. Newton?”

“Certainly, sir.”

He picks up the phone, and I say, “Good afternoon, Mr. Newton, my name’s David Lee Roth. I’m very aware of your talents and who you are. I’m sure you’ve never heard of me, but I’m in a rock band called Van Halen, and we’re flavor of the week. I think we should shoot a photo.”

He said, “This is very interesting. I’ve never had an approach like this. Did you call my agent?”

I said, “What do you mean?”

He said, “Precisely. I like your attitude. Come on down to the pool and let’s have a look at you.”

I said, “Great.” Put on leather everything- riding boots with the leather pants, chaps with the jacket, the belt, and I went down to the hotel. He was lounging by the pool.

I sat down, and we talked everything from politics to mathematics for about half an hour, then he leaned over and said, “Do you know what, David? You are my new favorite blond. I would love to shoot photos of you.”

I said, “Spectacular. When?”

And he said, “What are you doing for the rest of the day?”

I said, “Nothing.”

He said, “Great. Do you have a car?”

I said, “Oh, yes. I have a Mercedes-Benz that I just had painted black, with a big skull and crossbones on the hood of the car.”

He said, “Magnificent! Let me go to my room, get me my camera gear, my wife, Alice Springs, is a stellar photographer in her own right. Would it be okay if she comes along?”

“Absolutely.”

“Great. We’ll find her, we’ll get our gear together. Do you have a place to shoot?”

I said, “Well, I have a dog pound in my backyard, with a lot of fencing.”

“Excellent! I’ll meet you in the parking lot.”

We made a poster: Me, chained up- it’s a very famous poster- in the dog pound, and enclosed it in every album. It was sold from there on in. Forty-five dollars. The last remaining print I know of has been sitting in my sister’s room folding up from humidity and the elements. And within the last two months, I had it framed and stabilized. This photo is easily worth ten thousand dollars. The photo of me, chained up in the dog pound, has been in every one of Helmut’s annuals.

For the first time since 1980, this classic poster is once again available to fans and collectors. It’s been reprinted and is now included in the rerelease of Women And Children First on 180 gram vinyl, available at VanHalenStore.com here.

  • Anthony

    I had this poster framed when I was in High School. I hung it on my wall as well as many other Van halen posters. Cool story on how the photo came about. My only question is why didn’t DLR call the other members of VH and enclude them in on the picture also?

  • jeff adams

    Yes, I too had that poster. Thats Dave way ahead of the times. Very cool, and only he could pull this off.

  • Del

    Crazy From the Heat is a fun read. Should sell it in the VanHalenStore. For those who question DLR’s sexuality, he talked a lot about his experiences with women in the book. He just didn’t name names. He is clearly into women.

    @Anthony
    Good question. I think DLR didn’t expect the shoot to be that spontaneous, and he probably couldn’t get the other guys to come ASAP. Imagine the poster with all four members chained to the fence. LOL.

  • 51504VH

    I believe that I still have the album with the poster in it. I will have to look for it now, didn’t realize that it was rare and worth money.

    I can’t wait for the new album…it seems like it’s been sooooooooooooooooooooo long…and it has been!!!

    I get this feeling that they have something up their sleeve and it’s gonna be big.

    All this secrecy is so intense! but it’s better than how some musicians run their mouths about “How Great” it’s going to be and then you get it and it’s not so great after all.

    As long as the boys can play nice and have fun it will be great music.

    Van Halens + David Lee Roth = GREAT FUCKIN MUSIC!

  • http://heavymellowmusic.com johnny beane

    In the late 80′s and early 90′s i used to buy every copy of the LP that had the poster in it.

  • 51504VH

    Why don’t they sell Crazy From The Heat in the Van Halen store?

    I went online to buy it the other day and it was EXPENSIVE and that was for a paperback.

    I bought it when it first came out but my girlfriend at the time took it when she moved out. It was a really good book and made you realize that he lives a fun, exciting, and busy life outside of music. I actually wondered how he made time for music, to me it seemed like he just made music to pay for his adventures.

  • Tommy Boy

    Yeah I think any VH fan worth their salt had this awesome (really it’s not gay I have this hangin’ in my room mom…it’s awesome!) poster. Every square inch of my room was covered with photos and posters all with a giant wooden, painted VH symbol. Chicks would freak out when they stepped inside that rock n roll sanctum. Their clothes literally melted off their bodies when they saw this photo. Good times…good times.

  • Agent Smith

    “Me, me, me…”

  • Lobehold

    It was probably a good thing Helmut didn’t end up shooting the cover for their 3rd album. I like the Women and Children First album cover.
    Side comment … On VH’s official site’s main page, there are photos of VH album covers but only Roth era albums. I recall they had all the VH albums there before. Wonder if they removed the Sammy and Gary albums when Roth rejoined the group. Just curious.

  • 51504VH

    @ Lobehold…wow! the rest of the albums have been taken off the Van Halen web site. I take that as “things are going good in the studio right now”.

    I guess we now know which albums Eddie likes best…lol.

  • phillster

    My woman just walked in and saw this pic&announced
    “OOo..That`s Hot!!!”
    I`m pretty sure She`ll be thinking of this pic
    later tonight when i put “the moves” on her..lol
    Once Again,as Always,DIAMOND DAVE helps me get laid-
    Don`t know whether I should be thankful or jealous.LOL
    Got his book “hardcover” when it came out…
    Got him to autograph it personally soon after!
    Also starting to think i hid a loose”bud”in it…NOW…
    Where`s that Damn Book????!!!…lol
    Got a feelin`Eleventy-One`s gonna be a Good Year!!
    The Mighty =VanHalen= like the Phoenix from the Ashes,
    shall indeed RISE again!!!
    That`s right, I said it;
    Better Fuckin`Believe It!!!
    The “phillster” has spoken..
    Now to start puttin` the moves on my wife…
    “Strike while the IRONS HOT”
    I always say…lol

  • Garrett

    DLR: The World’s Most Interesting Man

  • freddiegirl

    I had this poster…but when WACF came out I was only 8…and when I happily opened my album that I had bought with hard-earned chores/babysitting money my mom looked at this poster that fell out and took it away from me!

    I should ask her for it back… ;)

  • Roth_Leaps_83

    Hmmm……so let me get this straight…..it’s 1979 and Studio 54 is Ground Zero for glitz and glamour and cocaine and easy women looking for sex……and David Lee Roth goes there when VH had down time? SHOCKING !!!

    But seriously, that poster has to be one of the all-time coolest posters in music history. The ultimate rock god photographed by one of the greatest photogs of the 20th century. Need I say more?

    I agree with everyone else that “Crazy From the Heat” needs better promotion in here. That book was all about the Zen of Dave and proved why he’s the most interesting man in the world.

  • JLR

    Hey 51504VH, I totally agree…especially when some bands even go as far as comparing themselves to LED ZEPPELIN!!

    51504VH
    …I get this feeling that they have something up their sleeve and it’s gonna be big.

    All this secrecy is so intense! but it’s better than how some musicians run their mouths about “How Great” it’s going to be and then you get it and it’s not so great after all.

  • 1988Tiamat

    Lobehold. There is no Van Halen III on VHND and VHstore also…
    I guess we now know which album everybody hates most…lol.

  • Lobehold

    Crazy/Heat was published after the disastrous 1996 MTV reunion. DLR added his take on the event to the book, like what happened between him and the VH brothers before, during and after their MTV appearance. Needless to say, he didn’t have kind words about them. For the sake of this new album and the future tours, maybe it’s best this book stays under the radar for a while :-)
    The book is a must read though. DLR is such a unique individual. He’s Huckleberry Finn. Oh wait, he’s got Huck tattooed on him.

  • DiamondDean

    The posters great , wld u really want the van halens on it , they wld just ruin it some how .

    Dave lives it , you got to give him credit for that .

    Crazy from the heat is a great read ( n a great song!)I think daves version of the break up of the band is the closet to the truth ,

  • CH

    Very cool story. And even cooler that the poster is now reissued with the 180g vinyl

  • dude

    I read the book when it first came out so it has been some years … but I seem to recall, that while Dave gave his take on the VH split, he never got too ugly about it. He always seemed to be mindful that those days were “damn good.” Let’s hope the sheer magic of what VH did back in the day will keep them back together. They deserve to enjoy each other and the process of making music. Alas, if only Mikey were involved. Water under the bridge and all but you know what I mean.

  • Keith

    Yes Dave IS one of THE coolest singers/entertainers known to mankind. I also agree VHND should work with the publishers to get CRAZY FROM THE HEAT, the book re-released. EVERY Van Halen , David Lee Roth fan should own it and read it regularly . Can wait for the return of the rock Gods. Amen.

  • B. Sizzle

    I’m not a fan of this poster. It looks like his arms are dislocated.

  • chriso

    In high school I had this poster from my WACF album. My younger sister’s older girl friends said they wanted it badly and it seemed like “no” wasn’t going to be an option. I didn’t get what I was hoping for but they smoked some with me… :)

  • JACK N SAM

    I bought that record but it didn’t have the poster in it. I never heard of it until I read Dave’s book when it came out. I had to Google it to see the picture. His book is a great read – very entertaining and informative about how VH came to be and the influence that Dave had on their development. It’s one of those books that you can pick up and turn to any page and enjoy, even if you don’t know anything about VH or Dave.

    An aside note: I recently bought Zlozower’s book, it really helps remind you of how much fun VH was, you know, in the before time. One of the interesting things I noticed: Dave wrote the forward and Mike has a comment about Neil’s contributions – both are thanked by the author, but there are no quotes/comments from either Ed or Al, and they are not thanked by the author – wonder why that is?

  • BubbaCo

    I always thought the pic was too “beefcake” for me. I always preferred posters of the band, or of the guys on stage. My favorite was the Memorial Day poster where the guys are recreating the raising of the U.S. flag at Iwo Jima.

  • IROC-Z

    I love both versions of Van Halen and Chickenfoot but no way in hell am I going to put a poster up on my wall, locker or office of one of my favorite singers who is shirtless, on his knees and is chained to a fence. NO FREAKIN’ way will that ever happen. As a die hard fan that is where I draw the line.

  • No Mas Tony

    Diamond Dave is awesome. He was brilliant when it came to promoting and building an image… and he knew how to use his sex apeal to sell albums. I’ll agree though, my wife likes this poster alot… but this was one of the ones my brother and I refused to hang in our bedroom back when we were kids. LOL. BubbaCo is right— the best classic poster is the IwoJima one. I just wish that DLR had a little more control of the artistic direction of =VH= now as well, because we would probably see a lot more marketing and promotional activity. Like in the 70′s and 80′s, DLR would come to the brothers and say “we gotta do this…” or “we gotta do that…” and they would listen and we would get awesome MTV videos, posters and concert antics. But nowadays I think Eddie has pretty much taken all the control of that.

  • JACK N SAM

    Come on IROC you know you like it!

  • Panama Red

    IROC-Z HA HA!
    Between me and my cousin (who was/is a huge VH fan) we had A LOT of Van Halen posters haging on our walls back in the day. But neither one of us had this one hanging up. lol.
    I honestly don’t even remember this one.

    BubbaCo – I always admired one of my cousin’s posters he had, the one that you mentioned, (the recreation of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima memorial/photogragh) I can’t remember all of ‘em that we had between us but I’m pretty sure that was my favorite poster that my cousin had that I wanted. I thought it was really cool too.

  • Mohr

    @ No Mas Tony
    I was just thinking the same about how they will go about promoting the new album etc. EVH seems to control VH, so will he let Dave be Dave and work his marketing magic, talking to the press, doing interviews like he did for the band back in the days or is Dave going to take a backseat? Dave did come up with the funniest videos (jump, panama, hot for teacher).

  • SCAR

    And folks that’s why he is the Diamond One!!! Great fucking story!!!!!

  • freddiegirl

    I wish VH would let Dave come out and promote but I’m not holding my breath. It would be even better if VH let Dave come up with a video too, Mohr is right, VH videos with Dave are the best. Pretty Woman is hysterical; not nearly as polished as the 1984 trilogy, Panama, Jump and Hot for Teacher but so funny! Ed as a cowboy and Dave as Napoleon? Awesome..all that and some little people too.. :D

    Regarding Dave’s sexuality…does it really matter? I’ve always heard rumors but at the end of the day it wouldn’t change my opinion of him.

  • Phil

    Yeah, why isn’t Dave’s book in the VH store?

  • MisiekLolek

    Vhnd; left out WHY Dave sold the poster for $45! great book…one of the better stories

  • Drew

    So….is the poster actually worth anything? I have the original in great condition and wouldn’t mind selling it so I could afford the new VH record when it comes out. ha ha

  • Sparks on the Horizon!!!

    @Garrett- Stay thirsty my friend!

    @IROC- yeah, they actually could have kept their poster this time around and instead, squeeze the instrumental, “Act Like It Hurts” on one of the sides? Do a You-Tube search for that tune if you haven’t heard it and rock the frig out!!

  • No Mas Tony

    @ MOHR
    Right on, man. I’m thinking when the time is right (like when they’re thru recording) Ed will pass the reigns to Dave and let him start getting out in the public more. He was the spokesperson when they announced the last ‘reunion’ tour… plus we all know how much Ed hates cameras… and talking to people.

    @ Freddie Girl
    Right on! That pretty woman video is a riot. I hear that MTV wouldn’t play it back in the day cause it was so risuqe or whatever. seems pretty tame nowadays.

  • http://mikebeechler.com Michael B

    Bummer. I gave that copy of Women and Children First away many years ago, including poster. Dumb. Granted, it was more of a “chick” poster, and I never hung it on the wall.

  • MICAL VEE

    The Roth poster was cool but I liked the photo of the band on the back cover of WACF!!! I found a poster of that photo at the mall and had it hangin’ on the wall for years!!!! Still have it!!!!

  • freddiegirl

    No Mas Tony…That’s true, MTV wouldn’t play it because…get this: it dipicted violence towards women…..!! And I guess in Japan they woudn’t play it either because they thought MA’s portrayal of a samurai was offensive! Can you believe that? It’s such a harmless and funny video; especially compared to all the in-your-face gansta-rap videos that came years after it in the 90s.

  • Panama Red

    For those of you asking about why Dave’s book isn’t on sale at VHND. I think that book is out of print now. You could probably find a used copy if you looked on the internet, maybe check used book stores but I don’t think places like Barnes & Noble and Borders are selling it anymore. I could be wrong but I couldn’t find my copy about a year ago so I was checking around and every place was saying it’s out of print. Luckily, I found the copy of my book later. I’m sure you can find it used, however I think some people might try to really jack up the price since it’s o.o.p.

    Mical Vee – I think the favorite VH poster I had was the WACF one too. Btw – have you ever seen the other shots they took during that photo shoot? I can’t remember where I saw them though, some other website. But anyway, yeah that was a cool poster.

  • Mohr

    Panama Red is right – CFTH is out of print. It’s expensive to buy online, even used ones. Saw one copy on eBay listed for $57. No luck at Borders & BN either. Your best bet is probably browsing mom & pop bookstores. Or check your library.

  • freddiegirl

    That’s a shame about CFTH being out of print. No wonder I’ve had no luck trying to find it at Barnes & Noble or Border’s.

    I also agree with the poster whose fav VH pic of all time was the raising of the Iwo Jima flag. I think I read somewhere, maybe in Zloz’s photobook that he took that somewhere here near Forest Lawn or some odd place for the Us Festival. Anyone who knows for sure can feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Sparks on the Horizon!!!

    Just dug my copy of CFTH out of a box of books I haven’t touched since ’01. Started reading it again. It’s impossible to read it without feeling like Dave is sitting right next to you just shoot’n the breeze with you.

  • MICAL VEE

    Panama Red- I have seen the other shots from that photo shoot….VERY COOL!!!!!

  • Lupercal

    I find this whole thing pretty hilarious. I don’t know what passed for “cool” back in the late 70s but even by todays standards having a picture of a half naked man in tight leather trousers chained to a fence on your bedroom wall is very…questionable.

  • drop dead legs

    51504VH: I actually bought the (hardcover) book of CFTH from the VH-store site about 9 years ago (who’dve thunk it) I originally had the paperback, bought it and read it (about 10 times before my ex waltzed off with it), but half the photo credits in the book were missing the pix, so I bought the h/cover version – I then understood the missing captions. Maybe if we ask real nice – or demand real nice – maybe they’ll bring it back or better still re-print it??- Amazon.com has copies (old) via private sellers but they cost a bomb – way more than the $20US I spent 9 years ago.

    That pic of Dave looks kinda kinky but cool (a bit of a misnomer) I’ve seen another from the same shoot ofr him by the pool (not quite as bondage inspired) Apparently there were quite a few shots taken – yet this is the only one to make it into all of Helmut’s Annuals?? I’ve slso seen a pic of the mercedes with the skull and crossbones on the hood, that he referred to in the story – very very cool – a photo with Dave in a Creem interview he did decades ago titled ‘And the Greeby Shall Rock’ – Dave in a wetsuit with a heavy chain around him trying to pull the car (a large model of mercedes – more like a limo)out of the sand at a beach at twilight with a gal pushing the car at the back….. Aaaah the 80′s!!!! such memories of excess and debauchery – never to be repeated again!!!

  • Karen Jungwirth

    Wow!! I just brought that poster home from my Mom and Dads house. We were cleaning it out and came across it…was quite a giggle to see it again… ;) So now what to do with it?

  • Libby

    What is the value of this poster nowadays??