This is a very unique story about two Van Halen fans from Holland who flew to the USA to not only go see Van Halen in concert, but to hopefully meet them, as well.
Michel Schinkel shares his story with the Van Halen News Desk. At the time, Michel published a fan magazine in Holland, called “5150.” The magazine was written mainly in Dutch, with occasional parts in English, and was published from 1990 to 2004. It ran for 54 issues, and included the latest news, interviews, bootleg reviews, and more. His story is a unique one!
Today it’s 25 years ago I first met Van Halen. For the ones who care, here’s the full story. I wrote this in English since I published most of it in Dutch back in 1992 for the “5150” magazine. Now it’s for everyone here at VHND. While reading this story you should keep in mind that there was no internet yet, no YouTube, no way to know what the setlist beforehand, and all the info there was came from monthly magazines.
This whole adventure I shared with Gert-Jan van Holten who I met through Van Halen “5150”. He had a more than average appetite for VH so that’s why he didn’t stay a silent member for long. We spoke over the phone many times and he got in touch with the PR office of the band which let to receiving press releases coming straight from the management by fax. That way “5150” got the latest info on Van Halen like tour dates. Since I didn’t expect Van Halen to tour Europe I decided I wanted to go to the US again to see them. So I called Gert-Jan who immediately agreed to the idea. Next thing to do was to contact the PR office but to our surprise the ever-helpful lady wasn’t allowed by management to provide us two tickets, despite we were coming from Holland and ran the Fan club. We weren’t even talking backstage passes, just tickets. I decided not to give up so I called a friend who happened to be a cousin of the Van Halen’s. For us he called his aunt Eugenia (mother Van Halen) and fifteen minutes later he called me back telling me it was arranged! Two tickets will be waiting for us at the will call for the show at the Forum in Los Angeles on May 1st. Getting backstage will probably be a problem since there will be a celebrity party with the whole L.A. rock scene being present. Even roadies are not allowed to invite someone.
On April 28th, just a few hours before we leave we get I fax from the management informing us that the May 1st show has been moved to May 2nd because the L.A. Lakers need their stadium, the Great Western Forum for their play-off game. Really helpful but this is the same management that refused us tickets! The good news is that Mrs. Eugenia van Halen did a really good job. The message came through!
After arrival at LAX airport we take a taxi to our hotel and while getting there, the driver informs us about some riots in the city. In the hotel it becomes clear what’s going on. Some white police men had beaten up a black man, Rodney King and today the court decided they got away with it. Because of that all hell had broken loose and afro American and other minorities all over L.A. where causing riots and breaking store windows and raiding stuff. There were fires everywhere. This is all live on TV. It’s after diner time and the kitchen is already closed. So, when we ask where to go to get something to eat, we are strongly advised to stay inside if we want to live any longer. We are staying in South Central, home of gangs like the Crips and the Bloods which even in time of peace isn’t very safe at all. But our wish for some food is stronger than our fear so we head to a diner just a few blocks down the road. Call it naive or just plain stupid but at that moment we, two white guys, were risking our lives. But the worst part has still to come.
The next day we have an appointment with Jason at the Guitar Center at Sunset Boulevard. I met Jason there in 1988 and back then he was a 15-year old kid who lived in Beverly Hills and knew Alex van Halen personally. These days he’s doing some work for Alex like the paint job on the kit as seen in the video clip for “Poundcake”. When leaving the hotel the people there strongly advise us not to go there because it was the center of trouble the night before. Again we don’t follow the advice.
It turns out to be very quiet at the moment. At the Guitar Center we notice a wall of famous cabinets. They are Eddie’s, used between 1981 and 1986 and now for sale for $ 1000,00 a piece. Next to the wall there’s a big cabinet that used to belong to Mike. Finally, there’s also some stuff that Eddie used to warm up backstage. The very friendly guy working at the Guitar Center puts a Music Man in our hands and if we like we can take some pictures. Of course, we like to do that.
When Jason arrives, we are invited in the manager’s office where we meet Dave Weiderman, the owner of the Guitar Center. Among the many gold and platina awards on the wall we notice “5150” and “OU812”. Also there is a Music Man and an original fucked-up striped guitar including cigarette burns. In the meantime, Dave tries to call Alex on the road but he doesn’t answer the phone. The change to get to meet the band seems to get smaller now even Dave and Jason can’t reach the band.
The really bad news follows right there. On the TV in the office is reported that for safety reasons all sports and music events will be cancelled until further notice!!! That means Gert-Jan and I came to L.A. just for nothing. To give our emotions a rest we decide to have lunch and a few drinks in the Mexican restaurant across the street together with Jason and a friend named Joe. At some point we hear gun shots only just one block away from us. Jason and Joe who know this neighborhood best and advise us to leave L.A. as fast as we can. Because at any time now, some crazy dude can walk in and start shooting. So, Jason asks us why we don’t go to San Diego. That’s a rescheduled show on May 1st and it’s only a two-hour drive. That seems like the best idea.
On our way back to the hotel at a certain point the taxi stops because the driver refuses to continue. At the end of the street there are people breaking windows, robbing stores and carrying TV-sets and handful of clothing outside. There are even guys stealing a complete Xerox machine. We have to pass the looting scenes in order to get to our hotel, so Gert-Jan and I decide to walk that last part. I remember that as being scary because Caucasian (white) people weren’t very popular at that time. So we cross the street to be away from those people as far as we can. Lucky for us, the people only pay attention to the looting of stores and the don’t give a damn about us.\
Back in the hotel we call our family but we decide not to tell them about the riots since that only might worry them. But to our surprise they already know. We didn’t have a clue we were in the middle of world news!
So we rent a car but before we leave we send a fax to the management in order to request for a change of venue for our tickets. On our way to San Diego we hear the news on the radio that the management and promoter have decided to postpone the L.A. shows. Van Halen don’t want people to get hurt which is a wise decision but not so good for us.
When we arrive at the San Diego Sports Arena we park the park at the backside of the venue, close to the tour busses and trucks. Because we are not sure if the tickets have been arranged we buy two at the will call just in order to be sure. Surprisingly the show is not sold out.
Because we are early we have to wait for a long time in the very hot California weather. We are at the same spot that can be seen in ‘Almost Famous’. I recognized it instantly when I first saw the scene in the movie.
We ask a security guy if we can speak to Scotty Ross (tour manager) or Bob Daitz (road manager). He allows us to walk with him down to the hall where the crew is building the stage. But everyone is too busy so this doesn’t work.
Gert-Jan and I decide to do anything we can to make sure we did everything we could do. So in the car we write a letter to Alex explaining the whole situation. Lucky for us the security guy wants to help us but the question is if our letter will get to the right place.
While waiting outside technicians like Matt Bruck, Zeke Clark and Craig DeFalco walk in and out every now and then. So that’s how we get to talk to them. They like the fact we came alI the way from Holland to see the band. I feed them with some of my “5150” magazines.
Around four p.m. a tour bus arrives and there are the musicians from Baby Animals, the support act that had been on tour with Van Halen since January 1992. During a break on the ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge Tour’ a month earlier they toured Europe on their own and there I saw them playing in Night Town a small venue in Rotterdam. We got in touch with the band after the show and went to Burger King together. The man from their record company invited us to come to Brussel the next day and put us on the guest list. We got to spend some quality time with them. Really great people. You can imagine their surprise when they saw us in San Diego a month later. You should have seen those faces. Priceless. Singer Suze DeMarchi (who later got married to Nuno Bettencourt) posed for my camera in a pretty hot style but as faith will have it, something went wrong with the film and I got no pics from this ‘session’ at all. Van Halen fans around us act very confused when they witnessed the enthusiasm of Baby Animals towards us. They must think something like “Who are these guys?” When the guitarist Dave Leslie returns after a while to get his guitars he stops by to have a long chat with us. He promises us to get us backstage as a guest of his band.
Later than expected the first limo arrives. When the window lowers, we see it’s Michael. He says hi to everyone waiting which is very nice of him. We cannot see him get out because the car rolls down in the back of the venue. About an hour later another limo arrives but this one doesn’t stop and we can’t see who’s inside. That must have been Alex and Edward because not much later we hear the sound check where instrumental versions of ‘Poundcake’, ‘When It’s Love’, ‘Right Now’ can be heard with the high backing vocals of Michael. To our surprise we hear also hear snippets of ‘Mean Street’ and ‘Hot For Teacher’. Good to know they didn’t forget about those songs.
After soundcheck Michael leaves the venue again. With an open window he passes us by which gives me the opportunity to hand over a “5150”. He seems to like it. Not much later a third black limo is arriving. Sammy Hagar is in the house. With limo’s arriving separately it more looks like people going to work rather than a group of friends playing music together. On the other side why would Sammy arrive early if he isn’t needed at soundcheck.
In the meantime Dave Leslie has returned to inform us that we can see the band before and after the show. That’s good news. As a reader you might think what we are nervous about. After all mrs. Eurgenia Van Halen took care of us, right? But we still didn’t get feedback if the tickets for L.A. were changed to San Diego. And about getting backstage there was no info from the get go. So it’s all very exciting what’s going to happen.
We were told to go to the will call to pick up our tickets and we try that a couple of times without result until the moment there is an envelop handed over. The envelope reads ‘Mrs EVH’, which means we are guests of no one less than Eugenia Van Halen! There’s two tickets and two green passes stating ‘V.I.P.’ and ‘Working Personnel’, authorized by EVH.
Sometime later road manager Bob Daitz walks out the venue and is looking around calling “Are there any people from Holland?” We see he’s got our letter in his hands. “Yes, we are from Holland!” we are shouting. “Proof it.” So we start asking him questions in Dutch. That’s good enough for Bob. When we tell him we brought ‘rolmops’ he asks “Raw fish? Hey, that’s great. Let’s have a ball!” Before we are allowed in, we have to bring back our camera to the car. No pictures. But the good news is: we’re in!
Next thing to do is go to the will call to pick up our tickets and passes. We each get two envelopes. One with a Baby Animals Guest-pass and the other with a Van Halen V.I.P.-pass. If we check the envelope we see mother Eugenia van Halen did a really good job because in the left corner there’s written Mrs. EVH. She’s the one who authorized the pass. Her initials are also on the pass itself. There’s also a ticket saying $ 0,00 and ‘band’. That’s cool.
With a very good feeling we walk inside were we see Bob Daitz again. He sends us to the catering room were more people are sitting at tables. There we meet Brian, a guy who makes clothing for Alex and some other guests. There’s also a photographer of Warner Brothers who gives us a form to fill out. Gert-Jan and I are group ten of twelve which means we will get a picture moment with Van Halen.
After a while the band walks in. The first thing I notice is the fact that there are so small. In pictures and on screen they look a lot taller. When it’s our turn we introduce ourselves and I give them all a copy of “5150”. When Gert-Jan greets Edward he says “Hé boerenlul” (swearword in Dutch) which Gert-Jan replies by saying “Hé klootzak” (swearword in Dutch). I greet Alex with “Hé kaaskop” which makes him laugh and he says in Dutch “Hé, hoe gaat het ermee?” He really seems to enjoy the company from Holland. Normally a Meet & Greet is over now but not for us. Bob Daitz who’s keeping an eye on everything that going on gets instructed by Alex: “You take good care of these guys, otherwise I’ll kill you!” Of course, followed by a big smile.
After the photo shoot we hand over a little ‘Amsterdam’ shirt for Wolfgang. He sure likes it but he’s in a hurry because he’s got to warm up for the show. Baby Animals already started playing some time ago. While talking to Edward, Alex joins in and informs his brother that we brought rolmops.
When Sammy passes by he asks us to follow him. He brings us to the hospitality room where we meet some people like Renata, Sammy’s personal assistant. He insists that if we need something or like to know something, we can contact her. Sammy’s got a beautiful blond on his side, which later became his wife Kari. Back then I guess he was still kind of secretly dating her because he was still married to Betsy.
I give Sammy “5150” number 14, the Red Rocker issue. When he sees that he goes “Typical European”. In America there is no fan club and in the past there was only a few pages newsletter. He likes it. When Sammy sees a picture of a girl holding a banner saying, ‘Red is a motherfucker’ he laughs out loud. I tell him the photos were taken in Amsterdam in 1980, his last show in Europe. He’s curious how I got my hands on the boarding pass he used in Amsterdam shown on the back side of the magazine. (All thanks to my good friend and photographer Gerard Rappard). Sammy is very grateful for the stuff we bring and maybe therefore he gives us both one of his Red Rocker sunglasses. For some unknown reason we ask Sammy if he knows any Dutch words. He answers with “Something about fucking in the kitchen.” “Maybe Neuken in de keuken?” Gert-Jan replies. “Yeah, that’s it!” Still don’t know how we got to that question.
Alex is also in the room and we ask him the inevitable question about plans for a European tour. He tells us that the band really wants to do a European tour but the record company doesn’t support that. Alex looks very sincere and we believe him. While talking to us he is taping his fingers to avoid blisters. He excuses himself because he also got to warm up before the show. We wish him a good show and leave to find our seats.
From behind the curtain we see 15.000 people waiting. That’s impressive. When seated we study the stage. On the left side we notice Mike’s Ampeg bass cabinets having the same red-white-black stripes as Ed’s Peavey’s on the right side.
In the middle the drum riser with a relative small kit. For the first time ever Alex is using just a single bass drum. On the previous “OU812” tour he had six! But he’s planning on returning with a big kit already.
Van Halen sometimes used their big production as an excuse not to tour Europe because venue were too small. Looking at this stage I think that’s not the case at all. Even with nine big trucks parked outside.
When the lights go down Sammy yells “Hello babe!!” and Edward turns on his striped Makita drill for the intro to “Poundcake”. Alex and Mike come in; Van Halen has just begun. To me it looks like I’m watching the MTV Music Video Awards again but luckily the band doesn’t stop after one song. The band directly goes into “Judgement Day” and “Runaround”. A setlist was published in the press and that’s why we know they dropped “Spanked”. After three songs Sammy makes a remark about the terrible situation going on in Los Angeles.
People who know the video clip for “When It’s Love” will notice the joke Sammy pulls on Edward by messing up his hair during the solo. When Sammy shows up with a guitar around his neck you know it’s time for one of his songs. He starts with doing some soloing but gets pissed off when Edward walks up to him and starts dueling against him. It’s all part of the act to run into “There’s Only One Way to Rock”.
Next to come is Mike’s solo spot with a lot of noise but even more fun. The American audience go nuts by hearing “Star Spangled Banner” but for me the hairs on my skin rise when Alex drops in and together they start playing “Sunday Afternoon In The Park”, the “Fair Warning” classic that they didn’t play after 1981! After this intermezzo leaves his riser again to return shortly after to do his drum solo. Halfway he starts playing “Pleasure Dome”. Mike and Edward respond by joining him until Alex continues his solo. I’m sure they did this before but it looks spontaneously and certainly not like an every night thing. At the end the drum riser goes up all the way up in the air. He looks tired but gives the people a big smile. When Sammy asks him if he has some energy left, Alex starts to play the intro to “Panama”. “Right Now” sounds more powerful live than on record. The keyboard parts are not played live because Edward just handles the guitar. After “Why Can’t This Be Love” there’s another kind of guitar battle that goes into “Finish What Ya Started”, followed by another solo Hagar song “Give To Live”. Ed’s solo spot hasn’t changed much through the years. Tonight he’s doing “316”, “Mean Street”, “Cathedral”, “Eruption” and “Spanish Fly”. The second classic Van Halen song tonight is “You Really Got Me”. Half way Edward goes into “Man On A Mission” which is not on the setlist. When finished the band returns to “You Really Got Me”. This also doesn’t seem like an every night trick because it sounded a bit sloppy but the band is having fun. During “I Can’t Drive 55” the light show is outstanding. After yelling “It’s 5150 time” the band goes into “Best Of Both Worlds” and after some running around on stage they do the “5150” Walk. A fan jumps on stage to go nuts with the band but got removed a roadie immediately. Ed goes after him to get him back but soon Ed gives him back to the roadie to remove him. “Top Of The World” is tonight’s last song.
The first encore is “Jump” which they didn’t play the last tour. Sammy is not comfortable singing the song. After “The Dream Is Over” it’s really over (but not for us). The VH-logo in the back is now on fire and sparks fly all over the stage. The band take a bow for the second and final time tonight. Edward makes the peace sign referring to the trouble in their home town.
After the show, around fifty guests are gathering backstage waiting for the band but then tour manager Scotty Ross shows up calling for everyone’s attention. The band is leaving home to their wives and kids. “The party is off, so please everybody leave…. EXCEPT those two guys from Holland.” He’s searching the crowd and then says “Oh, there you are my friends. Van Halen wants to say goodbye to you before they leave.” Can you imagine? A moment later we are escorted by Zeke to the hospitality room where we a welcomed by Sammy and Alex who invites us in half Dutch and half English to eat something “Neem some pizza.” There are snack nicely organized on the table. The wild years when food would end up against the wall, seem to be over.
It’s about time to give the gentlemen the presents we brought but all that stuff is still in the production office and we can’t get there without escort or at least we won’t get back in the hospitality room. The security man, who reminds me of Manuel in Fawlty Towers, tells me that I only can came back in the room with the one who brought us here. That would be Zeke but he seems to be gone. Sammy offers to walk with me and tells the man “Look, he’s all right. He’s a good guy. He can come in. He’s all right.” Then Sammy grabs the first roadie he sees and tells the man “He’s a bad guy. He’s no good. But this guy is good. He’s all right. He’s my buddy.” It works because when I come back with my stuff, I can pass without any problem.
Alex is happy to see we brought some Dutch goodies. Edward, who walks in later, is too tired to respond. He put all his energy into the show.
When a guy walks in I see he has two cassette tapes with him. It’s the sound man handing over tonight’s show to Alex. It turns out that Van Halen tapes every show they play. Alex explains it’s just for themselves to listen back and learn from mistakes. When I ask him if I can get a copy, he smiles but it’s not an option. I happen to have my list with bootleg recordings with me and when I show it, Alex seems to be impressed. He’s surprised to see the Pinkpop show (Holland, 1980) which hasn’t been on any collector’s list so far. Alex asks me if I can copy the Tokyo ’89 video because he, to my surprise, doesn’t have that one himself. He strongly advises me to write his name on the package very clearly because otherwise the old man will confiscate the stuff. When he says that, he points to Ed Leffler, their manager in those days. (He died on October 16, 1993, aged 57). The ‘old man’ is interested in this footage himself and asks if I can make two copies.
I also brought a ‘pick list’ for Michael because I know he collects this stuff and instead of giving him Dutch goodies I brought a bootleg CD for him. When he sees the list he says, “You got more stuff than I do.” He’s probably being polite because I cannot imagine I got more stuff than him.
It’s very hectic with people walking in and out. Baby Animals drummer Frank Celenza joined us in the meantime. Since we’re coming from Holland, Alex kind of proudly introduces us to him and he responds with “I know. We met before.” That was a funny moment.
Then it’s time to leave. But we first like to get some signatures. Gert-Jan brought a beautiful big black and white press photo and I just have the booklet of “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”. While signing the cover Sammy makes a big stain with the silver pen. He clearly is disappointed he messed it up.
Like Columbo I have just one more thing: a tape of Sammy’s show in the Amsterdam Paradiso club in 1980. The surprise in his eyes is priceless. “Let me give you a hug”, he replies.
We could have spent many hours more but it’s time to say goodbye. On our way out we pass the tuning room. Ed’s guitar is gone but the VH-striped stand is still there.
When the band leaves, there are still people outside waiting. When Mike’s limo passes he sticks his head through the roof and give the fans his famous funny face. He is such a cool dude!
On our way we walk into Matt Bruck again. While talking to him a roadie approaches us and asks if we still have a magazine left over. He had seen a copy and wanted one for himself. News travels fast.
Late at night we drive back to L.A., to the real world of which we hope will get better soon…
— Michel Schinkel