“Is this Heaven?”
“No, it’s Iowa. The place where Van Halen dreams come true…”
Iowa sportswriter Sam Paxton has earned himself this weekend’s MVP of the VHND by scoring long lost video and photos of David Lee Roth from 1986.
Paxton is the Night Sports Editor of Iowa’s The Gazette and a long-time die-hard Van Halen fan. While recently working on an article for the upcoming college football season, he came upon extremely rare video along with photos taken during the 1986 Iowa-Iowa State football game featuring a half-time appearance from the one and only Diamond Dave.
Now some would say that this was nothing more than an insignificant coincidence. Really, there’s no need to make anything of it. For a Van Halen fan like Paxton, however, this was like Indiana Jones finding the long lost Ark of the Covenant. This was as if the rock and roll gods were calling on him. It was his cue to pay tribute to Eddie Van Halen and his favorite band of all time.
Below is the complete article Paxton graciously shared with us including the DLR photos and video he discovered. That’s followed by an update regarding the Iowa State flag girl who did the “Bump and Grind” with DLR that day along with exclusive comments from Paxton for the Van Halen News Desk:
Diamond Dave’s Day At Kinnick
Every single day since Oct. 6, I’ve listened to nothing but Van Halen. I mean that quite literally. Because that’s the day the world lost one of the true legendary musicians and rock gods of all time — the revolutionary guitar wizard, Edward Van Halen.
I’ve been a fan for pretty much as long as I can remember. I grew up in Marshalltown, and we got MTV in our house in 1983 when I was 9 years old. I remember Van Halen before that, but still, the band’s sixth album — its first true magnum opus of the video era, “1984” — was released several months afterward and it wasn’t long before “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher” were in heavy rotation on a loop.
Before them, heavy music always had a certain darkness surrounding to it — Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Kiss, Iron Maiden.
But not Van Halen.
Frontman David Lee Roth was brash and flamboyant, and Eddie? Man, he was always smiling. The only word to describe them? Joy. Pure joy.
But personally, the band has always held a special place in my heart. You see, Van Halen was the first rock concert I ever attended — May 26, 1986. Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Des Moines. I was 12 years old.
The only thing that could have made the day better? Me being five years older with a job and a driver’s license, so I could have attended the Iowa Jam earlier in the day at the Iowa State Fairgrounds (Metallica played that day … with Cliff Burton, who was killed four months later in a tour bus accident on Sept. 27 of that year).
Getting off track here … let’s come back to that.
As The Gazette started its preparation for the 2020 college football season, I began digging into our archive for old Iowa and Iowa State content, often doing so while I was buried in a Van Halen deep dive, blasting their music every night for a month and celebrating the life of one of my true-blue heroes.
One night, I stumbled upon a magnificent gem of a Gazette file photo and
promptly tweeted it out:
On that day (Sept. 13, 1986), Roth — by then riding the wave of a burgeoning solo career after exiting Van Halen in 1985 — strode onto the Kinnick Stadium turf at halftime and performed a jubilant version of his hit, “Yankee Rose,” with the Iowa State marching band. “Diamond Dave” was holding court that weekend around Iowa, playing shows at both Hilton Coliseum in Ames and Five Seasons Center in Cedar Rapids.
Overnight, the tweet caught the eye of Iowa and Iowa State football fans, several of them tagging friends, old classmates, nostalgia sites and even ex-Hawkeyes, one of which was the very player I named in the tweet — former Iowa quarterback Mark Vlasic, who had replaced Hawkeye legend Chuck Long under center in 1986 and led the Hawkeyes to a dominating 43-7 victory over the visiting Cyclones in the season opener.
Vlasic passed for 286 yards and two touchdowns that day in his first start, and helped turn former walk-on receiver Jim Mauro into a Hawkeye folk hero with a then-team record-tying three touchdown receptions, including another one from wingback Robert Smith.
Getting off track again …
The tweet made enough rounds that it eventually caught the attention of several Van Halen fans, too, including historian Greg Renoff, author of the band’s biography, “Van Halen Rising,” and co-author of longtime Van Halen producer Ted Templeman’s book, “Ted Templeman: A Platinum Producer’s Life in Music.” After a short back-and-forth, Renoff mentioned to me that finding the footage of that day was his “holy grail,” which was backed up when I discovered an old tweet of his from 2018:
Once Renoff quoted my tweet, more fans came out of the woodwork with memories and, even better, more photos.
After that, I wanted to help.
So I reached out to John Campbell, the retired sports director at KCRG-TV9 in Cedar Rapids. I remembered from our years under the same roof that John had meticulously kept and archived all of his old footage.
I assumed he was the man on duty that day at Kinnick.
I assumed right. And John didn’t disappoint.
“Sam, I do have the video you are looking for. He was wearing colorful tights and a hat and just kind of going crazy,” he emailed me.
Score. Awesome stuff.
It’s been a fun trip down memory lane. That year, I was 12 going on 13. I vividly remember an argument not only among my own friends, but the rock community at large — “Van Halen or Dave, who’s better now?”
The Van Halen show I attended actually was “Van Hagar,” i.e., the new version of the group fronted by veteran rocker Sammy Hagar. The first album with the new-look lineup to feature the updated sound, “5150,” was released in March and was a multiplatinum smash.
Meanwhile, after testing the waters with his hit 1985 EP, “Crazy from the Heat,” Roth returned with a bang in July with his full-length debut, “Eat ‘Em and Smile,” with a sound more akin to old-school Van Halen, thanks in part to Roth finding his very own guitar virtuoso in Steve Vai.
In my group of friends, Roth was the clear winner. But I was the outlier. Because of my experience at Vets, it was Van Halen all the way. I assure you it was a life-altering experience for this kid. But I will admit Dave had the better opening act — he had Cinderella on tour that fall. I had to watch Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
But now? In 2020? Van Halen is just Van Halen. It’s all great.
Rest in power, EVH.
Hours after Paxton’s story and video went live, people began wondering about she who became an insta-star because of Roth that day.
After quote-tweeting this old Waterloo Courier photo, Tony from Twitter’s “Roth Army” account put on his “sleuth hat” and, within four hours, had tracked down the Iowa State flag girl on the receiving end of Roth’s “Bump and Grind” in the Kinnick Stadium video, named “Laura Uhl” in both the vintage photo’s caption and a 1986 game blurb in Sports Illustrated.
After answering Roth Army’s inquiry with a laughing-emoji’d “YES THIS IS ME!” and telling one delighted user, “Haha! I didn’t know my chance encounter w DLR was so coveted. Lol,” she answered a few questions over Twitter for Roth Army and Van Halen historian Greg Renoff, presented here in as close to chronological order as possible:
ROTH ARMY: Have you been aware that these clips of @DavidLeeRoth at that ISU game in ’86 have been circulating online recently?
“LAURA UHL”: Not really! Have people been looking for me? Lol you found me! Nice work! I attended ISU 1986-1990. I was in the ISU band color guard. I was the fortunate soul DLR targeted during that halftime game. I was instantly famous on campus.
ROTH ARMY: Doesn’t appear that Dave actually said anything to you, just did the Bump for a bit, right?
“LAURA UHL”: It was more of a grind (shocked emoji), yes, but that was all. The band was playing and it was pretty loud with all the fans laughing/loving the entertainment.
ROTH ARMY: LOL, that’s great. Nice talking to you, Laura. And now you’re famous again, in the Van Halen/DLR world anyway.
“LAURA UHL”: And now you know where to find me…especially if DLR wants a RE (crying laughing emoji).
GREG RENOFF: 🙂 Laura, this made my day!
“LAURA UHL”: Thanks so much!! Now maybe my kids will see I WAS COOL!
GREG RENOFF: Hey Laura, how far in advance did you & band know that Roth was going to appear?
“LAURA UHL”: I think DLR was scheduled to have a concert in Iowa City the weekend ISU traveled there to play Iowa for the big in-state rivalry game. Our band had practiced the music and visual to one of his songs (“Yankee Rose”). … I personally did not know he would be appearing at halftime until just before the game. Our drum majors told us he might do something crazy, so just keep on performing no matter what. I should have turned around and played it up!
GREG RENOFF: Gotta give a girl a chance to prep for DLR! Big fail by ISU band. 🙂 Seriously what an awesome fun thing to tell your kids about — have you seen the full 2 min video?
“LAURA UHL”: Just today, after all that time…so THANKS!!
GREG RENOFF: All thanks to @SamPaxton_– he did the legwork to find the video – first time it’s been shown, maybe ever!
“LAURA UHL”: This made my day! Great work! … My kids are rolling their eyes, but my brother in law has been looking for this video for YEARS!!
GREG RENOFF: !!! you got to dance with DLR in front of 80k! that is the coolest! 🙂
The Van Halen News Desk also asked Sam to give us some of his Van Halen “favorites” and here’s what he came up with:
FAVORITE VAN HALEN ALBUM
I mean, I prefer Van Halen with Dave. It’s hard to not say the debut album or “1984” – they’re like greatest-hits albums all on their own. Recently, I’ve really gotten into “Women and Children First” and “Fair Warning” again. “And dammit, if “Van Halen II” isn’t killer. But I’m going off the beaten path here and choosing “5150,” both for the sentimental value and the fact that if this album doesn’t work, who knows what would have happened. To me, this is not unlike someone saying, “The Beatles are the best, but ‘Satisfaction’ is the greatest single ever.”
FAVORITE VAN HALEN SONG
I’ve always said it’s “Everybody Wants Some!!” but lately I’ve really rediscovered my love for “Romeo Delight” and “Hear About it Later.” And I’ve always loved “Drop Dead Legs.” As for Sammy, easily it’s “5150” and nothing else is even remotely close.
FAVORITE EVH SOLO
Look, his soloing is going to be his legacy. Every ‘80s guitarist in his wake – some great, most passable, many hacks – tried to do what he did but never matched it. But it doesn’t mean you weren’t oversaturated by hearing everyone at least try it, right? So to me, I’m going rogue and picking “Ripley,” his piece from “The Wild Life” movie score that would eventually become “Blood and Fire.” The instrumental version is one of my favorite pieces of music ever, let alone by Van Halen. Paired with the intros to “Women in Love …” and “Top Jimmy,” to me, that sound – the tone – was his signature sound. It’s instantly recognizable as Edward Van Halen.
(P.S. – I really hope that one of the posthumous releases is a remastered version of the entire movie score, not only because of the tunes, but also because the movie is not available on Blu-ray or streaming because of, I’ve always assumed, the licensing rights to the music. Let’s fix that!)
… … …
I just wanna say this: I’m gonna miss him so much. I’m grateful that my first live music experience got to be Van Halen. Because they were the dictionary definition of fun. Like this video here, which is essentially what I saw that night:
Now, I can’t vouch for their outfits – I mean, Eddie and Sammy are pretty much dressed like Ozone and Turbo from “Breakin’ ” here – but look at them when they’re hopping around together after the solo or the way Eddie smiles humbly when Sammy unveils “The King” banner. Rock n’ Roll is supposed to be fun. Did anyone convey this better than Eddie? It was heavy music, yes, but it wasn’t gloomy. It was bright and joyful without losing an inkling of its power. Try telling me that “Romeo Delight” or “D.O.A.” or “House of Pain” don’t kick you square in the nuts but with a smile on their faces.
Thanks so much for this, you guys. Rest in peace, EVH.
Along with Sam Paxton, the Van Halen News Desk would also like to thank author and Van Halen historian Greg Renoff and Tony from The Roth Army for their contributions to this article along with John Campbell, who supplied Sam with the very cool DLR video footage.
Sam Paxton: “Honored to be this week’s MVP, but I’m gonna throw a co-MVP nomination to the great John Campbell of KCRG-TV9 in Cedar Rapids. I reached out to him on a hunch and he located a 34-year-old video in his archive in about 37 seconds flat. Aspiring journalists — don’t just keep all your stuff in a box buried in a closet somewhere. Catalog it and archive it! You never know whose day you might make with it decades later!“
You can connect with Sam Paxton through his Twitter page HERE.