By Noah Hubbell
By Leslie Simon
By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Inkoo Kang
By Dave Herrerra
By Josiah M. Hesse
At that instant, Diamond Dave was at the zenith of his celebrity. By then, Van Halen, the 1978 self-titled debut by the mega-band he fronted, was firmly established as a bar-band-metal classic for the ages, and the group's most recent album, 1984, had reached an even more rarefied level of mass popularity thanks to "Jump," a single that was all about the man with the leonine mane and the bulging crotch. On top of that, "California Girls," a Beach Boys cover featured on Crazy From the Heat, Roth's just-issued solo EP, was a top-five smash. If he wasn't the biggest rock star on the planet, he was undeniably the most fun.
So why didn't I wail "I'm not worthy!" and drop to my knees in front of him? For one reason, our supervisors at Tower constantly warned underlings like yours truly not to gush over the oodles of luminaries who shopped at the store. For another, my peers would have been appalled by so brazen a display -- because acting cool was the golden rule.
So when Roth ambled over to the news rack next to the counter where I was stationed and grabbed a magazine, I gave him the briefest of glances before returning to an article I'd been reading. But then I got the feeling that someone was staring at me, and it turned out to be Dave. He pivoted away, grinning, when my gaze met his, and I did, too. A moment later, however, I felt his eyes on me again, and when I looked up, he looked down, starting the cycle all over again. This went on for a couple of minutes -- long enough for me to realize that Roth didn't pine for privacy like many of his chart-topping contemporaries. No, he wanted to be noticed, needed to be noticed, had to be noticed immediately, if not sooner -- which may have been why he was clothed in Spandex. Either that, or the party that had started the night before wasn't over yet.
This encounter quickly became a test that I was determined to pass, and in the end, I did. But Dave's wish was granted anyhow: A trio of teenagers who arrived toward the end of our strange variation on a stare-down went apeshit at the sight of this golden god, and as the threesome clustered around him, he looked as happy as an overripe virgin at a nymphomaniac convention.
For years thereafter, the amount of attention lavished upon Roth steadily diminished. Amid accusations that he was spending too much time on his own material, among other sins, he deserted or was booted out of Van Halen shortly after his Tower visit -- different parties have different stories. But while millions of the group's enthusiasts (including me) lamented his departure, subsequent VH long-players, made with veteran screecher Sammy Hagar, sold in far greater numbers than the discs Dave put out on his own. He got another injection of the publicity he craves in the mid-'90s, when Hagar was canned and his former mates -- Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony -- invited Roth back into the fold. Unfortunately, the reunion fell apart before it really got started, prompting Van Halen's ill-fated teaming with Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone and David Lee's return to fame's fringes.
Not that Dave would ever allow himself to fade away quietly. The most quizzical of his recent comeback attempts is David Lee Roth's No Holds Bar-B-Que, a long-form video that's one of the most bizarre vanity projects of all time. The ingredients of Bar-B-Que include seemingly identical bimbo triplets alternately attired as mermaids, cowgirls, pregnant housewives, catwomen and rubber fetishists; an omnipresent midget; lots of faux club music; and Big Dave mugging for the camera, changing costumes (he looks excellent in a sailor outfit), and performing martial-arts maneuvers accompanied by an all-too-faithful cover of Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street." Roth's publicist says a release date for the video hasn't been set, and no wonder: The person most likely to enjoy it has his name in the title.
Don't worry about Diamond Dave, though, because his latest scheme -- a tour that pairs him with Hagar, his Van Halen replacement -- is utterly irresistible. Suddenly, he's back on the press's A-list: He's been quizzed by Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Howard Stern and more, more, more. As a result, some of his favorite one-liners -- like his claim that he's had more hits than Beethoven -- are getting a bit worn around the edges, and have been omitted. But Roth has plenty of other quips at his disposal, as the stream-of-consciousness rants below demonstrate. Obviously, he's rested and ready for anything.
Westword: Whose idea was the tour?
David Lee Roth: I thought of this on the Ides of March, March 15. I was trying to come up with something that would be a little unpredictable, because predictability is the cardinal sin of the music industry. How many more times are we going to listen to, "What are you going to do next, Lenny?" "I'm gonna make an album." "Oh, great. What's after that?" "Well, um, gonna go on tour." "Killer. What's after that, Lenny?" "Um, I'm gonna make a video." Come on. That's kind of like when a family member breaks down and tells you they're taking Prozac, and you have to pretend you don't know anything about it: "Really? What's that do?" But when you hear about Roth-Hagar, it's unexpected, yet it's patently obvious. And I think if you watch CNN at any point these days, what is more poignant than two warring superpowers finally showing a little unity? Jesus Christ, if Diamond Dave and Slap-happy Sam can make this happen -- anything's possible!