Dec. 15, 2008 — -- Want the inside scoop on your favorite band? Take a peak at the contract rider for their latest tour, where you'll find requests for everything from clean socks and underwear to pot, pork rinds – and more.
"In their 1982 rider, Van Halen infamously wanted a bowl of M&Ms – with all the brown ones picked out," said Andrew Goldberg, managing editor of theSmokingGun.com, which showcases more than 300 crazy celeb riders on its Backstage page.
"Clearly, it was a test," he said. "If you put in something really odd – like no brown M&Ms – and they catch it, it means the promoters are paying attention. If they miss that, what other, more important points are they missing? Lighting, security, microphones, amps? For musicians, that's a big deal. If you don't pay attention to the little things, you may be missing the bigger things."
Blender magazine senior editor Tyler Gray says that these often-obscure celebrity demands are also a power play.
"They're pushing it to see how far they can go," he said. "It's a control issue. They've reached a certain point in their careers where they expect respect. And they want a physical manifestation of it. Typically, the more D-list the celebrity, the bigger the demands. A Screech-type will gripe and complain, but a J.Lo type is not even dealing with it. You meet her demands or she simply goes home."
But the Smoking Gun's Goldberg also points out the practicality of some rider demands.
"People are living on the road, out of suitcases, in these cramped vans," he said. "So new underwear and socks are really popular requests. They just dump the old stuff and pull on the new ones. It's so much easier than trying to do laundry on the road. Still, when they start getting specific, like silk Calvin Klein boxers, that's a little insane."
And, Blender's Gray notes, these day-long pit-stops are as close to home as these stars will get for a while – so might as well make them as comfortable as possible.
"If you've been backstage at one of these venues, you know it's disgusting, it's where people are drinking and sweating and throwing up after the show," Gray said. "So in these contracts, they're aiming really high just to get something that is remotely acceptable, not barf-ridden and smelly.
"They definitely are a window into a celebrity's quirks, phobias, mental illnesses," gray said. "Like Aretha Franklin's fear of flying or Jennifer Lopez's fetish for white. But these contract riders also demonstrate how desperate these celebs are for some semblance of home on the road."
The cultural relevance of these celebrity contract riders was elevated to a new high last week on Bravo TV's "Top Chef." The Foo Fighter's manager wrote an amusing contract rider complete with a request for vegetarian soup. What's funny about that? "Meaty soups make roadies fart," said the rider.
On "Top Chef," "they basically took the Foo Fighters rider and turned it into an episode last week," said Goldberg. "The challenge was to prepare a meal for the band based on their contract rider. Then the Foo Fighters got to pick who got to stay and who got sent home that week. It was awesome."
Quirky Celebrity Requests on Tour
Herewith, a look at the quirkier celeb requests.
"This sets the standard for really fun, witty contract riders," said The Smoking Gun's Goldberg, "because it had a sense of humor. The manager requests bath towels, and threatens a wedgie if they're brand new. He calls bacon 'God's currency.' The humor makes it fun to read – and that's hard to do with a contract." CLICK HERE FOR MORE.
"This was a rider for a African Aids charity video she did, and she was really demanding," said Goldberg. "White flowers, white furniture, white curtains. And Cuban food. Come on, Jennifer, it's a cameo in charity video. She was there for a little more than an hour and I heard she didn't even touch the food. It was obscene, really."
At the top of germaphobe Mary J. Blige's list? "The queen of hip-hop-soul" – who checks into hotels as a Mrs. Jefferson – "demands that a brand new toilet seat be installed at any venue she plays," said Blender's Tyler Gray. "Now that's what being a star is all about."
Health-conscious singer Christina Aguilera requests real coffee mugs for her java, along with soy milk, soy cheese, Echinacea, vitamin C and Flintstones chewable vitamins – guess she still hasn't outgrown them.
The very vegan former Beatle won't ride in a limo with leather seats or stand for leather or animal print furniture in his dressing room – not even the fake stuff. And while his meals are obviously vegan, too, the Smoking Gun site points out one major faux pas on Paul's part. The singer requests 24 bars of Ivory soap – which contain trace amounts of animal fats. Ooops.
More Demands by Stars On the Road
Sure, they asked for the standard vodka, cotton socks and "nibbles." But ever the family men, Brit rockers Coldplay also had a sweet request: eight pre-stamped local postcards set to send off to faraway family. So lead singer Chris Martin could send his love to wife Gwyneth Paltrow and the kiddies.
Actor-turned-amateur porn star Dustin Diamond demands that there be no references to his teen alter ego – "Saved By the Bell" icon Screech – at venues where he's performing his stand-up routine. In fact, each offending mention incurs a $100 penalty. "I don't know if he can really enforce that," Gray said. "Come on. What kind of contract is Screech getting? No one cares enough to worry about it."
Turns out that the celeb player has a penchant for perfect teeth. Along with his organic fruit and soy milk, on his 2005 tour, singer John Mayer requested four "soft head" toothbrushes, Listerine mouth wash and mint-flavored Sensodyne or Tom's of Maine toothpaste, plus Altoids. No word on what items groupie, uh, girlfriend Jennifer Aniston has added to Mayer's contract rider on his 2008 jaunt.
Brit hip-hop artist M.I.A. is particular about her cheese. She requests an organic cheese tray featuring cave-aged Gruyere, Swiss and sharp cheddar, along with organic berries, fresh – not canned – olives and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Belly full, she then pockets a $25-per-head dinner buyout from the promoter. "All in all, not a bad deal," said Blender's Gray. "But where do you get cave-aged Guyere?"
"Apparently, singer Ben Kweller is really into fishing," said Blender's Gray. "So he requests bait on all his riders. It's a bit odd when you're nowhere near the water, but it's his prerogative. And if he can get them to give it to him, more power to him."