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The truth about Van Halen's green M&Ms

Posted September 12 by John Birmingham

Everybody knows about contract riders; those bizarre clauses in the entertainment industry that require a venue or producer to jump through fiery hoops on behalf of the talent. I heard of one author... oh all right it was Jeffrey Archer... who demanded that a freshly peeled Mars Bar appear in his dressing room less than a minute before he arrived.

Not good enough!

A showrunner of the Nine Network told me about hiring a chocolatier to strip away the outer shell of milk chocolate for Lord Archer, who had a second contract rider–he was never to see the confronting moment when the chocolate was removed, or the lonely minion who removed it.

So this guy allegedly had to strip away the chocolate in less than a minute, and then hide behind the door when Lord Archer appeared.

I don't know if was true, but I trust the guy who told me the story, and I desperately want it to be true, which is all you need on the internet.

One of the most famous contract riders was the demand by Van Halen that there be a gigantic bowl of M&Ms in their dressing room, BUT not a single green M&M could defile the bowl.

It's often cited as a perfect example of the selfishness and craziness of mega-celebrities. Turns out, not so much.

There was actually a method to this madness.

I was listening to one of my favourite podcast this morning—Pod Save America—and a country music star I’d never heard of before spelled out the reasoning behind Van Halen’s demand.

This guy, Jason Isbell, explained that because the staging requirements for a Van Halen show involved a lot of dangerous pyrotechnics and heavy equipment, the band’s lawyers added pages and pages of contract riders to the usual boilerplate to ensure that nobody was going to be hurt during the show (or before or afterward during set up and bump out) because some piece of equipment hadn’t been installed to spec.

Having a silly little clause about removing green M&Ms gave them a way of telling very quickly whether or not the venue managers had read the contract and adhered to all of the riders, most of which were about Occupational Health& Safety issues. If they saw green M&Ms in the bowl they knew somebody had cut corners.


Also brilliant? This Isbell guy. I'm not much of a country music fan and I'd never heard of him before. Pod Save America is a political podcast and I was sort of wondering why they interviewed him. Five minutes in and I wondered no more. Jason Isbell Is one of the smartest, funniest and purely clued in guys they had ever had on that show. I sat there listening to him, absolutely stunned by his self possession and wider awareness. I don't want to make this blog entry about Isbell, but if you have a few minutes and access to a streaming service you could do yourself a favour.

Warning, the song below has all the feels.

7 Responses to ‘The truth about Van Halen's green M&Ms’

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 12
I find it a little too convenient that you have hidden behind others and not revealed your own, most likely completely outrageous, riders.

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Rhino ducks in to say...

Posted September 12
I’m still waiting for the one that stipulates that Boylan and I must be flown there’, first class and expense account, to act as physical and litigious security.

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Bondiboy66 ducks in to say...

Posted September 12
Interesting! Look up Iggy Pop's legendary rider sheets, most humourous!

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Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted September 12
Jason Isbell is an interesting fellow, I agree well worth having a listen thanks for the suggestion.

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Brother PorkChop mumbles...

Posted September 20
I'd heard the M&Ms story before and it makes sense. Some riders do not though. Back in the 90s we had Mariah Carey stay at the hotel I was working at. She wanted everything in her suite to be white - a piece we did not comply with but she stayed anyways and another thing was unsalted potato chips, an item that did not exist so our chefs spent hours making the bloody things by hand.
I also got stuck in a lift with Tina Turner, a lovely lady, and ended up making her boiled eggs myself since the chefs could not get it right.
Then there was the RHCPs...... and the Baby Animals.....

Nocturnalist mutters...

Posted September 20
Okay, c'mon, spill, I want to know what the Baby Animals were like.

Brother PorkChop has opinions thus...

Posted September 20
They were great when sober. Hung out with MaryJane a real lot, ordered Nachos from Room Service, then threw them at me. Admittedly they were shit and I wouldn't have eaten them either but I was a night manger not a chef so....
But the Chillis were ever so cool and great to hang out with. So very laid back, but they were on holidays so you could expect that.

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Posted September 11 into Writing by John Birmingham

I've been learning a lot about Montana, mostly how purdy it is.
For those of you who are following the End of the World Project at Patreon, Montana is my Boulder, Colorado. It's where I've pointed my survivors, good and bad, of civilisational collapse. It's almost Tolkienesque in some respects, but populated by cowboys rather than hobbits.

I won't actually set many chapters in Montana until the second book, since my narrators are busy dealing with the end of all things in the first.

Still, I've learned it helps to sort out a few basics well before you start writing, and so its off to Big Sky country for me whenever I get some down time. One of the geographical features I'm really taken with is the existence of 'island ranges'. These are like isolated, singular outbreaks of mountain terrain, hundreds of miles before before you get to the continental divide. They soar up without warning in the middle of oceans of grassland in the state's east. Think Uluru, but made out of sabre-toothed granite, and surrounded by hundreds of milles of flatland.

It makes for a bit of imagined whiplash though, jumping between this and the research I'm doing on How To Collapse Modern Civilisation Without Really Trying.

That turns out to be surprisingly difficult. I'm having to call on all the Horsemen of the Apocalypse to ride to my help.

5 Responses to ‘Montana’

jl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 12
Man, reading your EOTW stuff on Patreon makes me want to move to Montana... before it's too late.

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Therbs reckons...

Posted September 18
There's one of those long distance hiking trails goes through Montana, the Continental Divide Trail. Could be worth ferreting around CDT website/blogs for tips about the trail , water sources etc.
Just gave me an idea for a short story in this universe.

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alfettesfalconer mumbles...

Posted September 27
Richard Ford's collection of short stories, 'Rock Springs' is set almost entirely in Montana (with the occasional brief excursion into Wyoming). The landscape's not a central feature but the names of a lot of the features and places are memorable - Deer Lodge Prison, Great Falls to name but two

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 27
I've always meant to read that book! Now I have a reason.

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 29
The one Planet Birmo (tm) product/service I'm yet to enjoy. *opens wallet, small tattered moth emerges*

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My sweaty buttcheeks look nothing like Nick Earls'

Posted September 11 into Blunty by John Birmingham

From today's Blunty:

"I’m pretty sure the only reason I don’t have a perfect five star Uber rating is because sometimes people get me and Nick Earls mixed up and Nick is notorious for getting underpants-literally-on-his-head drunk and that Uber guy who gave me less than five stars must have had Nick in the back seat, drunk as a lord, undies on his bonce, and sweaty buttcheeks smearing up the leatherette interior."

You might probably not be surprised to learn that our lawyers insisted I get Nick's okeldokely for this.

1 Responses to ‘My sweaty buttcheeks look nothing like Nick Earls'’

FormerlyKnownAsSimon mumbles...

Posted September 11
Uber were watching blackmirror one night and got excited didn't they? "those dirty customers always rating down our drivers with their high expectations and causing us grief with follow up customer calls. Well, we'll show them"

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The Animal House Awkward Rewatch

Posted September 10 into Movies by John Birmingham

Animal House popped up on one of the streamers a few weeks ago—just checked, it was Netflix—and I started it rolling for no reason other than a quick nostalgia fix. I think I first watched that movie in Canberra when I was working for defence and sharing with a couple of other blokes, one of whom nowadays might not be a million miles removed from the office of the Secretary of the Department of Defence.
We were all newly stranded in Canberra, first year out of uni, and most Saturday nights we'd get a few beers on board and rent some video tapes.
That's how long ago this was.
No DVDs, just tapes.
I knew about Animal House of course. It'd been out for a years but was already a pop cultural touchstone. We watched it and probably watched it again before returning the tape. I rewatched it many times afterwards and retained fond if slightly hazy memories decades later.
It was kind of odd going back.
It was still funny in parts, but the humour felt more elegiac — funny because I recalled that it had been funny once upon a time. There was a sort of naive quality to it, which was only partly a function of setting the story in 1962 before the violent atomisation of the later Sixties. There was also something new. Real awkwardness. Not so much with the white monocultural cast. That was historically on point, although I doubt any film maker would get away with it now.

Rather, the sexual politics of Animal House feel... a little uncomfortable. There are no outright rape jokes, unlike a period 'classic' such as the original Ocean's Eleven, for instance.
But jeez, there's some problematic content, as the kids might say... If the kids are into policing the boundaries of acceptable discourse.
The racial inequities of the time, especially the clueless liberalism of the monied elites, are actually well neatly caught in the byplay between the Delta's and Otis Day and the Knights.
But in the #MeToo era its the film's gender biases that strike a loud, discordant note. Two moments in particular; chapter president Robert Hoover's winking joke at 'taking a few liberties with their dates', and Eric Stratton's gross seduction of the hottie from Emily Dickinson College. There are more, and the movie is doubtless a pale reflection of a much darker reality... but I was struck by how differently it played now than when I first watched it all the back in the 1980s.

5 Responses to ‘The Animal House Awkward Rewatch’

DNABeast puts forth...

Posted September 10
I really like how functional the word 'problematic' is. It doesn't denote that anything need be done about it. It's not pushing down your throat that you need to be offended. But it also gives you permission to justifiably do so if you wish.

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Barnesm would have you know...

Posted September 10
I was pleased by the use of the elegiac.

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damian puts forth...

Posted September 10
The other way to talk about problematic things is to point out they would be challenging to explain to certain audiences, or that they only work if you deny some category of people have a legitimate perspective.

But Revenge of the Nerds is worse - one of its “hero” moments depicts a sequence we would now consider rape, and probably should have back when it was new. Not sure I remember myself, I remember not thinking it was particularly good but that’s about it.

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Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted September 11
Most kids I know don't give two fucks about policing anything other than their appetites akin to what one might see in, well, Animal House.

Me thinks we worry too much about the ranks of the sniveling few.

Rob puts forth...

Posted September 14
the endless tiring one upmanship of who can be more politically correct than everyone else, who can be more offended and outraged than everyone else. Or who can be more glib, cynical and sarcastic than everyone else. Those poor kids have removed all joy from their lives and replaced it with the politics of an outraged 15 year old.

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I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Pennywise Administration

Posted September 7 into Funny by John Birmingham

“I work for the horror clown in chief but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

Sept. 5, 2018
The Boob is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous column. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Pennywise administration whose identity is known to us and whose life would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers who may not have noticed that an evil horror clown has occupied the White House and is luring children into the sewers under Pennsylvania Avenue.

Pennywise the Clown is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

It’s not just that a rag tag band of intrepid kids has bravely entered his lair looking to confront him — he’ll almost certainly eat them all — or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Clown’s leadership.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate his darkest schemes.

I should know. I am one of them.

To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want this evil administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America the ravaged hellscape we all so fervently hoped for.

But we believe our first duty is to self preservation, and the president continues to act in a manner that imperils us all. Not you. Us!

That is why many Pennywise minions have vowed to do what we can to preserve our lives while thwarting Mr. Clown’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office or he finds the launch codes that General Kelly hid from him and silent white light fills the world to consume the righteous and unrighteous alike in holy fire.

The root of the problem is that the president is an evil horror clown. To be honest this came as a surprise, most especially to the hardened professionals among us. Who’d have thought he was actually deeply principled? But anyone who works with him now knows he truly is moored to those first principles on which he ran. Destroying everything and eating lots of children...

The rest is free at

1 Responses to ‘I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Pennywise Administration’

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 7
I am disappoint it is not Donnywise the clown.

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Home repairs

Posted September 6 by John Birmingham

Replaced a bunch of halogen lights with LEDs today — or rather, I paid a guy to do it. Some had burned out and another two had been half eaten by possums (mine oldest enemy).
Been a few repairs to effect around here recently. It's been a decade since we renovated and the years have worked their magic.

The solar hot water system turned itself into a luke warm water system a few weeks back, in deepest winter, occasioning a medieval performance every night in which I boiled great pots of water and hauled them the length of the house to pour into the tub.
I thought the whole system might be cactus but the solar wizards we eventually got in said, nah, it was just a tempering valve. Apparently the system was still heating the water to a dangerously high temperature every day, even in winter, but the little valve that mixes in cold before sending it to the tap had failed safe, and so we were getting a geyser of cold with a trickle of hot.
It was a quick and relatively cheap repair, a couple of hundred bucks which, compared to hauling those big soup pots from the stove top, I thought to be a pretty fair deal.
It still amazes me that we can get all of our hot water from the sun. It saves a heap of money and feels a little bit like getting away with something.
Next year when I've got a few more books out I'm gonna look at throwing some more PV units up there to generate extra power. It makes a massive difference to the bills.
After that, a battery system I reckon. And proximity fused sentinel pods for securing the perimeter against zombies.

12 Responses to ‘Home repairs’

jl has opinions thus...

Posted September 6
Love me some solar power. As you say, what's not to like about free energy?

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted September 6
I really want an electric car for this very reason.

jl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 7
Yeah, I think by the time I'm in the market for a new sedan (about five years from now), the price and engineering will have gotten to my level. Not to mention the wait lists.

Nocturnalist ducks in to say...

Posted September 7
I've read a couple of articles about folks who've done full-electric conversions on their regular cars. I keep wondering if there's a business niche to buy smaller, older, less fancy vehicles, electrify them and put them back up for sale for the end of the market that's not up for Tesla's wait time and price tag.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted September 6
RE: LED's I heard a great description once; incandescents use mega watts pumping out every frequency from IR to something dogs might hear. Old mate compared this to pressing every key on a piano at once. Flouros are more efficient watts-lumens as they emit fewer frequencies like a big power chord. LEDs are uber super-dooper efficient as they only use watts to make those frequencies we need, like 2 fingers on the piano.

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jason is gonna tell you...

Posted September 7
I work in this industry and the saddest thing I have heard is:
Q: When will these LEDs need replacing.
A: You'll be dead when these need replacing.

Good light bulb but a sad story for my mortality

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 8
to be fair that is sooner for some of us than others.

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WA n'ker swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 7
Is that a pic of J,Jennie's old house?

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Leftarc mutters...

Posted September 7
frackin zombies...

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Nocturnalist has opinions thus...

Posted September 7
We got the full panels'n'powerwall deal a couple of months ago and are loving it, although the hoops to jump through to get meter offsets are taking a little longer than we expected.

The Tesla wall comes with a lovely little app that lets you call up an animated flow diagram on your phone so you can see the power flowing from the panels down into the house and the wall, or, from the wall to the house, or (teeth-grindingly) from the grid to the house, or (gloriously) from the panels to the grid. It's got little overlay graphs tracking inputs and outputs over the day and a little pie chart that unrolls to show you what percentage of the day you've been self-powered for and everything.

I remember you talking about prowling the house after your panels went on, brooding about where your electrons were going. This could easily be a hilarious new obsession for you.

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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted September 8
Its become much easier to intergrate the power supply of electricity from disparate sources, with the development of better battery tech and supercapicitors it certainly marks the turning point in power supply and production.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon asserts...

Posted September 11
oh man, luckily this topic has put me into a paralysed stupor. Otherwise i'd be tempted to turn this place into a whirlpool post! : ) (also a survivor of solar hot water problems)

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