When I was in college, the student programming board booked Hunter S. Thomson to speak. About two weeks before the event date (and about a week before he suddenly canceled), his people sent us a rider laying out all the things that the famed Doctor Gonzo wanted. Some, like the three deli platters and the assorted rolls, breads, and condiments, were easy to obtain. Others, like the bottles of gin, vodka, and cognac, were not quite so easy. Still other items were illegal without a prescription, and we assumed that they were a joke.
Nowadays, I'm not so sure: recently reading about the various contract riders that famous divas attach to their singing contracts, I'm becoming convinced that a Rainman-level of obsessive behavior is part and parcel of celebrity. For example, Mary J. Blige apparently requires that her dressing room have a new toilet seat that has never before been touched by a human tushie. She also demands that couches be covered in fabric, drinks be held in leak-proof ice chests, and the room not contain any pork or dairy products. She requires packs of cinnamon fresh Mentos, her hotel room must be a Presidential suite with king beds, and adjoining rooms also have to be booked by the promoters.
By comparison, Amy Winehouse is relatively restrained. She only requires a large bottle of vodka, a chilled bottle of champagne, Corona beer, and a bottle of Courvoisier, all of which must be stored in the refrigerator. She must also have three "good quality pizzas," two packs of Marlboro Lights, and four lighters. Finally, her backstage crew "must be sober." Hypocrite.
Aretha Franklin's requirements aren't all that strange. She must be put up in a five-star hotel, in a room "not located above the fifth floor," and the air conditioning must be turned off in the concert hall at least one hour before her performance. On the other hand, her payment method is a little unorthodox: she must receive a certified check for $25,000 before she performs. It either has to be sent directly to her or to a "designated associate." I guess a suitcase full of bills would just be a little too conspicuous.
I wonder if being obscenely rich and coddled is a little bit like quitting smoking. Years ago, when I put down two packs a day, I could spend hours in a crowded, smoky bar without noticing the smell of ash or shedding a tear. Having now been off cigarettes for almost three years, I can pinpoint a smoker at twenty yards. At ten yards, I can determine which cigarette he's smoking and, at five yards, my eyes turn red and I start blinking uncontrollably. Somehow, within three years, I've gone from being unable to notice smoke to having an almost Bubble Boy level of sensitivity to it.
I find it hard to imagine that Mary J. Blige was always so picky. Perhaps her Howard Hughes-style toilet seat fetish began with a requirement that the commode be cleaned with 409 and a stiff brush, then progressed through various levels of obsession before reaching her current level of near-psychotic mysophobia. Similarly, I wonder what shakedown process was involved in Amy Winehouse's current decision to refrigerate Courvoisier and serve it up with Corona.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go peel myself three grapes, stuff them full of peppermint tic-tacs, smother them in sweetened, condensed milk, and try to forget about these weirdos!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. His rider requires that he only be served Top Ramen brand ramen. No second-rate processed noodle snacks for him!
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