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Diamonds Are Forever

For too many years, the amount of attention lavished upon David Lee Roth has 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 around 1986 -- different parties have different stories. But while millions of the group's enthusiasts 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-1990s, 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 confounding 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, cat women, 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.

Q: Whose idea was this tour?

A: 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!

Q: Did you pitch Sammy about the tour personally?

A: No, I called his manager, Irving Azoff, and he knew it was perfect. I mean, between the two of us, how many tens of millions of album sales have we had? Sam's voice is as familiar as an air-raid siren, and I'm a part of Americana that's as familiar as the Nike swoosh or the McDonald's arches.

Q: Have you known or interacted with Sammy over the past several years?

A: Not at all.

Q: What was that first meeting like, then?

A: I just went through a quickie meeting to shake a hand and tell him my idea, which was to split everything 50/50, make it a co-headline, and flip a coin to decide who goes first -- I don't really care either way. Azoff and his minions, they didn't say much, and Sam sat in the corner of the sofa and probably five or six times just kind of mumbled to himself, "Diamond fuckin' Dave." Really!

Q: Are there plans for the two of you to do any songs together?

A: No, because it's not written in any spiritual contract that if you're going to play rock 'n' roll, you must jam. I think the purpose for jamming is to come up with something colorful and maybe slightly dangerous, and I don't think 14 drunks playing "Long Tall Sally" for 14 minutes is colorful and dangerous. Besides, we have a very different approach to stagecraft. Sam has a big production and loads of people on stage and a lot of things and stuff. And I take it from what I learned from watching The Ed Sullivan Show -- four amps, a drummer, and an attitude.

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Michael Roberts
Contact: Michael Roberts

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