The Day Van Halen, Sammy Hagar and MBA Rocked!
The following two stories appeared in the June 2021 issue of Mountain Bike Action as we we continued to celebrate some of the great moments in the magazine’s 35 year history.
BIG HAIR? BIG DEAL!
By 1989 I was three years into this gig as mountain bike journalist and far from the days of spending my nights hanging out in Hollywood at the famous Whiskey a Go Go club on Sunset Boulevard to see bands like X, The Cramps and Fear. But, strangely, as I found myself sitting on a couch in Sammy Hagar’s Malibu beach home talking about mountain bikes and the old days on “The Strip,” memories of those fun-filled, raucous nights came flooding back.
To this day, the Whiskey is located just down the street from another landmark music club, Gazzarri’s. On many weekends when the Whiskey would play host to some punk rock bands, those of us festooned with green hair, studded jackets and torn Levi’s would share the limited sidewalk space with all the big-hair, spandex-wearing rockers headed to Gazzarri’s for a night of loud metal music.
No doubt the sight of two equally flamboyant but visibly different youth factions must’ve been something to see for all the finger-pointing tourists driving past with mouths agape. It was all a great show, with the only downside being that the West L.A. sheriffs made a point of harassing us and not them.
“How was it that I found myself hanging out with Eddie Van Halen and Sammy Hagar talking about mountain bikes?”
THAT WAS THEN
But, for what reason would I find myself sitting on Sammy’s couch? I was there because MBA’s longtime photographer/photo editor, Pat Carrigan, begged me to take the assignment of doing a story on Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar’s Red Rocker mountain bike.
Pat was a Van Halen fan, and when he’d heard that Hagar was an avid mountain biker who was planning to start selling his own bikes, he chased down his publicist to arrange a photo shoot. For Pat, being able to pursue the story angle was the culmination of a lifetime dream. How could I say no? But, at first, I did. Not only did the celebrity angle bore me, but I hated the feeling of just being used as a PR pawn for a guy who (as it turned out) didn’t even know what the bike’s geometry was!
JUST THE FOUR US—NOT!
But, Pat insisted, and finally I relented, so, off to the Malibu Colonies we went. Eddie and Sammy were gracious enough hosts, and the Red Rocker bike was about as average as any standard- issue hardtail of the day. As I took notes, Pat was intermittently lightheaded and starstruck as he searched for a location to shoot photos. Eventually, we headed to the beach, along with Eddie’s dog, to get the shot you see here.
After our allotted time, which really only got exciting when Eddie’s wife, Valerie Bertinelli, called out from the house to offer us a drink, we thanked the duo for affording us the rare opportunity to meet them and see the bike up close.
Just as we were being led out, two of our competitors from Mountain Biking magazine showed up. Although the “exclusive” interview that Pat had scored was suddenly less of a triumph, that day on the beach with two rock-and-roll icons was just one of many in the 35 years of mountain bike history that MBA has played a role in covering.
PAT’S PINCH ME MOMENT WITH VAN HALEN
By Pat Carrigan
Although I will admit that I’ve enjoyed plenty of fringe benefits over the course of my 35 years of being the photo editor for all of Hi-Torque’s titles, none really rated as big as the day I got to visit Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen when Sammy was promoting his Red Rocker mountain bike back in 1989.
Although it came as a surprise to many, it turns out that Sammy was an avid mountain biker back in the day, and he had worked with mountain bike pioneer Gary Fischer to produce a limited run signature series of Red Rocker bikes. Helping to build his two-wheeled bona fides, Hagar was also part owner of a bike shop in the San Francisco Bay Area in the town of Sausalito.
While I was returning home from a ride in the Santa Monica Mountains one day, I was listening to the radio tuned to the then-famous SoCal rock station KLOS. DJs Mark and Brian were talking with Sammy about his newly launched bike brand.
“Eddie Van Halen slowly backed the car out of the garage and proceeded to lay down the biggest patchh of rubber for the length of half a football field!”
Being a huge fan of both Van Halen and Sammy Hagar, I thought for sure that doing a story about Sammy’s new bike venture would be of interest to MBA readers. Now, I just had to convince Zap that it was a good idea. Although I could tell that he didn’t share my enthusiasm for the band, he said to go ahead and make it happen.
This was right after Van Halen and Sammy had finished recording their second album together titled OU812. I contacted Van Halen’s publicist, and a few weeks later she arranged a time and date for an interview.
THE SURPRISE GUEST
With the sound of waves crashing outside, I have to say that I was pretty excited to be sitting in a plush living room across from Sammy Hagar. Wait, did I say “pretty excited”?! I meant to say, really excited! And then it got even better.
As Zap was peppering Sammy with questions about both the bike and his background in the sport, in walked a little-known guitarist by the name of Eddie Van Halen. Eddie entered the room, shook our hands and, as if he needed any introduction, went ahead and introduced himself. It turned out that, along with many other celebrities, Sammy and Eddie were neighbors in the Malibu Colony. Without a doubt, this was truly one of those surreal pinch-yourself moments for me.
As we headed out to the beach for some photos, Sammy told us that he would often compose the lyrics to Van Halen’s songs while he was riding his mountain bike in the hills above Malibu.
Just as we were wrapping up the interview in front of Sammy’s house, Eddie asked for the keys to Sammy’s red Ferrari. The keys were tossed, and after Eddie slowly backed the car out of the garage, we watched in awe as he proceeded to lay the biggest patch of rubber for the length of half a football field down his quiet residential neighborhood.
Sammy just chuckled, while Zap leaned over to me and said, “The life of a ‘Rocker.’” I wonder how many of those Red Rocker bikes are still on the trail today?