Source of Infection
"For some reason," acknowledged Sammy Hagar, "the changes I've
experienced in my life have always been very big and very dramatic. I
have shed my skin so many times over the years, I refuse to take stock of
the work I've accomplished. You would never catch me shouting, "Hey
world, look at me! Look where I've come from and what I have done. I'm
worth this much money, and I have this much power." Though I have every
right to be proud of my achievements, I'm not the least bit interested in
bragging about them. I don't care about what I've done in the past. I'm
only concerned with what I can do in the future. It's not that I take
anything for granted. I believe that when you die, you are shown an
inventory of what you've done in your life and are judged accordingly."
Until the very end, everyone in the Van Halen organization thought Ed
Leffler was going to pull through. When his condition suddenly took a
turn for the worse, no words could describe the anguish and pain that
gripped Hagar after his death. The Van Halen brothers were equally
devastated. After the funeral, the band got together for an informal
discussion about their future. They were all curious about one thing. In
the past, had Leffler mentioned to anyone who he thought should succeed
him as manager in case something happened? When the answer turned up no,
they all looked at each other with some misgivings. During their
manager's entire stay in the hospital, no one had mustered up the courage
to pose the management succession question to him. Up to his last
breath, everyone had tried to convince themselves (and Leffler) that
everything would be all right. When the worse case scenario came to pass,
it left the four musicians entirely clueless as to how their business
affairs had been run. No one, including the accountants, could provide
anyone with answers. Ed Leffler's business sense and management style
allowed Van Halen to fully flourish. That unique level of trust between
the band and its manager played a critical role in the development of
Eddie and Sammy as one of the most prolific songwriting teams in rock.
Their partnership had produced three straight, chart-topping albums.
Outside of the Rolling Stones seven consecutive No. 1 records in the
'70s, no other rock band outside of Led Zeppelin had come remotely close
to matching the remarkable streak. The incredible chemistry that existed
between guitarist and singer was as formidable a duo as any Page and
Plant, Townshend and Daltry, or Richards and Jagger combination.
Leffler's presence was the thread that bound everything together. When he
died, the fabric of the band began to unravel. His losing battle with
cancer threw the group into a tailspin the likes of which they'd never
"Don Engel was Leffler's close friend and attorney," Hagar said. "We
asked if Ed had ever confided in him the name of a person to manage Van
Halen, in the event something went wrong. Don said, "No, Ed just told me
the names of people he didn't want involved." Howard Kaufman was
mentioned as one, and somebody else, because they handled too many
artists. Now you would think that as much as Leffler and I talked every
day, this kind of thing would have come up. It never did. Not once did I
ever say, "Ed, if anything ever happened to you, what's our deal at
Warner Bros.? Who do you talk to there? Who did you make the deal with
at Warner/Chappell? Why did you do this? Why did you do that?" We always
talked about the band, the direction we were taking, problems within the
group or Van Halen's future. We often talked about my personal problems
with Betsy, or our kids. For some strange reason, it just never crossed
my mind to ask him any questions about our business. We wrote the music
and completely trusted him to run our affairs. There was no reason to
ask him any questions about a successor, because he was going to be with
us to the end (or so we hought.)
"I never realized how much we took him for granted, until it came time
for us to find a replacement. We had decided to delay looking for a new
manager until the start of the new year. No one seemed to be in any
hurry, least of all myself. To this day, it's still hard for me to
believe he's gone. It is true that you never appreciate how much someone
truly means to you until they're gone. Although Ed's death was especially
hard on me, it really had a demoralizing effect on Eddie and Alex. They
loved the man and would have done anything for him. I honestly believe
that Eddie stopped trusting me the day Leffler died. He had always been
there to ease his worries and to reassure him that the projects I
involved myself with, outside the Van Halen framework, were okay. With Ed
gone, the balance of power he always maintained between the brothers and
myself, started to tilt in an ugly direction."
Soon after the funeral, a distraught Hagar decided to get away from the
band. He and Kari flew off to Maui, where the couple rented a house, with
plans to stay there a few months. Outside of a November 5 appearance at
Neil Young's seventh annual Bridge School Benefit Show at the Shoreline
Amphitheater near San Francisco, Sammy remained isolated on the tropical
isle. Shortly after Leffler's death, his private utopia was interrupted
by a disturbing call from Cabo San Lucas concerning the club. The Cabo
Wabo needed another cash injection to continue operating. An outraged
Hagar lowered the boom on the manager. He had just been down there for
his birthday bash and raised tens of thousands of dollars for the bar.
How could it possibly need more money with the holiday season
approaching, and tourists starting to pour in?
"David Haliburton was the worst manager in the world," Sammy asserted.
"People just hated him, because he was such an asshole. When Ed Leffler
died, he kept hitting me up for money. I said, "David, I ain't giving you
no more money. Close the club on Monday and Tuesday; fire half the
employees; do whatever you have to do but cut expenses. I'm not putting
any more money into the club." The two of us were on really bad terms.
The last three months before Leffler died, this guy started stealing
money and doing a lousy job keeping the bar open. The club had been going
down for a long time. It was losing money every month, and because we
toured so much that year, Mike and I couldn't go down and support it. My
birthday bash was the only time we were down there in 1993."
Hagar was planning to quietly celebrate the holidays in preparation for
what he knew would be a busy year. In addition to making a new album,
there was also the business of selecting a new manager for the band. The
process was not going to be easy, and he knew it. It was going on three
years since Van Halen put out its last record. Sammy and Eddie's
songwriting skills would be put to the test, especially in the absence of
Leffler's fatherly influence. Unfortunately for Hagar, he was about to
face a year of adversity he would not soon forget. The church refers to
the seven deadly sins of man as greed, gluttony, lust, sloth, envy, wrath
and pride. Starting January 1, 1994, the Red Rocker would come face to
face with these human failings, when he unexpectedly found himself in a
battle for the soul of Van Halen.
The new year filled Hagar with a sense of hope. After all, how could it
possibly get any worse than the personal loss he had just suffered. That
question would be answered sooner than he ever expected. The first
indication that 1994 was heading in the wrong direction came when David
Haliburton again phoned the singer's Hawaiian retreat. This time it was
New Year's Day, and he had an announcement to make. The suitcase heir was
quitting and had given the Cabo Wabo's keys to the employees the night
before. Jolted by the news, and somewhat relieved, Sammy immediately
chartered a flight to Cabo San Lucas to see what shape the club was in.
When he walked into the bar, he was taken back by what he saw. The place
was in utter chaos. Haliburton's total neglect of the club's business
affairs had left it in dire financial straits.
As he inspected the books and totalled up the damage, Hagar's shock
turned to anger when he realized his baby needed almost $300,000 to stay
solvent. "When Ed Leffler died," discovered Hagar, "everything at the
Cabo Wabo went downhill. Leffler used to keep an eye on Haliburton, even
though he stopped bringing money up from the club in June. He was either
spending it or putting it in his pocket. On New Year's Day, the asshole
calls me in Maui and says, "I quit. I gave the employees the keys." When
I finally got to the bar and started checking things out, I was thinking,
"Wow, what's going on here? Why aren't we selling any beer?" I found out
that from June 1993 to January 1, 1994, David had not only stopped
keeping the books, he quit paying the bills. He didn't pay the government
their taxes on the building, or the employees, or their workman's comp.
The club owed something like $170,000 in back taxes. None of the vendors
had been paid, so they stopped selling us beer, food for the restaurant
and tee shirts for the gift shop. I kept mumbling to myself, "I'm going
to kill this guy." The place was totally wiped out. "I reported my
findings to the band and told them how much we owed. Eddie and Al said,
"We ain't paying it." Mikey said, "Let's do what we have to do. I don't
want to let it go." I didn't either, so instead of letting the government
seize the property, I talked to Marco Monroy, who had built the club. I
told him I needed his help to save the bar, and would he be my partner.
His family was pretty influential down there, plus they were politically
well- connected. The governor of the state was a family friend. Marco
intervened on my behalf, and the government had mercy on me. Instead of
going into my pocket to pay the back taxes, they allowed the club to make
$3,000 a month payments toward the debt. All we had to do was stay
current with everything else. Marco arranged all this and said, "I'll
take care of the payments; don't worry about it." I told him that would
be great. To come in as my partner, paying off the debt would be his
equity in the place. He even paid off the vendors off and started
remodeling the club. We shook hands on our deal and I flew back to
With the bar problems apparently solved, Hagar returned to Maui to enjoy
the island paradise. His reprieve was short&#8222;lived. Toward the end of
January, Sammy received yet another surprise phone call. This time it
came from old friend, John Kalodner. He was calling to inform him that
Geffen Records was set to release a Sammy Hagar greatest hits album in a
couple of months. Kalodner wanted to know if he would participate on the
project. "Kalodner called to let me know what Geffen was planning," he
said a bit surprised. "John said, 'Leffler held us back for all these
years. Now that he's gone, we're going to do it.' Before I could object,
he says, 'Would you do a couple of new songs for it?' I asked him for how
much, but he didn't know. So, I said, 'Well, if you guys pay me $500,000,
then I'll do it. Otherwise, you can put a greatest hits record out, and I
won't support it.' Now I wasn't sticking them up, but I figured if
they'd give me that kind of money, it would be worth my time to work with
them on it."
Ed Leffler had negotiated a clause in Hagar's original Geffen contract
that called for him to be paid $250,000 in the event he agreed to record
two new songs for a greatest hits record. Sammy had a special purpose in
mind for the additional half million dollars he was requesting -- it was
earmarked for his divorce. The matter had been dragging through the
courts for over 18 months, because Sammy's accountants were slow in
getting financial information on his various holdings to Betsy's lawyers.
Since California law clearly stated that the assets of his marriage be
divided equally, Hagar was expecting to hand over a substantial amount of
cash to his wife. He figured that instead of pulling the money out of
his pocket, he'd try his hand at picking someone else's -- namely Geffen.
Though the logic was sound at the time, the act itself was immediately
misinterpreted by Eddie and Alex.
"The tension between the Van Halens and myself," pointed out Hagar,
"really started in late January. That's when they accidentally heard
about my involvement on the greatest hits package Geffen was putting
together. One day, while they were speaking to Don Engel on the phone,
he mentioned in passing that he was talking to Geffen Records about
Sammy's greatest hits record. I had not told the brothers what was going
on, because I was waiting for Kalodner to call me back. If Geffen
accepted my request for an additional $500,000, then I was going to give
them the songs. If they didn't, I would not get involved. There was no
need for me to say anything until I heard back from the record company."
For years, Ed Leffler had kept Geffen from releasing a greatest hits
album of Sammy's solo material. Every time the subject was brought up,
Leffler would tell them that Van Halen had a new album coming out and to
reconsider. Since the label was getting fifty percent of the profits
from anything new the band recorded, they would back off. When David
Geffen sold his company to MCA Records, keeping the company at bay was
difficult but manageable. After the manager unexpectedly died, however,
the floodgates were opened and there was no control switch to stop them.
Management green-lighted the project. Since he knew all the principle
players involved, and Van Halen had no manager when Kalodner stunned him
with his disclosure, Sammy decided to handle the negotiations himself,
with Don Engel's assistance.
"Leffler always knew what to say," divulged Hagar, "whenever the subject
of the greatest hits record came up. He always said the right things to
keep both Geffen and Warner Bros. happy. When Capitol released "The Best
of Sammy Hagar" in 1989, we had absolutely no control over that. When
Eddie and Al found out what Geffen was doing, they called me in Hawaii
and wanted to know why I was getting involved with the greatest hits
package. I was flying into Los Angeles in a couple of days, so I told
them I'd explain everything when I got into town. Kari and I flew in
from Maui and checked into the Bel-Air hotel. From there, I went straight
to Don Engel's law office. Then I placed a conference call to the
brothers at a prearranged time. With Don listening, I explained to Eddie
and Al that my involvement with the greatest hits package centered on my
divorce. I told them the main thing holding it up was money. To settle
the property issue, I was going to have to make a large cash payment to
Betsy. The deal with Geffen was simple. If they gave me the half
million I requested for two new songs, I would also do a two-week press
junket in Los Angeles and New York to promote the record. That ended my
involvement with the album. There would be no new single release and no
videos. If Geffen didn't pay me the figure I thought was fair, I wasn't
going to have anything to do with the record."
Hagar says he repeatedly emphasized to the brothers that the only reason
he was involving himself in the greatest hits package was to settle his
divorce with Betsy. "When I finished my explanation," he replied, "Eddie
and Al assured me they understood, and everything I was doing was fine
with them. Their comments should have been reassuring words to hear, but
they weren't. I knew they were up in arms over what I was doing and
didn't dig for one minute my involvement with Geffen, whatever the
reasons. Frankly, I didn't care. I wasn't making any money off this
project, and they damn well knew it. If they couldn't deal with it, that
was their problem, not mine. From my standpoint, buying Betsy off in one
large chunk was a good business deal."
Kalodner called Hagar two weeks after their initial conversation and said
the label had agreed to his terms. He flew into Los Angeles to finalize
the agreement with Geffen, then went to Conway studio where he recorded
"Buying My Way into Heaven" and "High Hopes" with producer Mike Clink.
The two songs had previously been submitted to Van Halen for
consideration, but Eddie rejected them. "You know what's amazing," he
mused. "I presented those songs to the band two albums in a row, and they
passed on them. When Eddie and Al found out I was using them for my
greatest hits album, they got really pissed off. "What are you going to
do now Sammy, go solo?" Those two were so paranoid, they were suspicious
of anything I did outside the band. Eddie had totally closed down on me
after Leffler's death. Without Ed around to validate exactly what I was
doing, the brothers stopped believing me. When I gave those two songs to
Geffen, Eddie honestly believed I was only out for myself and was trying
to become a solo artist again. He thought I was going to pull a Roth trip
and screw him and his brother. Again, without Leffler to verify what I
was saying, Eddie and Al grew increasingly suspicious of me. They stopped
trusting me after that.
"I was ticked off by their ridiculous attitude. I had been in this band
for almost nine years and had never done a thing to warrant any type of
suspicion. For reasons known only to themselves, the brothers couldn't
stand for me to do anything outside the band. However, they did whatever
they wanted to musically, under the context that it was for Van Halen.
If Eddie and Al wanted to do an instrumental for the record, we'd do it.
In other words, they had a solo project within the band. I didn't play
guitar on the albums, and I didn't write the music. My job was lyrics and
melody. We had built Eddie's 5150 studio into a state-of-the-art
facility. Since it was located right outside Eddie's house, and Al lived
less than two miles away, the Van Halen brothers became studio rats.
They were in there all the time, doing whatever they wanted. Eddie would
write music, tell Al what to do, and they would play for hours. It's not
that I really complained about this arrangement, but the scenario was
strange to deal with, especially when they were griping about me doing
outside projects. And the thing is, I never did anything outside the
band, so what was there to bitch about?"
The new year was barely six weeks old, and already Sammy was getting a
bad taste of what life in Van Halen was going to be like without Ed
Leffler. The Red Rocker longed for the soothing effect his old friend
had on the band, especially when the brothers started turning on him.
For the longest time, Sammy had absolutely no idea who was fueling their
suspicions. He says the drastic behavioral changes Eddie and Alex
exhibited toward him were quite unsettling. Tensions especially boiled
over when it came time to select a manager for the group. Though the
atmosphere was friendly between the parties when potential names were
initially discussed, it turned ugly soon afterward.
Throughout the process, Hagar sat in amazement as Eddie and Al
continuously objected to the various people the band interviewed for the
manager's job. For reasons known only to themselves, he says the pair
would come up with the lamest excuses to dismiss people from the list.
Surprisingly, the individuals they were rejecting were no lightweights in
the music business. A number of well-regarded managers expressed an
interest in managing Van Halen. The band met several of them in their
offices, while others were interviewed over the phone. After weeding out
several candidates, they invited the finalists to lay out their
"There was Doc McGee," revealed Hagar, "whom we knew from his Bon Jovi
days. There was Neil Young's manager, Elliot Richards. We met with
Toto's managers, who were really nice and interesting gentlemen. We
talked with Tom Petty's manager, Tony Dimitriades, and Tim Collins from
Aerosmith. Herbie Herbert, from Journey, was thrown into the mix, as
were Cliff Bernstein and Peter Mensch. Paul McGinnis from U2 was
mentioned, but we never called him. The process was going smoothly,
until we got together to discuss the various proposals. Ed and Al had
something negative to say about every person we had interviewed. I was
shocked, because everyone who survived the cut was a top-line manager.
Finally, I suggested we team up Johnny Barbis and Shep Gordon to manage
our affairs. Johnny was a marketing whiz and Shep was a manager Leffler
highly respected. Combining their respective talents would make them a
dynamic team. The brothers got really excited with the idea and asked me
to set up a meeting."
When Hagar called Gordon and Barbis about combining their respective
talents to manage Van Halen, the two music executives were excited over
the idea. Sammy had known Shep for a long time, and counted him as one
of his closest friends. Gordon had also managed Alice Cooper's affairs
since he started in the business. Barbis had been a close friend of Ed
Leffler's for years, and the Van Halen's knew him well. "Johnny flew in
from New York," he announced, "and Shep caught a flight from Maui. We
all met at Shep's L.A. offices for lunch, and the meeting went better
than I expected. That evening, I went to dinner with Johnny and the
brothers, and we had a great time. The next day, when we all got
together, Alex started things off by saying, "I don't think they're going
to work. Shep Gordon stole money from Alice Cooper. He made side deals
with promoters, like with P.A.'s. Alice would be paying out $15,000 a
week, but Shep would only be charging promoters $10,000, keeping the
other five." I looked at Alex and said, "You've got to be kidding! Shep
Gordon is one of my best friends. You're an idiot to say that. Shep and
Alice are best friends, and he's been managing Alice's affairs for 26
years. He never burned him. For God's sake, do you think Alice would
still be with Shep if he had stolen from him?" I looked straight at Alex
and asked him where he heard that. He simply replied, "Well, I just heard
about it." At this point, I knew the brothers had been talking to
somebody. I just wasn't quite sure who it was."
The next day the band got together for further discussions over the
management situation. When Hagar arrived for the meeting, another figure
was present. It was Alex's brother-in-law Ray Danniels. The voice
behind the whisper in Eddie and Al's ear now had a face. Apparently the
brothers had enlisted the Canadian to be their unofficial advisor in the
management hunt. "Ray was in the room with us discussing the different
management proposals," the singer stated. "Immediately he tried to sell
himself to us by stabbing every other manager we had talked to in the
back. Instead of coming into this thing telling us what he could offer,
he did the opposite. He says, 'Well, if you want to use so and so, that
guy steals money from his clients. Oh, you want to use that guy, he was
caught doing drugs. That guy there, oh, he's hated by every record
company.' You know what I mean. He had something negative to say about
every single person, and Ed and Al are going, 'Oh really!' I'm sitting
there listening to this guy saying, 'Bullshit!' Then he started
attacking Shep and Johnny, two of my very best friends. He said quote
unquote, 'Shep stole money from Alice Cooper. He made side deals with
promoters. Johnny Barbis will burn you guys; he's a promotion's man, and
all he'll do is sell you guys out and sell you cheap.' When he said that
shit, I said, 'Listen you fucking asshole. Those guys are my friends.
Don't ever say anything bad about them in front of me again, because I'll
punch you in the fucking face.' Outside of Ed Leffler, Shep was one of
the most brilliant managers I knew. Johnny was just a great guy, and the
brothers knew that. They would never do the things Ray Danniels was
accusing them of. I was so damn mad, I went off and busted him on the
whole thing. I said, 'You're a piece of shit for the way you've come into
this band talking to us. I would never allow you to be my manager.' After
that, I had to get out of there. Later I heard from Michael Anthony
Ray stayed up all night with Eddie and Al slamming me. He said things
like, 'Sammy wants his guys in there so that he can make side deals. Him
and Ed Leffler made side deals. Him and Ed Leffler stole from this band.'
It was all total bullshit, and these guys, I'm telling you, it was
really, really bad."
The subject of Danniels handling Van Halen's affairs was closed as far as
Sammy was concerned. However, Ray was far from being out of the picture.
From the very moment Hagar confronted him with the lies he was spreading
about other managers, then threatening to punch him out, a dangerous
enemy had been made.
"Ray Danniels is a cunning snake," declared Hagar. "He's like the devil
where he can tell you everything you want to hear. When it came to me,
Ray couldn't pull off that shit. From that day on, the two of us never
got along. Michael Anthony was on my side at first in vetoing Ray as
manager. Unfortunately, he's the spineless wonder type. He has no
say-so in the band unless Ed and Al need his vote. Then they make him do
what they want. When Mike informed me that he was siding with Eddie and
Al to vote Ray in, that did it for me. In our next meeting, I told
everyone that if Ray Danniels became the new manager of Van Halen, I was
quitting the band. Alex jumped up when I said that and wanted to fight
me right there on the spot. We were pushing each other and would have
gone at it, if Eddie and Mike had not split us apart."
"In the nine years I had been in the band, this was the first time Al and
I ever started screaming 'Fuck you, fuck you!' at each other. When
things simmered down between us, I told Alex that if he and I were going
to fight over Ray Danniels, Van Halen was over. If I kicked his ass, the
band would never be the same. If he kicked my ass, the band would be
broken for good. Finally I said, 'Al, if you really want to fight me,
let's take it outside and really do it without Ray Danniels being an
issue.' Eddie quickly entered the conversation and said, 'Listen Sammy,
why don't you call David Geffen, or so-and-so, to see what they think
about Ray.' That broke the tension, and cooled off the situation between
Alex and me. I told Eddie I'd call around to see what I could find out."
Hagar wasted no time in making phone calls to people around the industry
to get information on Ray Danniels. Sammy says he was totally dismayed
by the negative reaction he got from people who knew the manager. All
the individuals he polled were unanimous in their opinion that Danniels
was not a wise choice for the band.
"He had the worst rap for a manager I had ever heard in my entire life,"
said an astonished Hagar. "Straight up, I was told that if Van Halen
hired Ray Danniels as their new manager, the band was finished. I got
the very same answer from record company presidents, financial people and
promoters. Everyone I spoke with in a position of authority, who had
some sort of contact with him in the past, told me quote unquote, 'If you
use Ray Danniels, this band will go down to nothing. This guy is a slime
bag. He will stab you in the back, and he will rob those guys.' Every
one of the people I spoke to felt the same way about Ray. Ed and Al
still wouldn't listen to me when I reported my findings back to them."
"I even went to Mo Austin with a list of managers' names we were
considering. He looked at it and said, 'Ray Danniels! Who's that?' I
explained to him that he was the manager for Rush and he said, 'Na,
forget it!' Eddie and Al still didn't care when I told them what Mo
said. They were like moths drawn to a flame when it came to Ray. They
had a single-minded consciousness about him. No matter what obstacles
were thrown in the way, nothing was going to stop them from voting their
man in as Van Halen's new manager. He had to have made some sort of deal
with them, because the brothers offered to give a bigger percentage of
their earnings than they gave Leffler. Now I didn't do that, and that's
why we never got along. I wouldn't give him what he wanted. Here's the
thing. Michael Anthony's the key. He would never say it now, but if he
ever gets kicked out of Van Halen, or quits, he will have one helluva
story to tell. He knows everything, because he was at a lot of the
meetings with Ray and the brothers that I didn't attend. When Mikey was
on my side, he told me some unbelievable things about Ray Danniels. You
know what? Mike is still on my side, but he can't acknowledge it, if you
know what I mean. If he did, the brothers would kick him out of the
After Johnny Barbis and Shep Gordon were voted down as a management team,
Hagar's last chance to get a good manager for the band rested with Tim
Collins, who handled Aerosmith. Sammy thought he would be a good fit for
Van Halen, because he could help break Eddie from his drug and alcohol
dependency ! just as he had done with Joe Perry. Hagar says that when
the Boston native first hooked up with the Aerosmith guitarist in the
early '80s, he was in terrible shape, worse than Eddie Van Halen ever
thought of getting. Collins not only cleaned up Perry's act, he was
instrumental in reuniting him with Steven Tyler. When he assumed
management duties of the reformed band, a clean and sober Aerosmith once
again became a powerhouse in the music business. Sammy believed the
manager would do a good job of keeping Van Halen psychologically sound.
Things were starting to get a little goofy in the studio, as he puts it,
between Eddie and himself, and the band needed someone to calm things
down. Another factor weighing heavily in Collins' favor was his strong
relationship with MTV. Having won three video awards on their last
album, Hagar thought it was especially important for Van Halen's new
manager to have a strong relationship with the music video channel. Ray
Danniels, he found out, had absolutely no pull at the network. Sammy
thought it was vital to have MTV's support when the new album was
released. An Aerosmith/Van Halen combination, he was convinced, would
make both bands a powerful combination to be dealt with on a worldwide
level. "I figured with both groups under his control," explained Sammy,
"Tim could make phone calls and say, 'Oh, you don't like Van Halen.
Well, you aren't going to get Aerosmith either.' Hearing that, people
would go, 'Wait a minute; let's talk.' With both bands at his disposal,
it would give Tim considerable clout in all aspects of the music
business. He could definitely help us out in the European market where
we had trouble. I really thought the brothers would understand that and
vote him in. When I mentioned his name to Alex, he said, 'Tim Collins?
He already manages Aerosmith. That's all he'll ever do. Aerosmith will
be No. 1, and we will always be second.' I told Al that wouldn't be the
case. In fact, I had already asked Tim that very question, about
juggling both bands. Since these guys were already slamming every
manager we talked to, I thought I'd better confront him on the issue
before he spoke with the brothers.
"Tim was very matter-of-fact with me on the subject. He told me that if
we scheduled everything just right, one band would be recording their
album, while the other one was out touring to support their new release.
Tim was up front and to the point with me about where his true allegiance
rested. He said, 'Sam, if there was ever a time when both Aerosmith and
Van Halen had a single coming out at the same time, my loyalty would lie
with Aerosmith first. I'm not stupid enough to do something like that,
but if it did happen and I was forced to make a decision for whatever
reason, Aerosmith would take precedence over Van Halen.' After he said
that, I knew he was the one we needed. If I would have posed that same
question to Ray in regards to Rush over Van Halen, he would have said,
'Oh well, of course it would be you.' He would have said we were No. 1
over his wife, his kids, you name it, just to manage the band. When Tim
told me that, I was thinking, 'Wow, that's a great statement. That's what
I want to hear.' I told Al about my conversation the next day, and he
said, 'That is a psychological ploy. He's been messing with all these
psychologists that are involved with Aerosmith. He knows exactly what to
say because of them.' I looked at Alex and said, 'Well, Ray's had
fucking Rush for 23 years. Do you think he's going to be more loyal to
us than them?' He said, 'Oh, Rush is going to retire. They are washed
up. Ray knows they're finished. He told me that himself.' Alex went on
and on with all this horseshit about Rush he'd been told by Ray."
Hagar says he was appalled at the negative comments directed toward Rush
by Alex Van Halen that he attributed directly to Ray Danniels. Sammy was
even more offended at the fact that Al's brother-in-law wanted to manage
Van Halen so badly, he was willing to sell out his other band to get the
job. For over two decades, Danniels had stood behind Rush. From what
Hagar was hearing, apparently that was a thing of the past. The Red
Rocker even spoke to Ray himself about the Canadian trio and was
astounded by the answers he received.
"Ray even bad-mouthed Rush to me," said an incredulous Hagar. "Can you
believe it? He was saying shit like, 'If they had a good singer, they
could have made it on pop radio.' He was telling me that with the kind
of music they play, Rush would never be any more than they already have
been. I started hammering him with questions. I said, 'Ray, Rush should
have been the Canadian Led Zeppelin. Why don't they sell records? Why
did their last record only do 400,000 or 500,000 records?' He said to
me, 'If they only had a singer.' He was crazy to say that, because Geddy
Lee has one of the most unique voices in rock. Rush's big problem is
they never had any videos which is one of the major complaints I had
against Ray. I knew his dealing with MTV would bury us. I even called
over there and asked them about their relationship with him. They didn't
even know who Ray Danniels was. When I told them he was the manager of
Rush, they said, 'Well, we never had a relationship with Rush. We've only
had a couple of videos from them.' In other words, Ray had no clout with
About a week after Alex and Sammy had their conversation, Hagar received
a phone call from Danniels. He was in management discussions with the
band Extreme, and wanted to know his thoughts about taking the band on as
a client. The Boston-based outfit had been under the guidance of Louis
Levine, who also managed Michael Bolton. The group, featuring Gary
Cherone on vocals and Nuno Bettencourt
on guitar, hit the big time in
1991 with Pornograffiti. The double platinum album featured the No. 1
smash, "More Than Words" and the Top Ten hit, "Hole-Hearted." After that
record, the group stumbled badly and never again recaptured its past
glory. "Ray was kissing my ass so bad you wouldn't believe it," added
Hagar, shaking his head. "He called me and said, 'I have been asked to
manage Extreme. I want to know your opinion of it.' He was trying to get
me to say okay. Instead I just said, 'I don't think you should do it.
Extreme is a bunch of losers No. 1, and second, their career is over.
Ray went on to tell me that he had hired a guy in New York to handle the
situation, so it wouldn't get in the way of things. He says, 'I promise
you some other guy will manage the band. I'll just oversee it and help
them out politically.' Let me tell you, he got way involved with them.
When I brought up the subject of Ray managing Extreme to Alex, he said,
'Ah, fuck them. That doesn't matter; they're nothing. Besides, he's got
another guy to work with them anyway.' I'm thinking to myself, 'Here we
While the debate over a new manager raged on, Van Halen was in the studio
working on the album they were dedicating to the memory of Ed Leffler.
David Lee Roth released Your Filthy Little Mouth on March 26. It entered
the Billboard charts at No. 78 and dropped off fourteen days later.
While Warner Bros. was trying to squeeze some airplay for Roth anywhere
in the country they could, the Red Rocker was busy promoting his 12-song
greatest hits album for Geffen. He called the record Unboxed, to poke fun
at all the artists and bands that were releasing boxed set collections at
the time. Released on April 2, Sammy stayed true to his word and did a
two-week press junket. He did the David Letterman Show and appeared on
CNN's Showbiz Today. He was slotted to do the Tonight Show and perform
"Give to Live," but the brothers forced Michael Anthony to withdraw from
Sammy's band at the last minute, thus cancelling the performance.
When Hagar returned to Los Angeles to resume the management debate, Sammy
was convinced more than ever that Tim Collins was their man. Aerosmith
was scheduled to kick off the Japanese leg of the Get a Grip tour in
Yokohama on April 27. Collins flew out to L. A. about two weeks before
the tour to talk with Van Halen and listen to some of the new songs. He
answered all the brothers' questions about conflict of interest and band
loyalties. He laid out his ideas for integrating his management style
with both groups. The more he explained his plans regarding Van Halen,
the further impressed Hagar became. After about a week of meetings with
the manager, urgent business in San Francisco called Sammy away. As he
was leaving for the airport, he told Collins they would speak shortly.
Hagar was fairlyc confident that Ray Danniels was going to be cast aside
in favor of the Aerosmith manager. When he returned to Los Angeles a
couple of days later, to resume work on the album, he was stunned by what
he saw in the studio. Eddie Van Halen's long hair was gone, and replaced
by a crew-cut.
"When we took a break from recording that day," the singer said, "I found
Alex outside smoking a cigarette, and asked him what had possessed Eddie
to cut his hair. He then told me about the late night rendezvous with
Tim Collins. After I had left town, Eddie called Tim late one evening in
his hotel room and told him he needed to talk to him right away. When he
arrived at the studio around two in the morning, Alex was there and sat
with Tim through this meeting. Eddie was in really bad shape, just fucked
up out of his brain. Valerie had apparently kicked him out of the house,
because she didn't want him drunk around the baby. Tim sat with Eddie
for two or three hours that night, while Edward laid his heavy guilt trip
on him. At one point, Eddie started crying, grabbed a pair of clippers,
and cut all his long hair in front of Tim. He said, 'I'm so frustrated.
I've got to stop drinking. I've got to stop doing drugs. I'm not happy,
I want to kill myself. I can't make a record like this. My wife hates
me.' Alex told me his brother released every insecurity he ever had on
Tim Collins that night. "About a week after this episode occurred, I
received a phone call from Tim in Japan. He confirmed Al's story, and
told me he was bowing out of the management picture. He said, 'I'm sorry
Sammy. I really love you and Van Halen, but I don't think I can handle
both bands. I don't think it would be fair for me to attempt it.
Besides, Steven Tyler doesn't want me to do it.' That was a polite way
for him to really say, 'I have my hands full with Joe Perry and Steven
Tyler. I can't take Eddie Van Halen, too!' I understood where Tim was
coming from completely. I told him thanks for spending all that time
with us and wished him good luck. From that point on, I resigned myself
to the fact that Ray Danniels was going to manage Van Halen whether I
liked it or not. But, I had meant every word I told him in our first
meeting, when I discovered he was the one behind the rumors about Shep,
Johnny and the other managers. He was never going to be my manager, I
didn't trust him, and I certainly didn't like the way he conducted
business. The animosity between us really started to heat up when I
absolutely refused to sign any documents that would acknowledge Ray
Danniels as my manager."
Ray Danniels unofficially came on board as Van Halen's new overseer later
that spring. As work on the album progressed, Hagar quietly went about
the task of separating his publishing money from the Van Halen account it
was previously going to. Before Ed Leffler died, all the band's
publishing income went into Yessup Publishing. The funds would then be
divvied up from there. Shortly after Unboxed was released, Sammy
instructed ASCAP, the music firm that monitored and collected album and
song royalties for Van Halen, to separate his share of the proceeds. He
now wanted his portion sent to Nine Music, the holding company that
received all royalties from his solo work. After completing that task,
the singer realized he had some publishing dollars coming from
Warner/Chappell for the greatest hits album that was now on the market.
He asked Van Halen's lawyer, Gary Stamler, to talk to his publisher, Rick
Shoemaker, about the situation.
"Gary was involved in negotiations with Rick," recounted Hagar, "because
he was making a publishing deal with Van Halen for the new record.
Shortly after I asked Gary to talk with Rick, I received a phone call
from him. He wanted to know what kind of money I was looking for. I
said, 'Rick, until the Van Halen deal is done, you and I are not going to
talk about money. I am not going to screw them out of anything. I don't
want this to be used as any kind of leverage. I'm a fair guy. When you
finish the Van Halen thing, call me.' He said okay, and after he
finished working out the deal with Gary, he phoned. I told Rick my
publishing contract with Geffen called for a $250,000 advance on the
greatest hits record. I wanted an additional $500,000. He thought that
was a little steep, but like John Kalodner before him, he told me he'd
see what he could do. About ten days later, Rick called and said my
request had been approved. When I hung up the phone, I had a big smile
on my face. Without help from anyone, I had negotiated an extra million
dollars out of the greatest hits deal."
During a break one day in the recording studio, Hagar made an offhand
remark about the money that Warner/Chappell owed for publishing money on
his greatest hits record. Ray Danniels overheard the comment and asked
how much the contract guaranteed. When Sammy replied a quarter of a
million dollars, the manager offered to intercede on his behalf to raise
the ante. "Ray came over to me," he smiled, "and said, 'Sam, I can get
you $350,000 if you let me go talk to them for you.' I just kind of
looked at him and said, 'Oh really. That's odd. I already made a deal,
and they are giving me a total of $750,000.' You should have seen the
reaction on his face when I told him that. He was humbled, believe me.
Ray thought he was really going to show me how great a businessman he
was. My remark was not intended to lead him on, but he smelled money and
jumped on the statement. He wasn't making anything with Van Halen yet,
so he was looking to make some cash anyway he could. I didn't mean to
hurt his feelings, well, maybe I did unconsciously. I wanted to let him
know, that I knew, how much of a jerk he really was. After our
conversation, Ray went to Alex Van Halen and told him I had been
responsible for holding up Van Halen's publishing contract for the new
record, while I negotiated a deal for my greatest hits record. The
brothers would have freaked out if I had told them Ray offered to make
the publishing deal for me. I never said a word about it. After he got
involved with the band, I never told Eddie and Al anything about my
business dealings, unless it had something to do with Van Halen."
That particular incident, plus the mistrust Hagar's involvement with his
greatest hits package created, played right into the manger's hand. He
was able to use these episodes as fuel to flame suspicions that had
already surfaced within the band. Despite his misgivings over Danniels'
appointment, Sammy says he was completely unaware of the damage he was
doing to undermine his credibility.
While this silent war was being waged, south of the border, Marco Monroy
had done a remarkable job turning around the fortunes of the Cabo Wabo.
Though it still owed a tremendous amount of money to the government, it
was holding its own financially. Part of the thanks went to the $300,000
Monroy had put into the club remodeling it. The architect had also hired
an experienced club manager to get the place back on its feet. When
Sammy flew down and saw the changes, he couldn't believe his eyes. He
also knew he had to gain control of the club from the band, or Monroy's
superb rebuilding efforts would be in vain.
"Right after Marco and I shook hands in January," replied Hagar, "he
started pouring money in the club. He paid off the vendors, took over the
debt to the government, bought new furniture and remodeled the entire
club. I'm telling you, he turned the bar into a showplace. It was
absolutely beautiful. Everyone in the band knew the situation with the
government had been worked out thanks to Marco's intervention. I was
totally up front about his involvement. If the band wanted to stay in
the club, all they had to do was pay their share of the debt owed. I
asked the brothers at least ten times if they wanted to stay involved.
Eddie and Al would say, 'No, we want out. We want out!' Fine, then let's
get it done."
"We hired this guy named Tito Roberts to run the Cabo Wabo. He had
relocated from Mexico City to take over another club in town. Marco
talked him into running our place, and he came in and did a great job.
Since there was no deal in place with the band to sell their interest, I
had to warn Marco to back off from what he was doing. I said, 'Marco,
you're spending all this money. You know what can happen. If I don't
get this club back from the band, I'm fucked. I can't sell you a piece of
the club, because I don't own it.' I had to make something happen as
soon as I got back. Alex still wanted to give the bar back to the
government so they could write off their whole investment. I said, 'If
you're going to give it to the government, then I'll take it. I don't
want a tax write-off.' Al goes, 'What about the debt? How are you going
to pay for it? What if they come after us?' I told him that was my
responsibility, and I would indemnify everyone if it happened, just get
the lawyers together and draw up a deal."
Alex Van Halen's prediction that Cabo San Lucas would one day become the
Riviera of the Pacific was about to take place. Though the building boom
hadn't reached the harbor town yet, it was close at hand. Property
values were climbing steadily, and modern civilization was slowly
encroaching on the area. The land the Cabo Wabo stood on was worth
millions but, for some reason, that aspect of the bar was lost on the Van
Halen brothers. Ray Danniels intervened on Hagar's behalf and had Gary
Stamler and Michael Karlin draw up papers to transfer the brother's
interest in the club to Sammy. The singer in turn, went to Ed Leffler's
widow and offered her the same deal. She could relinquish the estate's
right to the Cabo Wabo or pay its fair share of the debt. She signed her
interest over. Hagar then approached Betsy. She loved the area and the
club, and didn't want to sign away any claims to it at first. Sammy,
however, convinced his soon-to-be ex-wife that the holdings were a money
losing proposition she didn't need to be saddled with. Still in love and
willing to do anything that her husband asked, she signed papers giving
up her stake in the property.
"Believe me," lamented the Red Rocker, "the papers I had to sign with the
brothers to get the club was a really shit deal for me. The terms were
unbelievable. For instance, if I ever made a penny selling it, I would
have to repay the band the money they wrote off on their taxes. Next, if
I ever brought the concept to the United States and tried to franchise
it, they would get fifty percent of the profits forever. That same deal
also extended to anything associated with the Cabo Wabo name. I had to
sign all these documents that stated in the event anyone got sued, I paid
all the costs. It even said in the contract that I could not let the
club interfere with the band. If Eddie and Al voted that it was not a
good time for me to travel to Cabo because they needed me, I couldn't go.
God's truth that fucking clause was in there. I had to agree to all
these conditions, otherwise there was no deal."
Hagar had no bargaining power, and he knew it. Apparently, neither did
Michael Anthony. The brothers made him divest his interest in the club as
well. If he didn't, Sammy says, they would have kicked him out of Van
"When it came right down to it," he said assuredly, "they didn't want
Mike to have anything to do with the Cabo Wabo. They especially didn't
want him and me to own the club. The bottom line to the whole deal was
this. I gave the brothers what they wanted, which was control over me.
Eddie and Al knew that I'd do anything to keep my wonderful, great idea.
They wanted to rub my face in it and say, 'See, it didn't work. We lost
all this money.' Believe me, they didn't like the idea of me saving it.
What they pulled on me was nothing but a powerplay; I guarantee it. The
funny thing is it backfired. From January 1, 1994 when David Haliburton
walked out to January 1, 1995, we paid off all the outstanding debts,
redesigned the club, and I pocketed a tidy $300,000 profit. It was
Making Balance was not a very fun proposition for Hagar. Though the band
was working with a real producer this time, Bruce Fairbairn, the
atmosphere in the studio was anything but pleasant. The Canadian-born
studio veteran had caught the band's attention for his impressive work on
Aerosmith's last two albums, Permanent Vacation and Get a Grip.
Unfortunately, the producer would inadvertently get sucked into the mind
games that were being acted out at the 5150 studio. He would later play
an unwitting role in the final drama that unfolded between Sammy and
Eddie Van Halen.
Throughout the recording of the album, the brothers, particularly
Alex,would remind Hagar of the mistake he made recording "High Hopes" and
"Buying My Way into Heaven" for his Unboxed collection. The singer
admits he might have backed off the project completely if it hadn't been
for his pending divorce. With his motives behind the project clearly
stated, Sammy refused to let anyone make him feel any guilt for his
decision. That included Alex Van Halen, who had money problems of his
"It used to really tick me off," said Hagar frankly, "whenever those two
brought up my greatest hits record. I had participated on the Unboxed
record for two reasons. One, I needed the cash for my divorce. Two, I
really believed the release of the greatest hits package would stop any
speculation on Eddie and Al's part, that I was angling toward reviving my
solo career. Hell, I didn't need the extra money for those two songs. If
push came to shove, I could have taken the money out of my bank account
to settle the property issue with Betsy. As I look back on those events
now, I realize there really wasn't any one thing I could have done to
forestall the inevitable. Ray Danniels was slowly gaining control of the
brothers. I'm sure he was behind the scenes telling these guys, 'Hey,
you better watch out for this guy.'
When Hagar received his publishing check from Warner/Chappell, the
divorce lawyers for both sides got together to hammer out a settlement.
It was not a very happy scene. Betsy's attorney even had to pull her
away from Sam as the terms for the divorce were being finalized. "While
the lawyers were talking," said Betsy, "Sam and I were sitting in an
empty courtroom waiting for our hearing. I said, 'Sam, we've probably got
30 or 40 more years on the planet. You can always come home if you ever
change your mind.' He said, 'Well, I'm not closing any doors Betsy.' I
started crying, and he put his arm around me. He said, 'Oh God, we
shouldn't even be here.' My lawyer then came inside and dragged me away
saying, 'Don't sit near him. Don't you go anywhere near him.' Sam knew I
loved him, but you know, I realized that people have a different capacity
for love. I'm a person that cares and loves deeply. Sam was very tender
and passionate with me the whole time we were together. A part of me was
spiritually evolved enough to forgive him, and willing to believe he
would return some day."
"I'm so thankful that I had Andrew and Aaron in my life when Sam left.
Otherwise, I wouldn't have had anything and been totally alone. I'll
tell you what's interesting. Most of the times women in divorce retain
everything, and the men go off by themselves. In this case it was
reversed. I was the one that was cast adrift. Sam kept the house, the
lifestyle and all our friends. I was the one left holding the bag.
Right after he left me, I thought the only way I was going to get through
it was to replace him as soon as possible. I got involved with this guy
who was totally in love with me and wanted to get married. The problem
our relationship had was my inability to let Sam go. Let me tell you
something. No one going through a divorce has any business dating.
Every time I was with him, I did nothing but cry about Sam. We went back
and forth over this subject for over a year, and it was awful. Finally,
we both knew our relationship wouldn't work out, because I still wanted
my husband to come home."
Betsy's lawyers made it clear to her that since she had been married for
so long, California's tough divorce statutes entitled her to support for
life. To their astonishment, she didn't care about the financial aspects
of her case. Her attorneys often got upset with her, she says, because
of the dispassionate manner in which she viewed the proceedings. They
were looking out for her best interests, but were hampered by the strong
feelings Betsy still harbored for her soon-to-be ex-usband. In her mind,
she had come to the conclusion that a friendly settlement would make
Sammy feel more comfortable to come back home to her one day. When an
agreement was finally reached, Hagar's wife only accepted the cash value
for her half of their community property and alimony for nine years. She
steadfastly refused to take any royalties her husband earned from his
music, or make him financially responsible for her well-being the rest of
her natural life.
"I know it must have been rough for my lawyers to deal with me," admitted
Betsy. "They were trying to do the best job they could for me, and there
I was going, 'I don't want to make Sam mad. I want him to come home.' I
was so stupid about the divorce, even my son Aaron wanted me to fight for
everything. My friends would say, 'Betsy, you got so screwed in your
divorce settlement.' I said, 'No, no, I'll be fine. I got enough, I'll
be fine.' I'm not a malicious or vindictive person. I wanted Sam to
come home so bad, I thought if I made the divorce easy on him, he would.
The whole situation was so horrible in the first place, I just wanted to
make sure I had something coming in. I didn't complain about the
arrangement. I always felt I was going to be fine. My lawyers wanted to
go after everything of Sam's. They wanted to go through his home studio
in Mill Valley and confiscate all his tapes. They said, 'You are
entitled to the royalties of any song that was written while you were
married.' I said, 'No, don't do it. I don't want to do that.' The other
lawyer involved said this was the most amicable divorce he had ever been
Betsy admits that her intense love for Sammy blinded her to the realities
of divorce. Instead of settling for what was fair, she went for less.
She received half the value of the three homes they owned and other real
estate holdings her husband had around Southern California. Betsy also
retained some IRA accounts and half the gold Hagar always kept in a safe.
Her total take from the 23 years of devotion to her marriage was a
fraction of her husband's net worth. The alimony payments would stop in
December 2003. From that point on, with no job skills other than her
songwriting talent, she would have to fend for herself. Even that
important fact of life didn't phase her. Money had never held any real
value to her, especially after everything she'd been through with Sammy.
Love was the one commodity she took stock in. For over two decades,
Betsy had gladly stood by her man. Sadly, that sentiment was not
"The one thing I'm very sorry I didn't get was my mother's silverware,"
confided Betsy. "Sam wouldn't let me have it. Once, I went up to Mill
Valley to get all my things out of the house. All the locks had been
changed and the gate recoded so I couldn't get in. I told my lawyer
about it, and he said he'd get the police to escort me up there so I
could get whatever was mine. Like a fool, I told him no, I didn't want
to do that. Sam and No. 2 decided which of my things I could have. They
just threw things into boxes, and one of the band's roadies drove them
down to Spindrift. The only thing I got from my home of all those years
were the items he decided were okay for me to have. I remember a time
Andrew came back from visiting his father, and he told me he'd polished
silver during his stay. I thought to myself, 'How funny; that's my
mother's silverware.' Sam had a library built for me too, and I had
several beautiful books I had collected over the years. I asked him if I
could have them back, and he said no."
"Sam always told everyone how horrible I was during the divorce, and how
I went after him. He has no idea how easy I was or maybe he does. When
my lawyers got involved, right away, they started thinking Sam had moved
money and hidden it somewhere. They saw that he was a lying, cheating
jerk. The way to get to Sam is through his money. If you mess with it,
you're in big trouble. In the beginning, he was furious about having to
give me anything. He said, 'Betsy, you spent all of the money you
deserved while we were married. You shouldn't get a penny!' He seemed to
forget that I was the one who was responsible for redecorating and
furnishing all the houses we lived in. I bought all the clothes and our
food. Sam didn't go out and do any of that stuff. It was so comical of
him to accuse me of spending all this money on the family, yet he would
go out buy Ferraris without thinking twice about it. Finally, Ben
Winslow, his attorney says, 'Hey look, this is California. You have to
give her half.' He was totally upset about having to give me anything.
Again, I didn't care about the money. All I wanted was for Sam to come
home, and at one point, I thought he would. When I flew into Los Angeles
to see my attorney, this one particular driver I knew from the limousine
service we always used met me at the airport. He told me he had picked
Kari up one time, and they started talking. She said, 'Look, don't
worry. I know about Betsy. Sam and I are just going to have fun; he
won't leave her.' Obviously that didn't last very long."
The saddest part of divorce, says Betsy, was losing touch with her
husband's family, especially Bobbi. Once they accepted Kari into the
family, she quietly bowed out of their lives altogether feeling betrayed.
"Divorce is a ruined concept," offered Betsy. "I likened the experience
to high school. When you're going through it, you are nowhere ready to
deal with it. I could have been very mean to Sam, but I wasn't.
Throughout the proceedings I wanted him to come home, so I made every
effort to be nice. You know his entire car collection was registered in
my name. He had eight cars at the time of the divorce, half of which were
Ferraris. He had put all his automobiles in my name, because of his
awful driving record. Sam could not get any insurance. Since the cars
had to be insured, the only way we could get a decent premium was to
register them all in my name. One of my friends said I should have
rented a flatbed truck, drove it up to Mill Valley, and taken possession
of all them. The only thing I got out of it was my 1953 Chevy truck, and
half the cash value of his collection."
"Sam really couldn't drive 55. When he wrote that song, believe me."