David Lee Roth is a legend. He's one of the greatest lead singers of all time, for one of the greatest rock bands of all time: Van Halen. Diamond Dave led VH from its initial success in 1978 through the coked-out, Spandex days of the 1980s, fronting the band 11 years and running with the devil every single day. A consummate rock star, Dave's over-the-top persona and insane stage antics often overshadowed the genius of the band's music, which more or less conjured the entire genre of hair metal from thin air. David Lee Roth and Van Halen had quite a run together, as these crazy David Lee Roth stories attest.
Though you may know Diamond Dave most as the inspiration for Dr. Rockzo, or as a man who would certainly win the gold in skiing the powdery slopes of Blow Town, he's also the New York Times best-selling author of Crazy From the Heat (his autobiography). And, in case you forgot, he had a successful solo career for a few years after leaving Van Halen, during which he indulged his Diamond Dave tendencies to the extreme, living as a bonafide fornication machine always ready to party. Even in his 60s, he's the life of the party: "I used to jog but the ice cubes kept coming out of my glass."
The list of crazy stories and wild facts about David Lee Roth is almost never-ending. He joined Van Halen, then known as Mammoth, at 20, in 1974; developed a deep rivalry with Sammy Hagar, who replaced him in the band in 1985; and found a late-life new career in new media, as a podcast host. David Lee Roth has been entertaining audiences for decades, and this list is here so you can revel in the lewdness of the craziest moments from Diamond Dave's life.
MTV VJ Mark Goodman recalled consuming powder with Diamond Dave in the bathroom of a club on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles at about four in the morning when the cops stormed in looking for people to bust.
To Goodman's amazement, Roth reacted with such speed and calm, his identity went completely undetected by police, despite being one of the biggest rock stars in the world at the time.
Dave immediately sprang into action. He tied his hair back and tucked in his shirt. He had a big vial that he dropped out the bathroom window. I threw my vial out and we casually strolled out into the club. The LAPD came in... They were really over the top. There was a lot of shouting and pushing... as we tried to get out of the club without being noticed. That wasn't happening: They had all of us go out on the street. They lined us up on Melrose and were looking at us, literally shining flashlights in our faces. This was a rare moment where I saw Dave not trying to be David Lee Roth; he just wanted to blend. But nobody recognized him — the cops didn’t, anyway. They made us disperse... I looked the other way for a second, and Dave had already taken off.
In 1984, MTV hosted a contest called "The Lost Weekend," the winner of which would be given the rock-star treatment with Van Halen for a weekend. Kurt Jeffries, who was 20 at the time, won the prize, and was allowed to bring one person along with him. He chose best friend and fellow VH superfan Tom Winnick, and the two were off to Detroit, where the band greeted them with open arms. “They treated us like one of the guys, and really paid attention to us,” Jeffries said.
Jeffries and Winnick spent April 5 and 6, 1984, in Motor City with Van Halen. Before meeting the band, they were given free alcohol and mountains of VH collectibles. A few hours later, they were brought to the arena VH was playing that night, and met the band in their warm-up room. After hanging with Van Halen, they watched the show from the sound and light booth. Before VH's set was over, Jeffries was brought onstage, where Diamond Dave introduced him to the 12,000 some-odd fans in attendance and showered him in champagne. Jeffries recalled:
It was just a huge party, we were just hanging out and drinking malt-liquor and Jack Daniel’s. Throughout the weekend, Eddie kept telling me that if I drank too much Jack Daniel’s, I would start growing giant patches of hair on my chest, like Dave.
Jeffries was tight-lipped on details of racy debauchery, but suffice to say, there were groupies everywhere, and he confirmed the road crew lived up to its reputation for excess. He admitted to ending up in a shower at one point and not remembering exact details of a lot of things that happened.
Jeffries woke up the next morning in the bathtub with “the worst hangover of my entire life,” but the fun didn't stop there. The second night ended when Jeffries got into a food fight with Dave and his security guards. Jefferies said it was “the best time of my life.”
In an interview with the Huffington Post in March 2013, Diamond Dave was asked whether it was true he insured his body for $1 million with Lloyd's of London. As it turns out, there's much truth to the rumor, but it wasn't his whole body he insured for that amount: it was the proud citadel of his manhood, which he referred to as Little Elvis.
Explaining why he would insure his King of Crotch n' Roll, Dave tried to contextualize life on the road with Van Halen:
Somebody said, "We'll have to insure Edward's fingers, because he's gonna be using those a lot on the road. And Alex Van Halen's elbows, you know. Drummers use their elbows a lot, we're gonna have to insure those elbows because he's gonna be using those a lot."
And I said, "What about Little Elvis? We're gonna be using him a lot."
In the mid-'80s, MTV VJ Mark Goodman hit a rough patch with his wife and decided to escape his marital troubles by going on Diamond Dave's first-ever solo tour. During the tour, Roth tried to cheer Goodman up by sending a groupie to conduct a particular kind of "job" on Goodman.
Dave wanted to cheer me up. So in Buffalo or someplace, whatever hockey arena we were in, Pete sent me into the locker room. I thought Dave was going to be there and we were going to do some [coke]. I walked in and this girl came out of the showers. She was hot, in a...rock ’n’ roll kind of way, and she started chatting with me. After a short time, she [made a move]. And I felt weird about it — I had to tell her, 'I can’t.' I think that may have negatively affected my friendship with Dave; he just wanted to make me feel better.