The Rock Town Hall Interview: Rock ‘n Roll Caterer Penny Rush-Valladares, or If You Gotta Serve Somebody, Why Not Serve Bob Dylan Banana Pudding?
RTH: Who had the best table manners in rock? Who had the worst?
Table manners? Well, they didn’t always sit down at a table in my presence, but I guess I’d have to say Sting; he always displayed a gentlemanly manner in everything he did and still does. As worst manners go, anyone that had anything to do with Van Halen, at least during a certain period. They were just a bunch of rude guys.
RTH: Who’s the fussiest eater in rock?
I’d probably have to say Prince for me. He’s a veggie/vegan guy and they are the hardest to feed. I never fed McCartney, but I’ve heard about his tours and, like Prince, guys who are non-meat eaters don’t want anyone on the crew eating meat or any meat on the premises at all. If anyone is caught eating a hamburger they can be fined or fired from the tour. Chrissie Hynde is another strong anti-meat person, and I’ve heard the same about her.
Oh yes, I did Bob Marley once and he had a cook with him to prepare his sacred Rastafarian food; no one else was supposed to touch it.
RTH: Offstage, was Eric Burdon in as foul a mood as his musical persona would suggest?
Nah, Eric Burdon was a pretty nice guy. His bark is way worse than his bite.
RTH: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think rock musicians and condiments?
Ha! That’s funny. Condiments, huh? Condiments never seemed to be an issue that I had to deal with. Many other things were issues, but not condiments.
RTH: Were opening acts ever scolded if they tried to eat before the headliner or if they took the last portion of a food being served?
Not really. They are usually included in the meal count and generally eat first since they play first. The headliners are mostly friendly to them and want to make sure they are taken care of.
Here’s a story that concerns being scolded. Ray Charles came to the Uptown once and brought a small orchestra with him, maybe a dozen people. There were no food requirements on their rider except for a few things in his dressing room. The promoter told us to provide a complimentary deli tray and soft drinks for the orchestra in the dining room, so we did. When Ray heard about it, he threw a fit and made us take the food away from them, even though he didn’t have to pay for it. I was stunned. Never had any respect for him after that, he was a real ass.
RTH: Did an artist ever request onstage snacks? I could imagine ZZ Top, for instance, needing a little solid-food nourishment between songs.
Yes, there was the occasional artist who wanted food on stage. When The Police toured, Sting requested slices of pineapple on stage to help his throat. Also Roger Daltry requested jars of warm, runny honey onstage to soothe his throat. It was usually for a specific purpose, not just because they had the munchies.
Although if you want to talk about the munchies, the Pink Floyd guys were real stoners and ate just about everything in site. They ate all the food in their dressing room, they always ate dinner and they were ready for more food when they came off stage. We always thought that was pretty funny. I’ve got a really good story about feeding them in two different cities on their “Momentary Lapse of Reason” tour.
Thanks to Dave Simpson of The Guardian for asking some similar questions of Penny a few months, which were edited out of a published piece on behind-the-scenes concert industry workers and which saved Penny the time of retyping answers to some of my questions. As with so many Townspeople I’ve had the good fortune to run into in this joint, a bit of thanks must also go to a fellow Townsperson for the introduction, in this case my close personal friend and partner in crime, sammymaudlin, and his lovely, Don Felder biography-reviewing wife, two more folks you won’t meet on any old street corner.
Wow, great interview. She does seem really nice, and it’s interesting to hear how at the end of the 80s the biz changed so much she had to get away from it.
It is good to see there are decent people trying to do a good job behind the scenes in big-time rock n roll biz.
And it’s not so surprising that Neil Diamond may be a pothead. Check this and be sure to read the 1st comment
Great interview! I hadn’t really given much thought to the food portion of the tours, except for those legendary riders. Thanks for a behind the scenes look at the business. And can we get your recipe for banana pudding? (I see a RTH holiday cookbook!)
That’s great, k., and ladymiss, we’ll see about acquiring that legendary recipe – the pudding, not Diamond’s request:)
I’m still trying to get my head around Max Weinberg asking for his pasta to be kept warm during the course of one of The Boss’ 6-hour sets. The pasta would be mush after all that time! You mean to tell me Max doesn’t like his pasta al dente, as I’m sure Penny and her crew prepared it before putting it in the warming drawer or wherever, as his rider required.
I just now got a chance to read this. Even better than Mrs. Maudlin said. What a great interview on both sides! Thanks so much Penny for sharing.
Regarding Ray Charles- you shoulda just left it, put it out of his reach and told him it was gone.
Glad everyone enjoyed the interview, I sure enjoyed doing it.
Banana Pudding recipe is very simple. Line a casserole dish with vanilla wafers, layer with vanilla or banana pudding, sliced bananas and cover with whipped cream and a few nuts. Refrigerate for awhile. Nothin’ to it…
I saw Penny’s son’s band. They did a killer version of “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”
I enjoyed reading this very much. Thank you, Penny and Jim
I liked this, too! I think I’ll have to check out Penny’s blog, too.