The Best Things in Life Are Free: On Bono Being An A**hole and Backstage Riders
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The Best Things in Life Are Free: On Bono Being An A**hole and Backstage Riders

By Cindy Davis | Think Pieces | June 28, 2012 | Comments ()


What makes celebrities different from you and me? I mean, when is that exact moment--in their own heads--that they evolve into special people who think they deserve to be treated like celebrities...or rock stars? I recently argued with a friend over her claim that Bono is an asshole; she thinks he's a hypocrite because he claims to be helping his fellow Irishmen, yet she read he holds his companies elsewhere in order to pay lower taxes. (In fact, he's also been accused of funneling business through Ireland for the same reason.) But I don't think that makes Bono an asshole--as the Edge says, "Who doesn't want to be tax-efficient?" U2 tries to do some good to offset their self-centeredness and how many of us can truly say the same? My feeling about people like Bono and say, Mick Jagger is, if a person starts out with a dream to become a rock star, there comes a point where he deserves a rock star. Who can begrudge either man his iconic status? When one has such aspirations, it must be assumed that one is egocentric and looking for that outrageous lifestyle; I'm not going to begrudge the young fellow who, when asked why he wants to be a rock star says, "To get girls!" Bono is a rock star and he acts like one--I say he earned it and he deserves it. That he does anything at all for his fellow man is a bonus (plenty of stars do not); by the very nature of his career, we shouldn't expect him to be a saint.

The funnier and more bizarre (or despicable) thing to me is when someone is more a star in his/her head than anyone else's perception. Or when that self-aggrandizement is expressed in celebrities' demands, as to the way they are treated or spoken to by "regular" people or people they somehow consider below themselves. At what point do you wake up and think, "Oh, the little people really shouldn't look at me or speak directly to me"? When do you get to the point where you require "...all furniture be removed from the rooms and replaced with her own pieces that she has shipped in." Madonna, for her current MDNA tour, "...also has a 200-person entourage that includes 30 bodyguards, personal chefs, a yoga instructor, an acupuncturist and even an on-site dry less than 20 international phone lines in her dressing room which is required to be draped in a special fabric and 'filled with lilies and white and light-pink roses that have stems trimmed to precisely six inches.'" What in the world happens if those stems are six and a quarter? Does she measure them herself or does she have a special, flower-measuring assistant? While we understand that Madonna has reached some ├╝ber Celebrity level, how do other backstage riders compare? Let's take a look (and bear in mind, these are only excerpts, not entire documents).

Katie Perry:

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Lady Gaga:

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Clearly, some celebrities have the good sense to play humor into their demands:

Iggy Pop:

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One band's delightful tom-foolery is world-renowned:

Foo Fighters (who also include coloring and activity books):

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And some of the biggest stars have the simplest demands:


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David Bowie:

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Hmm...not one request to look away from his sunglasses. Bono doesn't seem that bad to me.

Rider information from

Cindy Davis is just a regular freak.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • MyBuddyKeith

    It sounds to me like Katy Perry has had one (or more) VERY bad experiences with drivers.

  • Jezzer

    Katy Perry's rider was fine until it got the instructions for her driver and made a sharp left turn onto Entitlement Boulevard. Lady GaGa's rider was just oddly normal and non-demanding. I would have expected her to at least demand a unicorn sculpture made from the bones of toddlers. SOMETHING.

  • BierceAmbrose

    Well, yeah, some of this is a crock, BUT, if you've ever worked on the road for long chunks of time ...

    - You've got limited time & attention to get or fix shit, and you don't know where anything is in RandomTown anyway.

    - You're generally expected to be "on" for some chunk of time, when other folks expect a peak experience.

    You want stuff to just be taken care of, just so you can recharge. This is why people go to name brand hotel chains, or independent hotels only by recommendation.

    I was kind of impressed with the volume of the liquor requirement in U2's case.

  • Justin Kuhn

    I think there was an article linked on Pajiba Love actually about some of the stranger requests...Motley Crue or some hair metal band needs a bowl full of M&Ms, red and only red. So when they walk in and the M&Ms aren't red, or there are no M&Ms, they know that the safety regs in the rider haven't been paid attention to. What can I say, made sense when I read it.

  • BierceAmbrose

    Van Halen, during the David Lee Roth years. AIR it was assorted M&Ms with no brown ones, for exactly the reason you say. Some Google-fu will find an interview in which DLR spells this out - don't want to fall through the stage, so the candy is a test point.

    Side note, there's a seldom-used practice in software engineering called either "bebugging" or "seed error testing" that refers to injecting errors into code to see if your testing and quality controls catch them. "No brown M&M's." is kind of the same thing.

  • Clancys_Daddy

    "What makes celebrities different from you and me?" When we tell ourselves they are different from us.

  • Gregory Allen

    One thing that many riders do is throw ridiculous things in there to make sure people read it. Many venues book huge bands without knowing their setups, so if you bring a ton of high powered electrical equipment to inappropriate facilities, a crew worker could very well die, or the venue's facilities can be wrecked. This was the main reason Van Halen did the infamous "brown M&Ms" request.

    Even if it's not strictly a safety issues, many venues ignore simple fucking considerations for crews. Imagine being on a bus full of stinky, sleep-deprived people, unloading (literally) tons of equipment, and finding out that all you get is some cold pizzas and bottled water that can feed like half the crew at best.

  • meh

    DAVID BOWIE.....whyyyyyy Comic Sans? Whyyyyyyyyyy?

  • Salieri2

    Agree with those who say these aren't especially out of line. Plenty of tech riders, hospitality sections included, are forms supplied by production companies with little to no customization depending on who notices what's being provided and what's not, so apart from the awesomeness that is Iggy Pop (you should check out the audio requirements!), they tend to read alike. As far as being picky about food goes, I work at a concert venue and believe me, the cheapest thing to feed a bunch of strangers on a tour bus is the flat meat extravaganza from the local supermarkets. Fine for one day, but if you're on tour & you don't rule that shit out per contract, you'll be eating it every day for 6 months. Which blows.

    There's a certain pop/country star whose name might rhyme with Eighth Pill who brought all her own green room furniture--couple of couches, floor rug, lamp I think--on her last arena tour. Halfway through rolling my eyes I stopped because a buddy informed me that she'd said "I don't want my daughters touching a floor Steven Tyler's been on" and I had to admit that made a lick of sense. I don't like even touching an arena Rascal Flatts has used.

  • ,

    FF: Two newspapers for 50 people? That's a hell of a pass-around rate.* No wonder my business is going out of business.

    Also, Backstage Riders would be a good band name.

    *--Newspaper-speak for "cheap fucks who won't buy their own."

  • ,

    I think part of the backlash with Bono is that the band started out using somewhat Christian themes. The rich man said to Jesus, "What must I do to be saved?" And Jesus said, "Sell all you have and give to the poor, and come follow me." And the rich man went away. And Jesus said, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."

    Bono started out kind of literally preaching to us, and then got bigger and bigger and seemed to get completely away from the values he seemed to espouse when he was nobody. I wonder if Bono 1975 wouldn't despise Bono 2012. That, to me, would be the definition of hypocrisy.

    Also, he seems to be good at trying to save the world on someone else's dime. I wonder if the band would forgive the debts of a vendor or venue that for whatever reason couldn't pay what it owed as easily.

  • BierceAmbrose

    A friend of mine hung out with the boys after a college show during ?their first? / ?one of their first? US tours. Next tour was not at all like that & Mr. Early Fan had to decide what to do with his comprehensive collection of early U2 bootlegs.

  • crispin

    I used to laugh at all of the ridiculous demands on these riders but after working in the live music world for many years... I can tell ya, most of the specifics listed on them are completely necessary due to the fact that people who work for venues are not rocket scientists.

    Imagine you've been living on a bus with a multitude of people for 6 months and you show up at a concert hall (where you're spending a large chunk of the day) and there's ten metal folding chairs, bottled water and drinks sitting in a fridge that was MAYBE cleaned 20 years ago and zero air conditioning on a 95 degree day.

    If you don't send a rider, that's what you get.

  • None of these seem at all unreasonable for people who go on stage for a living. You work nights, you can't shop, and hair in the ice is going to work your last nerve.

  • David Sorenson

    Obviously the Foo Fighters (colicky roadies) and Iggy Pop (despite his hatred for the awesome juice that is Cran-Turkey) are awesome. The riders just confirmed it. I'm a bit disappointed that NIN doesn't have better taste in beer, but I enjoy them so much I'd allow them everything on Madonna's rider.

    I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around Jay-Z requesting tea service. I'm sure it's for his throat and that much makes sense. I just can't grasp Jay-Z kicking back a steaming china cup of Lipton Lemon tea.

    I was disappointed to see that Lady Gaga's rider was entirely reasonable and normal. Nary a demand for "one muppet pelt" or "three castrati in sumo suits dancing like MC Hammer."

  • BierceAmbrose

    Nary a demand for "one muppet pelt" or "three castrati in sumo suits dancing like MC Hammer."

    I think Marilyn Manson ...

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I'm actually impressed at how NOT insane most of these are, and the ones that comment on them are pretty funny.

    That being said - I approve of Bono's Australian wine selections - quite good - but why the hell does Katy Perry drink Santa Margherita?! Ew.

  • Bono does kind of make a big deal about governments contributing more from taxpayer's contributions (which I agree with) then does his best to contribute as little as possible in taxes to any government. So yeah; hypocrite.

    Massive f*cking one of them.

  • Sofia

    One does not EARN the right to be arrogant because it's not something you should ever aspire to be. Be confident, not arrogant. I'm not gonna think it's okay because he's a rock star. That doesn't make him better than anyone else.

    He's a very generous, arrogant asshole, though.

  • Dildofaced Pensinose

    What exactly has he said or done that makes him arrogant? he has ALWAYS had an outsized personality. I give him a pass on almost everything people whine and bitch about him because of his admittedly insane willingness to fly into Sarajevo at the height of it's being under siege and do a gig there to try and get the rest of the world to stop blowing each other and do something about genocide going on.

    Nevermind the fact that there was better than a 50% chance he'd be injured or killed if he had actually set foot in the city.

    That almost gets him a pass for the tax haven stuff.


  • Groundloop

    That was a whole lot of entitlement to get through, so I didn't, but I am curious about what Nine Inch Nails is doing with the china bowels.

  • Slash

    It's interesting that so many of them specify "clean" ice. It's pretty sad that you have to point that shit out, that when you provide ice, it shouldn't be the ice that the bottles of whatever have been sitting in (like at some moron's barbecue), but ice you would actually want to consume.

  • Lindzgrl

    I feel like I can cull from the attractive female singers' requests the diet I need to get started on...from now on I will only be eating crudite, organic fruit, baked potato chips and vitamin water (and sometimes HEAVILY SEASONED juicy chicken).

  • Vi

    vitamin water has the same amount of calories as coke, I have no idea why they think it's more health... oh it says vitamin?! haha, suckers.

  • celery

    Well, it's quenching and comes in more flavors than coke (I think). so at least there's that.

  • Lindzgrl

    True. Although many are clear to request Vitamin Water Zero, which uses sugar substitute so it's zero calories. It probably gives you gas and cancer calories.

  • branded_redux

    All I hear is:
    "And I said no salt, NO salt for the margarita, but it had salt on it, big grains of salt, floating in the glass."

  • Groundloop

    "...I could have this place condemned. I could put... I could put...
    strychnine in the guacamole. There was salt on the glass, BIG grains of

  • Slash

    Beyonce is a lot less labor-intensive than I thought she'd be. And she says "please." That's nice. Iggy Pop cracks my shit up. Foo Fighters are also pretty amusing, but holy fuck, that's a lot of shit to read through.

  • CMooreVerdad

    I agree on FF but it seems like that's for their whole team, roadies included, and the really seem to care about people's dietary preferences and health. If you're planning for 75 people then you can end up with quite a list.

  • DenG

    "Do not stair at the backseat thru the rearvieuw mirrow." Derisive laughter.

  • Lindzgrl

    You have to wonder though...does she think she's above being looked at, or did she have to endure a creepster who creeped her out by creepily staring at her from the rearview mirror, so now she just makes it a rule.

  • missbisque

    I'm just happy if I come home to a Brita water pitcher that has more than half a glass left.

  • pcloadletter

    You need to update your rider.

  • jon29

    Hiding his money in offshore tax havens doesn't make Bono a hypocrite, but doing so whilst demanding various countries increase foreign aid donations (which come *from taxes*) does.

  • Psychicdog

    Matthias is on it. Van Halen started doing it after getting boned by local concert organizers on earlier tours.

  • Rob

    Glad to see a little stickin' up for Bono. Sure, the guy's a blowhard, but holy crap he puts his money where his mouth is. The guy has gone pretty far out of his way to make sure he's helping where he can help.

  • Fuckchop

    He puts other people's money where his mouth is.

  • mona_sterling

    No one seems to want sweaty cheese or dirty ice.
    Also, why did NiN need so much corn starch? The mind boggles.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    it can be used as body powder, instead of talc

  • mona_sterling

    Somehow it's hard to believe Trent and the boys were worried about chafing and such. My mind went to nefarious/freaky uses for corn starch. Maybe because it was labeled "VERY IMPORTANT".

  • Sara_Tonin00

    helps you get into leather pants.

  • mona_sterling

    That didn't work out so well for Ross Geller--"It's making a paste!"

  • Matthias Sundberg

    As ludicrous as these things are, there is a good reason for them. It's not for the crudite, or any of that crap (though some of it might be). It's more so the celebrities know whoever read the contract read it thoroughly. If the green M&Ms aren't there, there's a good chance other things weren't looked at closely, either.

  • CMooreVerdad

    I don't know, there were too many typos in Katy Perry's rider for me to believe that anyone has ever read it thoroughly.

  • cj

    Yes, that is why there are specific items in riders. Another reason that they are so specific is because many acts tour in buses and don't stay in hotels when on the road. They also don't eat in restaurants and they are extremely busy either rehearsing or resting. So, if I was a touring musician, I would want a comfortable backstage area with healthy food that would make me happy, as well. Better than a bus and fast food, IMHO.

  • $27019454

    As much as I'd like to believe this, I, uh, don't. As the former publicist for several concert venues here in So Cal, I have had to deal with publicity "guidelines" and backstage riders that were nothing more than manipulative crocks of shite. Half the time it's random shit cobbled together. You really think they check these lists? You're high if you do. But if something ignites the ire of these people, who usually have the attention span of a toddler, woe is you (me?). As bad as these are, the publicity guidelines are truly reflective of the massive egos of these folks. The angle at which they can be photographed, the "side" they favor, etc. It's insane. Celebrities -- in general -- fucking BLOW. Half f them are not reading their own contracts. I promise you -- it's a lawyer and a team of publicists and a bunch of random bellowing blowhards with lanyards around their necks.

  • Yeah. In my limited experience it's the PR assholes you have to please. 9 out of 10 times the talent is cool and would probably be embarrassed by how they are being represented.

    We worked with Diddy once and his rider was hilarious in that we were told by someone who once worked with Jennifer Lopez that it was just her rider with his name scribbled on top.

  • yup

    Then again, if I was ever just going to blindly copy someone's rider J.Lo is a good candidate. I'm sure it's like walking into Willy Wonka's factory, only with white leather couches and tiger skin rugs.

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