Hitting on Heart and more stories

Guitarist Eddie Van Halen married “One Day at a Time” actress Valerie Bertinelli on April 11, 1981, with a $35,000 reception at the mansion featured in Barbra Streisand’s version of “A Star is Born.”

But while the early days of their marriage were often portrayed as a dreaming couple, a new book, Unchained: The Eddie Van Halen Story by Paul Brannigan, released on December 28, shows how Eddie’s untamed lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll has led to problems since the beginning.

The wedding became an unusual party, as singer Eddie and Van Halen David Lee Roth did “the fat spurs of [cocaine] In the bathroom, they take turns holding each other around the waist [they didn’t] Dip your head first into the toilet from the dry lift.”

The new book “Unchained: The Eddie Van Halen Story” examines how the legendary guitarist – along with his wife Valerie Bertinelli and fellow Van Halen bands – sometimes enjoys the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle too much.
New York Post photomontage

That scene soon recurs with Bertinelli, as tour director Noel Monk discovered when he spotted the newlywed couple in the bathroom.

Eddie Van Halen married Valerie Bertinelli in 1981 and they divorced in 2007.
Eddie Van Halen married Valerie Bertinelli in 1981 and divorced in 2007.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In the book, Monk recalls, “I found Valerie in her beautiful white lace wedding dress, looking every inch at the angel–except for the tears running down her cheeks.” “Valerie was holding her husband’s head over the toilet bowl, and pulling his hair back to make sure he didn’t vomit.”

Eddie Van Halen, who died of cancer in October 2020, at the age of 65, was a pioneering guitarist who redefined the instrument like no one else since Jimi Hendrix.

A Dutch immigrant who came to the United States with his family in 1962 At the age of seven, Eddie played gigs with his father Jan, and older brother Alex, since childhood. In these shows, Jean Eddy ushered in an unfortunate habit that would define much of his life.

“My dad made me drink and smoke when I was twelve,” Eddie recalls.

I was nervous, he told me here. Take a shot of vodka. Boom – I’m not nervous anymore.”

The brothers grew up to form their own band, with guitarist Michael Anthony and vocalist David Lee Roth.

One of Van Halen’s first big breaks came in early 1976, when she opened to British rock band UFO at the Golden West Ballroom in Norwalk, California.

At Eddie Van Halen's wedding, David Lee Roth (left) grabbed his guitarist so they wouldn't fall off all the alcohol and cocaine they had.
At Eddie Van Halen’s wedding, David Lee Roth (left) grabbed the guitarist so they wouldn’t fall off all the cocaine they had consumed.

They wowed audiences, and after the show, a local drug dealer gave Eddie a “blow of dynamite,” which he accepted. Ten minutes later, Alex saw his brother collapsing, and ran towards him. Eddy had inadvertently inhaled PCP.

He developed convulsions and was rushed to hospital, where he was attached to an operating table as an oxygen tube was pushed down his throat.

“You’re already dead on the table,” Eddie later said. “When I woke up the doctor said, ‘Your heart stopped. If thirty seconds pass after that, we won’t be able to bring you back.”

Van Halen’s self-titled debut album, released in 1978 and recorded on a steady diet of beer and cocaine in the mornings, introduced the world of rock to his next legendary band, and every day the members tried to live up to the gig that their music promised.

Van Halen's big break came in 1976 when they opened to a UFO and stunned the crowd.
Van Halen’s big break came in 1976 when they opened up to a UFO and stunned the crowd – but Eddie’s heart (second from left) stopped briefly after he sniffed a PCP.

No one was wearing a condom, and it was just a big bone feast, day in and day out

After performing their first major show out of state at a club in Madison, Wisconsin, the band celebrated by “littering their accommodations on the seventh floor of the Madison Sheraton,” Brannigan wrote. “They hosted firefights in the corridors, attached frozen fish to the ceilings and lowered the furniture inside the room to match the wood,”

In May, during the opening of Black Sabbath in Aberdeen, Scotland, the band received word that their debut album had gone gold, indicating sales of over 500,000 copies. They celebrated by “getting a full face on Glenmorangie whiskey.”

“We took shoe polish and wrote our slogan on the walls,” Eddie later recalls. “The next morning, the cops came and escorted us out of the country, not because we squandered their hotel, but because one of our crew stole a pillow!”

The band played their unruly character by destroying hotel rooms, taking a lot of drugs, and sleeping with endless groups.
The band, led by David Lee Roth, played their unruly character by destroying hotel rooms, taking a lot of drugs and sleeping with outfits.

Van Halen was so immersed in their roles as emerging rock deities that at one point, someone snapped an “X-rated, locally made infographic [pornographic film] Featuring band members and enthusiastic fans.”

According to Brannigan, this led to a bizarre incident where their manager, Marshall Pearl – nephew of comedian Milton Berle, who attended the party at the All-Body Shop strip club where the band was presented with their first platinum albums – showed the footage to employees at Warner Bros. Van Halen Records.

The band was so outraged by this betrayal that, in addition to firing Marshall Pearl, they enacted a fitting revenge for rock and roll.

“[They] Elected to take revenge by storming [Marshall’s] Hollywood office with Noel Monk and room stripping of everything Van Halen named – gold discs, memorabilia, promotional materials and more. ”

Actress Valerie Bertinelli was instantly fascinated by guitarist Eddie, telling her brother Patrick,
Actress Valerie Bertinelli met Eddie Van Halen when she was recruited to help her brothers – big fans of Van Halen – backstage.
LIFE Image Collection via Getty Images

By their 1980 European tour, Van Halen had turned into a mobile orgy that, according to Monk, “sex never stopped, and groups never went away.”

“Everyone likes to think they’re rock ‘n’ roll bad guys, but the things I’ve seen with Van Halen have been the most spoiled,” veteran rock photographer Neil Zlozor said in the book.

“[They] You had the best chicks you could ever imagine. There will be, like, 75 girls in the hotel room. Back then, it was pre-AIDS, and nobody wore condoms, it was just a big bone feast, day in and day out. Even being a photographer, I get two or three chicks every night.”

Eddie and Alex Van Halen tried to seduce another pair of rock ‘n’ roll siblings

In their 2013 memoirs, Anne and Nancy Wilson—the siblings who were before the Heart Band—remember meeting the Van Halen brothers in 1979.

The Van Halen brothers asked the Wilson sisters if they would sleep with them.  The ladies rejected them.
The Van Halen brothers tried to seduce the sisters of the Heart, Anne (left) and Nancy Wilson. The ladies rejected them.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

“Eddie and Alex showed us that if Ann and I wanted to sleep with them, they’d be ready for it,” Nancy wrote. “The concept was two brothers with two sisters… except that they wanted us in one bed. It wasn’t the only time we got this offer, and as with every other request, we turned it down.”

For their 1980 tour, Van Halen changed her contestant—the contract that dictates backstage requirements for the band—to include a demand for M&Ms, with the stipulation of “no brown items whatsoever.” This became legendary, with many interpreting it as a sign that the band had come out of the cocky deep end.

In fact, the infamous item had an even greater purpose. The band’s technical stage requirements were precise and necessary, and failure to implement them could damage the band. If their dressing room has brown M&Ms, they will know that the rider has not been read – and that they need to review the stage setting for their own safety.

For those who haven’t read it, the fallout can be serious, as the band has applied their experience destroying hotels to their backstage locker rooms.

But the extraordinary judgment had a very positive result, because without him Eddie would not have met his future wife Bertinelli.

After becoming sober, Eddie had a successful tour with Van Halen, taking his son Wolfgang on stage with him.
Now sober, Eddie toured successfully with a rejuvenated Van Halen – including his son Wolfgang (left).

By the time Van Halen entered Shreveport, La. Shown in August 1980, the M&M brown item became iconic. A radio DJ event offered brothers David and Patrick Bertinelli – big Van Halen fans – tickets and backstage passes if they could “talk to their famous sister to introduce each of the four band members with their M&Ms backstage.”

Valerie, 20, and a cast member of the sitcom One Day at a Time, agreed for the sake of her siblings. But in place, she was soon fascinated by guitarist Eddie, and said to her brother Patrick, “Oh my gosh—what cute!”

The couple have been together for 20 years, splitting in 2001 and then splitting in 2007. Eddie cleaned up well circa 2008, and married actress and publicist Jani Leszewski the following year.

Van Halen released one well-received definitive album, with Ruth on lead vocals and Wolfgang, son of Eddie and Valerie, on bass, in 2012, followed by a successful world tour.

For those who saw Eddie working at this time, he played the man who finally put his demons to rest.

“It appears his recent personal struggles have been dealt with,” Chris Epting wrote for Noisecreep’s website.

“He looks a little heavier, but is healthier, played with teenage joy, and lost himself in music while tearing down one fierce solo after another. It was like watching classic Van Halen videos from the ’80s again.”


Leave a Comment