The Real Reason Van Halen Hated Brown M&M's

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You can certainly learn a lot about a celebrity from their dressing room requests: from Eminem's demand for American-imported Taco Bell to Kanye West's order for a slushy machine with mixes of Coke, Hennessy, Grey Goose and lemonade, we can only imagine what goes on backstage.

While the Beatles' rider –- a meager list asking for clean towels and a few sodas -– requests have only grown for celebrities overtime, leading to celebrities getting away with inquiries that dabble in the lavish (a 200-person entourage and personal vegan chef, per Madonna) and just plain strange, such as Jack White's request for fresh home-made guacamole (recipe included).

But what about the most famous dressing room request of all? We're talking about Van Halen's infamous 53-page rider, which held a very important clause, which read: "M&M's (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES)". However hard it may be to believe, for the arena rock legends, this request wasn't a test of how ridiculous a rider could get, nor was it necessarily due to a band member's aversion to brown M&Ms

In fact, it was a test of the crew's ability to follow directions.

A test of diligence

Van Halen concerts were massive performances back in their heyday, spectacles which required nine 18-wheeler trucks of gear and special effects. To avoid injury or technical errors with equipment at each show, the band formulated a special clause in the massive rider to see if their roadies had fully read and understood the instructions.

"So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl ... well, line-check the entire production," singer David Lee Roth wrote in his autobiography. "Guaranteed you're going to arrive at a technical error. They didn't read the contract. Guaranteed you'd run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening."

According to Snopes, one such error did occur at a University of Southern Colorado show in 1980 –- as foretold by a bowl full of brown M&Ms. According to Roth, he promptly trashed the dressing room, knocking over buffet tables and kicking a hole in the door during a fit that would end up costing $12,000.

However, it was those who hadn't read the full rider that caused the most damage. Per Roth, the roadies had not read the weight requirements for the band's heavy stage equipment, causing the venue's floor to sink in, resulting in around $80,000 worth of damage to the arena.

"They didn't bother to look at the weight requirements or anything," wrote Roth. "The whole thing had to be replaced. It came out in the press that I discovered brown M&M's and did eighty thousand dollars' worth of damage to the backstage area. Well, who am I to get in the way of a good rumor?"