Egos, Perks and Contracts’ Fine Print
Performers’ contracts with the Orange County Fair reveal dining preferences: Michael Bolton demands “real, not faxed, menus” from the area’s “finest” restaurants.
Legal documents also divulge drinks of choice: Big Head Todd & the Monsters like, among other adult beverages, “smoooooooooth tequila.”
And they show the market value for each act: Legend Paul Simon pulls in $350,000 plus 85% of the gross box office for one night’s work, but a reconstituted Jefferson Starship walks away with $30,000.
The contracts -- publicly available because the Orange County Fair is a state agency -- offer a peek into the perk-filled contracts of a wide range of artists, from icons to nostalgia acts.
Bolton, for example, “wears designer suits and clothing that will require special dry-cleaning treatment. The fabrics are very delicate, and cannot be machine pressed. THEY MUST BE HAND-PRESSED WITH A COVERED IRON ONLY.” The fair paid him $85,000 for Tuesday night’s performance; he would have received an additional $10,000 if the venue had sold out.
Linda Ronstadt, who was paid $100,000 for one performance, insists that four kinds of doctors be available: a throat specialist, a general practitioner, a dentist and a chiropractor. A certified massage therapist also needs to be on standby.
The contracts are filled with misspellings and requests highlighted with words in all capital letters, boldface type and asterisks. Even so, fair officials said, no one acts the part of a diva, and the performers’ requests are more “wish lists” than deal-breakers.
Still, they said, staffers do their best to make life comfortable for the performers. Several fair workers are dedicated to acquiring whatever an artist needs, making daily shopping trips to stock performers’ dressing rooms.
“We certainly try to provide whatever we can that’s on their list. Usually we do pretty well,” said John Sullivan, entertainment producer for the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa. “Each artist has their own unique preparation for their performance that we try to respect.”
The contracts reveal a clear pecking order. Most of the opening bands during the 21-day concert series list only basic needs for their meals and dressing room. In many instances, those riders -- or extra provisions in their contract -- end with a boldfaced “Thank You!”
That’s not unexpected, said Jon “Shabba” Linton, tour manager for the All-American Rejects. When he worked with lesser-known bands years ago, he had his share of challenges.
“I’ve definitely had to beg for towels and water before,” he said. “For a lot of bands, that’s all they live off of, the rider.”
Well-traveled musicians at this year’s fair have it much better, but there is one major item they will have to buy on their own: alcohol. Sullivan said that the Orange County Fair could not provide alcohol because it is a state agency. Fair workers can still fetch whatever beer, wine or spirits the artists desire, but the performers must foot the bill.
Only a few artists asked for alcohol, mostly beer and wine. And while some seek a Bud Light, Corona or Merlot, others have something particular in mind.
The Moody Blues specify that wines should be Californian or French. Possible red wine choices include Sterling, Julien, Beychevelle, Clos de Vougeot and Echezeaux labels. White wines can be Cakebread, La Crema, Stag’s Leap or Robert Mondavi Reserve.
Tequila also appears to be popular with the musicians, followed by whiskey and vodka.
In its contract, Big Head Todd & the Monsters seeks one “bottle of Vodka (Ketel One, Stoli, Absolut, Skyy), or one bottle of smoooooooooth Tequila (Petron [sic], Herradura, Cuervo Gold, etc.) or one bottle of Scotch (Dears [sic], Glen-this, Glen-that, Glen anything).”
Paul Simon’s contract doesn’t specify special meals or food. When his crew arrives today, it will include a personal caterer, said Jeff Willson, a spokesman for the fair.
As the highest-paid artist at this year’s fair, it’s a luxury Simon can afford.
Despite their contracts, Sullivan said artists’ demands can be subject to last-minute changes.
An experienced tour manager, Linton has a ready response in case a venue has trouble supplying the Fruity Pebbles, Cheez-It crackers and frozen pizzas the All-American Rejects desire: “I usually tell them, ‘Whatever you wouldn’t want your kids to have, that’s what these guys want.’ ”