- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 10, 2002

Sammy Hagar calls David Lee Roth a relic, a rock 'n' roll creation from another time and place. Strong words from a fellow charter member of the ex-Van Halen lead singer club.

Mr. Hagar didn't hold back his disdain for Mr. Roth during a recent interview to promote the pair's current tour, which makes its way here Friday to the Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge in Bristow, Va.

He and Mr. Roth are crisscrossing the country in tandem as part of a "Sam and Dave" Van Halen tour, minus Van Halen.

Mr. Roth left the band in 1985. Other members claimed irreconcilable differences, though most agree the singer's mammoth ego and at the time promising solo career deserved much of the blame. (Mr. Hagar's departure in 1996 is still a matter of debate in all camps.)

Last year, the former Van Halen frontmen decided if the band was going to remain in limbo without a lead singer its third singer, Gary Cherone, left after recording 1998's "Van Halen III" they would take the group's classic rock catalog directly to the fans.

Mr. Hagar, whose solo hits include "I Can't Drive 55" and "Your Love is Driving Me Crazy," let loose on his touring partner during a phone interview from West Palm Beach, Fla.

"He's not trustworthy," Mr. Hagar says with little provocation. "He's not a happy person. I completely stay away from him."

Their joint tour didn't start out so acrimoniously.

During a press conference to announce it earlier this year, Mr. Hagar dismissed any potential problems the two might have, despite having sniped at each other for years in the press.

"Any rivalry that may have occurred is nothing that can't be cured with a little Cabo Wabo Tequila," he told the assembled scribes, dampening talk of a public meltdown while plugging his own brand of tequila.

Apparently, no amount of hard liquor could drown out the bad blood between the two.

"I knew Dave was a nut when I got involved with him," he says. "My manager drew up contracts [that said] 'this is the way it has to be.'"

For instance, the two must take turns opening the shows. If Mr. Hagar opens one night in, say, Atlanta, then Mr. Roth opens the show the next night in Charlotte, N.C. Each contributes a 90-minute set. Separately.

The duo barely speak backstage, either.

Perhaps the final straw came when rap rocker Kid Rock approached the duo backstage early on in the tour to mend fences. The young rock star convinced them to join together onstage for a duet.

A few moments before their planned coupling, Mr. Roth begged off, Mr. Hagar alleges.

Mr. Roth wouldn't refute these retellings, or any of Mr. Hagar's colorful slams, for that matter. He refused to be interviewed for this article.

Mr. Hagar said enough for both of them.

When the tour began, Mr. Hagar expected "Diamond Dave" to be heckled by his own fans who are well aware of the animosity between the two.

While the erstwhile Red Rocker has performed more than 400 shows with his longtime backup band, the Waboritas, Mr. Roth's solo career isn't exactly known for its longevity.

"A lot of [the audience members] leave when he closes, but they don't heckle him. It's awesome," he says.

On stage, the duo trot out rival Van Halen hits in a nightly battle for supremacy. The audience, however, appear more diplomatic than the singers.

"There's no rivalry [between dueling groups of fans]," he says. "They're just happy to hear all those great songs."

The Hagar/Roth tour smacks of desperation as much as it does commercial sense. With Van Halen seemingly in limbo their last album with Mr. Cherone bombed as new lead singer the band's ex-singers decided to fill the void.

And, many would say, pump life into a pair of careers that have seen better days.

Mr. Hagar agrees to a point.

"It's a fair assumption, completely. That's what the tour is about from Dave's perspective," he says.

For Mr. Hagar, it's a chance to play bigger venues than he normally can summon while reaching new audiences. Call it his rock pension plan.

"I'm a lifetime guy. I'll be doing this when I'm 70 years old," he says. "The money is a fringe benefit. I wanna do this for the rest of my life. I need these [new] people."

On the current tour, Mr. Hagar has an ace, or rather, a bass up his sleeve.

Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony has been chipping in with the Waboritas on several nights, lending authenticity to this Van Halen virtual reality trip.

Mr. Hagar has no news to report on any possible thawing in his icy relationship with the rest of Van Halen.

He understands Eddie Van Halen recently divorced his longtime wife, actress Valerie Bertinelli. The much-heralded guitarist is also recovering from a successful bout with cancer.

"Those are tough things to go through," Mr. Hagar says. "But it's inevitable that they gotta come back."

Just don't expect Mr. Hagar in front of the drum kit.

"It's not really what I want in my life right now," he says.

Of course, Mr. Hagar would have once dismissed as insane the possibility of his touring with Mr. Roth.

Strange things happen when a new wave of young rock icons bump you off the charts.

Given all the bruised feelings between the various Van Halen contingents, Mr. Hagar doesn't mind playing the band's songs for today's audiences.

Old rock stars, he says, could do worse.

"Not many bands, not many people in my generation have ever reached the heights of Van Halen, and I'm OK with that," he says.


WHAT: Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth

WHERE: Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge, Bristow, Va.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday.

TICKETS: $20 - $60. For information, call (800) 551-7328


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