Rodney Dangerfield Obit

My friend Alan Dezon who was over here working for Clear Channel and is now back for Ticketmaster, is a great guy to talk to. He is a music industry vet and I met him via Bert Holman, Allman Brothers’ manager.

Alan was the booker for the Capitol Theate in Passaic, NJ for years. It was a pretty legendary spot and played host to a who’s who of rock greats. Since this was largely in the 70s, ADZ saw it all during his years there.

At one point he wrote a book about his experiences but tragically lost the manuscript and did not have a second copy. As some of the peformers from its heyday have passed away in recent years, Alan has been writing obituaries to help him reconstitute the book. I have really enjoyed reading them and though you would, too. We start with Rodney Dangerfield:

Rodney Dangerfield

With the Capitol’s heyday now twenty-five+ years in the past, the list of dead and dying headliners continues to grow. Rodney Dangerfield was one of the small but select group of comedians to grace the Capitol’s stage, including Henny Youngman (opening for The Tubes, perhaps David Hart’s most inspired booking), George Carlin, Robert Klein, Eddie Murphy and other SNL cast members.

The Henny Youngman booking is worth an intrusion here – he needed a piano player to bring him on, and instead of volunteering, I though it would be great to have Vince Welnick (another member of the Dead Headliners Club) do the honors, so I put them together in the area just offstage right. Henny opened, rapid fire, on Vince. “OK, bring me on with ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’, and then segue into ‘Hava Nagila’”. Vince’s only semblance of reply was “Hava Na Whaaa???, at which point someone (not Bob?), snapped a picture with me in the middle of them. I think I may have ended up playing piano for him; I really don’t remember.

While I’m almost on the subject, has anyone noticed the similarity between the life expectancy of a Grateful Dead keyboard player and a drummer for Spinal Tap?

Back to Rodney:

It was a simple advance. One microphone, one mic stand, one stool. We loaded in the PA, and added front monitors and side-fill, since they were on the truck anyway. Thinking I was being artsy, I also added an oriental rug to fill the bare stage. What could possibly go wrong with such a simple setup?

Rodney came in, on-time, to rehearse, and the game was on. As soon as he hit the stage- “What the fuck is this?” he roared.

“It’s a mic stand” I said.

“No it’s not. Where’s the round thing on the bottom?” The sound company only carried the more current tripod stand. I sent someone out to scour the Elks Lodges of Passaic for a round stand……

“What the fuck is this?”, again.

“It’s a rug, Mr. Dangerfield”

“I didn’t ask for a fucking rug”

I talked him into it for the sake of aesthetics. Now the real fun began.

“What the fuck are those things?” he asked, pointing at the side-fill. Thank god he knew what a slant monitor was.

Well, I told him, and for the next hour, he became a full-fledged Rock Star.


At least, at this point, it was the sound guy’s problem. When he finally finished, he adjourned to the dressing room for a short spell. He emerged a little while later with a list of demands (of course, he didn’t have a rider) and wearing a short, very short terrycloth robe that didn’t cover his sagging ass. His demands were for a quart of vodka and some illegal, but available items. Anyone who remembers the Capitol’s backstage can envision what he looked like, standing on the narrow steps, holding court in an incredible state of inebriation and other altered states, with his bare ass hanging out over his chicken legs.

At this point, our mutual psychological showbiz condition kicked in. I’m sure Rodney did a great show, I’m sure the audience loved it. I don’t remember a thing about it; I was just happy when it was over. He may not have gotten any respect backstage, but he got enough of something to propel him onstage.

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