Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions 1

Is there anything special you need during your visit?

I’m usually thankful for an easel and a big pad of paper. If the event in question is the sort of thing at which I could show slides, I like to have a digital projector on hand. Sometimes I’m asked about less practical things, however. Sometimes I’m asked if I have any sort of weird, non-negotiable contract riders like a certain thread count to my hotel sheets or a single ostrich feather for book-signing.

I got on this topic once with a library that was hosting me for a reading and signing on Dr. Seuss’s birthday. I no longer remember if I was just trying to be funny and broached the subject on my own, or if maybe the library started it by asking if I needed a bowl of all-green M&Ms or a bowl of everything but green M&Ms or whatever. How did green M&Ms become the yardstick of celebrity dressing-room excess? I Google it and find the legend attributed to Van Halen on one website and Aerosmith on another. Probably neither is true. Anyway, to the library I believe I answered that color was immaterial but that I wanted M&Ms with the “m” on each candy to be replaced with the Greek letter “pi”, and also a dozen live doves.

These kinds of events are generally booked weeks or even months in advance, so by the evening of Dr. Seuss’s birthday I’d forgotten all about the conversation. They anticipated this and had a copy of our last email exchange attached to the bags of custom M&Ms they gave me. It seems Mars Incorporated could not, at the time, put the letter “pi” on an M&M, but they could print “3.14…” They could print it on each and every green oblate spheroid.

It was all a very nice gesture, but it made me sensitive to where these sorts of careless jokes can lead. So now I just ask for the doves.


David said...

From David Lee Roth's autobiography:

"Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors—whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through.

The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes...” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl... well, line-check the entire production. 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."

Also: Green M&Ms make you horny, and red M&Ms cause cancer.

Adam Rex said...

Ha! Hi David.

I knew someone would bring this up. I started writing these long Frequently Asked Questions a while ago (more will appear in the coming days and weeks if people seem interested), but I was reminded of this one recently when I heard John Flansburg (of They Might Be Giants) on This American Life explaining the reason behind the M&M dressing room legend.

I decided I liked the FAQ as originally written and opted not to edit in this new information, but the comments section seems like the right place for it.

Jason Michels said...

I was going to mention This American Life! Listening to that show is just another thing that makes you awesome, Adam Rex.

Jennifer Kearney said...

lol, you really got m&m's with 3.14 on them?!? ...did you get a picture? that is too funny!