Just for the record, if it were me out there appearing in a different town every night, I’d be incredibly specific about what I wanted waiting for me backstage. There’s not much more fearful in life than strangers trying to be fancy. It leads to all kinds of gussied-up crap, like those selections of “special” crackers that are like biting into particle board when, really, a box of Cheez-Its would be just fine. You dispatch an errand-running gofer to buy wine for a visiting star and there’s no telling what kind of swill-in-a-novelty-collector-bottle you’re likely to end up with.
Considering that, a survey of the contract riders at Smoking Gun shows a remarkable tolerance when it comes to ordering wine to be served in dressing rooms. For the most part, traveling musicians seem willing to settle for just about anything.
Desperately perky and highly professional gal-who-knows-what-she-wants Kathie Lee Gifford wants two bottles of white wine, and she doesn’t care what kind it is — just have it chilled and waiting for her when she arrives. Ludacris wants a bottle of white Zinfandel. Lady Gaga requires “two bottles of white wine with wine opener — Kendall-Jackson or Robert Mondavi preferred.” Sting wants “good quality” Champagne, “full-bodied” red wine, and Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay. Shania Twain wants one bottle of Pinot Grigio and two bottles of Kendall-Jackson Cabernet. Relic-of-a-regrettable-era Cher goes the other way, specifying “No Kendall-Jackson” be placed in either her dressing or contractually required wig room. Beck — who, like Cher, finds one name sufficient — takes no varietal chances, specifying Merlot, Cabernet or Pinot Noir only. Kelly Clarkson wants four bottles of “GOOD” red wine, and suggests “Jordan, Zinfandel, Malbec, Merlot”. Amy Winehouse (pictured above) specifies “rioja,” apparently not realizing it is a place and thus should be capitalized. Wayne Newton asks for both Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages and Stag’s Leap Merlot. Also, pretzels.
Eric Clapton is a wine and cheese man, but seems to care more about the cheese than the wine. His rider asks for two non-specific bottles of red wine and a “small cheese board” which the guitar god will use to serve cheese he brings himself. Kelly Pickler, on the other hand, requires cheese but not wine. Barenaked Ladies requires neither cheese nor wine, but is apparently bringing a little something from home because they want wine glasses and a corkscrew.
Wynonna Judd needs a bottle of unspecified Pinot Noir waiting for her in her dressing room. That she could stand to lose a few pounds is evident elsewhere in the contract, which requires Oreo cookies and four pounds of bacon and/or sausage. Michael Bublé gets right to the heart of the matter, requesting “1 bottle red and white wine ($25 minimum).” Professional oddity Weird Al Yankovic shows his appreciation of fine wines by demanding “2 bottles of good Chardonnay” and adding, without apparent irony, “Yellow Tail brand is preferred.” Weezer wants Rombauer Chardonnay and Jordan Cabernet. Jethro Tull, who probably could have been more demanding 30 years ago, now asks only Jacob’s Creek Cabernet and “Californian” Chardonnay. Lucinda Williams wants Merlot or Cabernet, and suggests the following brands: La Playa, Rabbit Ridge, Stag’s Leap, and Silverado. Savage Garden wants Brown Brothers Merlot. Stevie Nicks wants two bottles of white Mouton-Cadet — a sentimental favorite for me, since it was my date-night “special” wine in college.
Sheryl Crow likes Stag’s Leap Artemis — “Sheryl’s favorite,” the contract exclaims. Gnarls Barkley wants “one bottle of Chateau neuf (sic) du Pape RED WINE or EQUIVALENT.” Ja Rule demands Cristal, Moet and a bottle of mouthwash. Seriously.
The pecking order of Burt Bacharach’s regrettably infrequent tours is apparent in his contract rider. Mr. Bacharach’s dressing room gets “first class” red and white wine; his band gets “good” red and white wine: and the back-up singers have to settle for only white wine of whatever quality is most available. Marilyn Manson also recognizes the class structure inherent to stardom, asking “fine red table wine ($15 a bottle)” for his band but demanding Moet or Cristal “Champaign” for himself. Meat Loaf specifies, first of all, that his name is not to be spelled “Meatloaf” and, secondly, that he’d like to see a bottle of Phelps Insignia waiting for him in his “star quality” dressing room. His band can survive on Clos de Bois or Ferrari-Carano. Jimmy Buffet gets “Poully-Fuisse” but the Coral Reefer Band gets Pinot Grigio. Mariah Carey takes care of the red wine drinkers, requiring Opus One, but leaves the white winos out in the cold with no brand specificity.
My hero in the battle for decent backstage wine is Diana Krall, who is clearly an experienced, discerning explorer of wines. She understands that distribution of wine is not uniform, so the gofers who stock dressing rooms must be given a range of specific possibilities. Krall does just that, listing wines that, put together, would make a pretty nice cellar. Among the options she offers: Matanzas Creek, Ridge, Paul Hobbs, Edmunds St. John, Neyers, Domaine Tempier and Caymus. The list of 75 options shows a nice variety of prices and implies a palate that has a pretty good range, leaning toward bold rather than subtle flavors.
When it comes to backstage drinking, I want to hang with her. If her husband Elvis Costello is around, that’s OK, too.