When Eddie Van Halen Met Valerie Bertinelli: Book Explores Their Early Days—and Explains the Band's Famous M&Ms Legend
In his new wild memoir, Runnin’ with the Devil, Van Halen's former manager recalls how the famous couple met—and some problems on the way to the altar
Fans were surprised when Eddie Van Halen, the hard-partying guitar virtuoso of the rock titans Van Halen, began dating the demure Valerie Bertinelli, who had become America’s sweetheart with her starring role on the TV sitcom One Day at a Time. But perhaps none were more taken aback than Noel Monk, the band’s manager and friend. In his wild new memoir, Runnin’ with the Devil, Monk recalls how the famous couple first met—and some of the problems that arose on the way to the altar.
According to Monk, Bertinelli, then just a teenager, first developed a crush on the guitarist while gazing at a copy of her brother’s Van Halen album, Women and Children First. “While her brother might have been a fan of the band’s music, Valerie was drawn more to the angular cheekbones and long hair of one of the young men depicted on the album’s back cover…it was Eddie Van Halen who caught the young starlet’s attention.”
They first met in person during the band’s performance in her hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, in August, 1980. Bertinelli told the show’s promoter that she wanted to get backstage and say a quick hello to the band (“I guess she’s got a little crush on Edward,” the promoter explained to Monk.) Following the set, Monk told Eddie that he had a special fan waiting.
“I caught him as he went by. ‘Ed, you know Valerie Bertinelli is here, and she wants to meet you.’ Edward barely broke stride. A quizzical look crossed his face. ‘Who?’” After a few moments, he finally placed the name of the woman who would become his wife for several decades.
“After Edward dried off and changed his clothes, I introduced him to Valerie,” writes Monk. “It was kind of cute to see them together— they were both clearly nervous and somewhat reticent. This struck me as a sign of genuine chemistry. After all, Valerie had spent most of her life in front of a camera or audience; she was completely comfortable with all manner of public interaction. And yet, here she was, stammering and blushing like a schoolgirl in the presence of the captain of the football team. And Edward? Here was a guy who went out onstage every night and performed, wizardlike, in front of thousands of adoring fans. In the presence of this young woman, however, the rock star façade melted away.”
Monk admits to wondering what the pair saw in each other (beyond the physical). More than a case of opposites attracting, VH’s manager wondered if Eddie was in competition with the band’s flamboyant lead singer, David Lee Roth, who constantly bragged that he was going to marry a movie star. “They were competitive, after all; and at times they legitimately disliked each other. So maybe Edward’s relationship to Valerie was on some level triggered by a desire to issue a public ‘f— you’ to David.”
Regardless of how it began, the relationship quickly picked up steam, and within months they had set a wedding date for the following spring. But they ran into trouble when Eddie was hit with a paternity suit from a fan—and it fell to Monk to clean up the mess.
“Claims of paternity by jilted, crazed, or simply avaricious former sexual partners were in fact an ever-present danger in the world of big-time rock ’n’ roll,” he wrote. “I neither believed nor disbelieved the claim—given the number of indiscriminate sexual encounters that occurred on the road, anything was possible.”
Monk called Eddie into his office to discuss the matter. “Edward did not look well that day. He was generally an affable type whose demeanor soured only with excessive drinking or drug use, but on this day he was disheveled and nervous.” When asked if the child could possibly be his, Eddie admitted that he wasn’t sure, before emotionally blurting: “I swear to God, Noel. I never f—ed her. Is there any way she could have gotten pregnant from giving me a blow job?”
Monk was dumbfounded. “His was not a rhetorical question, nor an attempt at humor. He was not sure whether it was possible for a woman to become pregnant simply by performing oral sex, and he wanted me, the person he trusted most in the world, to tell him the truth.” As gently as he could, he calmed his troubled friend. “’You know, Edward, I have never heard of that happening,’ I said. ‘As a matter of fact, I would have to say no, although I suppose we could check with a doctor, just to be sure.’”
Turns out, Eddie was not the father.
FROM PEN: Grammy News and Notes: Album of the Year Nominees
In addition to dealing with their personal crisis’, Monk was also responsible for the day-to-day duties of managing one of the world’s most famous bands. One bit of paperwork ultimately yielded one of the most enduring myths in rock ‘n’ roll. In the band’s “rider” (or list of requirements for a show), Monk famously demanded that the band’s dressing room “be well stocked with M&M candies—but with all of the brown M&M’s removed.”
In Runnin’ with the Devil, Monk reveals that the request was not simply diva behavior.
“The intent of this portion of the rider wasn’t to create more silly and degrading work for some poor promoter’s assistant or unpaid intern—although that was an unintended by-product— but instead acted as a sort of insurance clause that proved that the things that really did matter in our contract (safety measures and the like) had been given proper weight and consideration. We figured that if a promoter took the time to remove all the brown M&M’s from the bowl before putting them in our dressing room, it was far less likely he’d screwed up any of the other, really important stuff.”
Runnin’ with the Devil is out now.