For an entire generation of MTV viewers, "California Girls" is a David Lee Roth song. The Beach Boys? Hell, to a 13-year-old in 1985, schizophrenic fat men in Hawaiian shirts do not star in pop-tart wet dream music videos that flaunt boob-baring, roller-skating excess. The Beach Boys have never known such wonderful panache. A former frontman of Van Halen, on the other hand...
And there's the rub. An entire bloc of people remember Roth as the spandex-stretching white guy that "Jump"-ed through the '80s and attempted to party his way into the '90s. Even more remember that this attempt was for naught-to the populous in 1990, Roth simply didn't get the joke.
Few, however, recall Roth's initial appeal. Roth brought a sense of showmanship and overtly kitschy visual persona to a rock genre that was lulling itself to sleep, even during the advent of MTV. America had heard similar song and dance routines before, but rarely had anyone owned up to manufacturing it on purpose and-gasp!-simply not giving a flying fuck.
Roth gets the joke now, and arguably, he always did.
Conversing with Roth is not a collaborative process-you do not speak with him, he speaks at you-and there is little sense to be made of his antics and deviations into psycho poetry (including brief ascensions into French at 7:30 a.m.).
Rehearsed or not, Roth is a veritable dictionary of one-liners, including these hurled at CityBeat:
* "I'm like a thunderbolt in your Cheerios, hot stuff!"
* "I've been asleep since the late '70s, where have you been?"
* "My life is a video, why stop now?"
* "I'm the patron saint of larceny-a lot more fun than the Prince of Darkness!"
* "I have a surgically implanted disco beat."
* "Rock 'n' roll is pretty predictable. It's the other 38 stamps in my passport that I spent the money on! Don't ask me how to spell New Guinea but I've got the pictures of us both there!" [Yes, spoken sequentially.]
* "There are only two things that really look exactly the same from the moment you first see them to the moment it is dead-and that is a sea anemone and Neil Young."
* "My hallucinations are what your reality caused me to have after happy hour."
Roth can be a loudmouth-the kind you didn't necessarily hate in high school but rabidly avoided. In college, however, Roth would have been a bronzed god of Belushi proportions. Nothing spells this out better than his foray into the news last month when he "cornered" a suspected burglar at his Pasadena home.
"Anybody caught here at night will probably be caught in the morning," Roth says about the incident. "I saw this guy race quietly across the backyard here."
Police report note: Cops originally reported that he "heard" someone outside.
"So, you know, I made a lot of noise and made him lay down in the sprinkler system and the cops came and took him away. You know, one of the beauties of a 20-gauge shotgun is that you don't have to point it at anybody. In 20 languages, racking that thing twice in a silent night says, "What are you doing here?'
Police report note No. 2: Cops later questioned whether Roth even had a gun that night.
"The police said I was insensitive to the guy's needs and I said, "Oh, excuse me, was that low-fat crank in his pocket?' Shit.
"What are you doing in my backyard at 3:15 in the morning without a backstage pass! Jesus. You know, some people said that I never had a gun and that came out and I said, "Well, I never went down the driveway to show it to them and nobody asked if I had one in the house... Maybe you're right, maybe the new low-fat meth makes you wanna just lay the fuck down and go to sleep in my sprinklers!' Give him my connection's phone number!"
Is he kidding? Probably not. Despite his forays into homeyard security-truthful or not-the man can slip into a relatively somber mood. Roth claims in numerous interviews that he knows fluent Spanish and Portuguese, practices Brazilian jujitsu and reads a book per day. Philosophy lessons at 8 a.m. for unsuspecting journalists? Check.
"I don't base what I do in the eyes of others," Roth says. "Sartre said the most famous single sentence in all of philosophy study, "Hell is in the others.'
"If you are looking to find yourself reflected in the eyes of the others or you are judging-whatever it is you do by how others see it-you will be in hell... I never really considered what 40-somethings think about music, any more than what 20-somethings think about it."
But don't think Roth forgot the ladies that helped lay the foundations of his sex-icon roots in 1985. He's still Davey from the block.
"I still have California girls but now they have a range... I've been upgraded. I have become the king of what I call "The Stairmaster Nation': I married really, really fit moms with one kid under 4. I didn't know that it was a whole nation but it is a formidable voting bloc! My lower back has been getting a harder workout than J.Lo!"