The Stones roll into Boardwalk Hall
It was the fugu chef that quickly got Joel Fischman's attention.
As entertainment director for Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino from 1984 until 1992, part of Fischman's responsibilities was to review the contracts of entertainers booked into the casino's showroom.
An entertainment contract generally consists of two parts. First comes the contract itself, which spells out things like salary, technical requirements and the number of shows. Then there's the "rider," an addendum to the contract that usually specifies backstage requirements, including the creature comforts that will make the artist a happy camper during the engagement.
Some artists ask for a specific type of champagne, others want a certain brand of imported candy and some have even been known to ask for a particular shape of ice cubes (round, please. A square cube could damage the throat if accidentally swallowed).
But of all the stars Fischman has worked with during his career, nothing and no one prepared him for the paperback-novel-length contract rider he received before the Rolling Stones played three shows at the old Convention Hall (now Boardwalk Hall) in December 1989.
And according to their rider, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood absolutely, positively could not perform their "Steel Wheels" shows unless their favorite chef was flown in from Japan to safely cut a small sliver of meat from the body of a fugu, one of 40 species of a small but highly poisonous Japanese puffer fish whose toxins are often fatal to human beings.
Only a licensed fugu chef, who spends years in training, knows how to safely cut out the tiny flesh that isn't loaded with the poison. "That was the first thing I crossed out of the rider," Fischman says, laughing at the memory.
Other than the fugu chef and a few other non-essentials -- like $25,000 worth of Christmas decorations -- there really weren't many extravagances in the 62-page rider, Fischman recalled.
"They weren't crazy like some [artists] can be," he says. "We didn't have to separate the brown and yellow M&Ms from the bowl."
There were some items in the rider that Fischman quickly agreed to provide. Jagger, for instance, wanted a 40-foot long runway outside of his dressing trailer in the hall's annex, which served as the staging area and production compound for the show, just as it will Friday night (Oct. 27) when the Rolling Stones return to Boardwalk Hall with their "Bigger Bang" tour.
"It was a very physically demanding show [for Jagger], so he used the runway to run sprints and get warmed up before the show," Fischman added.
That runway is still part of the Stones current contract rider, portions of which are posted on The Smoking Gun, a Web site whose content includes excerpts from entertainment contracts.
Each of the four core members of the Stones gets his own dressing trailer, and each trailer has a name. Jagger's, which now has a drapery-shielded runway, is known as "Workout." Drummer Watts hangs out in "Cotton Club," guitarist Wood likes to chill in "Recovery" and singer and lead guitarist Richards can be found in "Camp X-Ray," an apparent reference to the American-run detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The dressing rooms actually seem somewhat spartan by rock star standards. Other than having a trailer with a small office, Jagger's only other perk seems to be a satellite television connection so he can watch cricket games broadcast from England.
The band also carries its own snooker table, a billiard game similar to pool with a different scoring system. The table gets its own dressing trailer, too.
The Stones also insist on fairly simple floral arrangements in their dressing rooms, except for Jagger, who doesn't want any flowers. Otherwise, Richards, Watts and Wood can scrape by with one medium white Casablanca lily arrangement with weeping eucalyptus.
Fischman says he was able to knock most of the food requests out of the rider because the Rolling Stones were spending several days in the area and were camped out at the Marriott Seaview Resort in Galloway Twp., which had to black out all of the windows in the suites where the band stayed. At their own expense, the band had many of their favorite foods flown in fresh each day, including Maine lobsters.
"One thing they wanted and I agreed to was drivers available for them 24/7, in case they wanted to go anywhere," he recalls. "But other than the fugu chef, there wasn't anything in there that was really stupid. I think they throw in things like that to see if you're actually reading [the rider]."
The real nightmare with the 1989 gig was loading the show -- originally designed for stadiums and larger arenas -- into the old hall. Parts of the massive set, hauled by 53 tractor-trailers, had to be cut down by a few feet to shoehorn it onto the stage, and it took the roadies and tech crews nearly two weeks to hang the show, Fischman says.
How does it feel — to be a Rolling Stone? “Feels great,” says Wood. “It’s an unbelievable thing that’s been going on for this length of time and we’re certainly covering new ground by being the first rock and roll band to be 50 years old.”
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