When you are a super famous megastar you are permitted the luxury of unreasonable requests. It’s called a ‘rider’. Quite simply it’s the condition of putting on a performance – it’s what you expect when you’re backstage. As a performer for over 30 years who has sat crammed next to toilet rolls in a supply room, dealt with dirty undies in the manager’s office and sat in a cold concrete outdoor space under a tarp in cyclonic conditions, I understand that when you crack the big time you might pull a few diva requests. I guess it’s a reminder to yourself, and the rest of the world that you have ‘arrived’. It’s payback for the plastic chair in an unlit storeroom next to the janitor’s wank tissues.
When I tour with Ellen Briggs for Women Like Us we have a rider; it’s two bottles of water, two chairs and a kettle. We bring our own tea bags. We don’t insist on fur-lined seating or fancy china. The last shows we performed at didn’t even have cups. So we two divas were going through bins looking for an improvised receptacle to have a cup of tea. The leg on my chair was wonky and there was an arctic gale blowing through the room. There was no toilet. Or mirror. The carpet hadn’t been vacuumed since about 1979. In the corner was a rolled up blanket that looked like a body was inside. Neither of us was game to check. Outside, hundreds of women were screaming in enthusiasm for us to take the stage. Meanwhile the stars were drinking Beroccas out of recycled cardboard cups. I said ‘Ellen, we have to up our rider game. And we might have to bury that body’.
There’s nothing as thrilling as a fancy dressing room. Mirrors with lights around them fill me with joy. A velvet lounge, bunches of flowers, a fruit platter, bottles of wine, sandwiches… I don’t drink alcohol or eat gluten, but that’s not the point. It’s fabulous. In that pre-show moment when you have to get your head together to face an audience, it’s nice to be reminded you’re a star – even if you’re not. Casinos have some of the most fabulous dressing rooms. I guess that’s what gambling and the misery of someone else’s loss buys you.
I did a casino show a while back. It was a 2000 seat theatre, so the dressing room was pretty incredible. It had separate rooms with couches and flowers. The doors had stars with the performer’s name on them. The main room had a cháise with a giant table full of snacks. Comedians usually can’t handle it. I did see one comic just park himself at the food and smash nearly all the sandwiches. He went into a carb coma. Every drop of booze was drained. I’d been there before. I said to one of the staff ‘I was here a few months ago and you’ve changed all the red couches to white. They looked brand new – why the change?’ There were probably ten couches in the whole area. He told me that Mariah Carey had been through, and she only sits on white leather. I was like ‘Wow, I wouldn’t even think about requesting seating colour. I’m lucky to get a plastic chair’.
Paul McCartney apparently doesn’t do animal print. He’s a committed vegan and he doesn’t even like synthetic animal print. Nothing backstage can be an animal product. Beyoncé likes her dressing room at 25.5 degrees. She likes chicken legs seasoned with cayenne pepper, and rose scented candles. I don’t know how anyone can smell the rose above the chicken. And she has a sponsorship arrangement with Pepsi, so absolutely no Coca Cola. I really need to get a sponsorship arrangement. Maybe Berocca?
Adele asks for a packet of ciggies, fresh fruit, but absolutely no citrus. Van Halen is such a dick he likes M&Ms, but the brown ones have to be removed. Kanye likes a barber’s chair and a tub of yoghurt. I don’t want to know what he does to himself in that chair.
Rhianna insists everything is draped with dark blue or black with icy blue chiffon on top; white tulips – no foliage. She’s very insistent about the no foliage. Justin Bieber is kind of adorable, he asks for soft drinks, a Vicks inhaler, an ironing board and a size XS T-shirt. He asks for a private bathroom. Which I think is fair enough. You should be able to leave five-star star skid marks on the porcelain before you take the stage. Will Ferrell probably has my favourite rider request. An electric three-wheel mobility scooter with a painted rainbow on the wheels and a 15 foot tall fake tree. Clearly he’s taking the piss. But when he turns up – the scooter, the rainbow and the tree are all there. That’s star power. Ellen and I can’t even manage to get real cups.
So I’ve written up a new rider. I thought long and hard about what I want. I don’t give a shit about foliage, or what colour the chairs are. I would like to keep working until I’m old. So I’ve put in just one thing: ‘End climate change’. Let’s see how they go with that. Makes Will Farrell’s rainbow-painted wheels look easy.