Why there was no tour insurance for John's death

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 1 12:09:28 CDT 2004

>From Newsweek on line at:
(see 5th paragraph)

Rock 'Til You Drop
Rock's 'heritage acts' are still the biggest concert
draws. But when they pull up lame, insurers can be
left holding the bag
By Jennifer Ordoñez

Aug. 9 issue - Twenty-three years ago, when Chuck
Leavell auditioned to be the Rolling Stones' new
keyboard player, the first thing he saw was a shock.
"It was Mick Jagger in a jogging suit and he was going
out for a run," he recalls. By now Leavell's used to
the boss's health regimen. Last week Jagger turned 61,
and doesn't look a day over ... let's just say he and
the Stones are still a big draw. But it's ultimately a
losing battle. In just 19 years, Jagger will be an
octogenarian—and lucky to be Walkin' Jack Flash.
Bankable attractions like Jagger are the concert
industry's biggest blessing—and its worst headache.
While younger acts have had trouble selling tickets
this summer—kids, after all, have only so much
disposable income—well-heeled middle-aged fans still
seem eager to shell out big bucks to see what the
industry refers to as "heritage acts": the classic
rockers who didn't die before they got old. But Father
Time is breathing down the stringy necks of the
geriatric rockers who remain live music's biggest
moneymakers. Nobody frets much today about their
consumption of drugs and alcohol—promoters and agents
wonder if the boys are getting enough sleep and taking
their Lipitor.

How long can the likes of Simon and Garfunkel, the
Eagles, Cher and Aerosmith go prancing around onstage
for three hours—now usually fueled by nothing more
than grim determination? Last month David Bowie, 57,
canceled 15 dates of his summer tour after undergoing
emergency heart surgery. Meat Loaf canceled dates on
his 2003 tour owing to intestinal problems; when he
resumed six months later he collapsed onstage and was
rushed to the hospital for "a procedure related to a
cardiac condition." Ozzy Osbourne, Willie Nelson and
members of the Stones and Fleetwood Mac have also
recently called in sick. "The acts getting the big
dollars are up there in age," says Gary Bongiovanni,
editor of Pollstar, a magazine that tracks the concert
industry, "and there's concern about what's going to
happen when they're just physically unable to do it

But the music industry can worry about that later. The
immediate issue is what to do when thousands of people
have bought hundred-dollar-plus tickets and an ailing
rocker can't cut the mustard. Concert-cancellation
insurance has become big business, in large part
because so many acts are touring as much as
possible—while they still can. Meanwhile their shows
are getting more elaborate and expensive—a few
canceled Stones concerts can cost millions of dollars.
By some estimates, premiums have doubled during the
past five years. On a tour expected to gross $100
million, a band may spend $3 million to $5 million on
cancellation insurance. "The minute an artist has a
tickle in their throat, they have to tell someone
immediately so we can notify the insurer that it may
be a rough day tomorrow," says William Zysblat, whose
company, RZO, manages Bowie, the Stones and Sting.

So far, the risk seems to make sense, to both
performers and insurers. "These tours are making so
much money that it's worth paying the premium," says
Roger Sandau, chief executive of Robertson Taylor, the
leading firm for "music contingency" insurance. But
this summer insurers have taken some big hits—and not
just because of the geezers. Britney Spears canceled
her summer tour to have knee surgery.

Not all disabilities are covered by insurance. The
Who's bassist, John Entwistle, 57, died of a heart
attack in a Las Vegas hotel in 2002, the day before
the band was to kick off a three-month summer tour.
Coroner's reports said cocaine was found in his
system. "That typically is excluded from policies,"
says one insider who is familiar with the episode.
Sure enough, the tour proceeded with a substitute. But
on most oldster tours, sex and drugs—though not rock
and roll—have been replaced by yoga, Pilates and soy
milk, as well as a more forgiving schedule: two nights
on, one night off. "Their lifestyle has shifted," says
Dr. Sean Nasseri, who treats several rock stars.
"There's little extracurricular activity."

At least not the kind that's any fun. Jagger now has a
physiotherapist in his entourage, and Styx
guitarist-vocalist James Young, 54, eats a bland diet
on the road in deference to his aging colon; his drug
of choice is caffeine. "I'm a coffee addict," Young
says, "and I'm not sure it's helping matters." And
Chuck Leavell remembers running into onetime Aerosmith
party animal Joe Perry in the exercise room at a hotel
in Japan. "In the old days," he says, "it was 'Let's
go hang out in your room,' but now it's like, 'Let's
meet at the gym'."

With aging rockers, it's sometimes best for the show
not to go on. Dr. David Slavit, who's often called on
to examine ailing artists on behalf of insurance
companies, says he sometimes recommends a performer
cancel a show rather than risk more damage.
"Prolonging an illness is going to be more costly," he
says. And you've got to watch the occupational
hazards. On one recent tour, Slavit treated a singer's
throat problems by switching him from an oil-based
smoke machine to a less-irritating water-based model.

Still, preventive medicine can't cure a lack of common
sense. Osbourne should have stayed off that
four-wheeler that tumbled over and nearly killed him
last year. Van Halen's Sammy Hagar, 56, is still a
notorious tequila hound. And let's not even talk about
rock's all-time legendary bad boy, Keith Richards, 60,
who still ... chain-smokes. You know, cigarettes. But
even Richards has said he's sworn off cell phones
because "it's like sticking your head in a microwave
oven. It's very bad for you." The Stones' insurers
must have breathed a sigh of relief.

© 2004 Newsweek, Inc.

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