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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 03/ 7/2006

Eddie Van Halen, Acting His Age

By Liz Kelly

As we grow older, so do our icons. Suddenly the latest "hot young things" seem barely legal (Keira Knightley, Lindsey Lohan) and Keith Richards' decomposition is finally somewhat age appropriate.

And, although apt to grumble about our own advancing years, we also make excuses for ourselves. We don't tend to be as forgiving of our objects of idolization. If they show their age, we mercilessly take note of every sag, every wrinkle. If they try to hide it with makeup, dye or surgery we tend to disparage their refusal grow old gracefully. In short, we want it both ways. We seem to expect our icons to always just shine on as is, forgetting that the camera can be unkind to someone who has lived in front of the flash for a few decades.


(AP)

Still, it was jaw-droppingly upsetting to see this photo of Eddie Van Halen come across the wires from Sunday's Oscar after parties.

This is almost too much to bear. 1984 - both the album and the year - may have been two decades ago, but in 1984 Eddie Van Halen was generally agreed to be the hot Van Halen brother (sorry, Alex)... at least around my junior high. And he is over a decade younger than the afore-mentioned Mr. Richards (who has been considered the extreme example of an aging rocker for about a century now).

At 51, Van Halen has had a rough past decade or so. He lost his mom, split with wife of 24 years Valerie Bertinelli, battled alcoholism and cancer and weathered so many reconfigurations of Van Halen that even I'm drained. Also, he's never traded on his looks; he staked his claim on his guitar wizardry.

This time, let's give him a pass -- let's remember Eddie in 1984 and remember that after what he's been through, he's a survivor in 2006. But maybe we can have it both ways. We can agree to look at Eddie with a forgiving eye, but maybe Eddie could agree to tame the hair, see a good dentist and stand up straight. And maybe we can hope, just a little, that the rumors about Van Halen being the next "Rock Star" reality band are true.

By Liz Kelly  | March 7, 2006; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities  
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Comments

Seems now to bear a slight resemblance to that old woman who throws cats in "The Simpsons"...

Posted by: Thor | March 7, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

You are right, we want it both ways. After all, if Eddie is looking his age what does that mean about me?

I gotta go to the gym. Later....

Posted by: OMM | March 7, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Actually, looking at Eddie makes me feel pretty good. I'm older than he is (one of the first wave of boomers turning 60 this year- arrrgghhh) and haven't gone to any great lengths to fight off the aging process, but at least I look better than THAT!

Posted by: Mike | March 7, 2006 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Am I the only one who sees a resemblance to James Brown's mug shot?

Posted by: JP | March 7, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I was thinking more like the mug shot of Nick Nolte.

Posted by: CelebrityWonk.com | March 7, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

It could be worse for Eddie(Wynona Judd's mug shot).

Posted by: OMM | March 7, 2006 3:17 PM | Report abuse

unrelated but interesting tidbit about Mr. Van Halen: In the "definitive" biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier than Heaven, the author tells of a story of a drunk Van Halen spewing apparently really vile racist curses at a black performer while a horrified Cobain looked on. Shrug. Told you it was unrelated, but every time I see him I can't help but remember it.

Posted by: perkywits | March 7, 2006 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Looks more like Schneider!

Posted by: TBG | March 7, 2006 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a big fan of Mr. Van Halen but I would like to note that for many many years he's asked to be known as "Edward". I'm not sure which is ruder to him, the patronizing comments about his age and appearance or the patronizing use of the diminutive. Either way, in my opinion a column which denegrates a person for either their age or their appearance is flatly reprehensible. I hope this turns out to be an anomaly for the Post.

Posted by: Mark Phillips | March 7, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I am not a big fan of the previous poster, and I'd like to note he is completely bereft of a sense of humor, and should perhaps visit other blog sites along the lines of "Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrone."

Posted by: OMD | March 7, 2006 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Edward rocks. Nuff said.

Posted by: The Red Rocker | March 7, 2006 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Whatever became of Aldo Nova? Can't the world use some more kickin' jams like "Children Of The Sun"? Such conflicting emotions: it rocks, yet...it makes you think.

Posted by: Thor | March 7, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Thor, your comments on Aldo Nova ring so true. Come back to us, Aldo - after all, "Life is just a fantasy..."

Posted by: OMD | March 7, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Reality show? Cmon, the band is MUCH better than that. Sold out shows all over the country last year and the boys are still kickin it.

Leave Eddie alone, he'll be back- with Wolfgang on tour...

Posted by: ED-DIE! ED-DIE! | March 7, 2006 4:40 PM | Report abuse

It's unfortunate that youth is ideolized in this country and growing older is demonized. Those biases can impact us all but it must be really tough for someone who lives(d) in the public eye. There's really no argument...we in the U.S. are a bit shallow. If anyone has ever known someone to go through chemotherapy...it can age one by years.

EVH-was one of the greats as a musician--not simply a guitarist of legendary proportions--but a musician with wonderful timing and "perfect" pitch.

He rocked & probably lived a life much fuller than many of us reading this.

Posted by: 5150 | March 7, 2006 6:54 PM | Report abuse

"I hope I die before I get old!"

Posted by: My Generation | March 7, 2006 7:27 PM | Report abuse

As far as I'm concerned he's earned the right to look however the heck he wants.

The man was a guitar visionary who was a major influence on many of the guitarists today.

Let him rest on his laurels with the grace of his age in whatever manner he see fit.

Posted by: Fiona | March 7, 2006 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Actually, he looks kind of like an artist. . .oh, wait a minute, he actually is an artist.

Posted by: Hello Dali | March 7, 2006 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Liz...

Fans of this blog better bookmark it because I can't figure out how to find it on WaPo.com if it's not linked to on the front page.

Why aren't you listed with the other blogs? Don't you have any influence over at dot.com?

Posted by: TBG | March 8, 2006 7:29 AM | Report abuse

What?
Eddie was probably just kidding around and happened to get snapped.
I've seen the man on live camera just a few weeks ago and he looked great, shirtless far away and up close.
And I've seen 50 year olds look a lot better than that photo any day.

It's just a bad shot.

Posted by: Devorah | March 8, 2006 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Looks to me that it's probably just a bad photo, and maybe a need for better hair and clothing styling. But come on, at least he still HAS hair!

Jeez, didn't David Lee Roth look like this on a *good* day??

Posted by: KJ | March 8, 2006 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Well, at least he's not gotten fat.

Posted by: Mark | March 22, 2006 6:10 AM | Report abuse

Is eddie missing some teeth, or did he just finish eating some Oreo cookies?

Posted by: Valerie B | March 23, 2006 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Ed was my absolute favorite back in the day when Dave was still in the band, me an aspiring guitarist in middle school at the time. I have no problem saying he was the defining guitarist and rock writer of the 80's, with the possible exception of U2.

This was just a bad picture. Ed rules.

Posted by: Dana Franz | March 24, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse

The worst part of all these blogs, is how
they use the word "was" like he's no longer with us! so he took some bad pics
and all of a sudden! he's all washed up?
he still is a gutiar legend who changed
rock history 4 ever, i think ed lives life
in the real world,like most of us..along
with that comes the good,bad & ugly! as
we all can relate to those terms, who
are we to judge? he's still 'REAL' with all
that fame and fortune brings him,he seems grounded!

Posted by: gloria | April 16, 2006 2:05 AM | Report abuse

eddie, as a guitarist and as a person i respect you and your guitar for giving us lovely hits songs like dreams,to love somebody,right now,r all my favourits thank u and god bless you im from india goa i play guitar but trying to do it my way im 32years old but u r still my hero

Posted by: victor fernandes | April 25, 2006 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Thor the "House" is right..we need some rocking but thinking songs! EVH is being used.

Posted by: Jewit Stein | June 1, 2006 3:17 AM | Report abuse

I BELIEVE HE HAS HAD A FEW ROUGH YEARS.IF YOU HAD CANCER,LOST A MOM,DEVORICED A WIFE,TRIED TO STAY SOBER AND BE 51,WHAT WOULD YOU LOOK LIKE? AT LEAST HE IS REAL AND NOT A FAKE.LIFE CAN BE ROUGH.I BELIEVE HE IS THE NO.1 ROCKER OF ALL TIME.NO ONE WILL EVER BE THE ROCK STAR HE IS,OR COME CLOSE.EDWARD AND ALEX WILL ALWAYS BE KING IN MY ROCK WORLD.WE ALL GROW OLD,AT LEAST THEY ARE REAL ABOUT LIFE!!

Posted by: EDWARDS NO.1 FAN FOREVER | June 24, 2006 1:25 AM | Report abuse

I thought the devil gave Eddie the same deal Keith Richards got? How come Keith looks better, and Eddie looks like an old Hungarian woman begging for cabbage?

Posted by: He got no singer | July 4, 2006 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Edward Rules. Plain and simple. All you botox injectin', fat suckin' hypocrites should go back to sticking your fingers down yer throats.
PS Do you really think the greatest guitarist to ever walk the earth gives a crap about how you wanks see him? I'd pay to see how you'd look after going through what he has.

Posted by: Greg in Canada. | July 7, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Quote "I thought the devil gave Eddie the same deal Keith Richards got? How come Keith looks better, and Eddie looks like an old Hungarian woman begging for cabbage?"

That cracked me up and absolutely made my day! Gimme some Cabbage!!!!

Posted by: About as old as Ed | July 28, 2006 10:25 AM | Report abuse

leave ed alone you asswiping sods!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 4, 2006 2:39 AM | Report abuse

DUDE what the crazy

I saw Eddie only 2 years ago, ROcking his brains out in the 2004 concert, and he was Buff, lean and still jumping around.......

this doesnt make sense, its only been 2 years

Posted by: Tiz | August 4, 2006 5:52 AM | Report abuse

It seems to me that there is an entire dimension of the man that is completely missed in every review of his existence since the early 90's. He pionered and developed guitar technology to do what he did on that first album in 1978 and since (starting at a very young age).

He had his amplier(s) electronically modified. He only used certain years of Marshalls (1968 I think). He then had those modified in such a way as to starve the circuits of power. By changing the supply of electricity (using a thing called a variac I beleive) he created a truely amazing sound that nobody but nobody had ever heard before (and arguably since).

Have you ever noticed how huge his guitar sounds on the debut release? Try to name any band that had a sound anything like that before Van Halen in 1978? Anyone? You can't because they're non-existant. They didn't even get close until well into 80's. The way to make guitars sound the way they do is too big to discuss, but there's much more here than ever gets mentioned.

Even today, after huge leaps ahead in electronics, there just aren't a lot of folks making sounds like that. I will admit that they have improved the potential of the guitar to make sounds drastically. However, the best efforts to create really "big" sounds are all done digitally.

The first bands to approach what Van Halen accomplished came in the 80's and 90's with really hard bands like Metallica and Pantera (and others). But, this effect was achieved by recording dozens of guitar tracks on top of each other. Not to mention, they had far superior equipment.

How about that equipment? Remember what a TV looked like in 1978. Now take a look across the room at what you have today. Just imagine what it would have been like to break out with a plasma TV decades before anyone else. Okay, add to the picture (punn intended) that he was just a 23 year old kid and you'll see what I mean. He was a prodigy in the truest sense.

With regard to "Eddie", music history recognizes the musicianship, but what about the natural pronation to pursue that dream? What about the fact that he experimented with winding his own pickups? He's not just a phenominal musician, there's also an engineer/inventor in this story that consistently eludes mention. The true depth of this guy, Edward Van Halen, is known by very few ordinary people.

Yes, it is accepted that Mr. Van Halen was a pioneer of the guitar. Okay, but I think this statement fails to cover exactly how much he did and how much of it the world had never seen before. Who's keeping this kind of history anyway?? MTV? Do you think they know what he did to his amps and pickups and and guitars and what else? Even if they do, have you heard it mentioned? And so, we may not remember it, but Guitar Magazine published it when he hit the scene for sure. Over and over in fact.

The solo on the debut album, "Eruption," is to this day utterly sensational. Musically it rivals what classical composers accomplished. Technically, it had never been done before... ever. This statement survives the fact that classical gutarists had been using the hammer down pull off technique probably a century prior (check out Andrés Segovia). The sheer physical speed and accuracy of his fingering and picking has only ever been matched by a handful of axe monkeys. He set the bar very high indeed. It was incredibly clean (no mistakes, no noise), and he did this while running full tilt accross the stage. Totally unbelievable!!!

You have to play guitar hard for several years to ever really appreciate what he did in 1978 and throughout his career. Truely decades ahead of his time. He was a prodigy, robbed of societal acceptance of the fact, because of the genre he excelled in.

Who cares what he looks like in this picture, he's one in a billion... period.

Posted by: Charles in Carson | August 24, 2006 3:33 AM | Report abuse

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