Treasures of the Valley

Van Halen Played La Cañada and Montrose – The Glendale High Show

For the last couple of weeks I have detailed some local history involving one of the great rock bands, Van Halen. I had interviewed former La Cañada resident Dan Sullivan. When just out of high school in 1975, he promoted a handful of local concerts for Van Halen, just as they were on the cusp of their rise to fame. Dan had success with a La Cañada High School show and a Lanterman Auditorium show. Dan was doing pretty well for an 18-year-old kid who’d never done this before. Next on the show tour would be a concert utilizing Glendale High School’s auditorium. This proved to be a disaster! Dan relates the problems he had:

“I guess they’d heard about us in Glendale. Went to Glendale, tried to use their high school auditorium [and] we sold out all these tickets. What happened was they wanted a million dollars public liability insurance. I’m living at home, just 18. I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure no problem.’ Got on the phone started calling insurance companies just out of the yellow pages. They were like, ‘Million dollar liability, sure. What for?’ ‘Rock concert.’ I went through the whole phone book. There was just no way I was getting it.”

Apparently, Glendale had issued a contract but perhaps thought better of it afterward. They insisted that Dan needed to provide liability insurance in order to go through with the concert and Dan couldn’t find a company willing to write the policy.

Dan continues: “I already had a contract. They gave me a contract without the conditions. I’m a dumb kid. They’re trying to slide this in as a condition later and I’m sure I can figure it out. When I couldn’t figure it out, they just pulled the contract. They pulled the plug on the show the week of.”

Now Dan was in trouble. Ticket sales would need to be refunded. And the band wouldn’t get paid for what had promised to be a lucrative gig.

“I called the band. They were going to get $500 for this show. They were like, ‘No, you can’t cancel.’ ‘What do you mean I can’t? We have to. We don’t have insurance for the concert. Do you guys have insurance?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then we have to book another show at another date another place.’ So I was thinking I’m going to lose all this money. I got to sue the City of Glendale.”

But instead it was Dan who got sued, in an oddly friendly, but business-like way.

“David Lee Roth [of the band] was like, ‘I’m a business guy. And you’re a business guy. And this is business, and you owe me $500 bucks.’ David was like, ‘I’m gonna sue you in small claims court.’ ‘Are you kidding me Dave? We’re all friends. We’re still doing shows together.’

“So Dave handed me the papers. We’re going to court. I tried to sue Glendale, because they were the ones who really screwed things up. But this is the money shot – I don’t think anyone took a photo but the entire band came to court in suits. I’m not kidding. David Lee Roth, Eddie, all with long hair. My dad and I sat on one side of the courtroom and the whole band on the other side, all prim and proper, and they had a little folder with the contract in it. It was a case-closed kind of deal. The judge said, ‘Well, they have a contract; you didn’t pay them. My excuse about not getting insurance didn’t hold any water. Case closed. Pay the men 500 dollars.”

I got the impression when talking to Dan that he never did pay the band the $500. And, in fact, that $500 became a running joke as he continued his friendship with David Lee Roth during the years the band was famous and wealthy. But Dan did offer them a make-up show at the Montrose Theater, and I’ll cover that in next week’s column.

Mike Lawler is the former president of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley
and loves local history.
Reach him at