Wolfgang Van Halen, the front man of the band Mammoth WVH, made himself comfortable in an armchair in a replica of Central Perk, the coffee shop of the sitcom “Friends”. He was about to take a private tour of Gramercy Park outside of Friends Experience hours, an “interactive celebration” of the show. (Tickets usually start at forty-five dollars.) Van Halen was dressed all in black: shorts, a T-shirt, a mammoth hoodie, and two masks. Despite being the son of the late guitar god Eddie Van Halen, he is an unusual rock star. A self-described “idiot” struggling with anxiety, drinking, smoking or non-drug use. “I don’t have the personality type that my job requires,” Van Halen said quietly, hands in sweatshirt pockets.
When he’s out – his band opened stadium shows for Guns N ‘Roses – he usually enjoys playing the video game Apex Legends with his band’s guitarist, Frank Sidoris. On today’s excursion, Van Halen was accompanied by Sidoris, Van Halen’s uncle and “Consigliere” Patrick Bertinelli, and seven other people. Van Halen grew up in Los Angeles and often watched Friends on DVD after school with his mother, actress Valerie Bertinelli. “I remember seeing the final live,” he said, looking back at 2004. “I feel so old there.” Van Halen is thirty.
The musician, who still lives in LA, said his favorite “Friends” character is Chandler Bing, played by Matthew Perry. “Chandler is one of the main reasons I’m a sarcastic person,” said Van Halen. As proof of his sarcasm, he offered his Twitter account, on which he likes to fight with trolls like JokersWild45, who questioned whether Eddie, who died of cancer in October 2020, was actually Wolfgang’s father. (“I’m super curious how the homeboy got a sample of my DNA to test these ‘theories’,” tweeted Wolfgang.)
Valerie Bertinelli had a chance, as it turned out, of a role on “Friends” as Carol, Ross’ pregnant ex-wife, but she didn’t accept the meeting. “My reason was pathetic,” she wrote in her 2008 memoir. “I felt too fat to stand next to Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow.” Her son understands, “We could both really use a dose of self-confidence.” Van Halen has been performing professionally since he was fifteen when he replaced Michael Anthony as bassist in the band Van Halen and toured (and later recorded) with his father, uncle Alex and David Lee Roth. More recently, he sang and played every instrument on Mammoth’s self-titled debut LP, which hit # 1 Billboards Top rock and hard rock album charts.
Van Halen trusts in one thing: its “friends” knowledge. “Nobody can beat me on Friends quizzes,” he said. He walked through the 18-room Friends Experience, a maze of Instagram ops, and explained the props and costumes on display. For example, “Ross can’t find a Santa suit, so he is given an armadillo suit to try to teach his son about Hanukkah.”
He put on a display case with Phoebe’s acoustic guitar, on which she sang the song “Smelly Cat”. The headstock bore the Gibson logo, but Van Halen was dubious. “It just looks like a stage prop,” he said. He recorded a few tracks on the Mammoth album using his father’s red, white, and black Frankenstein guitar, a copy of which is in the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC
Van Halen moved on to the gift shop. Since the exhibition was technically closed, no one was there to edit the register. Nevertheless, Van Halen looked at a cotton bag with the inscription “MIST BAG. ”He explained the reference: It was Paul Rudd’s character Mike, who went by the name Crap Bag. Van Halen said that as soon as he got back to the tour bus, he planned to go online and buy one. “It’s just funny: a bag with the word ‘crap’ on it – easy,” he said. “I carry my purchases in there.” ♦