Wait, so you think that being in Van Halen made Marin County's own Sammy Hagar wealthy? Not quite. Actually, it was the booze -- Hagar's famous Cabo Wabo tequila brand and Cabo San Lucas restaurant -- and various other business ventures that now have Hagar and his family tripping the life aristocratic. That's at least according to an extensive new Chronicle profile of the one-time Van Halen singer, self-proclaimed Red Rocker, restaurateur, philanthropist, and longtime Bay Area resident.
You've probably heard about Red, Hagar's new autobiography, which
recounts his own rough childhood in Southern California, the sex-and-drug-filled
lifestyle of his touring rock star days, and the innumerable
difficulties of working with Eddie and Alex Van Halen. Less tawdry but also interesting
is the degree to which Hagar, the "I Can't Drive 55" singer who barely made it through school, is
actually a crazy -- but apparently brilliant -- business man. Inspired by Keith Richards' wedding in the sleepy Baja fishing town of Cabo San Lucas, Hagar envisioned building a new cantina there, and, despite numerous difficulties, including drug-dealing employees, made Cabo Wabo work:
In 1990, Van Halen opened the place, to a capacity crowd. Even MTV got in on the action, promoting the club and the concert. But when the band left town, Cabo Wabo sat mostly empty, and his employees started using the cantina to sell drugs. The manager was stealing every fixture and piece of furniture that wasn't nailed down, Hagar said. Finally, the federales closed it.Hagar also owned a bike shop in Sausalito, is working on opening a restaurant in Marin, briefly started a clothing line (sorry, but we can see why that failed), and still tours with a band. He even gets onstage to rock out at his Mexico cantina. All of which proves that if nothing else, Hagar is way too sane to affiliate with those other dudes in Van Halen.
"Eddie and Alex were screaming," Hagar said. "They wanted to unload it and take their losses as a tax write-off. I didn't want to just walk away from it. The place had so much potential. I saw something there."
Hagar told his bandmates that he'd assume the debt and give them the write-off. Eddie Van Halen declined comment for this story through his wife and publicist, Janie Van Halen.
Hagar and his new partner, the architect who designed the cantina, made Viaña the manager. Within months, the place was turning a profit.