Unusual facts about Van Halen

Published April 11, 2012

The handsome blond guy likes to wear tight pants. The quiet one who's next to him — well, he seems pretty proficient on the guitar. I can barely see the drummer behind the sunglasses. And who let the kid with the bass on stage? • The truth is, if you've breathed air on this planet at one point or another over the past 30 years, you probably know more about Van Halen than that. SoCal's hard-rocking legends once simultaneously ruled FM radio dials, record-store bins, music magazines and gossip rags. David Lee Roth and Eddie and his famous family members have cranked out anthems such as Runnin' With the Devil, Panama and Jump — and enjoyed life to the hilt. • But how much do you really know about the boys, who'll visit the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday on another eardrum-splitting tour? Here are some of the more unusual facts we dug up. Steve Spears, Times staff writer

Edward Van Halen

 Born in Nijmegen, Netherlands. His father was a band leader whose clarinet work can be heard on the song Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now) on the 1982 album Diver Down.

 Began his music career by taking piano lessons and playing drums (before switching instruments with brother Alex, who was then learning the guitar).

 Often appears uncredited on other musicians' works, most famously as the guitar soloist on Michael Jackson's Beat It.

 A recovering alcoholic who battled throat cancer in 2000.

Alex Van Halen

 Is about two years older than brother Eddie. Neither could speak much English when the family arrived in the United States in the 1960s.

 The instrumental Respect the Wind from the Twister soundtrack features Alex on keyboard — his only appearance on an album outside of Van Halen.

 An ordained minister, he officiated at the wedding of his brother and Janie Liszewski in 2009.

 Likes to use the biggest drumsticks available.

Wolfgang Van Halen

 Born March 16, 1991, to Eddie and actor/then-wife Valerie Bertinelli, who once said, "Ed is the best father Wolfie could have."

 Was just 16 years old when he began his first full-time tour with Van Halen in 2007. "Wolfie had it the toughest on tour," Eddie told Rolling Stone. "He had three or four hours of [tutoring] every day, and then the gig."

 Actively participates on Twitter as @wolfvanhalen.

 Reportedly dating Olivia Ebert, a 2010 Miss Kansas Teen USA contestant.

David Lee Roth

 Though he's usually associated with Southern California, he was born in Bloomington, Ind. His father, a prominent eye doctor, earned enough wealth to be featured on TV's Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

 Among his nonmusical skills: He has a pilot's licence for flying helicopters; he speaks fluent Spanish.

 After leaving Van Halen in 1985 and struggling as a solo artist, he trained to be an emergency medical technician in New York and went on more than 200 ambulance rides with paramedics.

 In a 2004 episode of The Sopranos, he played himself in a VIP poker game that involved Tony Soprano.