Tours de Farce: Pumping Up
To be sure, various vitamin supplements and herbal treatments have been used for years by booking agents and promoters as the two sides constantly look for an edge while conducting negotiations for a Metric show or bicker about the price for a series of Michael Buble dates. However, the recent raid on the lab in question, along with the discovery of a customer list of high-profile concert professionals has some shaking their heads in disbelief.
“They don’t like to talk about it,” claims one anonymous concert insider. “You see an agent booking an up and coming act, say Atomship, at the club level. But before the week is out, he’s bulked up and is booking arena shows for Shania Twain and Sarah Brightman. How did he get he get those six-pack abs? How did he get those muscles? How did he get those contracts? It’s the concert industry’s dirty little secret.”
But it’s no secret to the hundreds of professional booking agents and promoter assistants who rely on a secret, underground network of doctors, chemists and former Rush Limbaugh employees to supply various pills and injections guaranteed to give one the upper hand when hammering out a deal for Cher, or redefining the contracts for Stampeders, Tish Hinojosa and The Thrills. Nor is it a secret to those at the Department of Justice and Concert Events, the federal organization responsible for enforcing the concert industry’s zero tolerance policies.
At issue is the emergence of a drug that laboratory tests indicate is a close relative to anabolic steroids. It is believed that this “designer” steroid can artificially increase a booking agent or promoter’s performance, thus resulting in stronger box office for acts ranging from Aerosmith to ZZ Top. Furthermore, the presence of these designer steroids cannot be detected in standard drug testing.
However, current regulations call for only sports agents to be tested on a regular basis, while concert professionals are only required to submit to blood, urine or saliva tests whenever box office results are in dispute. Because box office results are rarely contested, many professions have expressed the opinion that many agents and promoters are “playing the odds,” or gambling that the chances of getting caught taking steroids are at best remote.
Does the concert industry have a steroid problem? Are the promoters and booking agents involved with major tours such as David Bowie or Sting, secretly enhancing their bargaining talents by popping pills or self-administering anabolic suppositories? Has the concert business become so competitive that the industry’s major players have resorted to conducting after-midnight meetings in Denny’s parking lots, where they hand over cash-packed cigar boxes to shadowy figures in hopes of obtaining a magic little pill that will give them an edge when haggling over fees for Sevendust and blink-182? Has it come to this?
“Don’t be ridiculous,” says our anonymous concert insider as he pulls out a Cuban cigar and fishes for his lighter. “It’s nothing but lies and innuendo. Don’t believe a word of it.”
What? All lies? Is he sure?
“Of course I’m sure,” he answers as he bites off the end of his El Supremo. “After all, when was the last time you saw a booking agent eating at Denny’s?