Lita Ford, Gene Simmons & David Fishof
HERE COME THE JESTERS 1-2-3
A Metal Sludge exclusive with Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp founder David Fishof.
By: Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
HOLLYWOOD — Rock ain’t dead, not by a long shot. Some of the biggest rock stars in the world participate in Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp, a mega-successful venture put forth by East Coast music icon David Fishof, who first got his name as the promoter for Ringo Starr’s All-Star tours.
It took a while to shape the idea of Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp – basically, rich folks shell out money to jam with rock stars for a week or so and to put on a show together – and by now it’s really caught on.
There’s a special Def Leppard camp coming in April in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand – the new permanent home for the camp – and the list of past participants includes such notables as Steven Tyler, Roger Daltrey, Bill Wyman, Alice Cooper, Slash, Gene Simmons and lots of others.
FISHOF loves it, the rockers love it, and most of all the campers love it with lots of returnees, so what could be bad?
METAL SLUDGE: The Rock N Roll Fantasy camps have become very popular, David. What’s it all about?
DAVID FISHOF: Well, I started 16 years ago. I got the idea when Joe Walsh from the Eagles and Levi Helm of the Band played a practical joke on me on an all-star tour that I was promoting. I walked into the dressing room, and there was fake blood and knives and broken glass, like I was breaking up a fight, and they both turned around and stuck their tongues at me. The pulled a prank, and that’s something that when you tour all summer together, you realize how much it has to have all these all-stars together. I had done these all-star tours with Billy Preston, Clarence Clemons, Peter Frampton, a bunch of others for all these years, all these rockers together, and I just thought it would make a great camp, having all these rockers together. That’s how I got the idea – it was sprung together from the all-star tours and how much fun we had together with these guys, and I just thought that fans would love to hang out like this, and that’s how I created the Rock N Roll Fantasy camp.
SLUDGE: And it’s evolving.
DAVID FISHOF: It’s really about music and changing lives and giving people their dreams. We’ve created a permanent home at the MGM in Las Vegas, a 10,000 square-foot facility, and it’s amazing, and we’re sponsored by Roland, DW Drums, Fender and Gibson.
SLUDGE: Tell me about the first camp.
FISHOF:It was in Miami in 1997. The highlights were getting Nils Lofgren and Clarence Clemons, and they did an E Street music class, and we had Mark Farner from Grand Funk and Mike Love from the Beach Boys.
SLUDGE: Was Mike Love a prick? Everyone says he’s a prick.
FISHOF: To me that day he was great.
SLUDGE: OK, go on.
FISHOF: Anyway, the first day that all the rockers came, the high was when I walked through the lobby of the hotel, and all these media guys were sitting in the lobby. Newsweek magazine, a bunch of others. It was crazy. That’s when I knew it was a fabulous idea. I loved the idea.
SLUDGE: So it went well?
FISHOF: Not exactly. The bad news was, we only had 14 paid campers. I needed 50 at least, and I lost a lot of money.
SLUDGE: How much money?
FISHOF: Six figures.
FISHOF: Yeah, so I decided not to do it again because it was a lot of money to me, a big loss.
SLUDGE: So what happened?
FISHOF: Well, three years later I was at the Pollstar convention, and they were playing a game with the rock stars, like “Who wants to be a millionaire.” It was with Sammy Hagar, Tommy Lee and Tommy Shaw from Styx. Then, one of the questions came up – who started the Rock N Roll Fantasy camp? Was it David Bowie, was it David Byrne, etc., and Tommy Lee got the answer right. He said it was David FISHOF, and I was standing there and just turned and thought, “Wow.” I couldn’t believe it. I remember thinking it was a good idea in the first place, and I decided to do it again. I called Bret Michaels and George Thorogood and asked them to do it.
SLUDGE: Interesting. You knew Bret Michaels well enough to just call and ask him? How did you know him?
FISHOF: I met a lot of these people doing Ringo Starr tours, putting together the Ringo Starr All-Star Band, and I had done the Monkees tour in ’86, the 20th anniversary tour as a promoter and producer, and we sold out arenas on that tour, so by this time I knew a lot of people, so I just picked up the phone and called.
SLUDGE: Were you tempted to call Ringo Starr, or was he just too big to do something like this? You know, being in the Beatles and all.
FISHOF: No, I never approached him about this. I didn’t think that was a good idea because I was doing the All-Star Band, and I didn’t want to mix the two together.
FISHOF: The second one was in Los Angeles, and the third one was in New York City.
Fishof & Slash
SLUDGE: They were successful?
FISHOF: Yeah, they were successful. Then I went to England and asked Roger Daltrey if he would do it because I knew Roger from having collaborated with him on the British Rock Symphony tour. We had also done a record with that. I did the camps once a year, then about five years ago we started doing them more than once a year, and I decided not to do tours anymore and to dedicate myself to do this full-time.
SLUDGE: You enjoy it?
FISHOF: I love it. It’s amazing. I open emails every day from people thanking me for a lifetime opportunity and for changing their lives, their business lives and their personal lives. The camps really give people a transformation, and the rock stars love it, too. You can see the effect the camps have on people, the friendships that build. What it’s done for me, what’s it’s done for the rockers, what it’s done for the campers – it’s all a life-changing experience.
SLUDGE: Tell me about some of the campers through the years.
FISHOF: We’ve had all different types, some interesting occupations. We had the guy who owned American Seafood, the guy from Oracle, plus teachers and doctors and even a young 9-year kid who showed he can really shred on guitar. You have women. They’re great on stage, and that’s been exciting, just watching them grow as musicians and singers. One lady got discovered at the camp and is touring with Vivian Campbell – a great story. The way people have grown over the years, it’s been fun. It’s not about the money. It’s really about giving people this amazing experience.
Def Leppard Fantasy Camp is the fastest selling camp to date!
SLUDGE: Who are some of the biggest stars you’ve had at the camp.
FISHOF: Roger Daltrey, Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, Steven Tyler, Slash, Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, the guys from Kiss. We’ve had Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. It’s just been amazing. We’re doing a camp now with Def Leppard in April, and this time we decided to do the whole band, and it’s been the fastest-selling camp we’ve ever had.
SLUDGE: Do these camps sell out? Do you have turn people away?
FISHOF: Yeah, they sell out now. We’re doing Sammy Hagar this week, and it’s soldout. Plus, I have some breaking news. We just signed Jeff Beck to do a camp on April 18 through 21. That’s really big. Besides Plant and Page, he is about as big as it gets. He’s right up there. He’s doing the camp with Brian Wilson.
SLUDGE: Wilson seems a bit weird. Does he do a good job?
FISHOF: Oh yeah. He’s done it twice before. He has a lot of personality. He even does an exclusive concert for the campers.
SLUDGE: Really? Did you ask him to this?
FISHOF: No, he came up with the idea on his own!
SLUDGE: Have you ever kicked a camper out? You know, some guy comes in and just really blows it?
FISHOF: One guy from Wall Street. He was the head of some big corporation and he just felt like he was better than all the campers – and better than all the rockers, too. We had to ask him to leave.
SLUDGE: What other wacky things have gone on? You must have some stories.
FISHOF: Well, one time a guy showed up in a suit and tie, and it turned out he was a process server for the court, and he was there to serve one of the rock stars. That was interesting.
FISHOF: I know what you’re thinking. I can’t give you his name! (laughs)
SLUDGE: I understand.
FISHOF: So many things have happened. Conan O’Brien came once with a guitar, and he was looking to make fun of the camp for a comedy routine for his TV show. But after he participated for a while, O’Brien pulls me aside and says: “I can’t make fun of these people. They take this camp too seriously. It wouldn’t be right.”
SLUDGE: There is an interesting social dynamic.
FISHOF: There is. I think what’s the most fun of all is seeing how people who’ve never met before, and all of sudden you’re put in a room with five people to collaborate and make music together. The big problem is the fear factor, and the rockers are the counselors, and they get rid of your fear. I remember Scott Hamilton, the gold medal-winning Olympic skater, he signed up to do our camp, and three days before he calls me and says he’s scared about jamming with Steven Tyler because he’s afraid he’ll make a fool of himself. I told him: “Listen, you skate in front of a billion people on TV, how can you be scared to play drums? You’ve got to come.” As things turned out, he loved it. He told me it was the greatest experience of his life – except for maybe winning a gold medal! (laughs)
David with Paul Stanley of KISS
SLUDGE: This is Metal Sludge, David. You have to give us a name of rock star who totally fucked up. There has to be at least one.
FISHOF: Peter Tork of the Monkees. He’s a great guy, and he thought he could do the camp, and he wanted to do the camp, but he just did not know how to deal with so many people around him. It just didn’t work out for Peter.
SLUDGE: You’ve done a book, too, “Rock Your Business.” Tell us about it.
FISHOF: Yeah, it’s about you and your company, and what you can learn from the business of rock and roll. It was No. 23 on amazon, it’s doing well. I tell my stories, the bands I’ve produced, the lessons I’ve learned – all from my association with rock stars, all from what I’ve learned from rock stars. It’s funny, it’s real, and it’s getting a great response.
Rock N’ Roll Fantasy Camp @ Website
Gerry Gittelson can be reached @ firstname.lastname@example.org