Never Say Never

Sammy "The Red Rocker" Hagar

Samuel Roy Hagar was born on October 13, 1947, the youngest of four children. He grew up in the small town of Fontana, California, where his father was a steel worker and bantamweight professional boxer. But his dad was also a relentless alcoholic, so Sammy’s mother was forced to accept odd jobs to help support the family, including picking fruit in the local orchards. Sammy and his siblings often helped with the backbreaking chores.

Although at the time, Fontana boys were expected to grow up and work in the steel plant as their fathers had done, Sammy wanted more out of life.

That was when Elvis Presley hit the scene. Sammy was hooked. He knew that was what he wanted to do with his life—to sing and play music. And he was determined to make it happen.

After playing in various local rock bands, Sammy became the lead singer for Montrose in 1973, with whom he recorded two successful records before he went solo, recording nine albums, including a side project in 1997 with a band called HSAS (Hagar, Schon, Aaronson and Shrieve). In 1985, he joined the legendary rock band Van Halen, replacing David Lee Roth as lead singer. With Hagar behind the mic, Van Halen recorded four albums, all of which went to number one on the Billboard charts. He also recorded a solo album at that time, “I Never Said Goodbye” on which Eddie Van Halen played bass.

In 1990, Sammy opened the Cabo Wabo cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; the other members of Van Halen initially investing in the project as well. But when the bar began to falter within a few years, Sammy held fast to his dream, bought out the Van Halen brothers and restructured the entire business. Under new management, the Cabo Wabo cantina sprang to life once again. It continues to host live shows from famous performers all over the world and Sammy is known to pop in once in a while himself, sometimes to perform and sometimes just to chill. He also owns a house in Cabo, to which he retreats whenever possible.

Around this time, Sammy also began brewing his own premium tequila, which he also called Cabo Wabo. And in 2006, Cabo Wabo tequila was declared the number two premium tequila in the world. In 2007, Skyy/Campari purchased the brand to help distribute it worldwide.

When the Van Halen band broke up in 1996, Hagar’s driving spirit pushed him ever forward, and he went on to form his own band, The Wabos. To date, he has recorded eight more albums with The Wabos. He also did a reunion tour with Van Halen in 2004, and in 2007, along with the other members of Van Halen, he was inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Sammy continues to record and tour with The Wabos and with Chickenfoot, a “supergroup” consisting of Hagar on lead vocals, guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani on lead guitar, Michael Anthony (formerly of Van Halen) on bass and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith on drums. Chickenfoot’s debut album, “Chickenfoot” was released in 2009, and was met with rave reviews from music critics. Their second album, “Chickenfoot III” is due for release this fall, 2011.

Sammy’s autobiography, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, was published in April 2011, chronicling his life from his meager beginnings on through the break-up of Van Halen to his current role in Chickenfoot. The book became a #1 New York Times best seller.

In addition to his restaurant/bar in Mexico, Hagar also owns several Cabo Wabo cantinas across the nation—one in Las Vegas and one in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada, where he performs regularly to sold-out crowds. He also owns “Sammy’s Beach Bar and Grill” restaurants in Maui, HI and St. Louis, MO. These establishments donate their profits to local charities. Sammy plans to expand these outlets in the near future.

He currently resides in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife, Kari, and daughters, Kama and Samantha. He also has two grown sons, Aaron and Andrew, from a previous marriage.

Who says one can’t accomplish anything one desires?

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After interviewing Tiffanie DeBartolo, author of the film, “Dream for an Insomniac,” and the books “God-Shaped Hole” and “How to Kill a Rock Star,” with two more on the way, I realized that our discussion was all about passion in music and how it helped each of us discover our personal truths. Passion is an emotion. Emotion is the language of the soul. What we feel passionate about brings us joy. Joy brings us to God. (And it doesn’t matter what one’s definition of God is because that word means different things to different people.) What we feel passionate about is the very thing that will bring us self-discovery, transformation, enlightenment—God.

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The Best Definition of Heaven and Hell


February 24, 2011

I grew up in an era when the Mass was all in Latin and as a Catholic school student, I had to go to church every morning before class. I remember sitting in pews crammed with children like me, all wearing our coats because it was Wisconsin and cold outside, our bookbags and metal lunch pails taking up what little room there was on the floor in front of us behind the kneelers and on the wooden pews where we were supposed to sit. It was kind of like a contest to see who would pass out first—I bet today it’ll be that third-grader, little Johnny B. in Sister Agatha’s class…

All the while, men in robes at the foot of the altar chanted in Latin and waved incense that made my nose sting and my stomach churn. I didn’t understand it, but that’s the way it was, so I didn’t question it. Then afterward, back in our classroom, our teacher, Sister Bernadette, would tell us about how we were supposed to fear the Lord and if we didn’t spend our whole lives repenting, we would go to hell when we died.

Okay, this is my interpretation. Organized religion satisfies the spiritual needs of a lot of people and I think that’s great. It just didn’t work for me. I saw too much hypocrisy there and too many double standards, like why couldn’t women be priests? And how could a priest counsel people on marriage if he wasn’t allowed to marry?

And how could I ever be really happy since, being born a sinner, I was supposed to spend my whole life pleasing God, who, because I was a sinner, I wasn’t humanly capable of pleasing in the first place? But I was obligated to try anyway. And if God were in a particularly agreeable mood the day I died, He might consider letting me into heaven if I was lucky and if I’d been good. But there were no guarantees. All this did was make me feel small and inadequate.

The more I thought about it, the more I decided that gnashing my teeth and burning in hell didn’t sound like my idea of a good time. On the other hand, cloud-squatting didn’t sound too interesting either. I mean, just how many clouds can one count and how many songs can one learn to play on the harp before one gets bored, even if one has an inclination to these types of activities, which I don’t? Eternity is a long time!

I also don’t think God is vengeful. I don’t think God can be anything but love. And I don’t think God wants to be feared because fear is the opposite of love.

The best definition of heaven and hell that I’ve ever heard, comes from an ancient Zen story. It goes something like this:

“Is there such a thing as heaven and hell?” a student once asked his teacher.

“Oh yes!” replied the teacher.

Surprised at this response, the student asked his teacher to explain.

“And how are you feeling right now, at this moment?” the teacher asked.

The sun was shining, the day was warm, the student had just finished a nice breakfast and was basically in good health.

Confused, the student replied, “Fine, why?”

“That is heaven,” the teacher told him. Then without missing a beat, the teacher promptly picked up his foot and stomped it down as hard as he could upon the student’s bare foot, causing the student to cry out in excruciating pain. “And that, my dear student, is hell,” said the teacher.

Like all Zen stories, this story is open to one’s interpretation. To me, it means that heaven and hell are here and now, not some place we go when we die. It also means that heaven and hell, like all things, are subject to each person’s perception and may mean something different to you than it does to me.

At first glance, my Catholic background would have told me that if there’s no “place” called heaven, and no reward for living a good life, that makes me feel kind of empty and that my life has no meaning. But the more I think about it, the more I see it’s quite the opposite. I believe in reincarnation. I believe in God. I believe in living my life right now, to the best of my ability to be a good person. And I believe that God has given us gifts and when we discover them and implement them, we become a light unto others. These things bring me to God and that, to me, is what it’s all about.


Book Review: “Life” by Keith Richards

April 27, 2011

Although the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was released in 1968, I think the first time I heard it was the summer of 1972, when I was between 8th and 9th grade. I went to a dance at my high school and a local band was playing that song. It was LOUD. I remember standing there on that wooden floor in the gym and trying to absorb the sound. It rocked like nothing I had ever heard. Up until that point, I’d lead a pretty sheltered life in Catholic school, and since we’d just moved to another state and I was finally going to be attending the public school in the fall, that was the first time I’d actually been exposed to the real world, so I wasn’t even quite sure what “rocked” was; I just knew the song got me in the gut, a place where “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” by The Lettermen—a song my best friend Mary-Beth used to listen to—couldn’t come close to touching in me.

In his newly-published autobiography, “Life,” Keith Richards understands this. He writes, “It’s not something you take in the head, it’s something you take in the guts.”

And later he says,

That feeling is worth more than anything. There’s a certain moment when you realize that you’ve actually just left the planet for a bit and that nobody can touch you … and when it works, baby, you’ve got wings. You know you’ve been somewhere most people will never get … it’s flying without a license.

This is what I’m talking about. Need I explain further? Nope.

When I think of Keith Richards, what initially comes to mind is drugs, drugs, drugs, rough and tough, “Street Fighting Man” rock and roll, and Robin Williams’ joke about how if everyone in the world were to perish due to chemical warfare, the only things that would survive would be Keith Richards and cockroaches.

So when I read “Life,” I was surprised and impressed that after all the drugs he’s done, Richards is articulate, intelligent and well-read. It’s a long book, 547 pages, including pictures of Keith growing up in England, on the road with the Stones and performing with various artists like Chuck Berry, Paul MCartney, John Lee Hooker, Tom Waits, and others. My favorite however, is a picture of Keith, barefoot and lounging on a settee while strumming his guitar in the middle of his library at his house in Connecticut. There are books and pillows scattered everywhere, bottles and debris all over the desk, record albums lined up on the bottom shelves and a handwritten sign that reads “Keith Richards Main Offender.” If a picture is worth a thousand words, I think that photo pretty well sums up my impression of him after reading his book.

Other than Richards’ intelligent mind, what impressed me the most was his repeated acknowledgment of the fact that he doesn’t feel like he’s better than anyone else and that all he really wanted and still wants to do, is play the blues. He writes:

It was all dripping with sexual lust, though they [girls in the ‘50s and ‘60s] didn’t know what to do about it. But suddenly you’re on the end of it. It’s a frenzy. Once it’s let out, it’s an incredible force. You stood as much chance in a fucking river full of piranhas … These chicks were coming out there, bleeding, clothes torn off, pissed panties, and you took that for granted every night. It was the gig. It could have been anybody, quite honestly. They didn’t give a shit that I was trying to be a blues player.

Later, he says,

…maybe some of the songs opened up their hearts a little, or their minds, to the idea of we’re women, we’re strong. But I think the Beatles and the Stones particularly did release chicks from the fact of ‘I’m just a little chick.’ It was not intentional or anything. It just became obvious as you were playing to them. When you’ve got three thousand chicks in front of you that are ripping off their panties and throwing them at you, you realize what an awesome power you have unleashed.

Each observer feels something different when experiencing art, be it a book, a concert, a photograph, or what have you. For me, the aspect of this book that really stood out was the human element—how the music of the Stones changed people—especially women, because that’s a very important element of my book too. And if I could just put my finger on exactly what that is… I keep trying.

In any case, just hearing it from Keith’s perspective makes me feel like he and I share an understanding of something that’s greater than what’s on the surface. And while he writes about some technical guitar stuff and his relationship with Mick Jagger and the others involved, this book is not written with the expected “I’m a big star, worship me” kind of attitude. How refreshing. Richards shares with us how it feels to be Keith Richards—his frustrations and joys with drugs and being labeled an “outlaw” (which he ultimately decided he might as well live up to), the rush of being onstage in front of thousands of people, and how it felt when his and Jagger’s songwriting jelled.

This is what makes “Life” such a great read, because through Richards, I too, can experience what that must have been like. But those same feelings are available to all of us. I don’t mean that we can, or should aspire to be Keith Richards or Mick Jagger or even musicians, or that we should do drugs. I mean that by discovering whatever it is in our own lives that brings us those same feelings that completely fill us up, we can be whole. And that’s what life and “Life” is all about.

Thanks for sharing, Keith. Incredible, awesome book.

For more information, please click the image above.

Baby Birds

June 6, 2011

See these tiny beaks? They are no more.

Two days ago, I found a nest of four baby robins in the neighbor’s tree next to our driveway. The chicks were already getting quite cramped in their little home and beginning to get their feathers. There is something about babies that makes my heart soar—as if they’re a promise from God telling us that life never really ends—so I grabbed my camera and snapped these photos. One of the chicks opened its eyes and watched me. What a thrill!

Being careful not to get too close and frighten them, I marveled at both the complexity and simplicity of nature and how the chicks’ utter silence and stillness helped camouflage them as they waited for their parents to return with dinner. And when I looked around, sure enough, there was the mother (or father) robin, sitting on the roof of my house with a juicy worm dangling from its mouth.

The next morning when I went to retrieve the newspaper from the driveway, I noticed that the nest was empty and the mother robin lay tattered and lifeless at the foot of the tree. She must have died trying to protect her little ones from some predator. My heart sank; my eyes filled with tears. Why did this have to happen? The babies were almost ready to leave the nest. Did a cat get them? Did they fly off? But life doesn’t always provide us with answers.

Now when I back my car down my driveway, the empty nest is a cruel reminder of the beating hearts, beady eyes, and bright orange beaks that had been there only moments before, and it makes me wonder why God would give life to these beautiful creatures only to take it away before they even had a chance to fly. It reminds me of how my parents too, were here one moment and gone the next without any explanation.

These things reinforce my belief that our lives on earth are far too short—and far too precious—for us to be negative, miserable, or judgmental. I also believe that everyone and everything has a purpose, including those tiny robins. And maybe I’m being egocentric, but perhaps their purpose was to show me that although they never got the chance, we have the ability to fly—RIGHT NOW, so we shouldn’t hunker down in our nests waiting for someday. Someday may never come. All we have is NOW. It’s not only important, it’s imperative—even more than that, it’s the purpose of our lives—to do the things that bring us joy, and to share that joy with others.

This is the beginning of eternal life.

So what are you waiting for?

Book Review: “The Medium Next Door: Adventures of a Real-Life Ghost Whisperer” by Maureen Hancock

May 19, 2011

       Maureen Hancock

Is there really such a thing as ghosts? Is it possible the living can actually communicate with them?

I don’t know if it’s due to nature of my own book, (coming soon) that I’m more attuned to this sort of thing or what, but there seems to be a change in the world’s consciousness lately. People are becoming more open-minded when it comes to the subjects of supernatural phenomena, spirits and spirit mediums—those who communicate with the dead.

Maureen Hancock’s new book, The Medium Next Door: Adventures of a Real-Life Ghost Whisperer, is about this very subject. Her book is a cross between self-help, grief counseling and memoir. Hancock relates the story of how she was drawn to this unusual profession and shares her adventures along the way, culminating with her rise to nationwide popularity due to her warm, caring personality and her uncanny ability to interact with the deceased. She is currently in the process of filming her own reality TV show for Disney, premier date to be announced.

As a toddler, Maureen nearly died due to lead poisoning from ingesting lead-based paint from a windowsill in her house. To this day, she believes that her near-death experience was the means that opened her spirit to receive messages from beyond, because around the age of 5, she began to see “ghosts.”

Through the years, her psychic abilities grew until she could no longer deny the gift she’d been given. Maureen now uses that gift to help others. This is the most touching part of her story. The author doesn’t ask you to believe her, she seems only to want to educate others that death is not the end and that love never dies. Along with her charity, Seeds of Hope, her mission is to help others triumph over the loss of their loved ones and to live life to its fullest—and not necessarily because that’s what their loved ones would want, but because that truly is the reason for our lives—to experience as much joy as possible and to share it with others. She also works with and has earned the trust of many law enforcement agencies.

The Medium Next Door has a universal appeal because if we haven’t already, eventually we will all lose someone we love. My favorite chapter was “Tales from the Trenches,” where Hancock recounts episodes that made me laugh; a great virtue, I think, when it comes to the serious nature of her work.

The only criticism I have is that I would have preferred the author followed the book with a workbook instead of inserting lessons at the end of the chapters. While I enjoyed both her experiences and her wisdom, I thought the lessons distanced me somewhat from the story flow. And I would have liked to have read in more detail about how one can develop intuitiveness for one’s self. Maybe that will be Hancock’s next book. I hope so.

Other than that, a great read from what appears to be a woman of boundless energy, sunshine and joy. Her stories are entertaining, funny and inspiring and she has made a believer out of me. The Medium Next Door is sure to touch your heart as well.

For more information, please visit, or to purchase her book, click on the cover below.