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The Beastie Boys: Where the Wild Things Are

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Michael Diamond is staring into the tape recorder like a suspect eyeing a polygraph machine. This might have to do with the fact that Diamond is a tad media obsessed (he even toyed with the idea of writing a piece for Grand Royal Magazine that rated all the Beastie Boys articles). Or it might be more directly linked to the fact that he stopped off in the room of his DJ, DJ Hurricane, for a bit of herbal inspiration and is to put it as simply as possible really stoned.

It's tough to blame Diamond. As the president of Grand Royal, he is the only Beastie who actually has less work to do when he schleps off on tour. Diamond deserves a little downtime. In a few hours, in fact, he plans to call his mother to ask what museums he should check out during his stay in Brussels.

Aside from pop culture, visual art is one of Diamond's only releases. His father, who died when Diamond was 16, was an art dealer, and much of his life on New York's affluent Upper West Side revolved around the artistic community. "The greatest education that I got was at my own dinner table," says Diamond, the youngest of three brothers. "I look at the true privilege of how we grew up not being so much economic there's no question we were very fortunate but the privilege really came out in an intellectual and geographic way. We were constantly exposed to these total New York characters."

Because of his brothers, Diamond was also exposed to punk rock at what he calls "a ridiculously early age." He attended a small, liberal private high school but spent most of his time at the clubs. "When my dad died, in certain ways I cut off," says Diamond. "In an everyday way, I became a much more silent person. I'd turn up at school, and where I would have used to have raised my hand and talked in class, it was 'Why bother?'"

College brought the same response. Not wanting to cause a confrontation with his mother, Diamond attended Vassar, where he lasted a semester and logged more time in Manhattan than he did on campus. Not long afterward, British Airways used a portion of a Beastie Boys single, "Cookie Puss," without permission, in a commercial. The band sued and was awarded $40,000. His business sense piqued, Diamond quit his day job in a bookstore and concentrated on the band. Legend has it that the group's split with Rubin had more than a little to do with the fact that Rubin viewed Diamond's musical and business senses as replaceable.

"There was a point where Rick probably didn't want me in because I deal with the business side," says Diamond. "Ultimately there was going to be a source of conflict there."

Horovitz is less diplomatic. "Rick thinks he knows what's best for everybody," says Horovitz. "Rick was the expendable motherfucker."

Granted the unanimous vote of confidence, Diamond set about building his Grand Royal empire. Which isn't exactly Xanadu. The entire office houses four or five employees, including Diamond, who lords over the manor behind a metal desk that he has had sprayed orange by car painter Earl Scheib.

Diamond's every action seems a struggle between his left and right side of his brain. At one moment he's laid-back, tossing off creative ideas and jokes. The next he's talking business or flashing a smile that looks surgically removed from a used-car salesman. If there is an angle to work, Diamond will find it. Usually he doesn't need to go searching. Most days involve spending time at home in the arty L.A. neighborhood of Silver Lake with his wife, director Tamra Davis (Gun Crazy), overseeing Grand Royal affairs and trying to work in as much golf as possible. And if his band mate is as insightful as he seems, days might get much busier very soon.

"I'm taking any bets, and I say that it'll be under a year before both Mike and Adam are expecting kids," says Yauch. "They won't admit it, but I'll lay odds. They'll both be amazing fathers."

Family and adulthood are themes that continually resurface in conversation with Diamond. He talks about being "constantly surprised at how adult" his home is. He plans on buying a second home, this one in Manhattan, when Lollapalooza ends. He worries about the inevitable moment when he'll realize that his kids don't think he's cool. He even frets about being too happy in his own family life.

"It kind of horrifies me," says Diamond, "that even though we picture ourselves as this totally eccentric family from the Upper West Side, we're actually a completely typical mature family. Like any New Yorker, I'd like to think that the experiences we go through and what we are as people are completely different than anyone else possibly could be. But ultimately the way we are is not that different than a family from Wisconsin."

 

At the moment, the Beastie Boys look less like architects of their own private kingdom than they do all-American kids at the park. In about 45 seconds, they'll be bounding across the stage in front of a sold-out crush of chanting Belgians. Right now, however, it's a tie game with two outs and a man on second. Yauch, clutching a broom handle, is at the plate. There's a pitch, he swings, sending the wad of rolled-up tape high over the beam that's been designated as home-run height.

As the room erupts, the tour manager shouts from the doorway that there is, in case anyone seems to have forgotten, a show to play. The band members scramble down the stairs and huddle next to the stage. They bump one another's chests, New York Knicks style. Then again. And again. Finally, the music comes on, and they storm the stage singing "Sure Shot."

It might not be your typical means of instigating a cultural revolution, but for the Beasties, it does the job. Every move they make is met with adoring screams. Every fashion accessory they've ever worn is duplicated somewhere on the floor. And every word they rap is shouted back, albeit in slightly broken English. The seizure of Belgium has been a success.

"People would perceive it as all these people trying to look like us or it being some fashion thing," says Horovitz. "But the key is, I don't think there's any difference between those kids and us."

Which might in the end be right. The music of the Beastie Boys is about bringing together as many different styles, ensuring that there's a little something for everyone. If you don't like the rap, try the funk. If that's not good, may they suggest the punk rock. Maybe another band on the Grand Royal record label would suit your taste better. Or if you're not into music at all, there's a humor magazine.

Yes, the execution might be overly exclusive —

"I don't want to say that we are better than anyone else," says Diamond. "For anyone in general to develop that attitude is potentially dangerous. But at the same time, with everything we've created and everything we thrive on, we have created this little fantasy world that maybe is elitist." but the results are populist. And for the Boys, at the end of the day, it's all about the family.

"It's just such cool chemistry between the three of us," says Yauch. "I don't even completely understand how it all interconnects. It's just that the three of us together is much stronger than any one of us working individually. We've been together for so long and care about each other so much, it's really like brothers."

This story is from the August 11th, 1994 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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