Comic-book artist Chelle Dey knew that when it came to putting together a video trailer to promote her new series Shenanigans, the only song that would make sense as its soundtrack was Van Halen's "Right Now."
She also suspected there was pretty much no way that the guys who wrote it were going to let it happen.
But that it didn't stop her from sending letters via snail mail -- "because I'm kind of an old-school person, and it just felt more authentic," Dey says -- to Eddie and Alex Van Halen, as well as the band's former singer Sammy Hagar, asking permission to use the song. Excited about describing the connection she felt with the song, Dey's initial draft was two full pages -- "because I explained every single thing under the sun about my story, myself and why I wanted to use the song so much" -- but eventually pared it down to a single page.
Dey printed off a few copies and, relying on a fan-mail site found during an online search for their addresses, mailed them to the musicians. It wasn't long before she got a response.
"Undeliverable, return to sender," read the unopened envelope she had sent to the Van Halen brothers. Dey immediately felt deflated and soon, still having heard nothing from Hagar, felt like giving up. Her optimism had all but disappeared altogether by the time that, several weeks later, the envelope she had sent to the singer came back to her as well. But this one looked different.
"At first I picked it up and threw it back down, thinking, 'Great, another returned letter,'" Dey recalls. "But then I looked at it again and thought, 'Hey, that's my handwriting. That's my self-addressed stamped envelope!"
Inside was a hand-written response from Hagar, who not only had taken the time to acknowledge her letter with one of his own, but actually gave her his blessing to use the song. As for his bandmates, well....
"I have no problem with you using it," he wrote. "But it's co-written with the other VH guys as you know, and they usually don't grant permission. But from my side, I am OK. I doubt that they would try and stop you. Ha!"
Though the Van Halen brothers never got the chance to respond to Dey's request, Hagar may not be far off in predicting their unlikelihood to approve: in recent years the brothers haven't exactly been lawsuit-phobic, having gone after everyone from Nike (for designing a shoe with a striping pattern similar to Eddie's iconic guitar) to Alex's own ex-wife (who kept Van Halen as her last name and titled a construction and interior-design company after herself, which the band claimed was a trademark infringement). Even Hagar himself was once threatened with legal action when he thought about leaving the band mid-tour after his relationship with Eddie -- which still remains deeply fractured -- had soured beyond repair.
Dey is still working on finding a way to contact the Van Halen brothers, and is unsure whether she will take Hagar up on his offer and use the song anyway when she unveils her trailer next month. For now, she is just happy knowing that the singer not only noticed her letter in the first place, but also provided encouragement, support and his own endorsement for her project. His note to her included this postscript:
"P.S. Good luck with your dream. Don't ever give up."
In other words, Chelle: come on baby, finish what you started.
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