“I ran into Eddie on Sunset Boulevard. This was after he caught the disease and I didn’t know what to say to him,” Gene recalled. “I didn’t want to bring up the subject. Should I grab him and hug him and tell him how sorry I am? Should I put my hand on his shoulder?
“He brought it up. He said, ‘Hey man, I got cancer. What are you gonna do…’ and he smiled. He just sort of shrugged. He was like, ‘Hey, wanna get a hot dog or something?’ And he just walked off — not looking for sympathy or anything. He really seemed to enjoy life…
“When I was shocked to find out Eddie had passed, the first image that hit me — so help me God — was Eddie Van Halen grinning from ear to ear with that big, huge, million-dollar smile,” he continued. “He always had that on, whether he was on stage playing for packed houses or in videos or meeting a stranger. He just smiles and says, ‘Hey, how you doing?’
“He would smile and his eyes would disappear. His cheeks would shoot up and they would take his whole face, like a little 12-year-old kid smiling when you’re not trying to impress anybody or you’re not aware of what you look like.
“It was a full-face smile,” Gene added. “It was catchy. It grabs you off-guard. He was unabashed and just comfortable in his own skin. I was not just amazed by his talent, but I admire him so much as a human being. Eddie was aware that he had this God-given talent, but I never saw him push that in anybody’s face. At the core, Eddie just seems to be a happy guy.
“Every once in a while, God gets it right. He did a good job with Eddie Van Halen, I’ll tell you that. He was a far better man than I’ll ever be, that’s the truth.”
Eddie Van Halen died on October 6 at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California, after long battle with cancer. “Alex was by his side, as were Eddie‘s wife, Janie, and son, Wolfgang.