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27 Years Ago: Bon Jovi’s Manager Convicted of Smuggling 40,000 Lbs. of Marijuana

Doc McGhee
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

You think you’ve got problems? Just be glad you weren’t in Doc McGhee’s shoes on April 25, 1988, when the famous manager — whose clients at the time included Motley Crue and Bon Jovi — was convicted of smuggling 40,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States from South America.

The case made headlines at the time, but McGhee’s conviction stemmed from a bust that took place six years earlier, in 1982; fortunately for him, by the time it finished winding its way through the court system, he’d acquired a number of high-profile friends in high places — like his client Jon Bon Jovi, who argued on McGhee’s behalf via an impassioned six-page letter to the judge.

Admitting that “Doc did in fact commit a crime, and I realize the severity of his case,” Bon Jovi argued that “a man with his knowledge and commitment to the music industry can do so much good as a public servant” — and after McGhee walked away with a $15,000 fine and a five-year suspended prison term, he started giving back to the community by organizing the Moscow Music Peace Festival, an all-star hard rock event dedicated to promoting world peace and helping curb illegal drug use in the Soviet Union.

Somewhat ironically, the festival’s bill included a number of acts who weren’t exactly known for avoiding controlled substances, including Ozzy Osbourne, Skid Row, and the fresh-out-of-rehab Motley Crue. It was a combustible combination, to be sure — and one whose fallout was later detailed in the Crue’s autobiography, ‘The Dirt,’ in which drummer Tommy Lee says, “it was all bad from the moment we stepped on the plane.”

Lee started feeling bad vibes even before the show due to the rampant drug and alcohol abuse going on, but it was what went down during the festival that really ruined things between McGhee and Motley Crue — specifically, the fact that in spite of what had reportedly been promised, Bon Jovi played a full headliner’s set, complete with pyrotechnics. That was the last straw for Nikki Sixx, who recalled yelling at McGhee, “We didn’t fly all the way to Russia to be an opening act while Bon-f—ing-Jovi gets to headline for an hour and a half. What’s up with that?”

That was tame compared to Lee’s reaction — he says he “hunted Doc down and found him backstage. I walked right up to him and pushed him in his fat little chest, knocking him over onto the ground like a broken Weeble.” After that, it was all over but the firing — and although McGhee remains active (his current stable of clients includes Kiss), his influence was never quite as powerfully felt.

Moral of the story? Don’t smuggle 40,000 pounds of pot — and more importantly, don’t put Motley Crue and Bon Jovi on the same bill.

See Bon Jovi and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the ’80s

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