For decades, Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain” video has inspired a mixture of shock, awe, intrigue, and just a tiny bit of scorn. One scene, in particular, continues to nag viewers and raise the same question: who is the infamous cake jumper?
For the uninitiated, here’s a quick recap of the $1.5 million “November Rain” video: GNR performs its epic nine-minute ballad to a theater packed with sweltering costumed audience members, flanked by an orchestra on stage . The performance is intercut with footage of Axl Rose marrying his real girlfriend Stephanie Seymour in a chapel in the middle of the desert. (Slash, the best man, leaves the wedding to rip a guitar solo outside.) The wedding reception goes downhill when the titular November rain begins to bombard the guests, who all run for cover. , including a man who jumps over a table and plows through the wedding cake. The wedding then abruptly turns into a funeral for Seymour.
The Cake Rider’s identity has intrigued fans for years. It was long assumed to be Riki Rachtman, owner of Hollywood nightclub The Cathouse and host of MTV. Headbanger’s Ball. But Rachtman denied tearing down the cake in a new interview.
“We had been up all night filming at the Rainbow [Bar and Grill in Hollywood]”, Rachtman said Vice. “And then we went straight to the wedding reception scene the next morning. Axl wanted it to look like a real wedding, so all of his friends were there. That’s why I was there. When I see the video Now that’s a lot of faces from the old scene. But the biggest misconception in the whole video is that I was the guy who got thrown through the cake. It wasn’t me. Everything the world seems to think it was, but it wasn’t.
Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, who served as cinematographer for the legendary GNR Use your illusion The video trilogy (“Don’t Cry,” “November Rain,” and “Estranged”) also told Vice that the cake-jumping scene was spontaneous.
“He absolutely got there,” said Pearl, whose movie credits also include the original. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its 2003 remake. “All I know is that I got my instructions from Andy [Morahan, director] that we were going to shoot this. And I know we shot it very quickly. I must say your choice of verb, that we had the [actor] to ‘jump’ across the cake — it is jumping. It’s not like he’s falling through or anything. When we shot it, I was like, ‘Well, this isn’t good, man.’ Looks like the guy is jumping into the cake, and we only had one cake. So there it is. It is what it is. My reaction at the time was that it looked fake.”
Morahan was more generous in his assessment of the cake jumper.
“The concept of ‘November Rain’, what does it mean?” Morahan asked Vice. “It’s like a bad dream. It was deliberately exaggerated. It’s an allegory. When Daniel [Pearl] goes, ‘Oh, I didn’t really like the guy going through the cake’, I’m not saying it’s a joke, but it’s supposed to be an ironic bad dream, where everything just goes for shit . For me, this scene was like pissing on the wedding reception at The Godfather. It’s a nightmarish upside-down version of that marriage.”
Watch the Guns N’ Roses “November Rain” Video
Morahan also said he deleted the cake jump shot when he and his team started editing the video, but reinserted it at Rose’s request. “I agree with Daniel. It seemed a bit too far-fetched to me,” he said. “But then I showed Axl the cup, and he said, ‘Where’s the cake? I love the cake.’ So we put it back together.”
So if Rachtman isn’t the infamous cake jumper, who East? The answer is still uncertain. A Swedish Blogspot user named Jim recalled getting on a train in Malaysia and sitting next to a man nicknamed “Slow”, who claimed to have done the scene. But neither Jim nor Slow have responded to Vice’s requests for comment, so for now the rider’s identity remains a mystery.
Perhaps one day the anonymous cake jumper will emerge from his self-imposed exile and take credit for his mystifying acrobatic feat. To paraphrase Rose: if he could take the time to put him on the line, we could rest our heads knowing he was okay.
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