40 Years Ago: Eagles’ ‘Desperado’ Ends Office Hostage Standoff
On March 20, 1980, an unusual incident worthy of an Eagles song played out in New York City.
A Texas truck driver entered the offices of Elektra Asylum Records and demanded to speak to members of the Eagles or to their longtime friend, collaborator and label-mate Jackson Browne. Things got serious when he pulled out a gun and repeated his demand.
Responding to the situation, office manager Ruth Manne invited 28-year-old Joseph Paul Rivera into her office with the hopes of calming him down. Instead, witnesses outside the officer heard the door being locked. “All of a sudden, we heard this ruckus like furniture being banged together, and maybe a file cabinet being overturned,” label executive Morty Gilbert said.
Inside the office, Rivera shot a bullet into the ceiling and told Manne that he wanted the Eagles to lend him $2,500 because his truck had been stolen. He said his vehicle was sold by two men who had taken advantage of the fact that he was in a hospital recovering after being mugged. He asked for Browne, Don Henley and Glenn Frey by name. The label placed “several frantic calls” in an attempt to track down one of the artists but failed.
Meanwhile, NYPD officers were on the case, and decided to rope in the help of WLPH-FM, instructing Jimmy Fink to play a song for Rivera. “This is ‘Desperado’ for the desperate trucker,” Fink said, introducing the classic song taken from the Eagles’ 1973 album of the same name.
On hearing the lyrics “Why don’t you come to your senses? You’re out riding fences,” Rivera burst into tears and gave the gun to Manne, according to the Daily News.
The entire episode, which lasted around two hours, ended after Rivera was arrested and charged with kidnapping, possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment. Manne was released from the hospital with no injuries.