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The shark episode, also called the mudshark incident, was an alleged escapade which took place at the Edgewater Inn in Seattle, Washington, on 28 July 1969, involving Richard Cole, a road manager for the English rock band Led Zeppelin, and members of the American psychedelic rock band Vanilla Fudge. The bands were in Seattle for their appearance at the Seattle Pop Festival at Gold Creek Park on 27 July 1969, and were staying at the Edgewater Inn. This hotel, now known as the Edgewater Hotel, is located directly on Elliott Bay, and at the time allowed guests to fish directly from their room windows.
The shark episode is alleged to have involved some type of sexual act with a fish. However, there are many variations on the story, all involving one or some of the band members, as well as variations of the type of fish (often claimed to be a shark, mudshark, dog shark, or aholehole), and the nature of the acts performed.
One girl, a pretty young groupie with red hair, was disrobed and tied to the bed. According to the legend of the shark episode, Led Zeppelin then proceeded to stuff pieces of shark into her vagina and rectum.
Davis notes that Led Zeppelin's road manager Richard Cole, disputed this version, and quotes this variation:
It wasn't Bonzo, it was me. It wasn't shark parts anyway: It was the nose that got put in. We caught a lot of big sharks, at least two dozen, stuck coat hangers through the gills and left 'em in the closet... But the true shark story was that it wasn't even a shark. It was a red snapper and the chick happened to be a fucking redheaded broad with a ginger pussy. And that is the truth. Bonzo was in the room, but I did it. Mark Stein [of Vanilla Fudge] filmed the whole thing. And she loved it. It was like, "You'd like a bit of fucking, eh? Let's see how your red snapper likes this red snapper!" That was it. It was the nose of the fish, and that girl must have cum 20 times. But it was nothing malicious or harmful, no way! No one was ever hurt.
The red snapper is not indigenous to Elliott Bay, but is rather a resident of the Atlantic Ocean. However, the yelloweye rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus) is locally known as red snapper and is almost certainly the fish Cole is referring to.
Cole elaborates on this version in his own book, Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored. He explains that:
Word about the escapade spread quickly. Rumors circulated that the girl had been raped...that she had been crying hysterically...that she had pleaded for me to stop...that she had struggled to escape...that a shark had been used to penetrate her. None of the stories was true.
Apart from the comment from Cole, there has never been any definitive proof this incident actually happened. Many of the purported details of the event are contradictory. No photographs or films have appeared, nor corroborative witness statements. Stein has since claimed he gave the Super 8 tapes to Vanilla Fudge road manager Bruce Wayne and doesn't know what happened to them.
A later visit in 1973 resulted in Led Zeppelin being banned from the Edgewater Hotel. The band and their entourage
caught some 30 mudsharks and left them under beds, in closets, elevators, hallways, bathtubs and all over their rooms. They threw beds, TVs, mattresses, lamps, drapes, china, and glassware into Elliott Bay.
On the Frank Zappa / Mothers of Invention album Fillmore East - June 1971, the above described events form the storyline of the song "Mud Shark." Zappa upon hearing the story for the first time reportedly exclaimed in disbelief "go on, fuck off, ya cunt." Frank Zappa interviewed Martin Tickman, who describes himself as the front office manager, on the 1992 Zappa release Playground Psychotics (also released on 1998's Cheap Thrills). In the interview, Zappa alludes to the incident, asking if Tickman has ever heard of or encountered "bizarre sexual activities with squid, octopus or mudsharks," but Tickman keeps his cool, and provides no additional elaboration on the incident.