AC/DC drummer led playboy lifestyle, locals say

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Rockers AC/DC vowed Friday that drummer Phil Rudd's arrest over an alleged murder plot would not derail the band, as details emerged of his playboy lifestyle in a sleepy New Zealand town. Rudd was arrested when police raided his North Island mansion early Thursday and charged him with trying to hire a hitman to carry out a double murder, threatening to kill and possessing illegal drugs. A brief statement on the legendary Australian band's official website said they had no prior knowledge of the stunning allegations. "We've only become aware of Phil's arrest as the news was breaking. We have no further comment," it said. "Phil's absence will not affect the release of our new album Rock or Bust and upcoming tour next year." "Rock or Bust" is due for release next month and AC/DC, one of the biggest-selling bands in history, plans to back the album with a global tour in 2015. The Grammy award-winners were inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 after a string of hits including "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Jailbreak" and "Highway to Hell", with Rudd's arrest the second blow to the group this year. The heavy rock pioneers, who formed in Australia in the 1970s, announced in September that founding member Malcolm Young had contracted dementia and was retiring to receive treatment at a Sydney care facility. Rudd, 60, has been with the band on-and-off since 1975 and moved to New Zealand in 1983, settling in Tauranga, a coastal community of about 110,000 people some 150 kilometres (90 miles) southeast of Auckland. Its sunny climate has made it a popular spot with retirees and he opened a restaurant, Phil's Place, at the marina and helped raise money for charities by offering rides in his fleet of luxury cars, including a Ferrari, Lamborghini and Bentley. But locals have told New Zealand media about a seedy underbelly that Rudd was allegedly involved in. - 'Dispute over working girls' - The man who Rudd is accused of trying to enlist as a hitman -- who is not himself facing charges -- told Fairfax New Zealand that the veteran rocker had recently been involved in disputes over payments to "working girls". "The girls that he gets, working girls and that, their partners get pissed off," said the man, whose name has been suppressed by a judge. "He tells them 'nah I'm not paying you and the partners come and say they want their money." AC/DC have sold an estimated 200 million records, making Rudd a millionaire many times over, and the man said the drummer had spent a lot of money in the community. "The amount he spends on company is like someone's yearly wage... he's like the Hugh Hefner of Tauranga," he said, referring to the Playboy magazine founder and well-known bon viveur. The same man told the Bay of Plenty Times that Rudd was generous and they often went on trips in the rock star's sports cars or his private helicopter. But he said Rudd had become irritable in recent weeks and alienated some of those closest to him. "He's burning the ones who care about him... you've got to feel sorry for him, just the expectations everyone has of him," he said. "He's a good fella, he's got a big heart." Rudd, who released a solo album "Head Job" in August, was not required to enter a plea during a brief court appearance on Thursday, when he was granted bail and ordered to reappear on November 27. He has refused to comment publicly about the allegations against him and local media on Friday carried images of him making an obscene gesture to photographers from his balcony.

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