"Daily Express"- 11.2000
"A Jovial Man"
Jon Bon Jovi has survived two decades in
rock'n'roll with his band - and his marriage - intact. Is his laid-back attitude
Jon Bon Jovi greets me at the door of his New York apartment with the sort of smile that melts glaciers. His ice-blue eyes and bed-head blonde hair top a muscular frame and he exudes the kind of easy-going confidence that is born of a lifestyle most men dream about. For the best part of 17 years, this 38-year-old has fronted rock band Bon Jovi, travelling the world and accumulating thousands of adoring fans. But his musical marriage with band members Richie Sambora, David Bryan and Tico Torres could have neded much sooner. For success, as he puts it, "is an intoxicating mistress". With unexpecrted candour, he tells me how bad it got - that at one stage he came close to ending his life by throwing himself out of a moving car. "We had recorded and released the album New Jersey in ten months," he explains "then it was straight back on the road for 240 dates. As well as performing, I was doing all the interviews because no one wants to talk to the bass player, the keyboard player or the drummer. I just wanted to make everyone happy, so I carried on. I'd say "You need me in Australia? I can be there. Then we'll go to London, then we'll go to Africa, then I'll be in New York, no problem." I thought I could handle it, but I was physically and mentally drained, I was punch drunk." On the advice of
his wife, Dorothea, he sought psychiatric help. The episode isn't one he's comfortable with. He wriggles uneasily in his chair as he admits: "I went to see a psychologist - or whatever the terminology is. On the way there I thought about jumping out of the car- that's how burnt-out I was. I was very anxious to talk to someone, but I couldn't find the place and got there 45 minutes late. I really wanted to go in there and spill my guts about everything in my life, for however long it was going to take. After 15 minutes the guy says "Your time's up" I got very Sopranos, swore, and went "OK, Thank you very much. I'll work out my problems at home." He calls this period in 1991 "the grey summer" and it marked a turning point. He took direct action and fired the band's management team: "I wasn't told by the machine to sit down,
take a break, go to sleep. They were happy to be making money, that's why I fired them." Instead he hired a mediator. "Aerosmith introduced us. This guy said: "What seems to be the problem, boys?" I said "I don't want to do all of this work."; Richie said "I want to do more of it." and Dave said "I'll do any of it." and the mediator was in the middle sorting it all out. Then he said "OK, that's how businesses are run, that's how countries get on. Have a nice life."
Since then the band has gone from strength to strength, selling 80 million albums to date, which have spawned hits including Livin on a Prayer, Keep The Faith, and These Days. By his side throught has been karate teacher Dorothea, 38. The couple started dating at school, and married in 1989. They have two children, Stephanie Rose, seven, and five-year-old Jesse James Louis, and they divide their time between their New Jersey ranch and New York flat. He admits he has put Dorothea through hell: "She has tolerated unbelievable excess - on the part of the neighbours as well as myself. There was a time people would come over for a beer at 10 in the morning and we could go on until two the next morning."
It wasn't just alcohol that tested her patience, she also endured infidelity. When I ask whether it's been easy being married when women habitually throw themselves at him, he admits he's taken full advantage of the situation. "Sure. Do you think I've been a saint?" Since he's been married? "Sure. It's nothing I'm proud of, but has it happened? Yeah." Asked whether it still happens, he answers quickly "No." His marriage has lasted, he says, "Because there isn't anyone we would rather hang out with than each other, but we try and give each other a lot of space. She has her own karate school, and I don't get involved with that. But when it was time to build the place, I was down there painting the walls. I have my work and she doesn't come around and go "I'm Mrs. Bon Jovi" That wouldn't have worked. She has independence and that's good. We both have our thing. Dorothea has been very supportive, the voice of reason. I can turn to her and she
speaks the truth. She tells me if I'm full of s***." His vices these days are few, it seems. "I like good wine, that's about it." He confesses to experimenting with drugs, but says that his low tolerance threshold prevented the development of a serious habit. "I got deep into it very, very young and had a bad trip when I was 14. I realised I didn't have the capacity to handle my drugs very well."
Bon Jovi's latest album Crush, released in the summer, is their first for five years. In the interim they completed a world tour and released solo albums - including Jon's widely panned Destination Anywhere - which proved they are a stronger force together than apart, and Jon developed his acting career. After Moonlight and Valentino with Gwyneth Paltrow in 1995 came a string of small-budget films for which he was praised by the critics until earlier this year when he won a part as a naval officer in Second World War submarine thriller U-571, starring Harvey Keitel and Matthew McConaughey. "I was proud of what I did. Working with those guys was a truly great experience. I felt I was there to learn. I loved it." He plays an abusive drunk in Pay It Forward, a love story starring Kevin Spacey that's hotly tipped for an Oscar. He says his short fuse helped secure the part. "Before the audition I was very focused until they made me sit out in a freakin' lobby where all these people kept coming up and talking. I went in and said "Look, I was in the right place for this and you're bugging me with all these Chippendale dancers in the hall." I read the part and I was such a scummy rotten fink, they gave it to me." He starts his first lead role, in a Halloween-style film in January. "It's a $10 million budget movie. I play a vampire killer which is a hip part."
Born John Bongiovi, he grew up in New Jersey, the son of a hairdresser and a former Playboy bunny girl, and the eldest of three sons - brothers Tony and Matthew are a video producer and agent respectively. He credits his mother for much of his success "She'd say "Kick the door down, you can do it" I have her drive and my father's easiness. My parents have us the opportunity to dream and the attitude that anything you want, you can have, as long as you work hard for it."
He formed his first band aged 15 and scraped through school. "I was lucky to graduate, I got a D average." He took a string of menial jobs and was working as a cleaner at New York's renowned Power Station recording studios when he formed Bon Jovi, aged 21, and took their demo tape to a DJ in Long Island. The meeting led to their first record deal. Their Eighties poodle haircuts have been tamed, together with their excesses, and Jon puts their longevity down to their
songwriting ability and a balanced mix of personalities. "We each define a different role. There's the funny one, the happy one, the smart one and the cute one. Dave is the funny one. He has been a friend of mine longer than the other guys, more than 20 years. Tico is the smart one. He's the voice of wisdom and he's been through everything and back again. Richie is the happy one, but he lives in California and I hate that place, so we run in different circles." I suggest that would make him the cute one and he smiles, tongue firmly in cheek "That would." He adds;" I would like to think we've lasted mostly because people like the songs, which have always been about faith, hope, loyalty and optimism. Some have stood the test of time better than others, but the message has always been the same." Jon is good company. Forthright, yet charming, he displays the self-assurance of a man who has found his place in life and it's hard to believe he was once so messed up. Buying a home in New Jersey has helped keep his feet on the ground. "It's where my friends and family are. It's where all my ghosts and skeletons are." On his days off, he's happy to pull his weight as a father. "I'm pretty good. I wa sup this morning making the breakfast." He recently missed his high school reunion because he was touring, but would like to have been there. "I was intrigued. It marked 20 years since we graduated and it made me think what if I'd gone right instead of left? What would have happened? Fortunately I learned how to write a song and since then it's been a rollercoaster ride."