JBJ leans back on the sofa on his 300ft yacht in Monte
Carlo and adjusts his sunglasses. He drank for 12 hours yesterday and this
morning his eyes are like ‘2 p***holes in the snow’. There was a girl last night
‘A very, very gorgeous girl’, he says. ‘She wanted to come back here. She was like, “I want to see the boat.” I just said, “Nice to meet you.” You’ve got to be wise about you’re choices if you’re going to do something like that. It would be so easy for that girl to go and get headlines in the newspaper tomorrow. And just imagine if I caught something…’
Bon Jovi and his band have dominated the world of mainstream pop metal for decades. They have sold more than 100 million albums, with hits such as You give love a bad name and Livin’ on a prayer, and performed more than 2,500 concerts in front of 32 million people. In June they will be the first band to play the new Wembley stadium.
He is 43 now, but looks about 30. He’s been married for 16 years to his childhood sweetheart Dorothea, ‘you find the right woman and it takes you to a place where there isn’t anyone else,’ he says, ‘I wouldn’t trade her for any of the models or the starlets I meet.’
Sex, however, is a different matter – that is just ‘exchanging fluids’, ‘having fun’. He doesn’t see the big deal. ‘Look I don’t go around looking for girls every night,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to, I don’t need to. Anyway, I’m not really big on girls. I appreciate a woman. A girl becomes a woman, in so far as she’s someone I find physically attractive, in her late twenties or early thirties.’
Do women have a sell by date?
‘They’re certainly appreciative after 50’, he laughs. ‘They’re grateful.
They’re thankful. They send you presents’.
I had not expected to be talking to Bon Jovi about such personal matters. He usually fends off anything too probing with a brusque, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’.
Today he doesn’t seem to give a damn. We meet a few hours before he performs at the Swarovski Fashion Rocks fundraiser for the Prince’ Trust. The fashionistas have been descending on Monaco for the past 24 hours. ‘This is all just fantasy,’ he says, ‘Kids…kids are the reality. They’re the truth serum. They don’t care how big the album is. They don’t care about Monaco.’
Bon Jovi has 4 children aged between 12 and 1. The youngest is called Romeo.
‘We thought we were being original,’ he says, ‘I didn’t realise David Beckham had a Romeo – so I apologise to the Beckhams for that.’
No sooner have the words come out of Bon Jovi’s mouth than the superstar couple drop from the sky in a helicopter and land on the neighbouring yacht.
Moments later they are in a speedboat heading this way. Bon Jovi watches the boat. ‘That’s not Beckham’ he insists. ‘Oh it is! Cool. Shhh. Don’t say anything about Romeo it’s a great name.’
Bon Jovi is full of admiration for Beckham and they way he copes with his professional successes and his personal crises. Bon Jovi, after all, has had problems of his own. In the early nineties he was so low that at one point he even considered suicide. He was working so hard that he had a complete ‘meltdown’.
It happened just a year after his marriage to Dorothea. They had wed on a whim in Las Vegas, at shortly after midnight on April 2, 1989. Bon Jovi had told Dorothea it was ‘now or never’. He had a number one album, a number one single and thought the only way to top it was to get married. Then everything came crashing down. ‘I’d just recorded 4 consecutive albums with the band as well as playing 250-show tours from 1983 to 1990. ‘I never got out of a suitcase. The record label just worked us and worked us. Then I wrote the soundtrack for Young Guns II, so it was like 5 albums in 7 years.
It was too much. I was burnt out. At one point I was going to jump out of a moving car. That’s how desperate I was.
‘I remember going to see a shrink about it, but I got lost on the way and missed the first 45 minutes of the session. When I finally got there he told me my time was already up. I said “but I’ve only just arrived,” he said, “I’ve got another appointment so I guess you’ll have to do self-help.”
‘I said, “f*** you.” In the end I just sat in our house in Malibu rethinking my life. It was weather like this.’ (He gestures up at the sky. Despite the plethora of showbiz sunglasses, it is overcast and chilly.) ‘Every day was grey and miserable. I called it the grey summer. It lasted 2 years.
‘We’d worked too hard and run too much. Suddenly, I went from being this innocent who was trusting the manager and the record company accountant to being the head of a multi-million dollar corporation. When that happens people start treating you differently. Your parents treat you as the parent.
Everyone else changes. The only ones who weren’t different were us.
Me and the rest of the band would look at each other and say “is it just as f***ed up for you as it is for me?” We’d sit in a room together and one of us would say, ‘my brother’s cousin came and asked to borrow money. He says he’s just got to make these investments…”’
Dorothea was at his side throughout the crisis. ‘She’s very strong, very independent and loyal,’ he says. ‘She’s also brutally honest. She tells the truth about everything and never gets caught in a lie.
‘She has a karate school and is a former champion. She’s in pretty good
shape- and still very sexy.’
After their Las Vegas wedding, Dorothea’s sister asked them to be godparents to one of her children. The family are strict Catholics so they had to remarry in a church. ‘The guy that took the ceremony said to me, “we’re building a school. I’d appreciate something for the effort,” I said “no problem.” And I wrote him a big cheque. But that school never got built. Ten months later the front page of the local paper said he’d embezzled millions.
Millions – he’d taken it all.’
Bon Jovi doesn’t like to be taken for a mug. During that long grey summer in Malibu, he resolved to fire his manager and take control of the band himself.
‘The guys had faith in my vision,’ he says. ‘I told them we’d be more successful, make more money and grow. We’d be the Rolling Stones. We’d be around for ever. But it was a big risk. It was 1992, and we were arguably the biggest band in the world at the time. Of course, people in the industry said, “That’s the end of their career. They’re done.” But we weren’t. We had just written the Keep the faith album. It wasn’t that we were brilliant. I just knew that there was more to this business than we were being told.’
His instincts were right. And his business acumen has helped the band go from strength to strength. The fabulous rewards that followed have given Bon Jovi the life of his dreams – and he chance to indulge one of his childhood
passions: American Football.
Three years ago he bought a 50 per cent stake in a minor league American Football team, Philadelphia soul. ‘The team is a bad investment, but I’m passionate about it,’ he says. ‘Before we played a game or sold a ticket we found small charities in he neighbourhood that we could support. In 2 years we gave away $500,000 (£200,000). It’s given me great joy because I play Robin Hood. I steal from these corporations by saying, “I’m happy to have you take my picture, but give me you’re money!” And then I give it away to charity.
It makes me feel like I’m doing something good under the guise of doing something I love. My life would have been a very shallow pool to swim in if it was only about being a rock ‘n’ roll star.’
Bon Jovi has always been fiercely ambitious. ‘When I was 25 my peers wanted to be on the cover of Circus [an American rock magazine] and I wanted to be on the cover of Time. I knew as a young man that there was more to this than being a 50 year old rock star painting your finger nails black and writing bitch on your belly.’
Bon Jovi’s fingernails are actually neatly shaped and clean. His belly is ironing board flat. He runs every day. He works hard to stay in shape. ‘I’m not a drug guy,’ he says, ‘I have a nice wine habit, but I was never into drugs. I don’t care for it. Why do I need something that’s going to make my teeth grind all night and won’t let me get it on with a woman? I don’t need that.’
Bon Jovi was born John Francis Bongiovi in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, in 1962.
His mother was a former playboy bunny, his father a hairdresser. ‘It was suburban New Jersey,’ he says. ‘There wasn’t any strife.’ He says this with something close to chagrin.
In truth, much about his childhood was middling. He was middle-height, middle-weight, but dreamt of being more. Music was an escape from the monotony of a middle class, small own America childhood.
‘My parents would say, “If you’re going to be a singer be the best singer.
If you’re going to do this be the biggest in the world.” Like every kid I fantasised about being a rock star, the only difference is that I was single minded about achieving my dream.
‘I went to an-all boys catholic school for a year and a half, and it was there that I found music. My classes weren’t going very well and one of the brothers said I should be like him and play guitar as a hobby. I thought, “Man you don’t understand. I’ve just found a religion and it’s called music and girls.” I made a beeline for the door.
Bon Jovi says he discovered sex when he was ‘far too young. I was getting a lot further than you think by the time I was 12. I was liberated by a desperate housewife.’ Seduced at 12? ‘Yeah…use your imagination.’
He was 17 when he fell in love with Dorothea. ‘She was going out with one of my best friends,’ he says. ‘Where I grew up you either worked in the factory or joined the services. He opted for the latter – he f***ed up and left her at home. I just jumped right in.’ is the best friend still a friend?
‘I never saw him much after that,’ he says. ‘He moved. The services were a way out. Today he’s a lawyer in California so it was probably a good thing.’
Within the music industry, Bon Jovi is regarded as something close to brilliant. He’s that rare commodity – a rock ‘n’ roll star with a brain.
Today he has access to Bill Clinton and Al Gore. He loves that access; it matters to him. His wife and kids seem to matter too. So why cheat? And what if she had some fun behind his back?
‘You can’t be the pot calling the kettle black,’ he says. ‘What am I going to do if she decides to do something? I don’t call her 5 times a day asking, “What are you doing?” I call once a day: “Is everybody ok?” she’s my soul mate. I adore her more everyday.’
I tell him I still don’t get it. Why risk the kids, his wife for a night of fun – be it with a girl, a woman, or a grateful 50 year old?
‘Sure it’s a risk, but I could slip on a banana skin in the shower tomorrow or get my picture taken while hanging out with a guy who turned out to be a terrorist. I’m not going to get invited to the White House if that happens.
It could blow my whole access to that whole world. You’ve got to be smart.
Any decision you make, whatever business you are in, has got to be wise. If I was going to do something like that [casual sex]- and I’m not saying if I do or don’t – I’ve got to be careful.’
Now I begin to understand why Bon Jovi has seemed so separate from this yacht, this place, throughout the interview. I ask him to raise his sunglasses. His eyes are hangover-free blue – certainly not p***holes in the snow.
Someone remarks he was stone-cold sober last night. Of course he was. Jon is a rock ‘n’ roll legend.
As he says: ‘this is all just a fantasy.’