Jon bon Jovi, the eminence grise of power ballads, riffs on mom the playboy bunny, life as a pinup, and giving love a bad name
By any reasonable calculus, we shouldn't care about Jon Bon Jovi anymore. Throughout the 23-year life of his eponymous band, critics largely trashed its albums, preferring to canonize a certain other working-class singer-songwriter from the Garden State. And somehow—unlike fellow sensations Poison and Skid Row—Bon Jovi managed to escape unscalped following the Great Hair Band Massacre of 1991 at the hands of those gloomy Seattle boys. But the former John Bongiovi survived gracefully and has even added actor, philanthropist, and Democratic-party agitator to his resume. Now, fueled by the adoration and disposable income of millions of former big-haired class cutters who elected to live on a prayer rather than smell like teen spirit, Bon Jovi is selling out stadiums on its Have a Nice Day world tour. So how much fun can be had by a 44-year-old rock star who's been married to the same lady since the elder Bush was in office? Well, as long as Katie Couric's on TV, more than you'd think.—Andrew Goldman
ELLE: What frightens you more: lifelong impotence or losing the ability to sing?
JON BON JOVI: Impotence. I could always write songs, act, get into politics, or stay home with the kids. But I’ve got to have some fun.
ELLE: Any strategies for arguing with women?
JBJ: Women have always ruled my life, be it my mother, my wife, my assistant, or my daughter, so I don’t really fight with them. I relinquished control years ago.
ELLE: Do you remember what the first words you spoke to your wife were?
JBJ: “Can I cheat off you?” She sat next to me in history class. She was one of my best buddies’ girlfriends.
ELLE: Where was your best buddy when all this was going on?
JBJ: In our town, the most popular way out was joining the service. So my three best friends joined the Navy to get out. I didn’t.
ELLE: If you were single, what kind of music could you find in a woman’s collection that would convince you not to date her?
JBJ: I’m not a big disco guy. Some of that English techno-poppy stuff wouldn’t get me in the mood either.
ELLE: Do you fantasize about any unlikely women?
JBJ: Katie Couric. Her cheerleader thing definitely works for me.
ELLE: Anybody else been on your mind?
JBJ: I’d crawl over broken glass for Elle MacPherson or Cindy Crawford. I’d rather have those two than a Hilton or Britney Spears.
ELLE: Do you have any advice about women for your sons?
JBJ: Women rule the world. It’s not really worth fighting because they know what they’re doing. Ask Napoleon. Ask Adam. Ask Richard Burton or Richie Sambora. Many a man has crumbled.
ELLE: If your 15-year-old daughter brings home somebody almost identical to you as a teenager, would you let her go out with him?
JBJ: Yeah. She learned her independence from her old man, and she’s got her mother’s willpower—I pity the fool who thinks he’s strong enough to take her out.
ELLE: Any tricks you used as a teen that you’d warn her about? Like buying your date a forty to get her drunk?
JBJ: When I was that age, I had girlfriends who were old enough to get their own. I was a boy toy for a bunch of women.
ELLE: How about the elusive mother-daughter team—ever do that?
JBJ: No, I wasn’t interested.
ELLE: But it was available?
JBJ: There’s nothing that isn’t available. It was a buffet every night.
ELLE: Are the rules of marriage relaxed a little if your husband’s a rock star?
JBJ: If I were to tell you they were, I’d be lying. If I told you they weren’t, I’d be naive. Nobody’s dumb in this relationship or in the relationships of any of the other guys in the band. But it’s also not the cliche that those on the outside envision.
ELLE: Can you elaborate?
JBJ: It’s not hard to get a girl if I wanted one. But it doesn’t mean you want it, and even if you did, you’re certainly not going to rub it in anybody’s face.
ELLE: So your wife has never said, “It’s okay if you do X if you happen to be in a different area code?”
JBJ: No wife is ever going to want that to happen.
ELLE: There has to be a certain amount of realism in a relationship.
JBJ: That’s right. But it’s sort of a “What goes on here stays here” kind of thing. It’s not anyone’s business.
ELLE: Do you think you have any feminine qualities?
JBJ: Not really. It’s all about the same old stinky gym clothes with me. I’m not a clotheshorse or a big shoes guy.
ELLE: But I have to point out that you have a haircut that always looks like you’ve spent hours on it.
JBJ: Nope. Five minutes, if that, and that’s no lie.
ELLE: Do you regret any of your past haircuts?
JBJ: I have had some sorry-ass looks, but I’m the first one to laugh. I’m either to credit or to blame for the ’80s.
ELLE: I read your mom was a Playboy Bunny before settling down and raising a family. So was she, like, smokin’?
JBJ: Yeah, she was the poster girl for the Marines. So she was in the poster saying, “I want you.” My parents were both Marines.
ELLE: You’ve had your own poster boy moments too. There was that Versace campaign where you posed naked except for a little pair of Skivvies you held up to your crotch.
JBJ: Elton John said to me, “I have all the negatives.”
ELLE: Does it bother you that all the cheesecake shots might have turned you into a gay icon?
JBJ: Some of my best friends are gay guys, and they said, “You’re so straight, we’re not interested.”
ELLE: I wonder, you’ve been married since 1989—do you ever fantasize about what life as a bachelor might be like?
JBJ: Would I love to run around and check out if Jennifer Aniston was looking for a boyfriend? Yeah, it would be interesting for a minute. But would I trade in my life to get her and Angelina? No way. I’ve got something better. And I don’t need the neuroses of two type-A personalities in my life. One is enough.