Jon Bon Jovi
(Thanks to Amanda for the transcript)
Jersey rocker sings out on diners, bar bands and the folks who toil in waste
Jon Bon Jovi has been there and done that. Sure, fans last year could log on to the web and watch Bon Jovi, the band, recording its new
album in real time. But the man himself fondly recalls when high technology meant reel-to-reel tape recorders: "You'd press RECORD and
that was it. Then you'd go to a studio and work it out. Nowadays kids are computer literate, and they're able to produce more out of their
bedrooms than we could produce in the garage."
Bon Jovi and Bon Jovi have done well since the days of their garage rehearsals They had bar and club gigs, and world tours followed. The
group has sold more than 80 million albums since its 1986 debut. Bon Jovi became a major industry - and U.S. exporter - the old-fashioned
way: The group wrote dozens of songs and played up to 250 concert dates each year...
Jon makes no apologies for the clothes or for his signature "hair band" mane of the Eighties. Why should he? He's the son of a U.S.
Marine and a hairdresser... who was also a Marine. And he had the good fortune to be born in the small state that produces more than
its share of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and rock-and-rollers: New Jersey. One theory is that Bon Jovi's long run owes something to the fact
that the band's members go their separate ways for a few years and then reunite with a slightly new take on their brand of blue-collar
rock and roll. Or on their sartorial style.
Jon Bon Jovi has used his sabbaticals to study acting. He tested the waters, to good notices, in independent films. Recently he's had what
he terms "modest parts" in features such as U-571 and Pay It Forward.
Shortly before a recent tour...
Contributing Editor Warren Kalbacker met the rocker at his Manhattan pied-a-terre - with its great view of New Jersey. "No Kurt
Cobain-style angst for Bon Jovi, "Kalbacker reports. "He genuinely delights in his family and the fruits of rock stardom, from his
Robert A.M. Stern-designed New Jersey mansion to appearing on the Leno-Letterman circuit. He claims no special secret to his stamina,
but I can't help wondering if the strong black coffee he serves - he brews one cup at a time - doesn't have something to do with it."
PLAYBOY: Was getting into the music business all about rock and roll or mostly about chicks?
BON JOVI: It was obviously about the chicks. I was too small to play football and I went to an all-boys Catholic high school. It was the beginning of my sophomore year and I had really started to take music seriously. One of the religious brothers - they weren't priests - pulled me aside and said, "You're failing in practically everything and I think this guitar thing should become a hobby." I looked at this man. I'd just discovered women and I thought, This is the wrong place for me. The biggest thing on a Friday night would be to go to the girls' high school. All the girls would be on one side and all the guys would be on the other and you'd be making your move. Eventually I started to play those dances. Then you're bigger than life because everybody in the room is looking at you. Playing my own high school dance was even cooler than being quarterback. I was a rock star. I was 15. I'd made it.
PLAYBOY: You hail from Sayreville, New Jersey. That region of the state is sometimes referred to as Jersey's "chemical coast" because of the large number of refineries. Is there something in the water that helps produce rock-and-rollers?
BON JOVI: Sayreville was an industrialized city. It was a great upbringing. It was safe. It was very picket fence. It was ethnic, and it was a
melting pot for music. You got to taste it right from high school and you knew how diverse it was going to be. There was the huge R&B influence of the horns. Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny were making records. How could you not see that the Asbury Jukes were one of the great live bands? Asbury Park was magical because you could perform your original material at a time when cover bands were so successful. You'd make $100 for the whole band, but you got to do your own thing. Another neat thing about the Asbury scene at that time was that John or Bruce would come in and play with anybody and everybody. I've got pictures of me playing with Bruce when I was 16 years old. That was before distinctly different styles of music developed according to where you were from and who you rooted for. We up-and-comers borrowed each other's amps. You'd plug in someone else's Strat. You would buy each other beer.
PLAYBOY: Describe the benefits of fetching coffee and cigarettes for the stars at New York's Power Station Studios.
BON JOVI: David Bowie told me to get him a Heineken. For $50 a week, I was allowed to be a gofer. I'd run errands with the hope that in the
middle of the night I would get to record. A dream opportunity would have been to watch other people do it. In all honesty I wasn't even in the system, I was a gofer. I remember getting yelled at by Diana Ross. I was sent to deliver something to her and the sign said DO NOT ENTER, and of course I did. I laughed when I walked out. That whole Miss Ross thing. Yeah, right. Here's my Rolling Stones story: I was getting out of a cab and paying with quarters and nickels and dimes. And this car pulled up behind the cab. Ron Galella, the paparazzi guy, jumped out of a Dumpster. He wanted to take pictures of the Stones. He's yelling, "Mick! Mick! Mick!" And Mick grabbed a couple of us and said, "This is my new band, the Frogs," and he took some pictures with us. He held the door for us, and we all walked into the studio. Whenever I'd see Mick around the studio, he would encourage me. Fifteen years later we were playing the same stadiums and I wrote him a fan letter and explained the story. I asked Mick if we could open for him at Wembley Stadium. He said, "I ain't paying you." I told him I understood, and that all I wanted was a picture of us and the Stones. We opened for them for two nights.
PLAYBOY: Are those conscious parallels between your latest video, Crush, and the opening scenes of Hard Day's Night?
BON JOVI: The latest one is actually a play off Run Lola Run. You want to see us rip off Hard Day's Night, go back to the Keep the Faith record. It's blatant. We stole from the Beatles, we stole from everybody for videos - which is what you're supposed to do. Wayne Isham has directed the videos over the years and he and I are both movie buffs. Sometimes he's captured the essence of what the band is about and
sometimes we've missed it. For the one we shot last Saturday and Sunday, I called Emilio Estevez and said, "Emil, I want you to reprise Billy the Kid in Young Guns II." We got Arnold Schwarzenegger to go into storage and pull out his Terminator costume. He showed up early on Sunday morning in the outfit, on the bike. Even the glasses and hair were perfect. And he was there early. So we had some fun. Lipsynching is the most pain-in-the-ass part of the business. As an actor, I don't get bored because every take of every scene is a performance, and I get to collaborate. On a video, I'm not singing, I'm mugging for the cameras. It's tedious, boring. It's miserable. The advantages of video are if the radio station in Los Angeles isn't playing my record, the only way a kid's going to get to hear my thing is to turn on the TV. So videos are a necessary evil, an important
part of the advertising of a record. But it's all your cost and none of your profit.
PLAYBOY: We're sure you must know, as a hairdresser's son, the uses of mousse and gel. Which did you apply this morning?
BON JOVI: Grease. I didn't take a shower today. I got up too early. I didn't shave. I have a little baby beard, and the worst sideburns in the
PLAYBOY: You've included the line "I did it my way" in recent lyrics. What did Frank do that impressed you so much?
BON JOVI: Loyalty, fight and the clarity to know that he wasn't going to compromise who he was for the machine. Loyalty. It's when you walk
through the front door of any Vegas casino with Sammy Davis and say, "If he doesn't sleep here, I don't sleep here." Fight is when you have no record deal, no movie contract, no nothing and your wife is out there trying to get you an opportunity to audition for a role, which happened to be in From Here to Eternity. He had the focus to rise out of the depths to own his own label, Reprise, at a time when nobody owned a record label. And everything he did after that. He helped get a president elected. Who's f.cking cooler than Frank? Nobody. And they said about the guy, "Oh, the girls like him." "He can't sing anymore, he lost his record deal." "I don't want to put him in the movies, he's a singer." Guess what? He's Frank.
PLAYBOY: What does it take to become a "made man" in Bon Jovi?
BON JOVI: Impossible. It's hard to get in the inner circle. I let go of the bass player in 1994 and he's never been replaced. We have a bass
player who's phenomenal - he's 10 times the player we let go. He's a great guy, but he's not an official member of the band. That's how hard it is to get in. We had one manager from 1983 to 1991. I let him go, and we didn't bring anybody else in. After 17 years of what it took to get to this level, it's pure. It's sacred to us. There's no replacing anyone who's been here a long time. You don't try to fill that hole. You try to just do without. I was the guy who didn't leave my record company when Universal bought it and everyone else left. That's just the way it is
PLAYBOY: You were rebuffed on your first bid to appear on The Sopranos. Can we assume producer David Chase hasn't heard your last offer?
BON JOVI: David Chase said that I was too recognizable, that the guys in Sopranos would know me. They've referred to me in scripts, they've
played the music on shows. I certainly would want a nice-size role, but only for a day. Groveling isn't out of the question. Payola is definitely not out of the question. I pitched them on one concept. In the first season Hesh, that gray-haired Jewish guy who was in the music business, and Tony's gang got involved to get rap guys to back off. I pitched that I could be the guy - as a famous entertainer - an intermediary who resolves the situation in a way that made sense to all the parties in a music business way. But he chose not to even resolve that episode. What kind of watch does Chase like? Rolex? Cartier? Not a problem.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever received a favor from anyone in the waste disposal business?
BON JOVI: Have I gotten favors from people in the waste disposal business in my lifetime? Yes. Next question, please.
PLAYBOY: Diners are a fixture of the New Jersey landscape. Should Jon Bon Jovi leave a piece of french toast on his plate, how much would it fetch in an auction?
BON JOVI: If it's a good diner, you don't leave anything on the plate. The Roadside Diner right off the circle in Wall Township is a fabulous
greasy spoon because it's such a cool-looking joint, one of the real silver-bullet diners. Taylor ham - a pork roll - is a Jersey fixture. Taylor ham with cheese on a hard roll is love. The big question is: ketchup or mustard? Everyone in north Jersey puts on mustard, everyone in the south, ketchup. I'm a mustard guy myself. A cherry Coke is wonderful with chipped ice. And, of course, there's meatloaf and mashed potatoes - that's a staple. Diners are made for Sunday mornings or the day after when you need grease to soak up everything you did the night before. Then you order breakfast and lunch at the same time. That's the greatest. It cures a hangover.
PLAYBOY: Do you and neighbors Bruce Springsteen and Chazz Palminteri get together to trade lawn maintenance tips? Is it the crabgrass or those brown patches from the salt air that give you the most trouble?
BON JOVI: We get brown patches. Springsteen has a farm in Colts Neck that should have its own area code, it's so big. None of us garden,
though. We trade tips on architects and interior designers and cool places to buy antiques. At the flea markets in Paris you can get antiques for a 10th the price they are in Los Angeles and New York. We get together whenever everybody's around. We go to each other's kids' birthday parties or they come over and watch movies or sit in the pub at my place. I have a movie theater and a caretaker's house that we transformed into a funky old English pub. It has an antique bar, a jukebox, a pool table, pinball machines, a fireplace and darts. I bartend. I'm a mixologist. I make better cosmos than most bars. Vodka, a little splash of cranberry juice, 141 lime juice and triple sec. It's a baby martini. It's a girly martini. Springsteen is
more tequila and beer.
PLAYBOY: Now that your acting career is moving beyond indie films, are you honing your storytelling skills to introduce movie clips on the
late-night talk-show circuit?
BON JOVI: I'll tell you something more important than practicing how to make Jay laugh. I was standing behind the curtain and there are the
publicists and the managers around me and everybody is nervous, because, apparently, actors are afraid to go up there and just talk. I'm not. This is what I've done my whole life. It's not a big deal to me. But before I went out, they have me standing there for two minutes, during a commercial break. The band is playing and I'm on the side of the stage going [sound of clearing throat]. I go out there still thinking I have to sing, and of course I don't, and the first thing I said to Jay was, "Christ, it's so nice to come and sit on your couch and not have to sing for my supper, because no matter
where I am, no matter what I'm invited to, eventually I have to sing." This is so easy. These guys on movie sets think that life is hard, but they have no idea what a hard life is.
PLAYBOY: Harvey Keitel actually uttered the words "Holy Mary" in U-571. Did he go blue in the face trying to restrain the "motherf.ckers" we've come to expect from him?
BON JOVI: I wasn't in that scene. He probably said "motherf.ckers" and they just took the knife to it. Harvey's a method actor from the old
school, which was a great education for the younger guys and a novice like me. One of those guys said Harvey was a Marine. We're in makeup
early one morning and I'm trying to find some way to bond with him. The first words out of me were that my father and mother were Marines. He says, "Say that again." I told him my father and mother were Marines. My mother was the first to go into the Marine Corps, my father met her and they got married. "Where did he go to boot camp?" "Parris Island." "I was there!" he says. "What troop? What year?" Oh, Jesus Christ, how do I know? "Call your father." It's four o'clock in the morning in New York, and he tells me to get on the phone. "Dad, I'm in a makeup chair with Harvey Keitel. He was a Marine. He wants to know what troop you were in." My father goes, "How the f.ck do I know? Tell him who gives a sh!t." I say, "Harvey, he's trying to remember." Turns out Harvey was in a year earlier than my dad. At the end of the filming Harvey bought me an acting book, and inside he wrote, "To the son of a Marine: You're not half bad." Harvey is a class act.
PLAYBOY: Name your candidate for best actor in a crossover to rock and roll.
BON JOVI: Kevin Bacon takes it seriously and his band is actually very good. They can be taken seriously because they play and sing very well and they work hard on their writing. He's an amazing actor. So I give him all the credit in the world. He is persistent in his music, as I am in acting. It's difficult because everybody knows him as Kevin Bacon, the actor. I took Keanu Reeves to Australia for a few stadium shows, and he played the Forum with us in LA. We don't usually need support acts, but we wanted one there so I threw him the opportunity. I didn't hear him play one note in the half dozen shows he played with us because I'm usually warming up at that time.
PLAYBOY: What do aspiring rockers miss if they don't play in bars?
BON JOVI: They're missing the interaction, the participation and so much sweat. They're missing the idea of being thrown into a stew and having to hold their own against a stronger flavor. You're going to learn your craft in a bar where people aren't there to pay attention to you and you have to earn their respect. Fortunately for me, I was 16 but could pass for 18. When the drinking age went from 18 to 21, it hurt the kids coming up after us. If you're reading this PLAYBOY, you're certainly looking at the pictures. But if you're 16 and you want to get into a rock-and-roll band, you have to write songs. Being in a cover band if you're 16 will give you the education about chord progressions and lyrical content. Don't worry about fads and don't be swayed by this week's fashionable thing on the cover of Rolling Stone. These guys who meet for the first time in the producer's office the day they make it through Mickey Mouse Club auditions, whoa, that's a drag. I loved when we were a rock band and it was five guys against the world and we shared the same pound of pasta. Those are the great experiences that you have to look back on. Those are the great stories you tell.
PLAYBOY: Do you feel that you've finally earned the respect of Southside Johnny, who just last month was playing bars in Asbury Park?
BON JOVI: I think I have his respect. I have his friendship. John and I have been friends for 20 years. I opened for John a lot. He produced demos of mine when I was still in high school. Instead of going to my prom, I opened for the Jukes. John once went on the road with us as the
rhythm guitar player. He recently used my studio when I was away. I wrote him a note last night asking where should I send the check because he said such nice things on Behind the Music.
PLAYBOY: Rockers enter rehab. Rappers get indicted. What gives?
BON JOVI: Compared with rap music, rock is safe. That's just a fact. I don't know enough of the rappers. I don't know if they drink as much as the rock guys. Of all the rock guys I've known through the years, I don't remember any who carried guns around - except for Alec, our former bass player. He always had guns on him, at a time there was no rap music. So Al was ahead of his time.
PLAYBOY: You have a big following in Germany. What vibes do you get when you perform at the Nuremberg Zeppelin Air Field?
BON JOVI: You look up there and you can still see that great History Channel image of the swastika blowing up. They blew up the swastika but the building is still there. Hitler, for being such a lunatic, was a huge fan of architecture. He knew how important architecture was. We played the 20,000-seat Waldebuhne in Berlin. The acoustics are stellar. All the walls were curved so you couldn't get a shot off at Hitler. So you walk from the dressing area to the stage and you can't see five feet in front of you, because it's all going in circles. You have to know your way around. Gorgeous design and architecture.
PLAYBOY: You dated your high school sweetheart, hung out with some starlets and wound up marrying your sweetheart. Is there a lesson there for all of us who've sowed our wild oats?
BON JOVI: The grass is always greener on the other side, no matter what the profession or girl. My wife and I had broken up for a short period in 1985. I dated Diane Lane for the blink of an eye. I went back to what I knew and what I felt to be safe. I went to her mother's house and stood out on the lawn and told her that I was home from the road and playing at the Meadowlands that night and I wanted her to be there when we got our gold record presentation. She fell for it. It sounds romantic and gushy, but it's true. I'll stand by her. I wouldn't trade her in.
PL4YBOY: How does a wealthy rock star raise kids who aren't spoiled brats?
BON JOVI: My kids are eight and six. They have no idea what I do for a living. My wife is socially conscious; she took them to the Million Mom March and told them what it was. She took them to the food bank and had them clean dishes. None of my music ever plays in the house. Should they come home from school and say, "You're Jon Bon Jovi," I'd say, "Who told you that? If it's your teacher, I'm going to talk to her." My kids' pictures have never been in the newspapers. I have this wonderful thing going with the paparazzi - with the exception of those Italian b@stards. My kids have never had their pictures printed publicly and I've never whored them out to that. And they have to do chores to get quarter.