The Mail on Sunday magazine

"It doesn't take long for Jon Bon Jovi to let slip in the conversation that there's a party in his honour in Los Angeles tonight, and that a certain Bill Clinton may be attending. He reprimands me when I start giggling - "I'm not joking, really" - although he concedes that though Mr. President Clinton "calls me Jon, I still call him Mr. President. You have to respect the office, man." Bon Jovi has been entertained in the White House by both Clinton and George Bush, and apparently, he even sang for President Clinton on his birthday a few years ago, although mercifully the couple never jammed together. "President Clinton was very knowledgeable about music, George Bush less so. But my house is much nicer than the White House" he adds, with touching pride. It is a strange thing indeed, when the member of a rock band is being entertained by presidents, but then Bon Jovi, lead singer of his band for the past 20 years, is something of an institution. One of the world's most successful groups, it dominated the music industry in the late Eighties with such hits as "Livin' On A Prayer" and "You Give Love A Bad Name". The band has sold more than 80 million albums worldwide and performed live before 30 million people. Not content with this, 38-year-old Bon Jovi has also been developing a successful movie career. When we meet in a hotel suite in Los Angeles, he has just finished fimling his eighth film, "Pay It Forward" with Oscar-winning Kevin Spacey - " a really giving, really nice guy". All of which suggests he should have a lot to smile about. But, unlike his friend and fellow band member, guitarist Richie Sambora, who is also knocking about the hotel ("Howya doin'? I'm just having my hair redone. It doesn't look big enough, apparently.") Bon Jovi is sullen and sulky and he is determined to play the moody rock star to the hilt. "I'm tired," he grunts" I've been runnning about in the cold, filming till 6am, and I've got to meet my wife at the airport - so shoot." Even without his ability to write catchy tunes, simply being Bon Jovi would have been enough to make him a saleable commodity. His tousled locks, well-honed body and sartorially smart appearance (he wears a suit on the latest album cover) have always drawn favourable comments and set him apart from other age-ing rockers. As a testimony to this, simply mentioning that "Bon Jovi is in the building" to a couple of twenty-something babes in my vicinity was enough to send them into paroxysms. "oh My Gaad" one of them shrieked "he has the graydest body!" Tales of nubile young things fainting at his concerts are legion. Although his head might well be a teensy too big for his body, and his legs just a touch too short, his well-worked-out chest is certainly a sight to behold (or it would be if only he'd get his Tshirt off). And having his hair changed from the rather nasty poodle cut he sported in the Eighties to a shorter, lusher style was possibly the clincher. It alerted women the world over to his fulsome mouth and cheekbones you could cut your lips on. You mention his looks at your peril, however. He sighs with boredom every time this subject is raised. Thanks to daily work-outs, seven-mile jogs and a balanced diet of "eating everything I want, drinking and smoking" he is in extremely good shape. But some gentle coercion to get him to pose for some pictures stripped to the waist are met with a resolute "No way". And heaven help you if you ask him about his hair. "I'd be grateful if you didn't" he warns "When I was a kid, I dreamed of being on the cover of Rolling Stone, and when I was, all they talked about was my haircut. It broke my heart." He could be accused of taking himself a bit too seriously. His hair, after all, used to be such big news that when he had it cut in 1991, it was reported on CNN. But despite his tetchiness, the Bon Jovi of today is a much mellower proposition than the one at the height of his fame. When his group's 1986 album Slippery When Wet, sold 14 million copies worldwide, the boys celebrated their success in time-honoured rock fashion by getting drunk and partying with a selection of groupies. Now, though, such excesses seem to be in his part, thanks to Dorothea, Bon Jovi's wife of eleven years. She sounds a pretty formidable woman, having had to cope with her husband's fame, raising their two children - Stephanie, seven, and Jesse James, five - and his female fans. "I know a good thing when I see it" he says confidently "and I definitely saw it in my wife." They first met at high school about 20 years ago. "I knew the minute I saw her that she was the one for me, and that I was going to marry her" he explains, mellowing slightly " It was love at first sight on my part, although she wasn't interested in me in the beginning, and I had to really work at it. Why has our marriage worked so well?" He shrugs "I don't know, but I do know that, if Id met her in the past couple of years, (after he became famous) instead of knowing her virtually all my life, I might have questioned why she was with me." "Except for one brief period apart, we've been together all this time. But it's easy to be insecure in this business. Of course, she has had times when she's had to be understanding, but you've got to be comfortable with who you are, and Dorothea is." Certainly, the image of Bon Jovi as a loving husband and family man sits uncomfortably with rock promoters who would prefer their rock stars to have a girl in every Portakabin. As Bon Jovi himself concedes, "It would be make better press if I were to be found with a needle in my arm and two 16-year-old blondes in my bed. But it's nothing to do with anyone, whatever I do." But, surely, he doesn't do that sort of thing any more? "Hey, I ain't a saint." he says "I have run the gamut." Then he adds, somewhat cheekily "Maybe, I just did a good job of keeping it out of the press." But has he had needs to satisfy when he's been on tour? "Needs? That's a nice word for it." he chuckles "Who says I have needs? How do you know I do?"  Doesn't everyone, especially when women are throwing themselves at you? "Well, I'm sure my wife wouldn't like to know if they were doing anything like that." he says sternly "But the thing is, we don't have the kind of relationship where we need to talk to each other five times a day. The fact that we're apart for long periods is good, in a way, because it stops you from getting bored. In this profession, you don't get to lead a mundane existence, which has helped to keep our relationship alive. Neither of us has ever begrudged the other an opportunity to grow, and my wife has a life independent of me (she teaches martial arts) I hope we never split up. My heart still leaps when I see her." It was Dorothea who helped Bon Jovi when he was going through a crisis with the band after the demands of touring eventually took their toll. All the band members were so exhausted they couldn't even say goodbye to one another. At the 1992 MTV Awards, he was presented with a lifetime achievement award, but he gave it away to a girl in the audience. "I didn't deserve it" he said at the time "and I felt really cheap" Then he fired his manager. By the time the band had got back together later that year, to record the album Keep The Faith, he had become their manager. According to him, the rest of the band initially thought he'd become a dictator, but at least he could feel in control of the band's destiny. "Now, we've all got some perspective" he says "We've been together a long time, but touring is still difficult.  The time spent song-writing and being on stage is glorious, but I don't need to see another airplane or eat any more hotel food." British fans need not fear, though. The band is heading to the UK in August and Bon Jovi, who has met Prince Charles - at a Versace fashion show - is "hoping to write to Prince William and Prince Harry to invite them along." Does it ever get lonely touring? "Not lonely." he insists "Just boring, sometimes. Most of the time you're sitting around in the hotel, wherever you are, not knowing where you're going to go. At 5pm, you're called to do a soundcheck. Then, suddenly, you're on stage. It's midnight by the time you leave the stadium and, by then, you are completely wired, and you have to hang around in a bar till 4am to work it off. You go to bed, and then you have to do the whole thing again the next day. It is a strange way of living, which is why my wife and kids will come out on tour with us sometimes. It's nice for them to see what it's all about. You asked me what I hate about touring, and I would say it is when my son asks me to take him to a ball game and I have to say "no" because I'm just not going to be there. My daughter is an amazing piano player, and very strong-minded, while my son is a sensitive, very caring young boy" So are there any plans in the near future to expand the family? "Well, lady" he says sarcastically "you're the only one in the room right now. Are you offering?" Bon Jovi is the eldest of three brothers. He was born John Bongiovi, 38 years ago, to a family of third-generation Italian immigrants in Sayerville, New Jersey. His father was a hairdresser who used to cut his son's flowing locks ("and, no he doesn't any more" Bon Jovi adds) His mother was a fomer Bunny Girl ("I was only a year old at the time, but it was in the days when Lauren Hutton was a Bunny, so I understand it was quite a prestigious thing.") Bon Jovi says his childhood was a happy one. "although, where I grew up, there weren't many avenues out there. Most kids joined the services to escape, but I had dreams of being a rock'n'roll star. I was too small to play football, so playing music was my escape." Soon, Bon Jovi was playing in bars and clubs and, even at the age of 13, was discovering the effect his looks could have on women. "They seemed to take a shine to me." he says, half-grinning, "I never had trouble finding them." He also found drugs, although claims to have had "a couple of experiences as a youth" most notably at 13, when he smoked some dope - and then ran into a door, knocking himself unconscious. "But, again," he adds wearily "even if I did drugs, it was no-one's business." In 1983, he formed the band Bon Jovi with Sambora (who is married to L'Oreal model Heather Locklear) keyboard played David Bryan, and drummer Tico Torres (ex-husband of Wonderbra model, Eva Herzigova.) Bon Jovi's interest in acting was sparked in 1990, when he worked on the soundtrack of the western Young Guns II, (he also had a cameo role in which he was gunned down almost as soon as he walked on the screen). Critics have been generous about his screen career since, and seem to respect his capacity for acting with passion. Sadly, though, the only passion that he seems able to display as we talk is a distinct eagerness to get out of the stuffy hotel room as soon as possible. But not without setting everyone straight about the great Diana Ross. The two met when Jon was a teenager from New Jersey, working as a gofer in a recording studio where Ross was rehearsing. Delivering a message to Motown's grande dame, Bon Jovi made the mistake of calling her Diana, to which she sharply replied "Can't you read, you moron? It's Miss Ross to you. Now get the f*** out of my studio." "It was", says an older Bon Jovi, "a bit of a surprise, but as soon as I left the studio, it was a case of "Well, f*** you too, man."  Don't get me wrong, she's still a great singer. But I gotta tell you, Miss Ross ain't my boss." Maybe, she was just going through a midlife crisis. And, come to think of it, isn't Bon Jovi himself worried now that he's approaching 40, that he might be doing the same? He looks aghast. "No," he says, gets up and strides off to find his chauffeur-driven limousine to meet his wife at the airport. He has, after all, an important date to keep with the President of the United States. Did we not tell you?"