Ozzy born scared

STEVE TILLEY

, Last Updated: 12:28 AM ET

If you believe the legends, he's bitten the heads off of dead bats and live doves, was banned from Texas for peeing on the Alamo while wearing a woman's dress, has been blamed for teen suicides and probably does mescal shots with Satan every day after work.

So surely nothing in heaven, earth or the fiery abyss below actually frightens Ozzy Osbourne, the granddaddy of heavy metal, the godfather of goth, he who shoots in the dark, barks at the moon and drives the crazy train. Right?

METAL MAYHEM

Not so. "I was born f---ing scared," said an unmistakable Birmingham accent coming over the line from Tokyo, where Ozzy was preparing to unleash metal mayhem on a horde of followers during the Japanese leg of his current world tour. "I don't feel as comfortable in this world as much as I used to. It's a scary time for me."

As Edmonton fans practise their devil-finger salutes for the Ozzman's Tuesday concert at Skyreach Centre - his first visit here in almost six years - the 53-year-old metal maniac is reflecting on what it means to be a clean and (relatively) sober family man, still renowned for the legendary excesses of his not-so-distant past but warily facing the same post-Sept. 11 world as the rest of us chumps. He's not mellowing, per se. He's just Ozzy: 2002.

Today's Ozzy still does world tours, this time supporting his recent solo album Down to Earth, which features the - dare we say it? - sweet and gentle ballad Dreamer. He still reunites with Black Sabbath, the definitive metal band he began more than 30 years ago. But some of the more extreme Ozzy ways have been left behind.

"I can't take the knocks like I used to," Ozzy said. "We all went out last night and we had a good time. I wasn't drinking, the crew were, and one of the crew ended up walking through a f---ing shop window." (There were actually more "f---s" peppered throughout what he said, but they've been trimmed back a little in this story to keep it from looking like a fill-in-the-blanks exam.)

"He got about 25 stitches in him, but that's what happens when you get loaded," the Ozzman continued. "You do stupid things you wouldn't normally do. The amount of times I drank and drove without a driving licence, out of my mind, at nine million miles an hour, is not even funny."

Ozzy's own personal wake-up call came in 1989, when he tried to strangle wife (and manager) Sharon Osbourne after a particularly nasty bender.

"At the end of the day, when I woke up in a jail in England and I was charged with attempted murder, that wasn't exactly f---ing funny. I said, 'Murder who? When? What?' Apparently I'd been in a drunken blackout and had a fight with my wife and they charged me with attempted murder."

Fate has a way of working things out, though, and in Ozzy's case it's blessed him with three kids of his own that he has to deal with. When you've dined on bat, snorted live ants and sampled most every pharmaceutical under the moon, how do you tell the kids to be home by 10 p.m.?

"It's sort of a double-edged sword," Ozzy said. "I say to my kids every night, 'If you go out, don't drink too much, don't take dope, if you're gonna have sex, wear protection.' And they go, 'Oh Dad, don't be so crude.'

'YOU TOOK ALL THOSE DRUGS'

"See, if I don't tell you, then you come home pregnant or some virus attacks you, I'm not doing my job. But the other side of the blade is they go, 'You did it. You took all those drugs, you drank all that booze, look at you, you're f---ing 53, you're still a successful man, you've got a show on TV."

Yes, you read that right. Beginning Tuesday on MTV (and coming soon to diginet MTV Canada) is the new reality show The Osbournes, sort of The Real World meets The Addams Family. On crack. Or make that bat.

An MTV film crew lived with Ozzy, Sharon and teenaged kids Kelly and Jack (eldest daughter Amy refused to participate) for six months, gathering unfiltered glimpses of life in the land of Ozz. Word is the series is singularly bizarre and incredibly funny.

"Let me tell you something, having cameras around you all the time ... you get kind of freaked out," Ozzy said. "You're scratching your balls and you're like, 'Oh f---.' You start getting paranoid. There were a couple of restricted areas, like my bathroom and my bedroom, when I wanted to escape. I'm going, 'Here I am, I've worked all my life to sit in the bathroom in the dark to get some serenity.'

"I watched the first episode, and it's just kind of me being a goofball around the house. But people are cracking up. I'm not trying to be funny, I'm just the way I am. Things seem to happen to me."

Those things include a touching presentation during a Sept. 11 benefit concert at Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey, where one of the firefighters that Ozzy invited on stage gave him a metal crucifix made from chunks of steel from the fallen World Trade Center.

Ozzy, who has visited Ground Zero and performed at a USO show for troops in South Korea, was at a loss.

"I've never been stuck for words before, but he gave me this crucifix, and it was like somebody giving me a piece of (the biblical) crucifix. I mean, I didn't know what to f---ing say or do ... I was totally gone, man."

It's the aftershocks of Sept. 11 that still have Ozzy mildly freaked out, especially since he travels a lot by air when touring. And although he's had his share of problems with Canada Customs in the past ("Your customs people aren't exactly friendly to us. You'd think you're going into f---ing heaven, you know?"), nowadays he doesn't mind being hassled quite as much.

"To be perfectly truthful, it's a pain in the ass, but you know what? After Sept. 11, I get pissed off when people don't do their job. If they don't do their job then there's going to be another guy with a hand grenade, gonna blow some other plane out of the sky."

Kinder and gentler, maybe. But mellow? No (insert colourful Ozzyism here) way.


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