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Ozzy Osbourne Once Relieved Himself In Someones Shoes (10/17/2005)

Two men have dominated Sharon Osbourne’s life: her father, Don Arden, and her husband, Ozzy Osbourne. Her father appeared a loveable rogue, but was really something much darker; whereas Ozzy, the Prince of Darkness, is in fact just as he appears in The Osbournes: a loveable, shambolic and very funny man.

Don Arden raised his family in Brixton, in the days before it had “the edge of danger it does now”. It was an enclave of variety artists: “over the road from us were a fire-eater and a juggler”, and the man with the dog act lived across the bomb site. Don Arden started out in The Black and White Minstrel Show, but soon progressed to promoting Gene Vincent’s first UK tour, followed by the Everly Brothers, and, in the 1970s, the Electric Light Orchestra.

This was the murky, hugely profitable world of cash-only music management, and before long the Ardens had moved with startling abruptness to Mayfair, and Don was driving a Rolls-Royce. Sharon began to work for her father, and then spent years more trying not to: trying to escape his clutches. Her portrait of this “liar, thief, hypocrite” and “creep” is scathing.

In the 1970s she met and fell in love with Ozzy Osbourne, lead singer of Black Sabbath. For all his joke-satanic image she quickly perceived the kind-heartedness and the helpless, childlike quality underneath. He needed mothering. Thanks to the ceaseless flow of backstage booze and drugs, he spent a lot of time “staggering around crying or in a heap on the floor”, but at the same time his favourite puddings were “mini mango trifle” and “berry jelly”. His addictive personality also produced such bizarrenesses as his “escargot period”, when he was “eating his way through 25 snails a day, till every part of him reeked of garlic”. Before one concert he downed a whole bottle of Vicodin painkiller, a lethal dose for most people. Sharon quickly forced him under a cold shower and then onto the stage. There would have been a riot otherwise. He stumbled through the gig somehow, although unable to achieve the co-ordination necessary to clap his hands together.

Then there was his alarming tendency to bite the heads off birds and small mammals. The notorious bat incident occurred when Ozzy was too daft or drunk to realise that he had been thrown a live bat, and bit its head off. The earlier dove incident was not accidental, however. He had taken two live doves into the offices of his record company, CBS, intending to release them as “a symbol of peace and freedom and beauty”. First he tried to sit in a marketing girl’s lap, but she responded coldly. So “he pulls out one bird, puts its head in his mouth, spits it out on the girl’s knee and says, ‘F*** you.’” But then, Sharon adds by way of explanation, at 15 he was working in a Brummie slaughterhouse killing 500 cows a day.

Even now his fans continue to deluge him with livestock. In Rio they favour chickens, though “in Japan they’re more polite” and throw their chickens “in a foil-wrapped takeaway bag”.

Defecation is another recurring motif of these memoirs. There was the time that Ozzy relieved himself in a pair of shoes left outside someone’s hotel bedroom; the time Tony Iommi, Black Sabbath’s guitarist, tricked his fellow band members when he “shat in the guacamole dip and let them eat it”; and the time Sharon herself left a little Richard the Third on the head of a two-foot concrete gorilla at her father’s house, as a symbol of her filial independence. She has also urinated in Lynsey De Paul’s suitcase.

Sharon and Ozzy have always fought each other, blacked each other’s eyes, destroyed each other’s possessions. “I’ve ripped up his clothes. I’ve torn up his passport.” She once hit him bloodily in the face with a glass ashtray, and he once tried to strangle her.

More recently, Sharon has beaten cancer, starred in The X Factor, and been the steely heart of The Osbournes, that jaw-dropping real-life soap opera of heroic vulgarity and a genuinely loving family. Both the vulgarity and the love are vividly captured in Sharon's pungent and distinctive autobiography Sharon Osbourne: Extreme.


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