No human being has experienced unfiltered rock and roll like Ozzy Osbourne and lived to tell the tale. The one-time embodiment of excess and scapegoat of pearl-clutching parents everywhere, it has become fashionable for those who only know the Prince Of Darkness from reality television and Reagan-era tabloids to simply write him off as a burnt-out heavy metal caricature.
Unsurprisingly, Ozzy’s story is not nearly as cut-and-dry as a nonstop party in hell. As vulgar and unsettling as some of his more public episodes were at times, the famed frontman’s life is balanced out by times of deep self-reflection and pathos merged with humor.
Much of this is addressed in his 2009 autobiography, I Am Ozzy. While the book is chock-full of jaw-dropping anecdotes, one of the most endearingly entertaining tales that Osbourne shares is the moment he met avant-garde troubadour Frank Zappa.
It all started in the mid-1970s, when Black Sabbath and Zappa happened to be staying at the same hotel in Chicago. As Ozzy tells it: “All of us looked up to Zappa – especially Geezer – because he seemed like he was from another planet. At the time he’d just released this quadraphonic album called Apostrophe (*), which had a track on it called ‘Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow’. Fucking classic.
“Anyway, so there we were at this hotel, and we ended up hanging out with his band in the bar. Then the next day we got word that Frank wanted us to come to his Independence Day party, which was going to be held that night at a restaurant around the corner.”
“We could hardly wait,” he continued. “So come eight o’clock, off we went to meet Frank. When we arrived at the restaurant, there he was, sitting at this massive table, surrounded by his band. We introduced ourselves, then we all started to get pissed.
“But it was really weird, because the guys in his band kept coming up to me and saying, ‘You got any blow? Don’t tell Frank I asked you. He’s straight. Hates that stuff. But have you got any? Just a toot, to keep me going!
“I didn’t want to get involved, so I just went, ‘Nah,’ even though I had a big bag of the stuff in my pocket. Later, after we’d finished eating, I was sitting next to Frank when two waiters burst out of the kitchen, wheeling a massive cake in front of them. The whole restaurant went quiet.”
They had good reason to fall into an awed hush, as Ozzy explained: “You should have seen that cake, man. It was made into the shape of a naked chick with two big, icing-covered tits – and her legs were spread wide apart.
“But the craziest thing about it was that they’d rigged up a little pump, so champagne was squirting out of her vagina. You could have heard a pin drop in that place until the band finally started to sing ‘America the Beautiful’.
“Then everyone had to have a ceremonial drink of the champagne, starting with Frank. When it was my turn, I took a long gulp, screwed up my face, and said, ‘Ugh, tastes like piss.’ Everyone thought that was hilarious.
“Then Frank leaned over and whispered in my ear, ‘Got any blow? It’s not for me – it’s for my bodyguard!’
“‘Are you serious?’ I asked him. ‘Sure. But don’t tell the band. They’re straight.’”