BON JOVI Makes Good
HOW BON JOVI MAKES A DIFFERENCE
Jon Bon Jovi takes pride in making a difference--and keeping it local. In a neighborhood near his New Jersey home, the rock star has contributed and helped raise funds to build a health care clinic for working families. He's a constant presence at community Special Olympics events.
And since he became co-owner of the Philadelphia Soul, an Arena Football League team, he's been focusing on the team's hometown. Bon Jovi and the Soul have donated $500,0000 to local causes, including the Police Athletic League, AIDS prevention awareness and a youth helpline.
But, wait. don't the Philly fans give Bon Jovi the business, given that he's a big fan of the New York Giants? They razz me all the time, "Bon Jovi admits." But I always tell them, 'At least we have something in common-- we both hate Dallas".
On Thursday, he'll speak at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in Washington, D.C. , a gathering of national leaders in volunteer service (for more information, go to www.pointsoflight.org).
My Store for
Jon Bon Jovi's kids are ticking him off. It's just not right, the way they're hooked on these darn iPods. "My kids have no desire to go to a record store," laments the rocker, at home in Middletown N.J., about 20 miles south of New York. "the appreciate music, but they only download individual songs. They're not getting the album experience. It's a shame. I had to go to the store to get the Stones' Sticky Fingers. And It was the seventh song on the album-not the singles-that made me want to write like that." (For you music trivia heads, that track is I got the blues.)
Too old to Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young to Die! was another classic disc from those years (that's Jethro Tull, trivia heads), and unfortunately, the title could serve as an anthem for all but a few rockers of a certain age. Not Bon Jovi: at 43 he has carved out a unique niche as a renaissance rocker, complete with a French chateau, albeit in New Jersey. While his 1980's arena-rock peers serve as nostalgia fodder on VH1, bon Jovi's strutting his stuff for the fans at this month's Live 8. His self-titled Band's new single is out-Have a Nice Day- with an album on the way. To date, the group has sole more than 100 million records and remains a top concert act. When he's not on the road or recording, Bon Jovi pursues acting, including a former sexy/sweet stint on TV's Ally McBeal and the upcoming movie Cry Wolf, due in September. He co-owns the Philadelphia Soul, and Arena Football League team that he bought two years ago. And the rocker-actor-team owner father of four continues cultivating yet another promising gig: giving back (see left column).
Not that he's bragging about it all. Bon Jovi, keen on maintaining his rocker persona, is not fond of advertising his credentials as rock's Family Guy, preferring to distance himself from the doting daddy image. After all, this fall he'll be going on major-league rock-star duty, and when you're a hard-rocking heartthrob selling out stadiums, you don't want audiences to realize that you've spent the past year changing diapers at 6 a.m. (Yes, Bon Jovi changes diapers.)
"How did I become a poster boy for parenthood when Bono and Bruce [Springsteen] have been married as long as me?" he pleads, reclining in his study. "Why am I singled out?" I'm not going to deny it, but I'm not playing it up".
OK, Jon, you may not be the poster boy. but for a middle-aged guy who can still make his original 1980's groupies-and their daughters-swoon, you're doing something right. Bon Jovi has been married to his high school sweetheart, Dorothea, for 16 years. They have four children, ages 1 to 12. He's an involved dad who volunteers for school-, recital- and sports-chauffeuring duties.
Still, don't expect to see pictures of Bon Jovi car-pooling. He's apparently persuaded the paparazzi to play by his rules, meaning no pictures of his children. "I have a relationship" with the photographers, he says. "When they show up, my kids to to the left and I go to the right, and they take their pictures of me. One of them told me they do this because I'm good to them, and they respect my wishes. So even those guys have a code. I appreciate that."
Given the Bon Jovi code, you can imagine how rarely he welcomes a camera crew and interviewer to his home. Still, ever an engaging host, he gamely offers a tour of his 19,000-square-foot mansion: the movie-and music-career mementos in his mahogany furnished study, the breath-taking view of the Navesink River along his dock. And given how guarded he is about his kids, it's surprising how easy he morphs into the proud papa when he shows off a rare display lining his hallway - a dozen stunning photo portraits of his children basked in natural light, shot by Herb Ritts, the famed celeb photographer who died in 2002. "We were good friends," Bon Jovi says. "He promised me that he'd take a new picture every time a child turned 1, and he kept doing it. But he told me, 'Don't tell anyone that I'm doing this for you. After all, I don't do baby photos'".
The garage is packed with the cardboard boxes in which his guitars were shipped, but it's also home to a plastic basketball hoop; a lacrosse stick belonging to his 12-year-old daughter, Stephanie; and book titled the Tao of Pooh. He walks into an elegant living room with ornate, traditional European trim and furnishings, then flips a switch. An 18-by-18 foot move screen emerges from the floor. "We have our movie nights, and, yeah, it's OK to eat popcorn in here," Bon Jovi says. "My wife and I watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith and the kids wanted to see it. But the film wasn't appropriate for them."
"How did I become a poster boy for parenthood when Bono and Bruce [Springsteen] have been married as long as me?"
He's just as watchful when it comes to the Web, which can lead to classic "my dad is so clueless" moments. "On day, my daughter is instant-messaging one of her friends, and I'm looking at what she's doing," he says, laughing. "Man with all the shortcuts they take, it looked like it was written in code! So I asked her, 'What does that line there mean?' She said 'Do you really want to know?" It means: Dad looking over shoulder. Gotta go.'"
Ahh, he's slipping into "daddy at home" talk again. The conversation veers back to Bon Jovi the band, not the person. "It very muck sounds like us, doesn't it?" he says of the new single. "It's who we are and who I am right now." In it, he gives the music industry a sneer about its obsession with conformity. But the song's sarcasm is offset with great hooks and pleasing power chords.
Bon Jovi's instincts usually pay off. Says Lance Gould, the New York Daily News deputy managing editor in charge of entertainment: "He capitalizes on his looks and his charm and translates it to staying on top. He's a nice guy. And he has a working-class Jersey sensibility that he's never lost. People warm up to that-regardless of the music."
In his study, Bon Jovi is proud to show off some of the spoils of his success, with his American Music and People's Choice awards displayed on a coffee table. there's an autographed football too. But it's not from the Philadelphia Soul. It's from his 10-year-old son, Jesse, and his rec-league football team. Which reminds Bon Jovi that being a rock-star dad has its trade-offs.
"You miss birthdays and graduations nd holidays," he says. "From the time our kids were born, we told them that there are going to be times when your dad is there every day and times that he's going to have to miss the recital. When I'm home, however our family life is very separate. I want them to grow up in a very ordinary environment. Living in New Jersey allows that."
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August 1, 2005
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