Jewish World Review April 11, 2002 / 30 Nissan 5762

Clarence Page

Clarence Page
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Consumer Reports

'Osbourne' family values rock, aging Ozzy quakes | What a disappointment. A report in British media that President Bush had invited shock rocker Ozzy Osbourne and family to the White House turns out to be bogus.

Too bad. For a moment there, I thought President Bush was going to prove to us that Sept. 11 had not killed irony in America after all.

Osbourne is best known for biting the head off of a bat - Yucko! - as front man for heavy-metal rockers Black Sabbath during a high-energy concert years ago. He later claimed that he mistakenly thought the little creature was made of plastic.

Yet, aside from his appetite and his rock 'n' roll trappings, Osbourne has a lot in common with President Bush and me: He's over 50 years old; he's trying to be a respectable father to teen-agers and, as such, he does not look nearly as cocky and proud of his youthful indiscretions as he did back when he was a youth.

At 53 and showing the apparent ravages of wild rock 'n' roll life in his slurred voice, glazed eyes and shaky hands, Ozzy has become a wobbly walking advertisement for fatherly devotion, traditional family values and, without his saying it, the dangers of drug use.

He is doing this to rave reviews along with his wife Sharon, who is also Ozzy's manager, and two of their children, Kelly, 17, and Jack, 16, on MTV's 13-part weekly soap-opera-style documentary series "Meet the Osbournes."

(Their other daughter, Aimee, 18, reportedly moved out to avoid being included in this family project. I guess she'll just have to find her own way to become famous.)

For four months, cameras followed them around their multimillion-dollar Beverly Hills mansion to produce what became, in its first four weeks, the biggest hit in MTV's 24-year-history.

"Bush is a huge fan of the MTV show 'The Osbournes,'" said the April 4 edition of The Express, the British newspaper that announced erroneously that the Osbournes had been invited to dinner at the White House.

Too juicy to be slowed by any rigorous regard for fact-checking, the story quickly spread to The Mirror, the BBC and other British media and back to Osbourne, who reacted with disbelief: "I thought I'd be on a wanted poster up on the wall, not invited to his place for tea," he said in his Birmingham accent. (That's Birmingham, England, y'all, not Alabama.)

His disbelief was warranted. A mystified operative in White House spokesman Ari Fleischer's office told me there was nothing to it. Zero. Nada.

Maybe someone was confused by Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne's acceptance of an invitation from Fox News Channel anchor Greta Van Susteren to sit at that network's table at the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner next month. It's not at the White House, but if Bush shows up, as presidents usually do, he and Ozzy will at least be in the same room.

Oh, well. If the president ever does tune into "The Osbournes," I think he might enjoy it. As a fellow father, he might appreciate as much as I do the irony of seeing Ozzy get his just deserts each week as he tries to steer his own kids away from the sort of youthful rebellion that, wittingly or unwittingly, he is marketing to others.

Here we see this lovely family moving into Beverly Hills with boxes neatly labeled "linen," "devil heads" and "dead things."

Then we see Ozzy with his speech slurred, his memory blurred and his hands shaky from burned-out youth pleading with son Jack before a night out, "Don't drink, don't take drugs, son, please. And if you have sex, wear a condom."

Young Jack rolls his eyes impatiently like, I imagine, young Ozzy once did to his own parents.

In another memorable episode, Ozzy finds out that his daughter Kelly, who already has dyed her spiky hair a bright shade of fuchsia, has gotten a teeny heart-shaped tattoo on her hip - without parental permission. It's only about a half-inch wide and easily hidden by her clothes. Still, Mom and Dad are very upset - even though Ozzy's hairy arms and chest are covered with tattoos of his own.

Ah, yes, child, let my conscience be YOUR guide.

I learned about "The Osbournes" early, thanks to my almost-13-year-old son who actually gets his homework done quickly so he can have time to watch things like Ozzy slowly and awkwardly trying to replace a kitchen garbage bag.

"Do drugs really do that to you, Dad?" Sonny Boy asks, his eyes wide open with disbelief.

"Yes, son," I answer, "if you don't overdose first."

If anything, "The Osbournes" has become a major hit precisely because it helps kids find out how bizarre their lives really would be if their parents were as "cool" as rock stars.

It also must amuse and comfort many parents to know that big-shot rock stars face as many frustrations as the rest of us do when they try to raise teen-agers.

To a lot of us boomers, Ma and Pa Osbourne sound, with each passing day, more and more like our own parents once did.

That's not as weird as biting bats, but it comes close.

Comment on JWR contributor Clarence Page's column by clicking here.


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