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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Ozzy Osbourne: Beverly Hills' Batty Brit
Ozzy Osbourne: friend of Presidents
As the heavy metal wildman Ozzy Osbourne takes the US by storm in his own fly-on-the wall documentary, Andrew Walker of the BBC's News Profiles Unit looks at the wicked life and times of rock music's self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness.

The White House Correspondents' Association Dinner - now in its 88th year - is universally regarded as one of the strangest events of the Washington "season", a broadcaster's bacchanal. This year's proved to be no exception.

Every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended at least one dinner and nowadays it is de rigueur for the Leader of the Free World to set the tone of the evening with a few well-chosen, highly-scripted and often self-deprecating wisecracks.


I suppose Americans get a kick out of watching a crazy Brit family like us

Ozzy Osbourne on the success of his MTV show
George W Bush, regularly likened by his critics to nothing more than a stand-up comedian anyway, brought the house down with a slide show which included, as he put it, a photograph of the First Lady "helping me pronounce 'Azerbaijanis'".

But perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the night was the presence, on Table 168, of the elegantly wasted heavy metal singer, the 53-year-old Ozzy Osbourne.

Ozzy Osbourne making a V-sign
Ozzy at the White House Correspondents' dinner
Sure, the dinner has been attended by exotic guests before, including the pornographer Larry Flynt, Donald Trump's former squeeze, Marla Maples, and an acquaintance of the 42nd President, one Paula Jones.

But Osbourne's attendance, as a guest of Fox News's legal eagle Greta Van Susteren, was greeted with more excitement than the president's.

After surviving a sybaritic odyssey which would have left most of us playing a harp on a cloud, it seems Ozzy has finally arrived.

Conquered the United States

Unlike General Burgoyne, cricket and Bruce Forsyth before him, he has conquered the United States.

"The thing about Ozzy," quipped the chief executive during his speech, "is he's had a lot of big recordings - Party With the Animals, Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath, Face in Hell, Black Skies and Blood in Paradise.

"Ozzy, Mom loves your stuff."

Ozzy Osbourne's love affair with America, where he has lived for many years, has progressed slowly. The dyslexic son of a West Midlands factory worker, with a juvenile conviction for burglary, channelled his frustration - "I felt like a caged animal", he says - into his music.

Black Sabbath
Reunited: Black Sabbath in 1998
As Black Sabbath's front-man his excesses became the stuff of legend. Shocking even his colleagues, Sabbath sacked him in 1979... then the fun really started.

Two years later he bit the head off a bat tossed to him on stage by a fan, claiming later that he thought it was a rubber toy. Not confining himself to mammalia, he outraged record executives by orally decapitating a live dove during a meeting.

Other topics for his memoirs, which he is to pen for a reputed £2 million multi-book advance, may include his arrest for drunken urination on The Alamo, dropping acid tabs every day for two years with Sabbath's drummer, Bill Ward, and a stoned attempt to murder his current wife - and manager - Sharon, while on tour in Moscow.

The police, their reaction unrecorded, were called. No charges were brought.

Rehabilitated

But Ozzy is better now, honest. He has cleaned up his life, with rehab - including a spell at that palace of the dissolute, the Betty Ford Clinic - and at the box office.

Sharon Osbourne, to whom he has been married for 20 years, has proved herself to be an astute marketer of her husband's talents.

His cod-satanic posturing, a pantomime dame counterbalancing Marilyn Manson's reptilian darkness, has brought him millions of new American fans, eager to see their icon on stage and to buy his records.

Ozzy with his wife and manager, Sharon
Mrs Osbourne: Ozzy with his wife and manager, Sharon
Beyond this, Osbourne's decision to donate the merchandising profits from his recent US tour, A Night of Merry Mayhem, to the families of police and fire-fighters affected by the September 11 attacks, has brought the former bad boy nationwide acclaim.

And now MTV's fly-on-the-wall documentary, The Osbournes, has become a ratings hit, with a viewership of eight million. 55 cameras capturing, in 13 half-hour episodes, the daily lives of Mr and Mrs Osbourne of Beverly Hills and two of their three children have held the States in thrall.

Forget the Simpsons, the Addams family and the Munsters, if you really want to see the "fun" put back into "dysfunctional", Ozzy and his brood are for you.


Ozzy, Mom loves your stuff

President Bush praises the erstwhile Prince of Darkness
Highlights, soon to be aired in the UK on Channel Four, include Ozzy struggling - with frequently-bleeped dialogue throughout - to install a DVD player, operate a vacuum cleaner and deal with his seemingly incontinent household pets.

America's TV Guide has described the series, which also includes rows with the next-door neighbours, teenage tantrums and Ozzy's unique philosophising, as "a cross between The Simpsons and This Is Spinal Tap".

The success of the first series has led to the commissioning of a second for which Ozzy Osbourne is expected to receive a fee of £13.5 million.

Ozzy Osbourne
No longer a wildman: Ozzy today
Its star is at a loss to explain the show's popularity: "I suppose Americans get a kick out of watching a crazy Brit family like us make complete fools of ourselves every week," he muses.

To add to his credentials, Ozzy Osbourne has just been awarded a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. The Brummie is now as American as, well not exactly Mom's Apple Pie, but certainly not Jeffrey Dahmer either.

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