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Ozzy Osbourne bit into a live bat a decade ago

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”Let the madness begin!”

Heavy-metal fans knew the shout: It opens every Ozzy Osbourne concert. But who knew Osbourne would bite off more than he could or wished to chew on Jan. 20, 1982, by chomping the head off a dead bat during a performance at Veterans Auditorium in Des Moines.

After that the madness really began. The British rocker claimed he’d mistaken the creature for a rubber toy thrown him by a fan. Health officials searched for the animal’s remaining remains. Phone calls to the Wisconsin Humane Society warned that Osbourne would be slaughtering a goat onstage in Milwaukee. The next week, Ozzy collapsed onstage from the effects of rabies shots he’d been receiving since the Big Bite.

But it all was just business as usual for the Godfather of Heavy Metal. Eight months earlier, in a meeting with Columbia record execs, Osbourne had bitten the head off a live dove. A few years later, in 1985, he would be sued by the father of a California teen who shot himself after listening to Osbourne’s ”Suicide Solution” and ”Paranoid.” (The case was eventually thrown out of court.) In 1990 New York’s John Cardinal O’Connor charged that such music could lead to demonic possession, not to mention self-destruction.

In his 1991 video Don’t Blame Me, Ozzy tried to put his antics in perspective. ”I milk it to a point…but it’s all show business,” he said, claiming he’s ”like a clown (who) at the end of the show takes off his makeup, and he goes around like a normal guy.”

At least he goes around like a (somewhat) normal guy at home in Buckinghamshire, England. There John Michael Osbourne, now 43, lives with wife Sharon (his manager since 1979) and their children, Aimee, 8, Kelly, 7, and Jack, 6. And what do his kids make of Da’s madness? ”They know I’m not like their school friends’ daddies,” Ozzy says.


TIME CAPSULE

Jan. 20, 1982
Readers were fixed on Colleen McCullough’s An Indecent Obsession. Burt Reynolds directed and starred in the cop thriller Sharky’s Machine, and Olivia Newton-John got ”Physical” on the radio.

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