Gary James' Interview With Bon Jovi's Tour Manager
Bon Jovi has sold more than 130 million records worldwide and performed before 34 million fans, but little is known about Bon Jovi's rise to stardom because quite frankly he doesn't talk about it.
Now, someone else has stepped forward to talk about it - his tour manager from 1983 - 1989, Richard Bozzett. Richard has written a book titled Sex, Drugs And Bon Jovi. (www.SexDrugsBonJovi.com)
I talked with Richard Bozzett about his book and Jon Bon Jovi.
Q - Rich, did anybody tell you we actually met years ago?
A - Nobody told me and I wouldn't be surprised.
Q - I saw Jon Bon Jovi perform at The Lost Horizon on March 17th, 1984. Before he performed that night, I interviewed him, when he was staying at the Holiday Inn on Carrier Circle. Does that club ring a bell?
A - A little bit. There's been many clubs.
Q - Well, I went to the hotel, knocked on the door and you answered the door.
A - Most likely. I was the one co-coordinating the interview stuff.
Q - So, I walked into the room and I didn't see Jon. All of a sudden the covers on the bed flip of, he's fully dressed of course, but he's got this bandana wrapped around his neck. I looked at him and said "You really got this rock star thing down, don't you?" He said "You oughta see me when I get off the bus. I got the sunglasses on and my hair is blowin' in the wind."
A - Yeah.
Q - My thought at the time was this guy is trying too hard to be cool.
A - Sometimes it takes more of a hit song than just trying.
Q - Well, that's my memory of my one and only meeting with Jon. That night, there were only fifty people in attendance for his show at The Lost Horizon.
A - Well, you were on the early shows, Gary. The book starts in that realm.
Q - And to think I was pushing Polygram for an interview with The Scorpions and they served up Bon Jovi, so I accepted.
A - And who knew he'd grow to be probably one of the biggest bands coming out of the '80s.
Q - Unlike most people who will interview you, I was there in the early days.
A - Yeah. I love your story. It makes me feel like somebody else was there in the Holiday Inn with me, not suffering, but those were our early days and they were trying times.
Q - I also remember Jon talking about a 'live' radio show he was going to be doing in Cleveland Tuesday night.
A - I think that was Kid Leo if he mentioned the name. It was like his favorite start-up guy.
Q - I don't remember him mentioning any name. I also remember him asking me if I had heard of his song "Runaway". When I said "no", he started to sing a few lines of it.
A - The big hits came a little later, but I enjoyed the early songs myself.
Q - I guess it's fair to say that Bon Jovi didn't ask you to sign a confidentiality agreement when you signed on?
A - That's correct.
Q - If there's one message that seems to come across loud and clear in your book is that you're hurting. When Jon's manager promised you a 5% interest in Bon Jovi and health insurance, that probably should have been put in writing.
A - You're naive at those times. You're young. Plus, I trusted Doc (McGhee, Bon Jovi's manager). I was with Doc long before Bon Jovi. I knew his family personally. I lived with him. We were tight. He took me out of the limousine company I was driving for. One night he said "You're gonna work for me. Call your boss Harry and tell him you're packing up and heading out." Next day I was gone. I had no reason not to trust him.
Q - 5% interest in Bon Jovi translates to a lot of money.
A - Well, at that time, in the early days, there was hardly any money being generated. Once we hit on "Slippery", it was huge, huge, huge. Massive amounts of money. That's what you work for. You work for a goal. I wasn't being greedy. I was just wondering why everybody else got wealthy and I didn't.
Q - You came out of the Navy and went to work for this limo company. What did you know about the limo business or being a driver?
A - Actually, I was in the construction business in the Navy. I was a builder. When I got out, I did some odd jobs, one was driving some models around, which I didn't say in the book. But the phone call came into a house where I was living and they were looking for Rich Fisher, the Mötley Crüe tour manager, but I said "he's on the road with Pat Travers. I'm here, Richie Bozzett. I drive limos." This guy Joe said "Well, get your ass over to the garage." I came over and they hired me. I ended up driving all of their Rock 'n' Roll clientele, Tina Turner, Genesis. Anybody that came into New York City, I drove 'em. Had some great clients and one of my clients was Doc McGhee. He wouldn't even take the car unless Richie drove. If Richie wasn't available, forget it.
Q - You made the jump from limo driver to tour manager. How did Doc McGhee know you would make a good tour manager? How did he know you could do the job?
A - I think sometimes you just have a good feeling about a person. You got a good business feel. He took a chance, but I did start as assistant tour manager with Pat Travers. So, I learned from Rich Fisher, who was Pat's tour manager and I moved along up the ladder. Then we signed Mötley Crüe. Then we signed Bon Jovi and he said "you're Bon Jovi's tour manager." One day Doc told me "I wish I had taught you some stuff about tour managing, but I knew you'd learn it all on your own. You've done a great job."
Q - Wasn't Doc McGhee associated with Doug Thaler at one point?
A - Yeah. Doug came on later, after we signed Mötley. Doug was, I believe, with a booking agency. I don't want to tell you which one 'cause I kind of forget. But he came over to McGhee. They made friends. Maybe it was Mötley's booking agency. He brought him in as a partner. Doug was out with Mötley Crüe but not Bon Jovi all the time. He made the book.
Q - Have you heard from Jon since this book was released?
A - Not yet. I don't know if I will. He hasn't called me.
Q - Have you heard from Doc McGhee?
A - No. Jon's lawyer ordered one. I know that.
Q - Is that good or bad?
A - He's a good lawyer. That might be bad for me. No, I'm only kidding. (laughs) It's OK. It's a good book. It's a Bon Jovi positive book I love the guys. I just had to tell my story, just a way of getting off my shoulders I think. You told me in the beginning you feel the pain. It's tough. You build something from ground zero and you make a gigantic situation of it, then, I don't want to say thrown out of an airplane without a parachute or thrown out of the bus and run over a few times, but it kind of really felt that way, by the manager.
Q - Had Bon Jovi ever been managed by someone like Brian Epstein, you would've had your 5% interest.
A - I appreciate Brian's honesty and even if it was a handshake deal, back then most deals were handshake deals. I'm an honest man, full of integrity as best as I can be. Somebody does a handshake deal with me, it's golden.
Q - The press release on your book brings attention to Doc McGhee's drug dealing days. That's not really big news. That was all over the pages of Rolling Stone when it happened.
A - The book goes into a little more detail how Jon helped him not serve jail.
Q - As part of Doc's sentencing, he was required to put on a benefit concert or benefit concerts. But Doc is helping Bon Jovi's career, so you can see why Jon would say yes to that.
A - Jon even personally wrote a letter to Judge Britt in North Carolina, which I publicized in the book, which really helped Doc keep his butt out of jail, plus the concerts over in Russia for the Let's Make A Difference Foundation. Doc had asked me also some things to say and I was gonna tell Doc, whatever he wanted me to tell him.
Q - You have some photos in the book with Jon surrounded by what looks like Playboy centerfolds. You felt that had those photos been released in 1984 or the mid-80s, they would have hurt Jon's career. I don't see it that way. The public expects Rock stars to be surrounded by women.
A - Well, I think the reason I'm saying that is the audience was more pure than say a Mötley Crüe audience, which was rowdy and rough and wasted. Bon Jovi's audience were like young girls in their young teens, even through "Slippery". The first ones, mostly young girls were at those shows. The bar you saw Jon at couldn't have teenagers in there. But it was a young audience, a little more cleaner. I didn't really want to hurt the band's image. I don't know if it would or not.
Q - It did not.
A - I concentrated myself on just trying to get together a new career and everything. My ex-fiancé called me to do a coffee table book. I said "I got more pictures." She said "I've got pictures." I said "I've got stories." I didn't even put half of 'em in. (laughs)
Q - I can see a Part Two book on the horizon.
A - That's what I said. Sex, Drugs And Bon Jovi - Part Two.
Q - You write: in 1984, it took a million dollars a year to keep Bon Jovi on the road. How much money did the label put out? Doc McGhee had to front all that? No tour support?
A - Well, no. There's always tour support. We go after that right away. Polygram was fairly good with tour support. Doc was a master at manipulating Polygram, getting money, even though the band itself was generating (money). They get that Doc's a master of the re-coup. He cut a 50/50 deal on the re-coup. Sometimes a 100% re-coupable. But Doc was a master. He only had to re-coup half.
Q - Doc is not managing Jon these days, but he is managing Kiss.
A - That's correct. He got fired from Bon Jovi at the end of the tour I got fired from. I don't know if it was in connection to what happened to me or not. I just don't know. I do know a story that I didn't put in the book that the Bon Jovi security guard, Danny Francis, told me that when Jon told him he was gone over the phone, Doc started breaking every Bon Jovi record over his desk in his office. Destroyed them all.
Q - I don't understand why Kiss needs Doc McGhee. They could teach him a thing or two about management.
A - I'm not sure, 'cause Kiss are great managers of themselves, coming from where they came from, I think they've run into problems in the past. They're a seasoned Rock act and they do kind of self-manage themselves. They probably don't give him as much of a percentage, but sometimes on the touring it's good to have a management company co-coordinating all the aspects of road crew, buses, trucks, airplanes. He might just get a piece of the touring and maybe not their album sales.
Q - Gene Simmons is a pretty shrewd, smart businessman.
A - Yes, he is. And he teamed up with Doc Corleone, the most ruthless business manager in the music business. (laughs)
Q - Back in 1975, John Lennon told Tom Snyder the biggest reason guys got into a band is to meet woman. In your book, you make it clear time and time again that Rock 'n' Roll is a business. The idea of a wild lifestyle is put out there to sell CDs and shows. If the truth was known of how much work was really involved, fans would find that boring wouldn't they?
A - It would be. You've got to give the fans the impression that things are wild and crazy. They want to get out of their regular, normal school day or nine to five job and know that somebody out there is living some life that they can't live.
Q - You wrote about Kiss: "I expected to see the drugs and women everywhere. But they were even more all business than Bon Jovi. They worked hard, took off the make-up and went home. That's it." So, all these wild stories that Gene likes to spin are all talk?
A - I wasn't Kiss' tour manager, but we did tour with them for quite a long time, through Europe and England. In my eyes, it was all business. I didn't really see any of their antics. I just know that the few antics he saw that Bon Jovi did, he was not appreciative of. We kind of trashed the hotel room. He was like, "That's it. You guys don't stay where we're staying. You find another hotel. I'm not going for that embarrassment." When you mature in the business, you don't want that around. When you first start, you see all that.
Q - That type of behavior had already been done before by groups in the '60s. By the time Bon Jovi was on the road in the '80s, that was old.
A - Yeah, exactly. But I even noticed when Skid Row came out with Bon Jovi on the "Slippery" tour opening up. Jon and I went over to the dressing room one time after the show and they were in there with all the women having a great time. Jon and I looked at each other like, "wish we were having a good time." (laughs) It's like these are the new kids doing whatever they want to do, getting crazy and we're getting more subdued already.
Q - To be totally honest with you, I am surprised that Jon has enjoyed as much success as he has. I didn't think there was anything unique about the group. The way Jon's records were produced, the music almost drowns out his vocals. He sounds like he's straining to be heard. His songs aren't' all that memorable. His stage performance? I've seen it all before. So, why did Bon Jovi make it?
A - Don't forget Jon's not the best vocalist. He's straining often. I think it was the work ethic of the band and their relationship to all the promotion and to building a solid fan base. Once Desmond Child came in to write those three mega-hits, it was smooth sailing from there. Jon worked hard onstage. He was a great, great performer and a great showman. By the "Slippery" shows, they were really polished. They were exciting shows.
Q - I see the group sold forty million records in the U.S., sixty million overseas. So, the group must have been really popular overseas.
A - We did a massive amount of touring overseas. You saw us at a club in Syracuse, but we played clubs all over. If we could play a phone booth to one person, Doc McGhee would make us play, seven nights a week. We never had a day off. He pushed those kids until Jon's voice would just be shot.
Q - I suppose Doc McGhee was trying to make the point if you really want to be successful, this is what you're going to have to do.
A - Absolutely. Doc McGhee was the instigator of that work ethic. Once those three mega-hits came through with Desmond Child, it was smooth sailing. The 'live' show was just tremendous. Richie Sambora was an exciting guitar player. Tico is a great drummer. He hits 'em hard. They had a groove. Their songs are fairly generic. They all kind of sound the same except for maybe "Wanted" is the only off ballad, but most of their mid-range, driving songs sound the same. They just change the lyrics. I understand what you're saying.
Q - I knew Jon had made it when I saw Spencer's selling his poster in a local mall in 1985.
A - At that time period, many guys didn't get him. It took a long time for the guys to get onboard. It was kind of the "New Jersey" album that they really sewed it up tight with the male audience. But they had the female audience down. Nice guy. Good looking guy with the hair and a couple of the girl songs.
Q - In the press release for this book, much is made of Jon's drug use, pills to get him up for the show and pills to make him relax after the show. I don't see the public being shocked about this. A guy like Jon is on the road. He's doing promotion work. He's changing time zones constantly. If anything, the public would wonder how you maintain that energy level.
A - Gary, you're obviously more familiar with touring and more knowledgeable than the average person or average fan, that's for sure. You're a little more progressed. I can understand your thinking. It's just business as usual. Jon is kind of a squeaky-clean image guy with his fans. I was just trying to show them what it took to get up for those big shows. That stage is like five times the size of an open act stage. He's taking speed before the show to run around and cover the whole stage and giving you two hours of excitement. Your body is pumped afterward and he's taking valium and wine to come down. Then the radio interview during the day. Then the travel city to city to city. Like you said, his voice wasn't all that over powering or that unique. It put a big strain on him. He took steroids to fix the voice every night. Then traveling, it's dry in the airplane. It's damp on the ground. It's a tough run.
Q - If Jon was able to do al of the things he wanted to do without becoming an Elvis or Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix, then I would think he would pull back and retire.
A - It's funny that you mention Elvis. He wants to take his spot, even though nobody will ever take Elvis' spot.
Q - Tell Jon when Elvis dies, he might have a shot at it.
A - (laughs) In Jon's case, the reason he keeps on going, I think anyway, is because he just craved the adulation, the attention. I don't think he could sit. Jon can't sit. He's gotta always keep movin'. You can say that I don't know him, but believe me, I know him. I might not know him for the last fifteen years, but I did converse with him up until five years after the departure. But, I know, that's a man who cannot sit. He's always on the move. He's always trying to one up himself. He's got a big...I don't know if it's the right word, ego, and he's got to fill that. I don't have it, so I don't know for sure. I think if you have an ego, you always gotta keep filling it.
Q - He's probably thinking, how far can I take this act of mine? He remembers the struggling days.
A - I agree with you. I agree 100%. Is there something else past this? Jon is always looking for something new. I hope he finds the Unsung Heroes Foundation with me. I hope if and when he reads the book, if he does, that he can feel the book and feel that the Unsung Heroes Foundation needs him. We really do. We need Jon to kick this off. We need band support to help out the other road crew guys throughout the business. I hope he joins up.
Q - I want to say again, I don't think this book of your hurts Jon Bon Jovi in anyway.
A - I appreciate that, Gary. I didn't mean the book to hurt anybody. I'm embracing Bon Jovi. I love Bon Jovi. Hopefully, we can re-embrace together.