The redemption of Ozzy Osbourne

Once he made headlines by biting off the heads of a bat and a dove — claiming he thought they were plastic. As front man of heavy metal band Black Sabbath his wild behaviour got the  group banned from every gig in a 100-venue tour.

No wonder Ozzy Osbourne, the Birmingham ex-plumber who was  calculated to use a swearword every 19 seconds, was once voted the pop star every mother would dread her daughter bringing home. Now at 64, John Michael Osbourne is back in the headlines. His marriage to the legendary Sharon, which had survived 31 tumultuous years, is said by friends to be almost certainly over - Sharon has moved from their Hollywood home into a nearby hotel.

Ozzy has no doubt that he's to blame. He's told his eight million Facebook followers that's it's all due to an 18-month lapse into drink  and drugs after ten years on the waggon, but he's now "been sober for 44 days and I hope that Sharon will once again forgive me."
But will she? Insiders say that the couple haven't seen each other for more than three weeks and that neither is wearing wedding rings.  And although Sharon has issued a statement saying: "Our marriage is not on the rocks" friends wonder whether Ozzy will be forgiven this time.

The Osbournes' decision to live apart  is just the latest blow to a family which seemed to have more than its share of bad luck. Daughter  Kelly was rushed to hospital with a seizure, son Jack was diagnosed with MS, Sharon had a double mastectomy and Ozzy was burned in a house fire. He also suffered a horrendous quad-bike accident  and there were fears for his life. "People don't realise how bad it really was," Ozzy says.

"I broke my neck, smashed my collarbone, crushed my chest, pierced my lungs  and severed all my  nerves. My heart stopped twice. "I still have a lot of pain but I'm still alive and I'm getting stronger all the time thanks to a an hour's work-out a day." Now, despite his marital problems, Ozzy, whose income is reckoned at $50 million a year, is back in the big-time.

He has a new single, a new album and a tour with his Black Sabbath group. There is also talk of the Osbourne family making another of their outrageous fly-on-the wall documentaries which became compulsive viewing around the world . 

It's all a far cry from the days when the outrageous Ozzy  was firmly on the other side of the law — as the world's most inept burglar he landed up in gaol for three months after using fingerless gloves!

Deciding music would be more lucrative than crime, he formed the Black Sabbath heavy metal band  before being fired at the height of its success in 1978 and spiralled into an oblivion of drink and drugs.

He was rescued by his manager and soon to be his wife, Sharon Arden, daughter of rock impresario Don Arden, who single-handedly was to turn Ozzy into Heavy Metal's biggest and most controversial star. His first two albums as a solo star - Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman, were to become multi-million sellers and enabled Ozzy and his family to enjoy millionaire lifestyles in their mansions in Beverly Hills and England's Buckinghamshire. "I was virtually in retirement when this idea for the documentary came along," Ozzy says. "Then everything went crazy."

He admits that the real star of the show is Sharon, who went on to become the pundit fans love to hate in reality television shows like Pop Idol and The X-Factor. It was Sharon, who was seen screaming and shouting at the neighbours and coping with the couple's hordes of untrained pets, who masterminded the series.

"To be honest, we enjoyed  every minute of it," Ozzy says. "In real life we're exactly as we are on TV." Until recently, Ozzy appeared to have given up drink and he and Sharon lived a largely tranquil life both in Hollywood and on their massive country estate with coats of arms on the toilets and herds of deer in the park.

A shrewd businesswoman, Sharon controls a music empire worth around $150 million based around Ozzy. His albums still have a huge cult following and his US pop festival, Ozzfest is a sell-out every year. Friends say that now the tempestuous marriage is on the crossroads.

Ozzy is attending AA meetings and trying to convince Sharon that he really can turn over a new leaf. "He might be lucky," says one. "Only recently Sharon said that although life with Ozzy can be hell, it would be even worse without him." 


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