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OT: Ozzy in Washington

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Great & Powerful Ozz

At the White House Correspondents' Dinner, a Heavy-Metal Taste of True Celebrity

By David Montgomery

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, May 6, 2002; Page C01

The hotel lobby was thronged with famous people in tuxedos and party dresses. Oh, Drew Carey! Ah, Raquel Welch! Soon there would be generals, Cabinet secretaries and, of course, the president himself.

But who cared? There was someone else everyone really wanted to see. Tourists stood to one side, eyes riveted on the lobby doors, disposable cameras ready. Press photographers elbowed for position on the other side. Everyone waited. When would he arrive? What would he wear? Would his wife accompany him? What would he say?

If he said anything, would anyone understand?

Suddenly a Gothic profusion of black and magenta and pink and blue -- the clothes, the hair, the shades, the tattoos -- rushed through the doors. Himself had arrived -- and he brought the missus.

Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne made their debut with official Washington Saturday night at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, and in spite of itself, this segment of capital society went as crazy as the rest of the country over the stars of MTV's new reality hit, "The Osbournes."

The tourists in the lobby shouted "Ozzy," the professional photographers shouted "Ozzy," and the Osbournes disappeared into a tsunami of reporters and fans, including reporters who were fans.

Ozzy, what do you want to tell the president? a reporter called out.

The man whose mumbly British dialogue is frequently unintelligible on television -- with lots of words bleeped out, as in "I hate [bleeping] Christmas!" -- must find the rest of the world equally unintelligible, for his first quote for official Washington was: "I beg your pardon?"

The question was repeated. And he replied, "I hengh heenth hunh president denngh hmmhmme heng!"

Later in the evening, a reporter tried the question again. "Dual citizenship," said the Beverly Hills-ensconced Brit of his message for the president, should they ever meet. "I want to be American. America is the coolest place on the face of the Earth. You've got freedom of speech. You've got McDonald's."

Then they did meet, the commander in chief and the one-time satanic-singing, bat-chewing television anti-dad.

Bush was seated at the head table, when Ozzy, at Table 168, saw his chance. He made his way forward until he was separated from Bush by only the 10-foot security no man's land: men commanding two kinds of power, face to face, silently taking each other's measure.

Ozzy put his hands together in an almost prayerful acknowledgment, paying respects. The president nodded.

Then Ozzy grabbed a fistful of his stringy brown-and-pink hair and shouted:

"You should wear your hair like mine!"

Bush did not reply immediately. He turned a little red, then got that wiseguy grin of his. He leaned forward and shouted back:

"Second term, Ozzy!"

Osbourne's embrace by Washington was sealed minutes later when the banquet program began, and both Bush and actor Drew Carey acknowledged him in their remarks -- prompting Osbourne twice to stand on his chair and blow kisses to the whooping 2,700 guests.

"The thing about Ozzy is, he's made a lot of big hit recordings," Bush told the audience. " 'Party With the Animals.' 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.' 'Facing Hell.' 'Black Skies' and 'Bloodbath in Paradise.' Ozzy, Mom loves your stuff."

Then Carey observed that the two biggest celebrities in the room had something in common.

"First of all, they both love their families. They both partied a little too hard when they were younger. Half the time you can't understand a word either one of them is saying. And neither one of them can make a move without their wife's approval."

Ozzfest on the Potomac

And so Washington opinion makers and power brokers reveal themselves as the star-struck kids they really are. This epiphany happens once a year, at this dinner, when the president is supposed to be the featured guest, but inevitably someone with a higher glitz or gossip quotient steals the show. It's as if for one night Serious Washington actually becomes the American masses it only pretends to understand. At past dinners people fawned over Fawn Hall. Paula Jones. Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche.

Saturday night was all about the Osbournes.

Soon Osbourne will lead his annual summer tour of heavy-metal bands known as Ozzfest. The dinner turned out to be Ozzfest on the Potomac, with no power chords but lots of power.

After their entrance at the Washington Hilton, the Osbournesled a scrum of security guards, reporters, acolytes and Fox's Greta Van Susteren, who had ingeniously invited the Osbournes to the dinner. A mad dash ensued, up and down hotel corridors,heading for . . . no one exactly knew.

Finally, a small room. Too small. Ozzy, 53, sat with Van Susteren and tried to eat pretzels, but kept spitting wet pretzel bits, apparently by accident, onto the microphones shoved in his face.

Under his long magenta-brown hair with pink ends and behind his pink sunglasses, his features were delicate, with pale teal eyes. For the cameras he would gleefully transform his visage into the wild-eyed, open-mouthed satanic grimace of the former Black Sabbath frontman. His hands trembled. The fingernail of his right pinky was painted black, and the O-Z-Z-Y crudely tattooed in blue on his left knuckles seemed faded. He wore a black tuxedo-like jacket and pants, with a black vest and no tie. No one could see the smiley-face tattoos on his knobby knees that he got when he was in prison for breaking and entering as a youth in Birmingham, England, before rock saved his soul.

Sharon Osbourne wore a Gothic midnight-blue ballgown. She is the brains of the couple, the manager of Ozzy's musical act who became his wife two decades ago. She helped pull him out of the booze-and-drug days, the period when, as part of his act, he chewed the head off not only a bat, but also a dove.

Osbourne left Black Sabbath in 1978 after about a decade when its cartoonishly dark tunes like "Paranoid," "Iron Man" and "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" lodged in the brains of thousands of teenagers. Osbourne began a solo career in the 1980s, never deserted by his core fans and popular with young metal-heads.

This year, MTV superstardom. The cable channel paid the Osbournes a reported $200,000 for permission for its cameras to film life chez Osbourne, packaged in 13 half-hour episodes. On the show, the family -- Ozzy and Sharon and two of their children, teenagers Jack and Kelly -- deal in their own eccentric way with universal family issues like pooping pets, unwelcome guests, loud neighbors. Ozzy [bleeps!] over quiet desperations such as programming a DVD player and making his children listen. Something about this skewed domesticity clicked with the public. Beneath the freaky facade, Ozzy is us. And here is just another American family who really care about each other. The show has become the biggest hit on basic cable, with as many as 8 million viewers per episode. MTV just paid a reported $20 million for another two years.

In the hotel, the scrum is on the move again, heading for the ballroom, where the dinner is to be held, but where no one is allowed yet for security reasons. Stunned Uniformed Secret Service agents see the Ozzy-mob coming . . . and slam shut the big wooden doors.

Finally the doors open and the Osbournes hold court at Table 168. Hundreds clamor for autographs and pictures with Ozzy.

Why, here's Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) with pad and pen.

"My sister Beth Ann loves Ozzy," Kucinich says.

Oh, so the autograph is for his sister. Hmm.

In a shaky scrawl, Osbourne writes, "To Beth Ann, much love, Ozzy Osbourne."

Kucinich threads back out of the crowd, pondering the question of why on earth Ozzy is such a star here, among this slice of Washington.

After a long pause, Kucinich deadpans, "I think it has something to do with his impact on foreign policy."

Cyber-journalist Matt Drudge, in his porkpie hat, is not among those swarming Ozzy, but this behavior does not suprise him. Visiting the pre-banquet Newsweek party, he says it's just another phase in the codependent love affair of Washington and Hollywood.

"There's Glenn Close over there, there's the FBI . . . over here," Drudge says. "East meets West, yin meets yang. When Karl Rove arrived, hardly anyone noticed. When Ozzy Osbourne came in, the sea parted. This is the state of the city in 2002."

If these Washingtonians are wide-eyed, ditto for the Osbournes, who surprise everyone by being diffident, dazzled, polite and less profane than their television selves.

"I was just saying to Greta, I don't quite get it," says Sharon Osbourne. "We're just a little grain of sand. We're in Washington with the most powerful man in the world. Why should anyone give a [bleep!] about us?"

In other words, Washington, get a grip.

Whom does she want to meet?

"To be honest, I don't know a senator from a newscaster. I have no idea who's here. This just isn't my world."

Stars and Bars

There were a few non-Ozzy moments.

At the pre-banquet parties hosted by media entities such as Newsweek, CNN, ABC, the New Republic and Reuters, Washington and Hollywood mixed as they do each year. The Left Coast seemed quite taken with heroes of war and diplomacy -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, Gen. Tommy Franks, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

And the feeling was mutual as official Washington put on a silly grin for the likes of Welch, Close, Ron Silver, Harrison Ford, Christie Brinkley, Dana Delany, Lorraine Bracco, Sally Field.

Gen. Franks, head of U.S. Central Command, appeared to be having fun at the Newsweek party, his medals brandished on his chest along with an understated bar initialed "WTC," for World Trade Center. When you're running a war, is it possible to put it out of your mind and kick back for a few hours?

"Absolutely not," said the general, "because the fact of the matter is the 11th of September started a ball in play and it's going to continue to be in play until this is all done. It's important for America not to disengage."

So he was not disengaged. But it might have been hard to stay that way when Welch approached in a low-cut, tight black dress. Franks was thrilled to meet her because it gave him a chance to tell this story:

In 1967 when he was a wounded lieutenant in a hospital in Saigon, Welch paid a visit to buck up the troops. The young Franks was impressed, but he wasn't up on the identities of the latest starlets. He sent an audiotaped letter home to the woman who is now his wife: "I have had the most marvelous experience today. I have just met Rachel Wells!"

Welch chuckled.

Presently everyone filed into the banquet hall. The president's remarks at this gathering traditionally are humorous. Bush said he considered offering serious reflections on the post-Sept. 11 nation, but decided it wasn't the time or place. He returned to the slide show gambit that worked so well last year, when he showed a picture of his brother Jeb, as a child, naked.

This year the show was titled "Inside the Real West Wing." Here was the first lady seeming to place her hands on the president's lips. "She is helping me to pronounce 'Azerbaijani,' " he quipped.

There were lots of animal pictures, the last refuge of Rotary Club toastmakers. Of first dog Barney, Bush said: "I tell him with eyebrows like that he ought to be a senator. . . . This is the day he chewed up the list of undisclosed locations and we couldn't find Dick." Vice President Cheney, also at the head table, laughed, apparently never tiring of undisclosed-location jokes.

Carey was a little more cutting. He said he'd recently had the same heart procedure as Cheney -- "except they left my heart in."

Returning to the man of the hour, Osbourne, Carey alluded to the reported $20 million for two more years. "You know, that's barely going to pay for your kids' therapy," he said, looking over at Osbourne.

The Glow of Celebrity

The place to be afterward was the Bloomberg party at the Russian Trade Federation Building, which on the outside was bathed in yellow and blue light, with letters in white light saying "Bloomberg." Bassy dance music rolled like thunder down Connecticut Avenue NW from the open balcony.

The line of would-be partying potentates trying to get in was longer than the queue of scruffy kids outside the Black Cat. You entered a kind of day-of-judgment tent, where surly bouncers looked for your name on a list. Finding none, you would be ejected into a parallel universe somewhere out in the night, Loserville, where the only way to see Ozzy is on the tube. Witnesses reported that even White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had to cool his heels briefly until he was verified as Somebody.

Inside, the mansion was swathed in pale fabrics and feathers and furlike substances, and light itself was used as decoration, pillars of light, blue air, red ambiance. Everyone was given a clip-on flashing lapel light, so the crowd looked like networking fireflies on speed. It was, in short, Washington's idea of a Hollywood party cooked up in New York.

There was candy in one room, vodka shots in another, sushi here, cake there, strolling Veuve Cliquot pourers everywhere. It was way too loud to think or talk, so everyone had to lean really close to be heard.

Fleischer and Shannen Doherty conversed on one side of the square bar, Ron Silver and Leon Wieseltier on another.

"We came all the way from L.A. for this," said Buzz Aldrin, the former astronaut.


"Because this is the pulse of America," said his wife, Lois.

By the astonishingly Puritan hour of 11:30 p.m., the Osbournes had had enough. Ozzy and Sharon made their way past the cameras one more time. "Open your mouth wide," she advised him, and he dutifully pasted on the bat-eating mask.

Harrison Ford was close behind, carrying his gift bag of Bloomberg slippers and other goodies. "It was different, and very interesting," he said. "Nothing very quotable."

Then his ears suddenly registered the lyrics of the song that was pounding. "Are they saying, 'Sexy mother-[bleep!]'?"

Hours later, a dance mix of "Born in the U.S.A." came on. Almost all the stars were gone, Hollywood had left the house. And it was just not-famous-at-all Washington people remaining, partying in a light-bathed Hollywood afterglow that they won't see again for another year.

It was worth remembering something Drew Carey had said to the audience, as if gently chiding children:

"Don't treat celebrities like they're heroes."

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I was a "weird" homeboy as a kid.

I did like my EWF Commodores,Bootsy and Parliment Funkadelic but there I was seduced by the Dark Side of Vinyl and was into Yes, KIZZ('78 at Cap Center),Led Zepplin, Thin Lizzy, Foreigner, Blue Oyster Cult and too an extent Black Sabbath.

I like the Osbournes and the real world.

What I wanna know is what happened to FX's Son of a Beach

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