Dir: Jules Jordan
Ronnie James Dio, the deceased heavy metal singer who served as Ozzy Osbourne’s replacement in Black Sabbath from 1980 to 1982, was a very tiny man with a very tiny sense of humor. He was born in the middle of World War II and brought up on opera, so one can understand why laughs were hard to come by in his youth. But when I went to interview him in 2000, I hoped the laughable fact that he was barely five feet tall and sang with a woman’s voice yet had still managed to sell more than 47 million records in his career would not be lost on him. Here’s how I learned that hope is a pointless and deceiving crutch for fools.
The spring of 2000 was a different time. It was an age of innocence before George W. Bush destroyed humanity and before one could watch pornography on a cell phone in an airplane bathroom to calm in-flight nerves. It was a time before cars could fly and bar codes were embedded into the backs of all newborn babies’ heads. Everyone walked around naked. People of every creed, color, and sexual orientation fornicated in the workplace. And everyone—EVERYONE—was on drugs.
The year 2000 was also when I moved west across the Mississippi and the Great Plains to a small town called Hollywood, California, to help my friends make an MTV documentary on social norms called Jackass. The format of the show had yet to be decided, and producers Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze, and Johnny Knoxville thought I might be able to break up the uniformity of the shopping-cart stunts and puking with some quick, torturous celebrity interviews. My first victim was going to be Dio, or “Rodney,” as I not-so-mistakenly called him throughout our brief time together, which nearly culminated in a fistfight.
As I waited to meet Rodney in a House of Blues holding area full of hacks from the heavy metal press corps, a couple of the longhairs offered me some unsolicited advice on what not to ask him about: Ozzy, his height, and his sounding like a girl. I listened attentively, took notes, then threw my questions out the window and decided those off-limits topics would be the only things I’d ask him about.
“Hello, Rodney,” I said, introducing myself backstage.
“My name is Ronnie,” he replied.
I asked Rodney what it was like working with Ozzy Osbourne. He seethed as he explained he had never worked with Ozzy. He had replaced Ozzy. I then asked Rodney how he appeared so tall on his album covers when, in real life, “You’re such a small fucker, Rodney.” He was taken aback and responded by asking if I wanted him to kick my ass.
I giggled in his face and gave his minuscule biceps a squeeze and let him know, “You’re not kicking anyone’s ass, you little fucker.”
He leaped up and glared down at me while I remained seated on the couch, and he told me explicitly that he was going to fuck me up.
The room was fairly empty. It was Rodney and I, with Spike and Rick Kosick manning the camera. I popped up. A clean foot taller than he was, I told him he should sit down before I pushed him over. He screamed for security. A tidal wave of Neanderthals in black security jackets flooded the room and separated us. Dio’s publicist grabbed the film release from our intern and ripped it to shreds. Security lunged at Kosick and destroyed his VX tape. I yanked Spike into an empty hallway and got his tape, which, luckily, had the audio on it. I ducked out of an emergency exit while he escaped out another door.
Just as I was about to make a break for it, I saw the two metalheads who’d given me the interview advice. They were next in line to talk to Rodney. I smiled at them and asked, “So—how did I do?” They were whiter than their normal pasty white selves. They said nothing. I ran all the way home.
For the past 14 years the tape had never seen the light of day. Between numerous office moves, no one had known what had happened to it. Until just recently. A padded FedEx envelope from Tremaine arrived in my mailbox last week with the original Dio VX master tape. I’m still uncertain about what I’m going to do with it. It’s not nice to shit on dead people.