Celebrity interviews


Sharon Osbourne

The Times

March 24, 2012


There are two fluffy dogs — 12 others are at home — and so many assistants that maybe the dogs have assistants. Sharon Osbourne is dressed in a black trouser suit, her hair its familiar neon red. She has just finished filming an edition of the CBS chat show, The Talk, and in her Hollywood dressing room is saltily candid and indiscreet, every fourth word a “f***”. When asked if she prefers Strictly Come Dancing over The X Factor, on which she was a judge from 2004 to 2007, Osbourne exclaims in her raspy Cockney-ish squeak: “Are you crazy? I wouldn’t watch X Factor now I’m not on it. I adore Strictly. I’m addicted to it, always have been.” Would she want to take part? “No,” she cackles, mock-horrified, “I want to be on Downton Abbey.” Is she a diva? “I’m a team player, but if I don’t get the respect I deserve I become a bitch because I can. I’ve earned the right.”

Her sweary battleaxe character exploded publicly in The Osbournes, the MTV show following Osbourne, husband Ozzy (they have a reported £110 million fortune), children Kelly and Jack and their many pooing dogs: “No one gave a damn about us and suddenly we were being invited everywhere,” Osbourne laughs. When their lives became “a f***ing zoo”, the series ended. On The X Factor she batled with Simon Cowell, finally leaving after a feud with Dannii Minogue, a fellow judge. Besides The Talk she’s a judge on America’s Got Talent and voices Mama Hook in a Disney cartoon, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, based on Peter Pan.

“There are similarities,” concedes Osbourne, 59, of the piratical matriarch. “She stands for no nonsense. We’re two old bats. I don’t think I’m difficult, but I am confrontational. To survive in such a cut-throat, rotten business you have to be, or you have to be a networker, which I’m not.”

Is that why she quit X Factor? “It was a dumb move, but emotionally right. It was a huge show, it paid so well, so much came from it. But I wasn’t happy, so I walked away with dignity.” She laughs. “Simon always ends up firing everyone anyway. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. He always wants someone young and perky-titted sat next to him.” Did Cowell ever ask her to return? “No, but ITV did. He wouldn’t let them and I don’t give a shit ’cos I can go, ‘F*** you’. He’s not a friend, but I don’t not get on with him. We lead very separate lives: I’m family-orientated, he’s a mover and shaker.”

In two autobiographies Osbourne exposed her miserable childhood and violent father, the rock manager Don Arden, violence in her marriage to Ozzy, which culminated in him almost strangling her to death, alcoholism, drug addiction and surviving colon cancer. While their children, including their oldest daughter Aimee (who has rejected fame, “which I really admire, she’s been offered shitloads of money”) were young, Osbourne worked as a band manager. “Women who don’t have to work don’t realise how lucky they are to spend every minute of the day with their children. It’s a gift,” she says.

Kelly, 27, has fought an addiction to painkillers. Jack, 26, considered suicide, battled an addiction to OxyContin, and did “loads of drugs and drinking”, as he once said. “When you’re young you mess up,” their mother says, “but they have learnt through their messes. When I was a kid I would drink, throw up, black out. I smoked. They’re both great kids, they work, pay their bills. They don’t have a sense of entitlement. I cannot stand kids who have that. It’s no good saying whose kid you are. Who gives a shit? It doesn’t open doors, it closes them.”

Jack has been sober since he was 17, she says, and is preparing for first-time fatherhood. “I still don’t know if he is an addict, but he lives the 12-step programme. Kelly is a sweet soul, a law unto herself. I worry because she’s not invincible.” She and Ozzy blamed themselves for their children’s addictions. “When your kids end up on the wrong road you blame nobody but your- self: ‘I should have set more guidelines, been stricter.’ You carry around this guilt.”

Osbourne’s childhood sounds Gothically nuts. “I was beaten, taught to shut up.” Her father managed bands including Black Sabbath, for which Ozzy was the vocalist. She didn’t attend her mother’s funeral. “That would have made me a hypocrite. I had a terrible relationship with her. I don’t think she ever liked me. She never said she was proud of me, I got nothing from her.” She thinks her mother felt competitive because of Sharon’s close relationship with her father. “We would talk business at dinner. She sat there silently. I realise now she must have been suffering from depression, but I didn’t know at the time and didn’t want to become ‘Poor me’. Can you imagine a woman my age saying ‘I never had a mother’?” She laughs. “I’m 60 this year, I’m nearly f***ing dead.”

As for Arden, “he was a f***ing night- mare,” Osbourne says darkly. “He beat the shit out of everybody: guns, ‘I’m going to kill you’. There was always trouble in our house: threats, violence, his two-bit, horrible heavies. My father thought he was the Godfather and it was like, ‘No you’re not, you’re a stupid, old Jew’.” Was he a threat to her? “Big time. I had to totally cut him out of my life.”

How and why has she made her and Ozzy’s marriage work? The received wisdom is that victims of domestic violence should leave their partners. “I did try, but was unhappier on my own. I went back because I love him.” Even though he beat you? “Nobody enjoys that, it’s a very easy trap to get caught in. But I’m too proud to show vulnerability. I wasn’t the kind of per- son to call a girlfriend and say, ‘Can I stay at yours with my kids?’ I hit him back — with pans, pots, everything. I didn’t just take it. It wasn’t a great atmosphere to bring the kids up in, but we survived. I don’t like my kids, or anyone, to play the victim. It’s such an easy card to play: ‘Oh, I was f***ed up as a kid, my parents were f***ed up, that’s why I’m f***ed up’ — especially here [in Hollywood]. No. We’re in charge of our own destinies. After Ozzy got arrested for trying to kill me he knew he had to straighten up. He was in court-ordered rehab and came back into our lives very slowly.”

She became depressed “when Ozzy was a drug addict pissing on the floor. I sound like a pity-pot, but I thought, ‘I need something’, so I took some fab pills, life was good after that.” Antidepressants? Osbourne nods: “Zoloft.” Does she still take them? “Yes, absolutely, I wouldn’t even try to come off them.”

Osbourne confesses to thinking about leaving her marriage, “and I’m sure he must have. I’m not Mother Teresa. I used to scream and shout. You get older and you think, ‘What am I getting so worked up about? Life’s too short’.” After she had cancer diagnosed, “you re-evaluate your life, things that seem important aren’t”. She thought she would die during “a very dark time when I was having blood transfusions and very sick”.Osbourne recently discovered she has “the gene for colon cancer and breast cancer”. Last year she had her breast implants removed and breasts reduced. “Now there’s no possibility of it happening there. I don’t want to keep going to get checked, every lump and bump, always waiting. I can’t live like that.”

Her and Ozzy’s marriage is now a calm one. “He’ll say ‘I’m not doing that’, I’ll say, ‘Yes, you f***ing are’ and he says ‘All right’.” Does she take orders from him? “Yes, to rest and take care of myself, which I don’t. I have so much respect for him. He says we are like bread and butter, we fit together. It’s meant to be. I can’t imagine life without my husband.” They have sex at a particular time. “He loves David Letterman. We lie in bed and watch it and he says, ‘Oh we’ve got time before Letterman’s monologue’.” She laughs. “I lie back and think of the Queen.”

Osbourne wants “no fireworks, just a nice, quiet dinner with the family” to celebrate her 60th birthday in October. “I’m lucky to have survived and be working. I’m happy with the way I look. I don’t want to look like a sexy grandmother. I’m not going to start wearing bloody Louboutins and miniskirts. I like to dress as a woman, not a teenager.” As for plastic surgery, on which she has spent a reported £300,000: “I’ve had a shitload done. I’m never going to look 20, I don’t want to. But I don’t want my chin resting on my breasts. I’m not planning any more. Everything is where it should be. I don’t want to wake up looking like a condom.”

A cartoon series will feature “fictionalised” Osbournes living next door to aliens. The producers of Celebrity Big Brother have just offered Osbourne £500,000 to appear. “I said no,” she cackles. “‘A million or nothing. See you!’” She would love to do theatre and more Disney voiceovers. “It would be good to do something nice,” she says. “I don’t want someone asking my grandchild, ‘What does grandma do?’ to get the answer, ‘She’s on TV, swearing’.”