The untold truth of Ozzy Osbourne

It's hard to overstate Ozzy Osbourne's role in rock history. As the vocalist of Black Sabbath, he stood at the literal forefront of the musical developments that unleashed heavy metal upon the unwary world. As a solo artist, he released some of the most instantly recognizable songs of the 1980s and early 1990s. As a TV star, he and the rest of The Osbournes ushered in the era of the celebrity family reality show. And, of course, as an old-school rock hedonist he rivals the likes of Lemmy Kilmister and Keith Richards.

Because the Ozzman has been a constant media presence since the 1970s, his face is familiar to most people, his antics are legendary, and it's impossible to attend a rock concert where someone doesn't jokingly request "Paranoid." But how well do we really know the man behind the myth? The Prince of Darkness has many sides, and some of them are quite well hidden from the public. Come, let's take a look at the untold truth of Ozzy Osbourne.

Filming The Osbournes was awful for him

The people who watched The Osbournes, the "fly-on-the-wall" prototype celebrity reality show featuring Ozzy Osbourne and his family, might remember that it tackled some hard issues. During the course of the show, Osbourne's wife, Sharon, fought cancer, and their children wrestled with addiction. As for the singer himself, at times he seemed like a nervous wreck balancing on the edge of a breakdown. According to Blabbermouth, that's exactly what was going on.

Osbourne fully admits that the show was financially good for him but says he underestimated the psychological effects of constantly having cameras following him around. The inability to relax left him breaking apart, and despite the fact that the "official" Ozzy Osbourne was a fairly clean-living, recovering alcoholic who regularly worked out, he secretly dealt with the pressure by getting high and drinking a case of beer every night. Both the singer and his wife estimate that Osbourne was stoned out of his mind for roughly 100 percent of the show's duration. As a result, the rock star still can't watch the show because his on-camera body language absolutely gives away how spaced out he was.

He used to be a small-time criminal

Even before he was famous, Ozzy Osbourne had a rebellious streak and a tendency to end up in strange situations. In an interview with Big Issue, Osbourne looks back at his youth as a rebellious kid who was unable to hold down a job and hated commitment, and whose mother was constantly getting on his case for not bringing any money in the house. The boy soon left home and ended up as "a social butterfly in a working-class environment," also known as a drifter. In his quest to find things he was good at, he even took up burglary. However, he soon found out that it was decidedly not one of his specialties, and in a criminal career that lasted all of three weeks, he didn't pull off a single big score before he was caught.

According to Louder, Osbourne only dabbled with petty crime because he thought it would get him accepted in a local gang. Instead, he received a harsh life lesson from his father, who refused to pay his son's fine, so young Osbourne had to spend about a month behind bars thinking about what he had done. Still, don't think Osbourne's father didn't care about him. When he realized his son was interested in music, he bought the 18-year-old Osbourne a Vox PA system and a microphone — a gift without which the rock star says he wouldn't be where he is today.

He once enlisted Robin Williams to help his wife battle cancer

Comedy legend Robin Williams and heavy metal legend Ozzy Osbourne might not be the most obvious pair, but Osbourne held Williams in extremely high regard. Ultimate Classic Rock describes how Sharon Osbourne was fighting colon cancer in 2002. Osbourne decided to contact Williams because of Patch Adams, where he plays a doctor who helps people using comedy. The singer figured Williams might be able to pull that stunt to his wife for real … and Williams dropped everything to do just that.

When Williams knocked on Mrs. Osbourne's door, she was caught so off guard that she thought she was hallucinating from all the medication pumped into her. Unsure what to say, she asked Williams: "Does Ozzy know you're here?" The actor replied: "Shh! No, he doesn't, and don't tell him!" and jumped in the bed with Sharon, who immediately forgot all her troubles and started laughing hysterically. Williams ended up staying with Sharon for two hours, and according to Kelly Osbourne, this may actually have saved her life. She had been avoiding treatment and losing her will to fight, but after Williams' visit she went back to chemotherapy — and survived.

The Osbournes were thoroughly moved by the actor's kindness. After Williams died, the Prince of Darkness gave this quote straight out of a Valentine's Day card: "Forever and a day, I will love that man."

He used to own and operate a pub

When Ozzy Osbourne was fired from Black Sabbath in 1979, he had no way of knowing that the Blizzard of Ozz album would start his path to solo superstardom the very next year. He took the situation hard — so hard, in fact, that he decided to pursue an alternative career in pub management. According to Birmingham Live, he had already bought a bar in Newport, U.K., for his first wife, Thelma. As Louder describes, Osbourne himself started running the place during the "This is it, what can I do now?" stage of his transition from a band member to a solo artist. Fortunately for music, the singer soon found that he wasn't much of a pub landlord. He was so angry that the customers wouldn't come in, and also had a tendency to drink away all the profits. After a month, Thelma politely asked him to leave the running of the pub to the professionals, and he eventually ended up selling the place after owning it for only two years.

Just like Osbourne himself, the pub rebranded and went on to see some success. It became known as Ozzy's Wine Bar and was a popular student haunt, but it eventually closed in 2012.

​He was bullied at school by future bandmate Tony Iommi

As Louder describes, Ozzy Osbourne is the first man to tell you that he was both bullied and a bully at school. In the same interview, he also addresses the fact that he first met the future Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi at school with a surprisingly evasive statement: "People say that he used to beat me up. He never did."

Regardless of whether schoolboy Iommi ever laid a finger on schoolboy Osbourne, there was definitely a history between the two when Black Sabbath first started out, at least if you ask their bass player, Geezer Butler. In an interview with Metal Hammer, Butler said the bad blood made the group's first steps pretty interesting. When Osbourne placed a "singer wants a band" ad that came with an important note that he had his own PA, both Butler and Iommi (along with future Sabbath drummer Bill Ward) rushed to recruit him for their own projects. Since Iommi had bullied Osbourne at school, the guitarist and the singer disliked each other, and Osbourne initially ended up going with Butler. In fact, Butler says the reason Iommi eventually ended up joining Earth (the prototype Black Sabbath) was that they tried to recruit Ward for the group and the drummer's condition was that Iommi must come as well.

​His famous stage name was originally a taunt

Ozzy Osbourne has been "Ozzy" for so many decades that it's easy to forget that his real name is John Michael Osbourne. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, the name he became known for was not originally intended as a compliment. Instead, it originated in primary school, where young John Michael's fellow students started calling him "Ozzy" as a taunt. However, Osbourne refused to treat the name as an insult. Instead, he embraced it so hard that, according to Inked, he had the name tattooed across his knuckles when he was only 16. Incidentally, the singer insists this is the only tattoo he ever got when he was sober.

Not everyone in Osbourne's close circles enjoyed the name as much as he did, though. His first wife, Thelma, quite disliked "Ozzy," and always called him "John." Still, fans of "John" were ultimately in the minority, and as Osbourne states in his book I Am Ozzy, it's been years since anyone called him anything other than "Ozzy."

He once wrestled a burglar in the nude

When it comes to wrestling criminals into submission, Ozzy Osbourne might not be the first celebrity to come to mind. Even so, at least one hapless jewel thief can attest that he is among the last celebrities you want to fight if he catches you robbing his house because Ozzy will tackle you, and if you're really unfortunate, he'll do it completely in the nude.

As the Guardian describes, this exact scenario played out in 2004, when Osbourne woke up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom. On his way to relieve himself, he stumbled upon a man in a ski mask, who was busy relieving the household of some excess jewelry. Osbourne, who was completely naked at the time, acted on impulse, charged the thief, and put him in a headlock. The burglar eventually managed to escape by jumping from a first-floor window, and Osbourne would only later realize how risky the situation had been — after all, he had no way of knowing whether the criminal had a knife or gun with him.

In a way, the situation ended in a draw. Although the thief and his accomplice managed to take eight pieces of precious jewelry with them, the case received so much media attention that the criminal circles will probably always know him as "that guy who got put in a headlock by a naked Ozzy Osbourne."

​His dyslexia has affected his life in strange ways

Ozzy Osbourne was born in 1948, when society dealt with learning disabilities by ignoring them and hoping they'd disappear. Unfortunately for Osbourne, he was (and still is) extremely dyslexic, which turned out to be a real problem because, as he stated in an interview with GQ, no one really knew what dyslexia was when he went to school. This meant he was doomed to fail at exams and could not understand most of the things they taught, from English to mathematics. Because he also happened to be pretty bad at sports, this essentially left him with art class — the sole thing available to him that didn't require physical effort or reading comprehension.

Though he makes it clear that dyslexia has made his life difficult, Osbourne seems to have a sense of humor about it. When he was answering questions from his heavy metal colleagues for Louder, he was asked whether he's annoyed by people getting the lyrics wrong. He answered that he's good with the crowd singing any old lyrics as long as they're printed correctly in the notes and script books. After all, as a dyslexic he's in the habit of reading his own teleprompter pretty much backward, so as long as everyone's having fun, who cares?

He once got in serious trouble for peeing on the Alamo Cenotaph

In 1982, Texas got an Ozzy Osbourne-shaped chip on its shoulder when the singer was visiting San Antonio. As Loudwire describes, Osbourne got "Ozzy Osbourne in the 1980s" drunk and his clothes had been hidden to prevent him from hitting the streets. He solved the problem by slipping on one of future wife Sharon's dresses before he headed out, buzzed out of his mind. Eventually, nature called, and he relieved himself in the worst possible place in the city: the Alamo Square. Fortunately, he didn't urinate on the Alamo itself. Unfortunately, he did it on the 60-foot Alamo Cenotaph, built to honor the dead defenders of the Battle of the Alamo.

The singer was promptly arrested. He spent part of an afternoon in jail, was released on a bond of $40, and got banned by the city after performing the evening's concert. San Antonio remained vehemently anti-Ozzy until 1992, when he made a public apology and a $10,000 donation to the organization maintaining the Alamo. Still, despite this apparent peace, some bad blood seems to remain. According to Rolling Stone, when Osbourne revisited San Antonio in 2016 to shoot Ozzy & Jack's World Detour, he said the crew was greeted by a hostile crowd.

He's a victim of childhood sexual abuse

A traumatic childhood can affect a person's life in a great many ways, and few people know this better than Ozzy Osbourne. Entertainment Weekly reports the singer is all too aware of the pitfalls of his own, difficult formative years, and especially one terrifying aspect of them: He was repeatedly sexually abused by bullies. When he was 11, two boys used to wait for him after school in Birmingham. They regularly forced Osbourne to drop his pants so they could grope him. The rock star describes the experience as a terrible thing that seemed to go on forever and notes that the bullies even abused him in plain view of his sister.

The young Osbourne didn't tell any adults about the situation because back then people simply didn't talk about those things. Besides, he was already dealing with the stress of growing up in a poor family of eight. He opted to keep his trauma a secret, and let it fester until it left him, in his own words, "completely f*cked up." It wasn't until many years later that he reached some inner peace as Sharon Osbourne helped him unwind; talking to a therapist also helped him deal with his pent-up terrors.

His legendary bat-biting incident

As Rolling Stone attests, One of Ozzy Osbourne's most legendary escapades is the onstage incident in 1982 where he bit the head off a bat. Although this seems like a typical breakfast for a man who had already done the same to a dove in a meeting with a record company, Osbourne never intended to hurt the animal, and he says he never even realized it was an animal. When it was thrown to him from the audience, he thought it was a rubber toy. In his I Am Ozzy autobiography, Osbourne writes that he immediately realized something was wrong when he bit into it. First, his mouth filled with a "gloopy" liquid with a horrible aftertaste. Then, the poor creature's head twitched inside his mouth. Though the experience was unpleasant and the singer had to get a rabies shot, he has since made peace with the incident. In 2019, he even released a plush bat with a detachable head to commemorate the event's 37th anniversary.

Strangely, this wasn't the last time Osbourne found himself in a face-off with bats. According to Loudwire, the flying mammals finally got their revenge in 2014, when a colony of pipistrelle bats and brown long-eared bats took up roost at the singer's home in Buckinghamshire. The bats were discovered during a house renovation, and Osbourne had to halt the reno project to legally remove and rehome the bats. The whole sideshow ended up costing him about $27,000.

His terrifying quad accident

Strangely, one of Ozzy Osbourne's closest calls has very little to do with overdoses and drunken debauchery. In fact, it involved probably the last thing you'd associate with the singer: a quad. As the Guardian describes, the Prince of Darkness riding an all-terrain vehicle proved to be a recipe for disaster in 2003, when he had an accident that broke six of his ribs and a neck vertebra. A snapped collarbone also rested badly on a major artery, disrupting the blood flow to his arm.

According to Ultimate Classic Rock, the 55-year-old Osbourne had intended to take a casual joyride on his vast estate outside London, but the attempt ended in a disaster that was quite possibly aided by his vast intake of prescribed drugs at the time. In Ireland's Sunday Independent, Kelly Osbourne said her father actually flatlined during the incident. However, the first responders managed to resuscitate him, and Osbourne woke up in full rock star mode … by immediately threatening to kill the medics if they messed up his tattoos.