Vince Neil's Tragic Real-Life Story

When you're the front man in one of the most notoriously chaotic and dangerous rock bands in history, it's almost expected that your life is going to be a trainwreck. A glamorous, wild, money-filled trainwreck, but still. Motley Crue vocalist Vince Neil may or may not have realized what he signed up for when he began the gig that made him famous in 1981, but he's certainly done his part to promote rock star debauchery.

Over the decades, the man born as Vincent Neil Wharton has done almost every imaginable thing to write his name in the annals of rock history, and not all of his deeds look good in the light of day. His life has been a roller coaster full of packed arenas, parties and gleeful vices, but there's also another, more tragic side to being in one of the most renowned glam rock bands of all time. Let's take a look at the dark side of Vince Neil's life — a side that the man himself would probably prefer to forget.

Vince Neil lost his 4-year-old daughter to cancer

No parent wishes to live long enough to bury their child, but Vince Neil has been forced to face this ultimate tragedy. As People tells us, the singer lost his 4-year-old daughter Skylar in 1995, when Neil himself was only 34. Young Skylar was diagnosed with Wilms' tumor (a form of kidney cancer) at a time when Neil was just coming back from a number of other personal and professional misfortunes. She had to go through extensive chemotherapy, radiation treatments and six operations, none of which were enough to save her life. Skylar Neil passed away on August 15, 1995, and the tragedy left Neil absolutely devastated. "This ordeal is something no parent should have to go through," he said of the nightmarish experience. "More than that, I wish no child ever had to go through it."

While Skylar was still fighting for her life, Neil wrote a track called "Skylar's Song" in her honor. The song played in the background as Neil and Skylar's mother sat in the hospital room and watched life slowly leave their daughter. Neil later included "Skylar's Song" on his solo album, Carved in Stone, and announced that he would donate all the proceeds of the song to charity. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, the singer also set up the Skylar Neil Memorial Fund, which has since raised millions for children's cancer research.

Vince Neil and the soundman incident

Members of Motley Crue are well known for being fairly dangerous types offstage, but it seems Vince Neil is all too happy to bring some of that danger to the workplace, too. According to Blabbermouth, one soundman found this out the hard way when Neil attacked him in the middle of the concert and actually punched him out. The soundman, Michael Talbert, says during a solo concert at Gilley's Dallas in October 2004, Neil suddenly ran at him while he was looking at his monitor. The singer first tried to kick Talbert, and when the initial attack missed, Neil resorted to punching — and knocked the poor soundman out cold for a good 45 seconds.

According to Today, the police report attached to the arrest warrant says the attack appeared to be motivated by ... the soundman not turning the guitars high enough to Neil's immediate approval. The musician had apparently motioned Talbert for more guitar volume, but as the man was adjusting the sounds, Neil unexpectedly ran across the stage, leaped onto the soundboard, and attacked. This curious form of not-so-constructive criticism may have played a part in the subsequent cancellation of the singer's planned U.K. tour.

​The car crash that killed Vince Neil's friend Razzle

On December 8, 1984, Vince Neil's passion for fast cars and mind-altering substances led to a disaster. According to Louder, Motley Crue was in the middle of an epic drinking binge with members of Hanoi Rocks, an up-and-coming Finnish band, when they suddenly realized they needed more alcohol. Neil was drunk as a skunk but volunteered to make a quick booze run, and Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley decided to accompany the singer to the liquor store. This would be his last trip: Neil lost control of his Ford De Tomaso Pantera on a wet spot and it careened into oncoming traffic, ultimately slamming into two other cars at 65 mph. Neil escaped with cracked ribs and minor cuts, but two people in the first car he hit were severely injured and Razzle was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

Ultimate Classic Rock tells us Neil got away with barely a slap on the wrist. He received 30 days in jail (he only served 15), five years of probation, and 200 hours of community service, and had to pay $2.6 million to the people he had injured. However, his peers did not forget what he did. Hanoi Rocks guitarist Andy McCoy says Neil has never apologized for the incident and is so afraid of McCoy that Neil actually runs away when he sees him. Dee Snider from Twisted Sister goes even further in his disdain, and outright calls Neil a murderer.

Vince Neil had four marriages and four divorces

You'd be forgiven for thinking that any marriage to a guy as volatile as the Motley Crue front man is doomed to fail ... because history shows that you'd be absolutely right. As Ultimate Classic Rock tells us, Vince Neil is currently running four failed marriages deep. However, he seems to be aware of his less than stellar track record because he has promised himself that he'll never get hitched again.

So what exactly keeps causing Neil's marriages to fail? The man himself has resorted to vague "drifting apart" rhetoric about the subject, but as the Washington Post notes, his ex-wives don't necessarily share this tendency to gloss over the fine details. The rocker's autobiography, Tattoos and Tequila, includes interviews from all of Neil's former spouses, so when Neil abstains from going into the particulars of a divorce, he's swiftly countered by an interview with an ex, who is all too happy to point out that the singer's constant cheating with groupies contributed to the marriage falling apart.

Vince Neil almost missed his big break

Some bands go through a stage of half-formed self-discovery before they find their groove, but when Motley Crue burst out of the Sunset Strip in a cloud of hairspray and testosterone, it's easy to think that they were born as a fully-formed group of rabble-rousers. As Loudwire tells us, all band members already had an impeccable scene pedigree: Nikki Sixx was an alum of London, a band that eventually featured pre-fame Izzy Stradlin (of Guns N' Roses) and Blackie Lawless (of W.A.S.P.). Tommy Lee came from Suite 19 with Nikki, Mick Mars had his White Horse, and Vince Neil ... had no interest whatsoever in this whole "Motley Crue" business, thank you very much. Loudwire notes that the other three were interested in Neil's magnetic front man qualities (and his ability to fill a venue with female fans), but the vocalist was already sitting pretty with a band called Rockandi (or Rock Candy), and didn't even bother to turn up for his Crue audition.

When the Crue crew's experiments with another vocalist called O'Dean were unsatisfactory, Lee managed to pester Neil to audition again, and the singer agreed to turn up because as luck would have it, he felt "screwed" by his own band. Neil auditioned, but a lady friend accompanying him felt Motley Crue wasn't a right fit for the singer. Neil ended up taking the plunge anyway, and it's probably safe to say that this was a good career move.

Vince Neil and the Nicolas Cage incident

Whether he's winning Academy Awards or screaming about bees in B-movies, you can always count on Nicolas Cage to provide an interesting time. Apparently, this doesn't just apply to the man's acting because his real life involves scenes like fighting Vince Neil to submission. According to Loudwire, Cage and Neil were hanging out at the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas in 2016 when a fan approached the pair and asked for Cage's autograph. For reasons known only to him, Neil took affront to this and dragged the fan to the ground by her hair. Cage understandably did not care for such behavior, and the situation escalated. A heated altercation between a famous actor and a famous singer on the Las Vegas strip? Yeah, there were plenty of cameras rolling. The footage of the end of the situation didn't make Neil look too good, as Cage easily restrained the stumbling singer while screaming "Stop this sh*t now!"

As Spin notes, the incident ended with Neil in legal hot water for misdemeanor battery. The musician eventually pleaded guilty and agreed to a deal that helped him avoid prison time and get away with a mere six months of probation and a $1,000 fine. Neil was also sued by the fan he assaulted, and that case is still ongoing.

Vince Neil's bankruptcy and lawyer troubles

Being in an ultra-successful rock band is a lucrative business, but unfortunately, it does precious little to help you actually manage your hard-rocked assets. As Las Vegas Review-Journal notes, Vince Neil is one of the many celebrities who have been unable to hang on to their considerable riches. Perhaps his lowest financial point came in 2005, when he had to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after amassing a hefty $1.5 million in assorted debts. Then again, some would say that the lowest point actually came five years later, when the attorney who had taken care of said bankruptcy proceedings sued Neil because the singer had failed to pay $16,000 in fees.

You'd think Motley Crue's reunion and career revival has re-padded the vocalist's pockets, but regardless of his financial status he seems to nurse a habit of neglecting his legal bills. Loudwire says that in 2018, the singer's legal team threatened to drop him due to $190,000 of legal fees that he reportedly refused to pay ... despite the fact that the legal team was still representing Neil in an ongoing assault case.

Vince Neil's attacks on women

Members of Motley Crue have been known to lay their hands on the occasional lady, but Vince Neil's hands may not always be intended for loving. Although he is yet to face a charge that truly sticks, multiple lawsuits have alleged that Neil is not above getting physical in a very, very wrong way. Las Vegas Sun describes a case where Neil faced charges for battering a prostitute at Nevada's famed legal brothel, Moonlite BunnyRanch, in 2003. Today reported Neil pleaded no contest to the ensuing misdemeanor battery charge and was ordered to pay the oddly small fine of $1,000 and take anger management classes. According to the civil lawsuit later filed by the woman, she told Neil he needed to pay $4,000 to have sex with her and another BunnyRanch worker. Neil reacted by grabbing her by the neck, pushing her against a windowsill, and then pulling her to the floor.

Whether Neil ever attended those anger management classes or not, it looks like their effects may not have been all that lasting. Loudwire describes a case from 2011 where the singer's ex-girlfriend Alicia Jacobs filed a battery charge against him after an alleged domestic violence incident left her with visible bruises. Neil was charged with disorderly conduct and battery domestic violence, but ultimately got the more serious domestic battery charge dropped after pleading guilty with disorderly conduct ... and coughing up another $1,000 fine.

Vince Neil's addictions and journey to recovery

VInce Neil doesn't talk about drugs as much as bandmate Nikki Sixx, but that doesn't mean he's a lightweight. Quite the opposite, in fact: In an interview with Louder, Neil says he was heavily into drugs before Motley Crue even existed. His early cocaine habit was so severe that when the band was playing club gigs and taking its first baby steps, the rest of the Crue actually stepped in and forced Neil to stop shooting so much coke. Still, clean living was not the Motley Crue way. Neil says he tried to straighten himself out a few times, but the band environment (not to mention his bandmates) was not exactly conducive to sobriety. The vocalist is extremely critical of rehab — as befits a man who once went up to four times a year — but says he finally managed to kick drugs at the turn of the millennium.

Other vices, of course, are another thing. Neil hints in the interview that he might have a fairly unhealthy relationship with gambling and says he has not given up drinking. All in all, alcohol might be the vice he has the hardest time kicking. In 2010, he was promoting his autobiography and saying he had quit both drugs and alcohol for good. Mere days later, CBS News reported that the singer was arrested for drunk driving.

Drunk driving, drunk driving, drunk driving

Vince Neil has been known to enjoy a drink, and as Phoenix New Times notes, he also likes to dabble in professional racing. A fondness for alcohol is a notorious mismatch with an inherent passion for motorsports, and as a result, his driving career is ... less than exemplary. In fact, he is such a notorious DUI guy that AV Club calls him "rock's most infamous drunk driver." His most famous and tragic drunk driving incident is the crash in 1984 that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley, but it did little to scare Neil straight. Blabbermouth reports the singer was arrested for drunk driving in 2007, when the Las Vegas police became suspicious of the less-than-controlled maneuvers he was pulling in his Ferrari. However, he managed to cut a deal with the prosecution and pleaded no contest to a reckless driving charge to avoid the DUI.

Even that was not enough for Neil, and in 2010, he was once again arrested for the same reason, in the same city, and this time with the added suspicion of breaking a fan's camera before stepping behind the wheel. According to Billboard, the singer couldn't avoid pleading guilty to a misdemeanor DUI, and was given two weeks of jail time and two weeks of house arrest.

Vince Neil's early years

Compared to some other iconic rock musicians, Vince Neil doesn't have a terribly tragic family background. Still, as Biography tells us, young Neil did his level best to make his life as difficult as possible. A born-and-bred Los Angeleno, Neil found early on that he enjoyed the rock 'n' roll lifestyle far more than he enjoyed studying, and meeting future bandmate Tommy Lee in high school didn't exactly prop up what little remained of his scholarly aspirations. Neil soon gave in to his rock star impulses, got into fights, and started doing drugs. For this, he was eventually expelled from school, and the home front was no better: The self-styled problem child managed to get in so much trouble with his family that he had to leave home and live in Lee's van.

There's no telling what sort of fate would have eventually met the young delinquent if it weren't for one thing: Neil saw the rise of the hard rock scene that was washing over Hollywood, liked what he was witnessing, and managed to surf the wave by joining a band. He is well aware that his success was ultimately a matter of luck, and he and the rest of Motley Crue were just fortunate enough to be an up-and-coming band in an area that happened to become the quintessential hot spot for 1980s rock.