The Osbourne Ultimatum
Don’t mess with my children, my husband or my X Factor family... Sharon Osbourne reveals why she’s always spoiling for a fight
The X Factor has always thrived on high emotion. But when Simon Cowell was stretchered out of his house by paramedics after falling down the stairs in the middle of the night, the drama was arguably a little too real and rather too close to home.
For Sharon Osbourne, a co-judge on the show, which the 58-year-old music mogul will miss this weekend, the incident is a mere blip in the theatre of her life. ‘Oh, he’s going to be fine,’ she says, waving her hands with breezy confidence. ‘ He’s dealing with it, he’s in good hands and we’re all [her, Louis Walsh, Nicole Scherzinger and Cowell’s last-minute stand in, Alesha Dixon] going to make sure we put on a good show. Simon will be back next week. It’s just one of those things.’
Sharon can be excused for being blasé. At 65, she has lived through the extremes of drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence, breakdowns and abuse, not to mention countless surgeries, affairs, a battle with cancer and the near death of her husband, Ozzy, after a quad-bike accident. A fall down the stairs (Cowell’s low blood pressure was blamed) is par for the course. You just get back up again.
‘Isn’t that the point?’ she says in her highpitched voice. ‘You got to show ’em, don’t you? It’s like when I started managing Ozzy and then dating him [in 1979]. People would say to me: “What are you doing with him? He’s a waste of space. He’s out of control. He takes drugs. He’s violent.” And I just thought: “Well, I can deal with that. I understand that. And I know I can make it work. You just watch me.” And I did.’
She admits it was never easy, but the couple morphed from a never-going-to-last Sid ’n’ Nancy into a rock ’n’ roll Darby and Joan, who this year celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary.
‘In the old days we were constantly fighting,’ she says. ‘We loved each other madly, but we were mad and were both incredibly violent, because we’d both been brought up around violence and didn’t know any better. I used to think if you got angry it was absolutely OK to hit someone.
‘It was worse when we were both drinking but that wasn’t an excuse for the violence. I
sibility. They are so young. They are babies. They tear my heart out. But then I made the decision to get on board and to do it my way.’
This involves being a full-time tiger mother, checking that the girls are eating and sleeping properly and banning them from wearing anything overtly sexy.
‘I’m not having any of that,’ says Osbourne. ‘We’ve gone way too far down that route in the music business, and if it means having a fight over an outfit, I will win because something has to be done to stop this over-sexualisation of young girls. I’m not having any of it.’
Mrs O is a feminist. She loves Germaine Greer. She hates anyone who abuses young women. When her daughter Kelly appeared on the The Jonathan Ross Show at the age of 21 to promote her album, Ross pointed at her image on the cover and said: ‘That’s not you, you’re fat!’ Osbourne has not spoken to him to this day.
‘He is the father of three girls, and at the time they had their own weight issues,’ she says. ‘I couldn’t believe what he was saying. But then look what he did to that poor Andrew Sachs. This is a tough industry, and it’s very tough to see your kids go through it. But you do not treat people like that.’
This leads us onto the subject of Harvey Weinstein. Osbourne has ‘total respect and total support’ for all the women who have come forward to say they were abused by the film mogul. She herself has had dealings with Weinstein and his brother, Bob, once promoting concerts in the Eighties and then over a deal for The Osbournes. ‘I never had a problem.’ She stops and shakes her head. ‘And then part of you thinks: “What’s wrong with me, Harvey? He never did anything like that to me.” But then you think about it, and you realise it’s because of the type of woman you are. I’ve never faced any sexual abuse, but I think I’ve always given off a particular vibe that says: “Don’t mess with me”. If a man had ever tried, he would be dead. No question.’
Ibelieve her. In the Eighties she was once accosted by a concert promoter who tried to get another $8,000 out of her after tickets for her husband’s show had sold out within minutes. After a furious row, Osbourne headbutted him. ‘I did,’ she says. ‘Instinct took over. He was trying to screw me, screw my husband and screw the band – that money was going to get us to our next gig. I was so furious, rage took over. I wasn’t going to let that little s*** get one over on me.’
Osbourne is no stranger to feuds, the longest of which started very close to home, after falling out with her father when she defied him by not only dating the then disgraced Ozzy but by setting herself up as a rival manager. She didn’t speak to him for 20 years, until they were reconciled and he even appeared in The Osbournes.
It wasn’t only her father she defied – she also took on other giants of the rock business.
‘When I decided I was going to be a music manager and that I was going to make it work for Ozzy, no one believed in me or him. I remember my first meeting with Walter Yetnikoff [head of CBS Records in the Seventies]. I went to talk to him about Ozzy. He looked at me and said: “Why don’t you just lose weight, f*** off out of here and go and have a baby?” That was the way men were allowed to speak to women then. I didn’t break down. I didn’t walk out crying. I’d been told to “f*** off” by my father pretty much every day of my life. So I just got angry and that fired me up to prove him wrong.
‘When I tried to get Ozzy a spot on the Lollapalooza Festival in 1996 they just laughed at me and that pushed me into setting up Ozzfest, now the world’s biggest heavy-rock festival. I think if I’d had a softer childhood, I wouldn’t have been tough enough to survive in this industry. I wouldn’t be who I was without that fight.’
Osbourne’s own style of mothering could not be more different to her childhood. She is fiercely protective of her three children – Aimee, Kelly, 33, and Jack, 31. On the afternoon of Kelly’s first date she handed over a police file to the prospective suitor after having had him checked out. ‘Too right!’ she says. ‘And despite what me and Ozzy have gone through, he always tells our daughters’ boyfriends that if they ever lay a hand on them he’ll have them.’
They all speak to each other several times a day. When Sharon had colon cancer in 2002, Kelly refused to leave her side for months. When it was revealed last year that Ozzy had had a series of affairs, however, Sharon briefly left him, supported by their children.
‘I had to look at what he did and what I did, she says. ‘I spent a lot of time away working in 2016, and I wasn’t there for him. If you want a marriage to work, you have to spend time together. That’s what gets you through.’
‘We will never be a Volvo-driving, dinneron-the-table sort of family,’ she says. ‘Nothing is hidden from our kids and I don’t regret that for a second. It has made us incredibly close. There is nothing we can’t say to each other, nothing we can’t do. And to be honest, I’m always very suspicious of those Volvo-driving perfect families because in my experience they have the deepest, darkest secrets. Whereas, for all our extremes, we are an open book.’
There is nothing you can’t ask Osbourne. Ask how she squares being a feminist with her cosmetic procedures (from gastric bands to facelifts) and she says: ‘I do this for myself. I spent years looking like an Oompa Loompa. I’m not doing it to get a man. I’m doing it for me.’ Ask her what she thinks of the music industry today and she says: ‘There are no personalities any more. You don’t get these working-class kids like Ozzy who give it hell. And I miss that.’ Ozzy will be 70 next year. ‘I want him to retire and enjoy life. We’ve worked bloody hard and I want him to relax. But he’s not having any of it, he wants to keep performing. Being on stage is the thing he loves most and I’d be the last person to take that away from him.’ It has been said that she too will retire next year. ‘Not true,’ she says. ‘I’ve slowed down but I’m not retiring. I think have five more years in me. I’m signed up to do another year of X Factor, so no one’s gete ting rid of me quite yet.’ The X Factor Live continues this Saturday on ITV from 8.20pm
‘At my first meeting about Ozzy, the head of CBS said, “Why don’t you **** off out of here and go and have a baby’
Above: Sharon and Ozzy with daughter Aimee in the South of France in 1984
Above from left: X Factor presenter Dermot O’Leary with judges Sharon Osbourne, Simon Cowell, Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh