~ by Hath, December 31, 2007

The tension had been palpable. If it wasn’t so bad, it would have been comical. Ross was loading film and checking the light and I was going over for the thousandth time what I wanted to ask these guys. I’d always been a fan, though as a journalist, it’s hard to have favorites in this business – at least it’s a career-limiting move to let that show. But, these guys were the real deal, and I was pumped to talk to them again. At least, they were the real deal in the last decade. They could be that again, if they wanted it.

In fact, that was my first planned question.

It was beautiful and simple.

“How badly do you want to be big again?”

I figured it would draw them out, get them animated, and would set the stage for a fantastic interview. But where the fuck were these guys?

“Lonn, are they coming or not?” Ross asked.

I checked my watch. “They said they would, but dammit, I don’t have all day.” As I was finishing my bitching, the double doors opened, and in they stalked, side by side. One dark one light, hostility oozing from every pore.

They strode across the room and took up positions on opposite sides of the conference table. They swiveled their chairs away so they wouldn’t have to look at each other. Jesus, this was going to be a problem. I caught Ross’ eye, and he shrugged, and started snapping pictures. Some help he was gonna be. I cleared my throat.

“So, guys, thanks for meeting with us,” I started. I knew what my first question to them was supposed to be, but it flew out the window at the looks on these guys’ faces. Sambora looked like he wanted to kill someone, namely his supposed best friend. Bongiovi looked like the feeling was completely mutual. Shit. How was I going to get them into the car to get across town to the shoot after the interview? They didn’t even want to be in the same room together – and this is a frigging big room.

I sighed. “Look, is doing this going to be a problem? RIP can get Slayer or Winger or someone else for the cover.” I wanted to know now if I was wasting my time or not, and wanted these guys to know that just because they were part of “Bon Jovi” didn’t mean they could jerk me around.

Sambora lowered his ebony-hued shades to glare at me, then gave his buddy a pointed look, slid his shades back up and crossed his arms over his chest. He was so tense, his forearms were flexed. The cords stood out on his neck, and I thought for sure I could see steam coming from his ears, just like in the cartoons.

Bongiovi, cool as ever, lowered his amber-tinted shades and smiled that megawatt smile at me – a smile that didn’t come close to touching those remarkable eyes. “Lonn, buddy, of course there isn’t a problem. What do you want to know?”

What I want to know is the real story of what the hell is going on in this room right now. But, I have the distinct feeling they wouldn’t tell me if I asked, and I was just bullshitting about getting Slayer. Who the fuck wants to read about them? I couldn’t risk angering them and making them walk. All through the interview, either one or the other would answer direct questions if asked, but they wouldn’t talk to each other, and wouldn’t even meet each others’ eyes.

Finally, the agony of this interview was done. The pictures that Ross snapped wouldn’t be any good. They weren’t even in the same goddamned frame. Nobody wants pictures of these guys solo. They want to see the team together. Jesus, I hope they can pull it together for the formal photo shoot.

Just what the fuck is going on here?

* * * * *

It was the last night in Japan, and the guys were all on a contact high from the adrenaline and love pouring out from the audience. They loved their jobs, and love performing in the States, but nothing was quite as satisfying as performing for the Japanese. After the final bows, the guys were all back in the dressing room, toasting their successes, when Jon made an announcement. “When we get back to the States,” he said, “I think we need a break.”

Jon’s proclamation was met with stunned silence. None of the others saw this coming. Richie spoke up first. “What do you mean ‘a break’ bro? What’s going on?”

“Nothing, and that’s the problem. This shit isn’t working. I think we each need some time to ourselves to regroup and think about where we want this to go.”

“Are you fuck insane?” Alec asked. “We’ve got the world by the balls, and you want to let it go?” He shook his head. “Uh-uh. No way.”

David agreed. “I’ve gotta say, man, this is fuck up. Why stop now? We’re nearly invincible, man.”

“I don’t remember asking either of you for your opinions,” Jon said. “In case you’ve forgotten, the band is ‘Bon Jovi’. That’s me. I’m in charge here, and I say we’re done, at least for a while.”

Richie shook his head. “Man, I can’t believe what an arrogant prick you’re being.” Jon narrowed his eyes at his friend, but Sambora was undeterred. “I mean, shit, we’re in this together. At the very least, I’m in this with you.”

Jon just ground his teeth and shook his head. “No, man, we’re not.”

Richie threw up his hands. “fuck it all, if it wasn’t for me, you’d still be playing in shitty bars and clubs, and if you got that asshole Sabo instead of me, you’d all be cokeheads or dead by now.” He got up in Jon’s face. “You may be the name and the voice, but you aren’t the band. We are. And you don’t call the shots here by yourself, WE do, you sanctimonious asshole.”

Jon cocked his fist, and Tico jumped forward to restrain him. “Don’t, amigo,” he said, his deep baritone a threat in Jon’s ear.

Jon shot daggers at his right-hand man. “You’ve got balls, Sambora, I’ll give you that,” he said, shaking off Tico’s hand. “But don’t you ever talk to me like that again.” He poked a finger into Richie’s chest. “We could do just fine with another guitarist. Nobody is irreplaceable around here. Except me. Without me, there is no Bon Jovi.”

“Your opinion of yourself is just staggering,” Richie said, turning his back on Jon and the others. “Fine, you want to be done, I’m done.” He stalked toward the door. “Call me when you pull your head out of your ass and want to be successful.” He turned back and pointed at Jon. “Better yet, don’t. Newsflash, asshole: I don’t need you, either. fuck you, man.”

With that, he left.

* * * * *

We drove in silence to the industrial park where we were going to do the photo shoot. Ross and I tried to engage these guys in small talk, but they wanted nothing of it. Each stared out his respective window, saying nothing. When we pulled up, and Ross started setting up, the two of them got out of the car and stood there, waiting to be told what to do. Sambora had his Strat and the trademark Stetson, and he was ready. Bongiovi had the hair and the attitude; he appeared ready, too.

Ross had them posed in different places, and every time they got near each other, I held my breath. But, the two men handled things professionally, although not personably, and they got through the shoot with very little fuss. In fact, without these two clowning around as they usually do, we got done earlier. They already had the angry rock star thing happening, so Ross got some fantastic shots. Although, in hindsight, if you look at the cover picture carefully, you can see Jon leaning toward Richie, making the wingman lean back to avoid touching his friend. Any other day, they’d be back to back with shit-eating grins on their faces.

They’re acting like adversaries rather than partners. Are they through? It’s not what they said in the interview, but who knows. I for one hope not. I think they have a lot of stories yet to tell.

As they were leaving, I threw my initial “first thought” question out to them. Maybe it will help, maybe not. At least it’ll give them something to think about.

* * * * *

After the shoot, Jon and Richie were in the limo heading back to the hotel. Lonn and Ross were hanging back; the car would return for them eventually. Both men had sunglasses on, their expressions inscrutable. Each was looking out his respective window again, lost in his own thoughts. Jon was thinking about Lonn’s parting comments to them – and thought about what his answer was. He looked over at Richie, a man who’d been his friend for a long time and sighed.

Richie tore his gaze away from the window to look at his travel companion. “What?” he said. It was the first word he’d said to Jon in the last two hours. His voice was weary, as if he was afraid that by starting a conversation, they would drive a bigger wedge into the heart of their friendship.

“Just thinking about what Lonn said,” Jon said, pulling the sunglasses from his eyes. His eyes twinkled a little, Richie thought, or maybe it was unshed tears. Richie knew how that felt.

“Huh,” Richie said, and turned back to the window.

“Man, about Japan,” Jon said. “I said some shit I didn’t really mean, and well, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

Richie looked back at his friend, and saw honest remorse there in his face. He sighed, and yanked his own sunglasses from his face. He studied Jon’s face for a long time. When they pulled up in front of the hotel, Richie opened his door, and made to get out. At the last minute, he ducked his head back in and extended his hand.

He said to Jon, “Call me when you get your shit together.”

Jon clasped his friend’s hand and answered, “You got it.”

** Author's Note: This was an entry in a writing challenge over on T's Place.