Smokin’ With Sabbath

Back in the fall of ’98 fellow HT writer Chris Simunek and I sat in the King Cole bar in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel searching for courage and composure in the bottoms of beermugs. We were waiting to be called up to the suite of Black Sabbath to do the interview we’d both dreamed of doing since we were 12 years old. We shared memories of our favorite Sabbath moments and brainstormed on last minute question ideas until the moment of truth finally came. As we rode up the elevator, he cautioned me about appearing too goofy and embarrassing us. The door to the room was ajar, and we could hear Ozzy inside but couldn’t see him. Chris tensed up, fidgeted and turned to me like we were in junior high, “I can’t believe he’s really in there! Dude—we’re gonna meet Ozzy!”

The door opened and there they were—our lifelong heroes—Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi. We shook hands and they sat across from us on the couch. I let Chris ask most of the questions (he was the one writing story) and just sat quietly soaking the whole thing in, jumping in only occasionally when he began to fumble. Both Ozzy and Tony hid behind their shades. Tony sat rigidly, his teeth clenched in an iron smile and his eyes were shifting rapidly like he was ripped on coke. Meanwhile Ozzy shook and mumbled like Benny Hill with MS.

As the interview drew to a close, I pulled out my old Paranoid vinyl for them to sign. But as Ozzy shakily penned it with the immortal imperative, “Stay Stoned, Ozzy Osbourne,” Tony was called into the bedroom to take a call. Before I could say Sabbra Cadabra, we were ushered out, but not before being personally invited to the photo shoot the next night. Cool—I’d have a second chance to get my guitar idol’s autograph.

I got to the photographer’s studio early and sat down on one of the couches in the corner with my album, wisely determined to fade into the background. The stylist set up the props which consisted of capes, skulls, knives and about four ounces of kind bud. Ozzy and his entourage soon arrived and they informed everyone that Tony was running late. The Ozzman shuffled in and was blown away by the sight of all that weed. “Is this for real?” he asked in disbelief as he trotted over to the silver platter of pot. He began to fondle and sniff at it. His publicist (whose job it was to keep him clean) tried to direct his attention to the business at hand but Ozzy just ignored her exclaiming, “This is wonderful!”

What happened next was the stuff of metal dreams: Ozzy, bud in hand, stammered over to the couch and sat down next to me. He asked, “Can we smoke some of this?” My brain melted and my heart exploded, but I kept my cool. “Sure,” I replied, taking the nug from his hand and packing the glass bowl on the table. I lit it up and passed it to him. “Where was this grown? Is this hydro?” he asked.

“No, it’s an indoor bio, an indica,” I replied. “And, I believe it was grown in New Jersey.”

“New Jersey, really?” he replied astonishedly. “I didn’t know they could grow dope like this in New Jersey.” We took a few more hits each as he kept mumbling in an almost incomprehensible cockney accent about weed for a couple of minutes. I couldn’t understand most of what he said, but I really didn’t care. I was smoking a bowl with Ozzy fucking Osbourne. I was in heaven and Ozzy was having a blast, but his publicist was having a coronary.

All of a sudden Chris came in with the publisher and a posse of their friends. They were loud and intrusive, so that was the last straw for the publicist. “Okay, there are too many people here. We’ve got to clear the room before Tony gets here. All non-essential personnel have to leave.” I sat calmly as everyone was ushered out, as if the announcement had nothing to do with me. After all, I’d been there all that time and was Sabbath’s invited guest. But Chris wasn’t about to let me stay if he had to leave. “Hey! How come he gets to stay?” Chris bitched. That was all it took for me to be escorted out along with them. The publicist assured us we could come back up in about an hour when the shoot would be winding down. I left my album and went to the bar with the rest of the dejected and drowned my anger and disappointment in a few pints of Bass. We returned just under an hour later only to have Ozzy and Tony whisked past us, out of the hotel into a waiting limo without so much as a good-bye. And of course, no autograph.

I was heartbroken. The bitterness of that moment stayed with me for quite a while, but not nearly as long as the unbelievable memory of sharing the sweet leaf with the great and powerful Ozz.

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