Rick Springfield Talks His New Book, His (Potential) New TV Show and, Yes, the Girl in 'Jessie's Girl'
by Kim Potts, posted Oct 20th 2010 3:00PM
Confession: My teenage bedroom wall space was devoted to three people: John Taylor (of Duran Duran, natch), John Schneider (c'mon, Bo Duke?!) and one Mr. Rick Springfield. My best friend, Amy, and I saw 'Hard to Hold' at least 10 times, and that was only because neither of us had our driver's license yet and had to rely on the 'rents to drop us off at the theater. It would have been lots, lots more.
So, I was giddy at the prospect of chatting with the pop star/actor/author about his new book 'Late, Late at Night' (Touchstone Books), the autobiography that has sparked a flurry of headlines about his teenage suicide attempt, dealing with depression and his admissions about years of infidelity in his relationship with wife Barbara.
Those are the headlines, and the Australian native is sometimes shockingly candid about all those topics. But to dismiss the book as a few tabloid-y tidbits would be missing out on a fun read, as Springfield penned the book himself (sans the usual celeb autobiography ghostwriter) and filled it with compelling anecdotes and self-deprecating humor, and placed them in the context of a career that has spanned more than four decades.
The 61-year-old star (dude totally doesn't look it) talked about making the decision to let it all hang out in the book, about his future music, TV and book endeavors, about how he was almost the new 'American Idol' judge (without even knowing he was in the running) and about whether or not he wishes he'd pulled a Carly Simon on 'Jessie's Girl.'
Hi, Rick. How's the book tour going? Has anything about it surprised you?
Um, yeah. The reactions to the book have actually been really great. I'm surprised with that. People look at it as a very positive, hopeful thing, so that's great. I was concerned about how it would be viewed, if it was just going to be viewed as a really dark book or if it would be seen as a hopeful thing.
It's a really good read. You're a great storyteller, it's very engaging and there's a lot of humor in it. And it feels more personal since you wrote it all yourself, without a ghost writer.
Thank you, I'm happy with that. I was proud of having written it myself, but also a little nervous about some of the content.
Songwriting is a very personal, revealing thing, but with the book, you're taking that to a whole different level ... what made you decide to do it now?
Well, I knew I had a real interesting story, so I just figured I'd do it at some point, and I don't know, one night I just got up and started writing ... And then we got the deal with Simon & Schuster. That kind of encouraged me more. So I dedicated six months to finishing it and rewriting it and everything.
Did you enjoy the process of writing the book?
I enjoyed it a lot. It was really fun going back and remembering a lot of that stuff. But I got a little nervous. After I delivered the manuscript, I called up Simon & Schuster and said, 'You guys can't release this book. I don't want it out there.' (Laughing) I started to get a little nervous about some of the revealing stuff. But they talked me off the ledge. And I'm glad it's out there now. There are a lot of really human stories, and especially now, with so many teen suicides in the news, because the book starts out with me hanging myself. Or trying to. And that from depression. Hopefully there will be some lessons that people will take from it. I certainly didn't write it as an instruction manual, but, I mean, it's the story of a successful life, despite all the sh--.
When you decided to write the book, or when you decided to publish it, did you resolve to tell the whole truth, no matter how uncomfortable or painful it might be?
Yeah, yeah. When I write songs, I've always written truthfully. There were a couple of things I changed about people that might have ... I didn't name names where it would possibly come back at me. But everybody, everyone else, is pretty much named. I'm OK with that, because it's the truth. If I felt that it wasn't true, wasn't accurate, or I wasn't sure if it was accurate, then I wouldn't have put it in the book.
What has been the reaction from the people in your life to the book?
My wife hasn't read it, because she said she's lived it ... We've faced everything. We've dealt with all the sexual stuff ourselves, in therapy and everything, and she says she lived it. But she did skim the pages, I think a couple of pages, and said it's really written well. I don't think my sons are interested in reading it. It probably would be a bit of an 'eewww!' to them, some of the stuff in there.
It seems obvious from reading it that you read a lot yourself ... you talk a lot in the book about how much you didn't enjoy school, but you seem to be a bit of an autodidact ...
Yeah, as it says in the book, I never finished high school, but my education was reading. I've read voraciously all my life, and as a kid, I was mainly into horror and science fiction, but I read all the great writers, Robert Heinlein, Robert Bloch and Arthur C. Clarke ... and I still read now a lot. I think they've helped me find my voice as a writer, just like musicians that you grow up with and love help you find your voice as a musician, too.
Will you continue writing books? Maybe tackle fiction, or another autobiography?
Yeah, I want to get into fiction. My publishers said they want me to write fiction next, and I'm working on scripts, and other things, and also getting ready to do a new record, write a new record. So writing is the thing I love to do the most. I love playing live and all that, but I can write just sitting in a room by myself, and that's a real attraction about it.
And what about acting, do you plan to continue that? You recently did a recurring role on 'Californication,' where you played an exaggerated version of yourself ... was that fun to play?
Yeah, yeah, it was great. It's got to start with the writing, and the writing is really good on that show. And it's a very risqué show, but I was up for it, and they certainly played it to the max. (Laughing)
You've said you're not really interested in returning to 'General Hospital' again ... what's kind of your ideal for what you'd like to do on TV?
It would be something that ... you know, the cable stuff is great, at Showtime and HBO, because there are no restrictions; censorship and all that kind of stuff can really put a hole in a good script.
Chris Isaak did a great show a few years ago, on Showtime, 'The Chris Isaak Show,' where he played himself, but an over-the-top version of himself, and after I watched you on 'Californication,' I thought of that show, and how 'The Rick Springfield Show' could be really fun, too.
That's very interesting you should say that. I just finished writing a script. (Laughing)
For that kind of show?
Yes. (Laughing) If I get it sold ... But that's my first thing I've done after the autobiography, and it's really funny you should say that, because that's exactly what I just finished [writing]. So yeah, we'll see.
So you're dealing with the crazy business aspects of not just music and book publishing, but now TV ... what is your take on the music industry right now? Obviously, it's a lot different from when you first started out. How do you maneuver through it now?
Through my fan base. Obviously, there's not much radio anymore. People are learning to use the Internet, and we're still trying to find a way through that. I've had an Internet presence for 15 years, and I'm on Facebook and Twitter and all that stuff. But ... I had my last record two years ago. 'Venus in Overdrive' debuted on the charts higher than any record I've had in my career, but at this point, I don't even know what that means, you know? The music business is so different now. We pick our -- just like the sci-fi writers predicted -- we pick our stars by vote. You know?
That's exactly what happens in 'American Idol,' and there's great, great, great talent there. I mean, with a lot of it, some of the Disney stars and that. But it, especially 'American Idol,' causes problems, because these people are thrust into fame without any kind of preparation or build-up, and they don't have a real sense of who they are musically, and then these people come in and go, 'Oh, here's a song, honey.' You know, 'Do this.' And they don't really forge an identity, which I don't think will be good for them later on ... I mean, some of them are very talented, and some of them have a real focus on who they are. But I think a lot of them, they're thrust into it so fast, they just ... they haven't paid their dues kind of, and learned the rights and wrongs of the business.
Were you approached by 'American Idol' to be one of the new judges? Your experience and success would make you the perfect person to mentor the contestants.
Yeah, I didn't know I was, but my name ... my agent put my name in and he said I went pretty far before they rejected me. (Laughing)
Would you have signed on if they had offered the job?
No, no, I wouldn't have done it. I love live performances. I love writing. I love recording. And I wouldn't want to be, on a weekly basis, judging young people. My whole focus is to empower people about (following) their dreams, to, you know, go for it. That's one of the messages (in my book), to never give up. Keep going. Keep going, because something will happen. And I couldn't be one of those guys that says, you know, 'You suck, get out of here.' That's not the kind of person I am. Although I have been a severe jerk in my life, I've come to a place now where I would want to encourage young musicians and not put a hole in their soul.
You're doing your annual fan cruise in November ... do you still enjoy touring?
Yeah, I do. The traveling gets a bit much at times, but that's the only way you get around. Until they invent the Star Trek transporter, we'll be taking planes. But I do love touring and playing live ... The extrovert in me comes out. It's a real part of me, but he only comes out on stage and when I'm acting. He's a performer, and so, just the day-to-day things, he kind of sits in a corner and twiddles his thumbs. So that part of me loves to tour.
You talk in the book about what a pop culture junkie you are, and you're a big pop culture collector, some rare 'Star Wars' goodies and other fun stuff. Do you display them at home?
Yeah, I have some things out. I have some song lyrics. Like, I've got 'If I Fell' written in John Lennon's hand, and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps,' written in George (Harrison)'s hand, and things like that, that I keep in a vault, but I have great facsimiles of them on the wall. And I do put stuff around, but it's not like ... there's not like a whole room dedicated to 'Star Wars' or anything like that. We have a great-looking house. I wouldn't want to screw it up with 20 versions of Darth Vader.
You also mention in the book that you wrote 'Jessie's Girl' and 'Love Is Alright Tonight' on the same piece of paper ... do you have that framed somewhere?
Well, I've always collected all my songs ... I still have the very first song I wrote. I'd write it and then stick it in the drawer, and I have them all. With 'Jessie's Girl,' I guess paper was in short supply, because I wrote 'Love Is Alright Tonight' on half of it, then wrote 'Jessie's Girl' on the bottom of it, and then turned it over and wrote 'Red Hot & Blue Love,' which is another song off 'Working Class Dog,' on the other side. So I guess paper was at a premium back then (laughing).
When people find out that you're 61, the reaction is the same: 'No way!' What's your secret?
Uh, the blood of young virgins. Drunk in the light of the full moon. (Laughing). I mean, I just take care of myself as best I can, and I'm sure a little bit of it is genetic, but ... I could write a book about that actually, which might not be a bad idea. About staying healthy and looking, I don't know, about not looking your age and that kind of thing, because people ask me that a lot. So maybe that should be the next book.
One last thing: you've been asked for years who Jessie's girl really was, and though you've talked about it before, you definitively answer it in the book. Are you tired of that question at this point? Or do you ever wish you'd done like a Carly Simon 'He's So Vain' thing and kept the inspiration for the song a big mystery?
Yes, (people) do still wonder, because all I know is the guy's name is Gary, the guy who is "Jessie." I've forgotten everything else about it. In fact, Oprah's show wanted to do a segment, about, like, the women behind the songs, and they went looking for the girl that inspired 'Jessie's Girl.' And I told them that I met her, like the books says, at a stained glass class in Pasadena in 1979. So they researched it, and they got as far as, they found the class. They found the teacher ... I said it was an older guy. They found the guy ... and they found the guy, but too late. He had died two years before, and they'd thrown out all his papers a year before, a year after he died. So they came close to finding out who the two people were, but they missed out by a year, and I was actually kind of glad.
You want to keep the mystery, then?
Yeah. I mean, I'm wondering a little, too, because there has been so much written about it, about the girl, because of the strength of the song and everything, I'm wondering if one day some girl is going to show up. Because I mentioned the stained glass class and everything, and it was a pretty small class, and I think even then they knew that I was a musician. So I wonder if one day a girl is going to come up and say, you know, you wrote that song about me ...
What would you say to her??
I'd recognize her. So I would go ... um, I'd probably freak out. (Laughing) I'd say, 'Don't sue me.'