Rock Opera. Internet Sports. Architectural Digest . . . Meat Loaf lives the fantasy. It’s been a long time since I first noticed the sweaty, stringy-haired young Texan with the flowing red scarf on MTV back in 1981. Even longer since his 1975 dramatic live debut in Greenwich Village and the cult-classic role that same year as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. (“Meatloaf Again?!”) On a recent bright afternoon, we caught up with Meat Loaf in his Calabasas home. Featured in this year’s April issue of Architectural Digest, his warm, traditional Mediterranean abode reveals few clues that a rock & roll royal lives here. Biedermeier furniture is placed in odd corners; sports memorabilia lines the walls of his workspace. His extensive collection of original pulp-magazine art leads down a hallway to the kitchen, only after you’ve absorbed the amazing lesson in 20th-century realist painting (American 10 and Ashcan 8 works) on display in the foyer. But then we notice the Bat Out of Hell cover painting framed above the office fireplace and, nearby, the Grammy that Meat Loaf won for Bat Out of Hell II.
Right now, Meat Loaf is finding a whole new audience with his AT&T GoPhone commercial, which reworks his hit “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” with former teen pop star Tiffany singing along.
Acting comes rather naturally to Meat Loaf. You may have noticed him recently as Jack Black’s dad in Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny or, most notably, as “Bob/Bitch Tits” in David Fincher’s Fight Club.
“Yeah, I liked Fight Club,” he says. “I thought it was crazy and really good, but my personal favorite was [playing] ‘Neighbor Fred’ in Focus . It was written by Arthur Miller, and starred Bill Macy and Laura Dern. It’s my favorite performance because of the way Miller writes all his characters — really twisted without completely understanding their surroundings. The day I had my big scene with Bill Macy, Arthur Miller chose to come to the set! I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ I avoided him, but we broke for lunch and he came over and said, ‘Good job — you brought my character to life.’” Meat Loaf picks up a framed photo from his desk of himself and Miller on the set. “This is right after that,” he says. “It was a cool day.”
In terms of upcoming roles, he holds up a script as thick as a bicep and proclaims, “I’m trying to see Soderbergh. I’m willing to chase him down — I really want to do it. It’s really good.”
Never known to sit idle waiting for the phone to ring, Meat Loaf is an avid competitor in fantasy-sports leagues. “Oh, I play all the fantasy games,” he says, “basketball, baseball, golf, football, NASCAR. Yesterday I drafted my professional bass fishing league!”
Meat Loaf is also a fixture on the Internet celebrity poker scene. But, he claims, “I don’t really play. I got on there for a week ’cause I was bored. I needed something to do for three hours.”
One thing you won’t catch Meat Loaf doing anytime soon is reality TV. With the exception of a recent documentary film team, he’s never let anyone follow him around, despite The Osbournes’ success. “When Ozzie had that show,” Meat Loaf says, “people were relentlessly calling me. I’m going, ‘What?’ First of all, my kids are grown, and they would never have acted like that. Although when they were teenagers, I guess that would’ve made for some interesting material. But I don’t want people around ruining my floors.”
After being talked into letting a documentary crew invade his space, the resulting film, In Search of Paradise, which was released in March, gets Meat Loaf’s wholehearted endorsement. Still, he says, his favorite thing about the movie is the poster: “The slogan is, ‘If you think you knew him, think again.’ I first thought, that’s like Jaws. Cool. The footage is really good. It’s funny — it makes me seem really negative, ’cause I always think something’s wrong with the [live] show. I’m a perfectionist who remembers every show. Someone will come up to me and say, ‘I saw you in Pittsburgh in ’87!’ and I’ll go, ‘Oh, yeah. Sorry.’
“It always amazes me who comes to the shows. We were doing “Pavarotti and Friends” in London and, unbeknownst to me, they gave Princess Diana a dressing room across the hall. I had to find out who the huge gift basket was for, so I stuck around! All of a sudden she was there — she came over and we talked for over 30 minutes. She and Fergie had been to two other of my shows. She was great. Really classy and down to earth. A lot nicer than Bono. He was there too. He wasn’t nice at all.”
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In between fun one-offs like his cameo in Jimmy Kimmel’s hit “Fucking Ben Affleck” video, Meat Loaf is hosting a new game show, Rock and a Hard Place, for Direct TV. It’s a trivia challenge game that pits music acts against each other for charity — e.g., Grandmaster Flash vs. the Pussycat Dolls. When asked about it, he demurs, “I’ve watched about five minutes of it and I was like, ‘Okay, fine.’ It moves pretty quick. I don’t think they spent enough time with the people — they cut out a lot of valuable interaction between the contestants — but maybe that’s what they’re going for?”
There is also a new, “very un–Meat Loaf” album in the works, to be released next year. “Things aren’t happening fast enough for me — they never do. We’ll probably do a couple of L.A. dates, but you don’t make a record to tour anymore. And I won’t charge $400 a ticket. It’s really hard. You make a record to get a perfume or socks or baby clothes — it’s all this branding stuff. That’s where you make your money.”
Photo by Kevin Scanlon