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The Boss: Born to Run on Junk Food?

New Springsteen biography
New Springsteen biography
E. Dwass

At 63, Bruce Springsteen is known for a legacy of great music and political conscience. He's also admired for his buff-ness and extraordinarily physically demanding performances, helped by an intense workout regimen and healthy eating. So it's surprising to learn that when he was starting out on the road to stardom, he was fueled by an addiction to junk food.

In a new biography titled Bruce, by Peter Ames Carlin, we're told that as a young man, Springsteen "had the gastronomic sophistication of a feral dog, feasting on Velveeta-and-mayonnaise sandwiches, or the glistening fried chicken at the Tasty Dee-lite drive-through. Vegetables rarely made an appearance ..."

Carlin had the cooperation of Springsteen in this biography, according to The New York Times. The book opens in 1971 with a description of highly creative weekly monopoly games, in which Springsteen excelled, "due both to his shifty powers of persuasion and the leverage provided by the sacks of candy bars, Ring Dings, and Pepsis he brought with him." He won so many games that the other players nicknamed him the Gut Bomb King, but Carlin reports that this "lasted only until Bruce, who also had a talent for inventing nicknames, came up with a new one for himself: the Boss."

An early girlfriend, Pam Bracken, reveals in the book that Springsteen's dessert of choice was a big bowl of strawberry-flavored goop (not sure what exactly that was ...Jell-O?) topped with heaps of Reddi-wip. When Bracken presented him with fresh strawberries and cream he "took one bite, recoiled, and pronounced it 'terrible.'"

Springsteen never did drugs, according to a July 30 New Yorker profile by editor David Remnick, because he was "deeply affected by his father's paralyzing depressions, and worried that he would not escape the thread of mental instability that ran through his family."

Before he sought healing in decades of therapy, it seems Springsteen might have used junk food to fight his demons. In the biography, another early girlfriend, Diane Lozito, remembers he "had a hard time sleeping at night, so I'd sit up watching TV with him while he wolfed down all this junk food: sodas, cakes, all this horrible stuff ..."

His diet turned around in the late 1970s, according to Carlin, when Springsteen hired die-hard fan Obie Dziedzic to be his assistant. She ran his house and bought groceries, vastly improving his diet in the process, "cooking the dinners he chose from the menus she'd crafted to broaden and add real nutrition to his stubbornly adolescent palate. Amazingly it worked. Bruce let Dziedzic maneuver him into eating vegetables and sauces beyond the tomato-based kind you ladle onto spaghetti."

So overhauled was Springsteen's diet that one of his long-time friends, Lance Larson, told Carlin that he remembers the Boss rebuking him for not finishing his salad, telling him: " 'Whaddaya doing? Gimme that salad! It's healthy for you!' "

The New Yorker profile says that after buying a Beverly Hills estate in the 1980s, Springsteen became interested in organic farming. More recently, Remnick was in Barcenola on the tour for Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" album and describes one of the pre-performance meals: "Tonight, the menu is veal shank, grouper, and various vegetarian options, to say nothing of half a dozen kinds of salad and a patisserie of desserts."

A long way from Ring Dings and strawberry goop.


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