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TV Tinsel: With his musical ‘tools’ on the mend, Bon Jovi voices his story

Luaine Lee – Tribune News Service (TNS)

Two years ago musician Jon Bon Jovi suffered throat surgery that threatened to end his 40-year career. But he’s back with an album due in June and a documentary that chronicles his rise to fame as the founder and frontman of the rock band named after him.

He’s pulling no punches with “Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story,” premiering on Hulu Friday. “I wanted to document what had happened in my past with a vision on what is the future,” he says.

“One thing we agreed upon on Day 1 was this was NOT going to be a VH-1 puff piece. That, if anything, I wasn’t going to stamp my feet and say, ‘I have final say.’ … This had to tell the truth and have all the warts to go with it in order to tell a real truth. So I’m proud of the film,” he says.

This comes after a forced hiatus that saw the performer question his future. “It’s not been easy,” he sighs, “because the parallel story — and now I’m ready to talk about it — is this vocal surgery. I pride myself on having been a true vocalist. I’ve sung with Pavarotti. I know how to sing. I’ve studied the craft for 40 years. I’m not a stylist who just barks and howls. I know how to sing.

“So when God was taking away my ability, and I couldn’t understand why, I jokingly have said the only thing that’s ever been up my nose is my finger. So there’s no reason for any of this. And one of my cords was literally atrophying,” he explains.

“Your vocal cords are supposed to look parallel, and let’s pretend that they are as thick as a thumb. One of mine was as thick as the thumb, and the other one was as thick as a pinky. So, the strong one was pushing the weak one aside, and I wasn’t singing well. So, my craft is being taken from me,” he says.

“Fortunately, I found the surgeon who was able to do this really cutting-edge implant to build the cord back up, and it’s still in the process. But nonetheless — and I say in the film — if I just had my tools back. The rest of it I can deal with. I can write you a song; I can perform as well as anybody. But I need to get my tools back.”

Finding those “tools” dates back to high school for the Jersey boy. As a teen he longed to pursue music.“That’s all I did — thinking I was a rock ‘n’ roll star when I was playing block dances and church dances and eventually clubs when I was still too young to be in them,” he recalls.

“Regrettably, I look back on my high school years, that I didn’t pay more attention and get better grades — I didn’t know that accounting and foreign languages were things I should’ve paid more attention to then. It was a big world out there, and I wanted to make records, and I had to learn on my feet.”

His very first encounter with a guitar came when he was 8 years old. “My mom had a gift shop and would go to trade shows. At the end of trade shows instead of carrying your wares back home, you’d sell them off, give them away, or exchange them for something else. She always loved country music, and she brought home a guitar and the ‘Kenny Rogers Home Guitar Course’ to teach herself how to play the guitar.

“She never learned and the record sat there: ‘Put your finger on string No. 4.’ I paid no attention to the guitar and physically threw it down the basement stairs just to hear it make noise. And one of the tuning pegs broke, and it sat down there for six years until at 13 I thought, ‘I’d like to try to hear how this sounds,’” he remembers.

“There was a singer and guitar player in a lounge band who moved in across the street. He gave me guitar lessons with five tuning pegs instead of six and we would tune it with a screwdriver. After a couple lessons, he showed me a song or two and taught me a song by The Animals called ‘The House of the Rising Sun.’ He said, ‘Know this by next week.’

“I came back and didn’t know it. He said, ‘You’re wasting my time. I have a wife and kids upstairs, and I really don’t need to be down in the basement, so either learn it or get out of my house.’ He challenged me and, of course, he was a great inspiration in my life because throughout the early years he would give me encouragement to listen to demos or listen to song ideas, or I would set up his gear in the lounges for him on Friday afternoons. I was his first roadie. He only took on three students and two of us became rock ‘n’ roll stars.”

Baruchel stars in thriller

Canada-born Jay Baruchel is one of the stars of the super spooky dystopian drama “Humane,” in theaters on Friday. The streaming public will have to wait till July to catch the thriller on Shudder, which marks the directorial debut of Caitlin Cronenberg (yes, the daughter of famous director David Cronenberg).

Baruchel plays one of the grown children of a retired newsman, all mired in a global collapse that requires a sudden decrease in the population. When the suicide of the father, played by Peter Gallagher, goes awry, chaos envelops his children.

Baruchel, who has starred in “BlackBerry,” “Man Seeking Woman” and “The Moodys,” recalls, “I was always precocious and a Chatty Cathy and always something of a class clown. Whenever I’d go to the big Christmas gathering, I’d always put on shows. When I was a little kid, 3-years-old, I’d be on Grandma’s coffee table doing a Michael Jackson impression or slogans from the Hudson’s Bay Company on TV.

“So Dad thought this might be a fun thing to do after school. Concordia University, which was one of the two best film schools in Canada, they were making a flick and they came to our school to see if there were any kids who wanted to read for it. And it got my first audition. And here I am.”

John Lithgow goes back to school

One of the more astute actors in Hollywood is John Lithgow, as he’s proved by his many roles on TV and film, on stage, and in his own one-man show. But, surprise, Lithgow is going back to school with his new one-hour show, “Art Happens Here with John Lithgow,” airing on PBS Friday. 

Here he’s visiting various schools and watching as budding artists display their talents in disciplines like ceramics, dance, silk-screen painting and jazz vocals.

The veteran of the sitcom “3rd Rock From the Sun” and dramas like “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “The Crown” and “The Old Man,” Lithgow didn’t intend to be an actor. He had performed at school but was directing successfully when he was offered an acting season at the Long Wharf Theatre. That marked a crossroad, he says.

“Acting, even at the best of times, will disappoint you,” he says. “It’s never quite as glorious as you had hoped it would be. As wonderful as it is, it’s air. It’s not something like a child or a book. It’s not something you’ve actually created, you can hold in your hand.

“It’s air. Even if it’s on film, you can preserve film, but the magic of film is the first time anyone sees it. It’s frozen. I’m talking in an airy way. I’m talking about my own philosophy. What I do is of the moment. It’s like a little firecracker that goes off. It fades, and it should fade. That’s the magic of it. It’s far less special if it stays in the air. It’s all ephemeral because you’re touching people’s emotions.” 

Orlando Bloom tests himself

Orlando Bloom loves to challenge himself in more ways than one. Not only does he take on impressive roles in mega-movies like “Lord of the Rings” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” he tests himself in nature as well.

An example is Peacock’s “Orlando Bloom: to the Edge” which is streaming now. In this three-part series he braves three extreme sports: rock climbing, wing suiting and free diving. Wing suiting is sky diving using a special bat-like suit that increases lift and allows a longer (and scarier) flight. Most people would find those ventures more than intimidating, but acting is no walk in the park, either.

“I was very young when I realized that it (acting) was where I felt most at ease and most expressive and creative,” he tells me.

“I think I was very young because I used to watch all the TV shows and all the movies and then I realized that if I was an actor, I could be any one of these people. I didn’t just have to be a lawyer like in ‘L.A. Law’ or I didn’t have to just be a cowboy or a superhero. I could be any one of those characters. When I realized that as an actor you can be any one of those characters, I thought, ‘Well, that’s the job for me. I get to experience life in so many different ways, to so many different eyes, and explore what it means to be a human living in this world.’”


(Luaine Lee is a California-based correspondent who covers entertainment for Tribune News Service.)

©2024 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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