Steven Tyler

Do you curse in front of your mother?

Yes, but never in front of my father. My dad was a classical pianist, so I grew up under the piano two or three hours a day. I learned my emotions through my father’s music, but I learned my life skills through my mother. My dad was very strict, but smoking pot in front of my mom was okay.

What would you never do again?

“Never” is a hard word for me, but I don’t want to waste any time hating people who have done me wrong. Forgiveness is like giving your soul a blowjob.

What was the first time you ever performed for an audience?

My aunt and uncle owned a resort in New Hampshire, with 9 or 10 cabins on 360 acres. My aunt Phyllis would throw these Friday-night get-togethers in the barn where she would get the kids to sing for maybe ten or fifteen guests, songs like “There’s a Hole in the Bucket, Dear Liza.” So when I was four or five, with a crewcut and big lips, I would mime along to this old record about animal crackers.

Were you ever a Boy Scout?

No, but I didn’t need to be–I grew up in the woods near the resort, with my slingshot and my BB gun and my 12-gauge. I would shoot woodchucks and catch muskrats. And then when my family moved from the Bronx to Yonkers, there were deer and raccoons in my back yard. If I was stranded in the woods today with just a pocketknife, I’d be absolutely fine. I’d have some snares made and every stick I saw sharpened.

What was your first job?

At the resort, every summer. I’d rake the beach, roll the tennis court, mow the lawns, clip the hedges. I hated it.

What was your nickname at school?

Nigger Lips. One kid actually had these posters printed, “Beware of Steven Lipuanian Tallarico! Don’t touch him or you’ll get the dreaded Lipuanian Disease!” I’d come home crying, and my mom would say, if they make fun of your lips, tell the girls “All the better to kiss the girls with.” And I did and I got slapped.

Who was the first woman you were sexually attracted to?

Connie Stevens, in a Jerry Lewis movie. And I had my first wet dream over Jane Fonda. But even before that, it was the mom of the lead singer in Kula Shaker–what’s her name? Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most. Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap.

What was your first car?

My mother used to lend me the family car, the Dodge Dart station wagon, when I wanted to go up to New Hampshire on weekends. The New York clubs wanted us to play four 45-minute sets and always do “Wooly Bully,” but if we played at Dartmouth we could get $300 for playing our own songs. Eventually, I moved to Boston with Aerosmith and I bought myself a black ’65 Volkswagen Bug. The band would stuff into the car–three in the back, two in the front, with the guitars sticking out of the top through the sunroof.

What posters did you have on your wall growing up?

Janis Joplin, Duane Eddy, Sandy Taylor, the Beatles, the Walker Brothers. There were also dots all over the ceiling and my headboard so my room glowed like the deck of the Enterprise. I would buy a five-ounce sinker and dip it in this phosphorescent paint and tie it to a chain of ten rubber bands. So I would smoke pot in my room and watch this glowing sinker go booooing-booooing from one end of the room to the other.

Have you ever been arrested?

Well, in high school, there was a narcotics officer in my ceramics class. He turned everyone on to pot and then turned around and busted us. But enough about drugs. I’m tired of being the poster boy for heroin. Let’s say I’ve never been arrested, but I should have been for signing a portion of all my past publishing in perpetuity over to a certain unnamed manager.

Playboy or Penthouse–and where did you hide your issues?

Playboy. My uncle subscribed and my aunt Phyllis would let me get into his collection down into the basement. I kept a few copies stashed under the mattress. My mother probably knew they were there, but I thought they were hidden.

What’s the one thing you believed at 18 that you wish you still believed today?

That I could save the world. Today I realize that I can barely save myself.

What was the first concert you ever went to?

Chubby Checker at the Steel Pier, where they would have a girl on horseback on the high dive. Before the show started, the horse would jump into the water from 30 or 60 feet up.

What’s the hardest part of being a man?

Not getting caught up in the testosterone, thinking with the wrong head. Men need to realize that the emotional man is the one that a woman loves the most.

How old were you the first time you picked up a girl?

Probably fifteen. It was at the Yonkers Bowl. In 1966, there were no malls, and it was dark: at the bowling alley, you could make out, play the jukebox.

What’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you?

I once took so much acid that I forgot where I woke up that morning. I promised I wouldn’t open up my eyes until I figured it out, but I couldn’t. Another time, I must have been fifteen, I was in bed with this girl, and her mother came home. I could’ve hid in the closet and it would’ve been fine, but I was so scared I had to jump out the window onto the lawn in broad daylight in my underwear. I left my shoes there.

Who are your heroes?

When you’re a kid, you’ve got the comic-book heroes like the Tooth Fairy and Superman. Then later, you find your human heroes. But you find out that real-life heroes are fallible: the guy who kicked the football through the goalposts of life was arrested for beating his wife and he’s on cocaine. So I’ve gone back to Santa Claus.

When did you realize that you’d grown up?

What, are you kidding?

Interview by Gavin Edwards. Originally published (in a somewhat shorter version) in the October 1997 issue of Details.