In April, I was assigned to shoot with Ozzy Osbourne for a cover and feature. I knew this one would be a blast; the news had just come out that Ozzy had bit the head off a dove at a record company meeting the month before. He was in NYC promoting his first solo album, Blizzard of Ozz. I spent a few days with Ozzy, shooting him around the city and at his hotel room at the Plaza, where I set up a background for the cover shoot. Circus was planning to use his image on a few different covers as well as in multiple spreads, so we tried a few different looks during the session.
Ozzy was a great subject. When I asked him to try something, he would always do it, and more. At the time, I didn’t always speak up. One of the things I kept telling him was to lean his head forward, because he had a bit of a double chin when his head was relaxed.
He couldn’t understand my direction, but instinctively he would lean his head forward to hear me better. Ozzy would keep saying, “What? I can’t hear you, Mark!” So I would yell, “Yes, that’s it!” He would answer, “What’s it? What the fuck are you saying?” It was like an Abbott and Costello routine. We had a good laugh about that.
After the shoot, I showed him my portfolio. Then we took some photos together. We were like two kids having fun. I finally felt like I was coming into my own. One of the features that he was going to be in was titled “Rock & Roll Yearbook: Class of ’81.” Onstage, Ozzy used to run all over the place so Circus awarded him “Most Athletic.” I figured I’d take some sports-themed shots, so when I went over to the Plaza to do the shoot, I brought a pair of boxing gloves. Ozzy came out dressed in a pink tutu. He was playing off the same theme, but with a twist. I spotted a pair of boots nearby, so I had him put those on, too, for a sort of play on Sabbath’s “Fairies Wear Boots.” It was a bizarre scene, for sure. When I handed over the photos to Circus, I didn’t think much of it. To my surprise, they used one of the tutu shots for the cover of the issue. After it came out, I got a call from Sharon Arden, Ozzy’s manager. She was not happy. And I could understand the way she felt. I mean, here was the Prince of Darkness . . .in a pink tutu on the cover. It had been intended to be a small black and-white image inside the magazine. For a few months after it came out, Ozzy’s camp didn’t want anything to do with me. Someone even called in to a live radio broadcast and asked him why he had done it. Ozzy replied, reluctantly, “It was an accident.” But then the cover started getting a lot of attention, and they came around.
That was the beginning of Ozzy doing more crazy stuff in his photos. Later on, I dressed him up in a lot of outrageous outfits. – MARK WEISS
“Mark always used to bring along this, like, kid’s dress-up bag. You never knew what he’d have in it. He was a young kid who loved music and loved what he did, and he was so enthusiastic. Ozzy would go along with it because he was a fun guy. Even though it was a complete contradiction to his persona.” —Sharon Osbourne (manager and wife, Ozzy Osbourne)
I had just moved in with Suzanne on the Upper East Side of New York City. I felt my place was a bit small, so I found a studio share on West 20th Street with a commercial photographer. It was six times the size of my previous one. Ozzy would be my first shoot in my new place. He had just released Bark at the Moon, and Sharon wanted me to do a photo session that would get him in the magazines.
I approached Faces. They were all up for putting Ozzy on the cover, but it had to be different. Mikael and I came up with a spin on Ozzy’s last studio album, Diary of a Madman. It was the May issue, so we thought, Mother’s Day—let’s dress Ozzy up like a mad housewife.
I explained the idea to Sharon. She laughed and said, “Sure, let’s do it.” She came with Ozzy and dropped off a bunch of outfits for him to wear. We were going to start the shoot with some cool rock shots of Ozzy in his stage clothes and then take some pics of him in drag for the cover. While I was setting up, Ozzy said to me, “What’s that, Mark?” I looked to where he was pointing and saw an Easter bunny outfit and white flowered trestle. I realized it had been left over from a shoot the photographer I shared the studio with had been doing. I gave Sharon a quick smirk and then proceeded to tell Ozzy, “What do you mean, ‘What’s that?’ It’s your costume—we’re doing an Easter theme for the cover of the magazine. Let’s hop to it and get started!” Sharon laughed and said, “Have fun, boys! I’m going shopping.” That’s when I first heard Ozzy scream, “Sharrrrron!” She came back a few hours later with baby Aimee and a dress for Ozzy to wear for the shoot. I showed the May cover to Ozzy, and he laughed. He loved it. This was during the second leg of the Bark at the Moon tour with Mötley Crüe. I think we were somewhere in the southern United States. It’s a bit of blur, honestly—though I remember the shoot! Mikael and I went to say hi to the Crüe over by their bus. While we were there, Tommy Lee threw something into the trunk where they kept their “trophies” from the night before.
A light bulb went off in my head. Mikael and I looked at one another and then grabbed some lingerie from the trophy trunk, and another classic Ozzy photo shoot was born. As we were shooting, Tommy and Vince came in to see what we had done with their collection. They joined in on the fun. Ozzy then went onstage and ripped off his clothes and wig. – MARK WEISS
Later that summer, Circus asked me to shoot the cover of their thirteenth-anniversary issue. They asked if I had any ideas, and immediately I thought of Ozzy. I called Sharon, and the next thing I knew I was on a flight out to LA. Earlier in the year, Ozzy had bitten the head off a live bat onstage, which landed him in the hospital to get rabies shots. So I had a flag made with a picture of a bat on it and arranged for him to hold it while popping out of a cake. When I arrived at Ozzy’s, the housekeeper told me to set up in the garage.
Once I was ready to go, I waited. And waited. Several hours went by. Then Sharon came out with a concerned look on her face. “Ozzy shaved his head last night.” I must have looked like I had seen a ghost. I thought to myself, I’m done. Circus will be pissed at me for spending all this money on the shoot and returning without a cover. Then Sharon gave me that Sharon smile and said, “But he’s gonna do it.” We put our heads together and came up with an idea. Sharon took out some black makeup and began applying it. Then, I taped a couple of black balloons I had for the birthday theme to his head. I think we topped the tutu cover. I knew then that we were off to a lifelong adventure of shenanigans. – MARK WEISS
Photos and writing by Mark Weiss, provided courtesy of Insight Editions.