The rain is pouring down in Camden, New Jersey, and inside his trailer, Vince Neil and I are staring deeply into each other’s eyes. That’s because Neil—the Mötley Crüe front man who, when his hair was big and “Girls, Girls, Girls” was on the charts, bedded “thousands” of groupies (according to his soon-to-be-released autobiography, Tattoos & Tequila)—is clearly fighting his natural inclination to stare at the chest of the woman he is talking to. In turn, as he tells me about his recent separation from his fourth wife, I am making a concentrated effort not to stare at his face, which has, since those halcyon days, been subjected to so much plastic surgery and tanning that it is as smooth, buttery, and beige as the leather couch we’re sitting on. The result of this not-staring contest has been nearly unwavering eye contact for the past fifteen minutes. He breaks first.
“You know, we’d been together for ten years,” he says, eyes flicking briefly downward. “It was a long time.”
I nod empathetically. His nose is odd-looking.
“All of a sudden you feel like you’re roommates—you’re not husband and wife anymore.”
It’s like the tip was lopped off, then reattached.
At a slight angle.
“Sometimes you just drift apart.”
Neil isn’t the only bandmate who is newly single. Bassist Nikki Sixx—who is joining up with Neil at Ozzfest, which is why they’re in Jersey—just got dumped by tattoo artist Kat Von D. “He took her to Europe, and she broke up with him on the flight home.”
No matter. They’re on tour, and he’ll find a new one. “There’s always girls around,” Neil says.
So far, the longest relationship any of Mötley Crüe’s members have had is with one another. Next year the band will celebrate its 30th anniversary. Not that the union has always been blissful. In Neil’s book, Sixx “likes to portray himself as the Messiah,” and Tommy Lee is “an egomaniac.”
Over time, they have learned to accept or bury these resentments. (Neil has apparently also done this with Sharon Osbourne, whom he ran into in the parking lot. “Sharon,” he said, embracing her. In the book, she is “the most evil, shittiest woman I’ve ever met in my life.”)
They have to: They’re completely co-dependent. No one has had a solo career to match the success they’ve had as Mötley Crüe. But keeping the band going allows them to indulge outside projects. For Neil, those include a bar chain, Feelgoods; a tequila brand, Tres Rios; and two tattoo shops. And now there’s Vince Neil Aviation, the private-jet company he launched this year “kind of out of necessity,” thanks to the travel needs of his two cocker spaniels, Cakes and Crackers. “I was chartering airplanes, but it got real expensive,” he says, scrolling through his iPhone for pictures of the dogs. “And I realized it was actually cheaper to buy a plane. And then I got two, so …”
Though the hope is that his will become the chosen airline of rock stars (Jay-Z has shown interest), currently the jets are leased out to whomever his partners—“a couple of really smart guys” he met at a Crüe show—can find. “Lately we’ve been doing some flights running raw gold from Colombia to Atlanta,” he says. “Like, we pick up like 400 pounds of gold and fly it to Atlanta. They refine it, and then fly it all up to Montreal.” Oh.
Tattoos & Tequila the book (there’s an album of the same name) is compelling, not only because it contains many disgustingly fascinating details of how teenage boys behave when they become rock stars, but also because of its subject’s willingness to appear, well, the way he is. “You can’t sugarcoat your life,” Neil says. “If you were an asshole, then you have to own up to it. I was an asshole. There’s a lot of things that I’ve done bad.”
Of these things, the most famous was his 1984 drunk-driving incident, in which Neil’s friend Razzle Dingley was killed. This past June, Neil was arrested for DUI in Las Vegas, where he lives. “I was at the Emmys, somebody handed me some Champagne, and I was like, ‘All right.’” He shakes his head. “At the after-party I was talking to Susan Lucci and I just kept telling her how pretty she was …”
His manager pops in—it’s time for Neil to get ready. I ask if I can see the rest of his trailer.
“There’s just the bedroom.” Neil opens its door. A cloud of perfume wafts out, along with a chorus of feminine voices. Hiiiii. The bedroom is literally full of girls, lolling about on the bed, texting, straightening their hair. Between the mirrors and the smallness of the space, it seems there must be twenty of them, but in reality there are three: two blondes, one brunette, all in their twenties. Allie, Zella, Izzy. They’ve been quiet as church mice the entire time.
He cocks his head, and for a second, he looks like the old Vince Neil. “Like I said,” he says, grinning. “There’s always girls around.”