The Secret Sorrow of Jon Bon Jovi

After more than a decade spent serenading near-hysterical teenage girls, the king of New Jersey mall rock wonders whether history will be cruel or kind.

  1. "We ow-ah Japanese," Richie Sambora says, clowning aboard Bon Jovi's private jet. The band's amazed that their 80-strong Japanese fan club will be at tonight's charity concert in Atlanta. No one even knew there was a Japanese fan club. Locking his jaw and bowing antically, Sambora resembles Mickey Rooney's Oriental in Breakfast at Tiffany's. "Velly excited to come to Hat-lanta and see Bon Jovi." Everyone giggles.

    "Yeah," guitarist Richie continues in his normal hey-dude voice, "we just played that geodesic dome in Beaver County, Pennsylvania—Beaver County.…"

    "Right near Assfuck, Kentucky," says the band's keyboardist, Dave Bryan. More giggles.

    "Man, it still gives me a hard-on when we go out there and 70,000 people are singing along to 'Livin' on a Prayer,'" Richie announces, alluding to the band's 1986 hit. This wins a motherly smile from Vickey, the band's longtime stewardess. "Some tea, honey?" she says, setting down a china cup. Then she serves tea to the leather-jacketed execs from Mercury Records, calling them all "honey," too. Record executives love road-tripping with Bon Jovi, the friendliest band in the sky.

    Only Jon Bon Jovi remains aloof from the bonhomie. The band's eponymous leader (except for Sambora, the other musicians are actually, technically, his employees) is an unmoved mover. He glances at his Movado watch, runs a hand through his wheat-colored locks, stares at the subdivisions 40,000 feet below. It takes discussion of the band's renewed megadom—their...

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