Narcissism? Exhibitionist tendencies? Good old-fashioned marketing savvy? What special quality did heavy metal stars have that inspired them to flock early on to reality TV? Years before we cared to keep up with the Kardashians, a pantheon of heavy metal gods became the first celebrities to open their homes and their lives to camera crews 24/7.
Turns out, their knack for outlandish antics makes hard rockers pretty perfect for reality TV. With classic rock and heavy metal fading from airwaves and charts, reality television has helped revive the careers of some of metal’s most legendarily outrageous performers. So, give a flash of the devil horns for these 9 heavy metal gods turned reality TV stars.
Back in 2002, Ozzy Osbourne and his family became the first celebrities to invite in a film crew when they opened the doors of their airy Los Angeles. mansion for MTV’s groundbreaking reality series The Osbournes. Viewers relished the all-access pass to the metal maniac’s domestic life, particularly because it was so weird. Fans of the frequently-bleeped family understood from doddering Ozzy’s behavior that the mumbling Osbourne patriarch was out of his flipping mind. Sure, he and his Black Sabbath band mates boldly invented heavy metal in the 1960s, and yes, in the 1980s he shocked a room full of record label execs by biting off a dove’s head, but at home the henpecked Prince of Darkness was the butt of all jokes. Osbourne whiled away the hours walking on a treadmill, cuddling his tiny dogs, and being generally befuddled by his sharp-minded manager-wife Sharon and their two spirited teens, Jack and Kelly. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in 2009, Osbourne revealed that he had been stoned on prescription drugs during the entire run of the show.
Never one to miss cashing in on a craze, KISS’ fire-breathing, blood-spewing, tongue-wagging bassist Gene Simmons launched his own A&E reality show Gene Simmons Family Jewels in 2006, sharing the spotlight with his Playboy model wife Shannon Tweed and their teenage kids Nick and Sophie. Simmons and his family were the anti-Osbournes: functional, squeaky-clean, and sweet. Father Gene definitely thought he knew best, so Shannon and the kids had a grand time ribbing him for his arrogance. The trademark-crazy Simmons later showed off a bit of his business acumen on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice. In a more recent development that Simmons himself must get a kick out of, his wife and daughter currently star in the reality series Shannon & Sophie now airing on the Up TV (formerly the Gospel Music Channel).
Sure, in his heavy metal heyday, Snider filed his front teeth to resemble fangs, but the Twisted Sister frontman is a softie at heart. Fans learned so when he opened his Long Island home for A&E’s 2010 reality series Growing Up Twisted. Apparently, mild-mannered Snider, his wife Suzette, and their four wholesome kids weren’t twisted enough for viewers, and the series folded after just seven episodes. Snider quickly began exploring other reality TV opportunities. In 2012, he traded life partners with Flavor Flav on Celebrity Wife Swap. The same year, he appeared on Celebrity Apprentice. Snider’s also been spotted on Celebrity Ghost Stories and Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, as well as on music competition shows like Supergroup, Gone Country, and Rock The Cradle where he competed with son Jesse.
Glam metal icon Bret Michaels has an impressive reality TV resume including three seasons of VH1’s Rock Of Love With Bret Michaels (2007-2009), which was basically The Bachelor for the dive bar set. In 2010, the former Poison singer won a season of Celebrity Apprentice. The same year, Michaels began shooting Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It, which gave fans a behind-the-scenes peek at the rocker’s on-again, off-again companion for two decades, Kristi, as well as their two daughters. In 2013, Michaels hosted the Travel Channel’s kooky Rock My RV, and that’s not even counting his appearances on Celebrity House Hunting, Celebrity Close Calls, and Celebrity Ghost Stories.
The former Mötley Crüe singer’s first reality show role coincided with the debut of The Osbournes, which should give you an idea of how willing he was to jump on the reality TV bandwagon. In early 2003, on hiatus from the Crüe, Neil appeared on the very first season of VH1’s The Surreal Life, a show that collected celebrities past their prime and forced them to live together in a Los Angeles mansion. There, Neil met rapper and ordained minister MC Hammer, who later performed the ceremony when Neil married his fourth ex-wife, Lia. In 2004 the singer starred in Remaking Vince Neil, which chronicled his efforts to recharge his solo music career. Later, he told a spooky personal tale on Celebrity Ghost Stories. In 2010, he even competed on ABC’s Skating With the Stars, which sounded crazy until Neil revealed he’d been a competitive figure skater as a kid.
Chain-smoking, hard-partying Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee followed band mate Neil’s lead by filming the 2005 NBC reality show Tommy Lee Goes To College. The show is actually the most controversial on the list because it was so obviously partially scripted. Viewers were treated to six episodes of the 43-year-old high school dropout navigating life at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where Lee attempted to tackle all the usual undergrad milestones—finding a roommate, trying out for athletic teams, attempting to join a fraternity, auditioning for the marching band, even dissecting a frog in bio class, which a grossed-out Lee deemed way too “gnarly.”
In 2010, the former Skid Row singer signed up to spend a few weeks in the desert with several other out-of-shape D-listers on VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp. (The show’s other contestants? Kevin Federline and Bobby Brown, among others.) The bratty Bach proved that he’s not so skilled at physical fitness, teamwork, or the sort of tough love the show’s trainers use to whip contestants into shape. At one point, the singer turned on his own teammate, reality TV personality Tanisha Thomas. In a textbook reality show scenario, Bach insulted Thomas’s weave and she responded by insinuating he was a has-been. It escalated into an expletive-filled argument that ended only when Bach pushed a cameraman to the ground. Bach’s other reality show stints were of the music competitions variety, including VH1’s Supergroup, CMT’s Gone Country (which he won), and most recently, ABC’s Sing Your Face Off.
In a dramatic reality show twist, in 2008 troubled former Guns N’ Roses drummer Adler opened up about his struggle with addiction on the second season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. He joined Dr. Drew again in the fifth season of the show, and also appeared on its spin-off Sober House. During filming of that show, an intoxicated Adler became so aggressive toward his cast mates that he had to be arrested. In 2012, a still struggling Adler discussed his participation on the shows. “It was the best thing I ever did for myself,” he said. “Having the treatment on TV made it easier because the camera doesn’t lie. You try to bullshit your way out of things, but then you watch yourself on camera and you see the truth…When you’re doing drugs you think you’re 10 feet tall and beautiful. But you can’t be in denial when there’s a video camera in your face.”
Another Guns N’ Roses member, McKagan is the sole rocker on the list who didn’t enjoy his brief stint on reality TV. When his wife Susan signed up in 2010 to appear on E!’s Married To Rock, the former GNR bassist was forced to occasionally appear on the show, which ran for only one season and focused on the difficulties, as well as the myths behind sharing life with a rock star. McKagan so hated the experience, he wrote a scathing column about it for Seattle Weekly. “I do not like reality shows,” he wrote. “I actually despise what little I have seen and think that some of this stuff has really poisoned our perception of reality. But then again, I have a ton of male rock friends who watch this stuff and fucking LOVE it.” Ultimately, McKagan concluded, “I don’t believe that there is a real place for ‘rock guys’ on an E! show.”