As Jon Bon Jovi celebrates his 50th birthday on March 2, there's also another milestone worth noting: He's also one of the very few major rock stars to make it to the half-century mark while still on his first wife.
The namesake frontman of Bon Jovi has been married to his high school sweetheart, Dorothea, since they wed in a seemingly quickie ceremony at Las Vegas' Graceland Wedding Chapel in 1989. Jon and Dorothea had been on and off as a couple for a decade prior to that. But, aside from a brief pre-marital dalliance with actress Diane Lane, the rocker hasn't been publicly linked to any other sweeties besides his first crush.
Go ahead and say it, fans: He gives love… a good name.
Neither member of the couple has gone to seed, that's for sure. On holiday with their four kids at St. Bart's over the Christmas holiday season, the pair were photographed together by paparazzi, with Bon Jovi's washboard abs being complemented by what England's Daily Mail described as "her trim beach body." When the singer "wasn't getting stuck into a spot of paddle boarding, he couldn't keep his eyes off his gorgeous spouse."
The band Bon Jovi is hardly a democracy. Jon is known to be the one who's busy making all the crucial decisions and keeping track of business affairs while the other members are free to party or lounge through their off-time. And he reaps the rewards of that leadership, as Forbes reported last year that "Bon Jovi keeps the bulk of the [band's] earnings, whereas bands like U2 split proceeds evenly."
But at home, he may be less boss-like. Bon Jovi hasn't offered a great deal of insight into the inner workings of his 23-year marriage, but he has said, "'The fact she's independent and isn't needy or possessive helps, and she is just a very strong woman… I am wise enough to realize that women are much smarter than any man, and that women control the world."
He's also wise enough to realize that it's better to publicly (if obliquely) admit to failings of fidelity than have the tabloid press dig them up. "I've not been a saint. I have had my lapses," he said many years back. More recently, asked by London's Observer what kind of husband he was, he laughed, "One that runs away a lot more often than not. Ha ha! Not the perfect one! Trust me! Not on any level!"
To the Daily Mail, he opined, "'I find that women are much sexier when they age gracefully. I want to see them in cowboy boots and blue jeans and not with so much liposuction that they can't even close their eyes. You see women with it everywhere in Hollywood and, urgh..." But he tried to make it sound as if his marriage was not such a unique one among his contemporaries. "'I've been cognizant of the fact that relationships have been breaking up around us, but it hasn't made me cling to her or the other way around. And although everyone says we're about the only couple still together in the rock business, it's not really true. There's Bono and his wife Ali and Bruce (Springsteen) and Patti. We're not the only ones."
Of course, Springsteen had to go through one starter marriage before he seemingly got it right. But the Bono comparison seems particularly apt, as he and Bon Jovi have a lot in common besides their early-fiftysomething age, the enduring status of their first marriages, and the first three letters of their monikers.
Last year, U2 was the top-grossing touring act in the world, with Bon Jovi in second place, pulling in $190 million from 68 shows. The year before that, Bon Jovi was in the top worldwide spot. Did it matter that the band's latest album didn't even go gold? Not any more than it would affect stadium grosses if one of U2's albums flopped. These are the two bands that millions of international fans turn out to see every year, whether they've got a hit record or not.
Believers in romantic karma could claim that these are the kind of spoils that come to big rock stars who can manage to keep their marriages together instead of succumbing to a wandering eye or heart. But maybe there's something more practical and less spiritual at play.
In both cases, you've got a frontman with a mind for business as well as hooks, and someone who knows how to hold marriages and bands together. U2 has had the same lineup since emerging onto the scene in 1980. Bon Jovi can claim almost the same record of group fidelity. They've only lost one member along the way (bassist Alec Such, who split in 1994). The remaining cast — guitarist Richie Sambora, drummer Tico Torres, and keyboardist David Bryan — is the same as upon the group's formation in 1983.
Judging from his success rate with group and marital lineups, Bon Jovi has exceptional skills as a peacekeeper as well as leader, and he's more prone to living on practicality than a prayer.
Jon developed a thing for classmate Dorothea Hurley back when they were students at Sayreville War Memorial High in (of course) New Jersey. When he says woman are smarter than men, that's something he apparently believed as a high schooler, too, as he has admitted to copying her answers in history class.
They drifted apart as the band found stardom, and Bon Jovi had his noted romance with Diane Lane, though that came to an end as Lane and Sambora circled each other instead.
A happy reunion came when Jon tracked Dorothea down at her parents' home, stood on the front lawn, and called out to her to be his date at the band's Meadowlands arena show that night.
That fateful "Say Anything"-style moment led not just to nuptials but four predictably attractive children — Stephanie, 18, quite a looker herself already, judging from the bikini-clad shots the paparazzi recently got in St. Bart's; Jesse, 17; Jacob, 9; and Romeo, 7.
In 1998, Bon Jovi discussed his marriage in the context of his then-burgeoning acting career. "This is the way I look at sex scenes: I have basically been doing them for a living for years. Trying to seduce an audience is the basis of rock 'n roll, and if I may say so, I'm pretty good at it," he declared to Movieline, matter-of-factly. "Plus, being married and monogamous, it's the closest thing I can do to having sex without getting in trouble for it...The only thing I like more than my wife is my money, and I'm not about to lose that to her and her lawyers, that's for damn sure."
Unlike so many of his peers, and even fellow band members, Bon Jovi has never seemed remotely likely to succumb to drugs or the other usual deadly tropes of rock success. He's said that "without my wife and kids, I'd be a dead man," but — businessman that he is — he's referring to stress, not substance abuse. "I remember the burnout. It was terrible. I went from being a 25-year-old kid in a rock band to head of a corporation. Suddenly, I was the boss employing a lot of people and had to make decisions which affected lives. I wasn't prepared for that… I felt like jumping out of the moving car and I'd have been killed. I'm NOT exaggerating… (But) God blessed me. I had a wife who loved me and a family to go home to. As tired and burnt-out as I was, I'm no quitter. There was no way I was gonna die."
Talking to Parade a few years ago, he spoke about not wanting to fulfill the oft-married superstar stereotype. ""I think people see the cliché of the Rock Star. We're supposed to get married every three years, trade in, trade out — I don't even want to dare say trade up! I made a good deal the first time. If Angelina Jolie came in today, I wouldn't trade."
As for turning the big five-oh, Bon Jovi has been recently silent on how he feels about the milestone. Maybe he's content to let those paparazzi-friendly abs do the talking.
But two years ago, when he was a young man of 48, he reflected on aging with a typically philosophical/business-like bent. "You become that thing that you looked at your parents and the older people in your life, and said: 'No! I don't want to live to be that old! I don't want to!' But it's actually much better than dying," he told England's Observer. "I'm coming to real good terms with getting older… I'm not the fat Elvis."