At lunchtime, Campbell moves to the island in his ocean-themed kitchen, where his wife, Kim, a blond beauty he married in 1982, is preparing vegetables, while his old buddy Steve Ozark grills up some "Goodtime Burgers," topped with lettuce, tomato, mayo and lots of onions. "Whenever he does an interview," Ozark says, "I make him a burger."
The burger was a backstage staple on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, his hit CBS show from 1969 to 1971. With a young writing crew that included Rob Reiner and Steve Martin, Campbell acted in often hokey skits and performed stellar duets with everyone from Cher to Ray Charles. The show also gave a national platform to rising country stars like Willie Nelson. "He exposed us to a big part of the world that would have never had the chance to see us," says Nelson. "He's always been a big help to me. During one of my down years, he signed me to his publishing company and paid me a lot of money. I only wrote one song, and it was 'Bloody Mary Morning.' I hope he got his money back!"
Campbell's boyish charisma led John Wayne to cast him in a co-starring role in 1969's True Grit. He says now that his acting was so amateurish that he "gave John Wayne that push to win the Academy Award." But the good times didn't last: The show was canceled; his first feature film, Norwood, flopped; and the hits dried up.
He channeled it all into "Rhinestone Cowboy" – Larry Weiss' stomping tale of a road veteran who vowed to continue his career with ringing optimism. The 1975 smash was the first song since 1961 to top both the country and pop charts. But at the same time Campbell was descending into a devastating addiction to cocaine and alcohol. "The first time I took it, cocaine, it was like your eye was coming out of your head," he says. "Oh, God, it was like a dog that gets into your henhouse and steals your eggs."
It's a fuzzy period for Campbell. He doesn't recall his 16-year marriage to second wife Billie Jean Nunley, whom he divorced in 1976, or his 15-month drug-fueled fling with country singer Tanya Tucker, during which the couple sang the national anthem at the Republican National Convention in 1980 and appeared on the cover of People. "I may have dated her," Campbell says.
He does remember meeting Kim, a dancer at Radio City Music Hall, on a disastrous blind date that ended with Campbell telling her he wanted to "jump her bones." But he kept calling, and within a year they were married. At their wedding, Campbell got so drunk he surprised his new mother-in-law with the news that Kim was three months pregnant. By 1987, with Kim's help, Campbell finally managed to get sober. "I give her all the credit for that," Campbell says. "If you pray from your heart, there will be return mail. I've seen that happen to me."
As he devours his burger, he feels a chill and asks if the air conditioner is on. It's not, but Campbell climbs the winding staircase and spends the next 20 minutes searching the bedrooms, producing loud crashing noises. "Kim!" he shouts repeatedly, adding, "We don't need any air conditioner here, that's for damn sure!" and "It's cold in here – are you all crazy?"
The kids are used to it. "That's one thing with Alzheimer's," says Ashley, his pretty 24-year-old daughter, who plays banjo in his band. "They get fixated on one thing. Air conditioning is his thing. There's also a hand towel we usually keep in that bathroom, and if you don't fold it exactly and put it on top of the spigots, he'll say, 'Who did this?' Glen Campbell P.I. is on it."
Though Campbell was diagnosed in May, his friends and family have suspected he's been ill for years. One friend believes it goes as far back as 2003, and suggests that the disease was partially responsible for Campbell's arrest that year for hit-and-run, an incident that ended with him allegedly kneeing a police officer in the thigh right before he was released. Campbell pleaded guilty to extreme drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident, and spent 10 days in jail.
Despite his condition, Campbell is tanned and energetic, spending most days on the golf course. A tour behind the record will hit the U.S. early next year, with Campbell backed by his four kids, three of whom play in an Arcade Fire-inspired band called Instant People. Campbell can't wait. "I think this has been really good for him," says Ashley. "Before the announcement, people were thinking, 'He's drunk. He's using again.' Now it's more of a supportive thing as opposed to an angry, critical thing."
Campbell reappears in the kitchen wearing a purple bathrobe over his black T-shirt and jeans, holding a glass of juice. There's time for one last question. How does he feel about his illness?
He stares blankly, even when reminded of a recent appointment with his doctor.
"I don't even know that I went to the doctor," he says with a nervous laugh. "I don't feel any different at all. I haven't been to the doctors where they said, 'You got Alzheimer's' – I don't even know where that came from. I haven't been to a doctor in years."
He turns to Ashley. "What is this Alzheimer's garbage, hon? Do you know?"
"Yeah," she says. "It's something you're in the early stages of. It's short-term-memory loss."
"Short-term-memory lane?" he asks.
"Yeah," she says. "Sometimes you'll have trouble remembering stuff."
"Well," he says, "I was trying to forget all that garbage years ago."
He takes a long sip of juice, but still can't shake the thought. "Who said that?" he asks.
"Oh." Campbell laughs for a moment. "Well, I guess I'll wait till it hits me, then."
This story is from the September 1st, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.
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