Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford opens his autobiography, Confess, with a promise: “I have been totally candid in this memoir. This is the gospel truth.” And judging from the mix of hilarious, heartbreaking, and sordid stories he shares, as he explains how he rose from humble beginnings in England’s Black Country to take on the world as the self-proclaimed “Metal God,” he clearly stuck to that pledge. The book will be available on Tuesday, September 29th.
In between tales of how he and his bandmates shaped the look of heavy metal with black leather biker gear and recorded legendary albums like British Steel (which Rolling Stone dubbed one of the top three metal albums of all time), Halford opens up about his struggles with alcoholism and expressing his sexuality. Early in the tome, he describes himself as the “Stately Homo of Heavy Metal,” and spends much of the book recalling the agony of living in the closet while fronting one of rock’s biggest bands and the relief and support he has felt since coming out.
In this exclusive excerpt, he recounts how he used to sneak onto a marine base in the early Nineties to meet up with a sergeant names Steve and his wife Dawn (the only woman Halford has ever had sex with) for sex romps. It gives him flashbacks of trying to act straight with a girl at former Priest guitarist Ken “K.K.” Downing’s Bloxwich, England home when he was younger and the events that broke up his ménage à trois with a marine. He also remembers an incident where cruising in a bathroom almost landed him on the front page. The incident, which came right before his departure from the band in 1992, became a wake-up call for the singer.
I met a bisexual Marine sergeant on the base called Steve. He was just as ultra-masculine as Hank, but his big thing was threesomes — with his wife, Dawn. Marines were allowed family visits, so I would go along at the same time as she was there. Once the door was shut, we would go at it for hours. I’d leave there more exhausted than if I’d been for a gym workout.
In fact — world exclusive! — Dawn is the only woman that I have ever had full sex with. She was a lovely, beautiful woman, with a perfect body. I know most men would have killed to be in bed with her and there I was, banging away, with her husband encouraging us!
I did it … but my heart wasn’t in it. It was canoodling with [a girl I knew named] Margie on [K.K. Downing’s] sofa in Bloxwich all over again: I could do it, but I didn’t really want to. I was far more interested in Steve, and my blow jobs and hand jobs with him felt like a reward for persevering with Dawn.
While I was regularly slipping in and out of Pendleton, the camp got caught up in a big sex scandal. A sleazy local Mexican guy who went by Bobby Vasquez was picking up horny young Marines in straight bars in nearby Oceanside and inviting them home.
Vasquez would give them a few beers and cigarettes, and maybe $20, put on a straight porn film and encourage the soldiers to have a wank. He would film them doing it and make the footage into compilation DVDs, which he’d then sell to gay guys. He was making a fortune.
Vasquez got busted and I think my name may also have been going before me at Pendleton because, one day, as I was walking onto the base with Steve, the security guy on the main gate stopped me.
“Sorry, sir,” he said. “But I’m afraid you can’t come in here anymore.”
And that was the end of that. Banned from a US Marine camp for lewd behavior! I guess that is some kind of achievement …
Pendleton wasn’t the only site of my sexual prowling. When I was in Phoenix, I would drive around Papago Park by the old Phoenix Zoo, cruising for cock. These were mostly sad, fruitless excursions, and I’d go home frustrated. (Thank God that Grindr came along!) But I still carried on going.
I don’t know particularly why I became so sexually rampant just as I turned forty. Was it because I was coming out of a long, fairly vanilla relationship with Josh? Was it a textbook midlife crisis? Was it because I had time on my hands? Was it just because I could?
I think it was probably a combination of all of those . . . and it was to lead to another of my occasional, very embarrassing pratfalls.
When I was staying in Marina del Rey, part of my daily routine was to go for a ride on my mountain bike. I would ride along the cycle path all the way up the coast to Malibu and back. It was a beautiful route, and I would look forward to soaking up the sun on two wheels.
I was in shorts, T-shirt, and a baseball cap when I set off on my usual circuit one glorious sunny Californian afternoon. One of the first places I came to on my route was Venice Beach, which had a notorious men’s washroom. I decided to stop off and try my luck.
That toilet didn’t even have doors on the cubicles, to deter cruising and drug users. There were four or five guys lurking in the dingy, murky loo, so I leaned my bike against the wall, went into one of the stalls … and waited.
I’d been in there ten minutes when a good-looking, muscular guy came in, walked past, and glanced in my cubicle. He smiled, and gave me a nod. Wa-hey! I’m in here! I thought. I slipped my hand inside my cycling shorts and began fondling myself. Getting ready.
The guy stood in front of my stall, his back to me, at a sink, looking in the mirror—or, rather, into the polished stainless steel: there were no mirrors, as the druggies always smashed them. He smiled at me in the reflection. My hand between my legs, I smiled back.
He turned around to face me, reached into his shirt — and pulled out a badge.
“You’re under arrest for public indecency,” the cop said.
Oh, fuck! A million thoughts raced through my mind. This is it! I’ve fucked up! It’s going to be in the papers! I’ve lost everything! And yet, at the same time, I felt oddly calm.
I nodded. He unfastened his handcuffs from his waist and slipped them on my wrists (this was getting to be a routine).
“What shall I do about me bike?” I asked, for some reason sounding very yam-yam [Halford’s word for Black Country patois].
“We’ll take care of that,” he said. “Follow me.”
The cop led me around the back of the loo, to a small building that looked like a storeroom. We went in to find five or six other guys in there, heads bowed, all in cuffs. He put my bike in with me, went out, and closed the door without a word.
I sat down. The other blokes and I didn’t have a lot to say to each other. It didn’t feel like a time for small talk. We all sat there for what felt like an eternity until two other offi cers arrived, put us in a white van, and drove us away.
We drove inland for miles and miles. I had no idea where we were, or where we were going. Eventually, we arrived at a police station and got led in through a back door. They took us to a holding room and left us sitting there, still handcuffed.
Ten minutes later, I was staring forlornly at the floor when a pair of police feet appeared in front of me. The cop leaned down, pulled my baseball cap off, and stared at me. I saw a flicker of recognition. He put my cap back on, leaned down, and undid my cuffs.
We went into a little cell and he closed the door behind us.
“I thought it was you,” he said. “What the hell are you doing here, Rob Halford?”
“I’m a fucking idiot,” I admitted.
He shook his head. “I can’t believe that you’re here. Let me see what I can do.”
Was he going to let me off? “Thank you so much,” I mumbled. He went out and locked the door behind him.
I sat on the tiny, hard bench. Over the next two hours, every single offi cer in the station came up to the cell, one by one, looked at me through the glass strip in the door, and flashed devil horns at me. I did the same back, and stuck my tongue out. It passed the time.
Eventually, the first cop came back in. He sat beside me on the bench.
“We’re going to keep this out of the press,” he told me. “Thank you!”
“But that’s all we can do.” He took me into another room, took my mug shot—another one for the collection!—and fingerprinted me. I didn’t have to pay bail. “We’ll be in touch,” he said. “You’re free to go.”
I had been lucky. Again.
“Where am I?” I asked the cop. He told me.
“Cowing hell, that’s miles away! How am I going to get home?” “That’s your problem, Rob.”
I found a pay phone, and [my manager] John Baxter came to pick me up. I didn’t have to go to court, but I pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and got put on probation. And had another federal offense to add to my record.
How did I feel? Stupid, and ashamed, but also angry — that, this late in the century, gay men still had to live in fear like this. I always call this arrest my “George Michael moment,” after he did the same thing in Beverly Hills six years later. The only difference was that George wasn’t so lucky with the newspapers.