Melissa Etheridge’s Secret
It was beginning to get ridiculous: The speculation … the rumors … the jokes. For three long years, Melissa Etheridge and her partner, filmmaker Julie Cypher, were asked the same question over and over: Who is the biological father of your two children? Once it was a tad amusing to the couple. Then, with the release of Etheridge’s album Breakdown, her first in more than three years, the badgering intensified.
On a recent Late Show appearance, David Letterman had a go. “Now, I’m no geneticist, but in some regard there must have been Daddy somewhere,” he said, leaning forward. “Who’s Daddy?”
“Well, you were on the short list for a minute,” Etheridge hedged.
Letterman pressed on. “Just tell me, who’s Daddy? Who’s Daddy?”
Etheridge threw up her hands in mock exasperation. “All right,” she said, “it’s Dan Quayle.”
Rumors flew on the Internet. Was it Brad Pitt? He’s a friend of theirs. Bruce Springsteen? Etheridge jumped onstage with him at a New Jersey show. Maybe he’s the dad! How about Tom Hanks? Is it Tom Hanks?
Cut to a Time magazine interview. “Did Brad Pitt father your children?” columnist Joel Stein wanted to know. “It is a man, right?… And he’s famous?” Yes, she said. “So it’s Brad Pitt … Come on, it’s better if it’s Brad Pitt. It’s good for his career, for your career.”
“We just got so tired of this secret,” says Etheridge, who didn’t even tell the rest of her family the father’s name until the couple’s first child, Bailey, was a year old. “It wears you out. And keeping this big secret goes against how we are choosing to live our lives: very openly.” There was also the consideration that Bailey, now three, will attend school soon: “I didn’t want my kids to ever be in a position where someone could come up to them and know something they don’t.”
“Because Bailey was starting to ask,” adds Cypher. “And you know what else? It was becoming a joke, more than it should have been.”
Thus, after much discussion, the two have decided to reveal the identity of their two children’s biological father. It is a man whose name, it is safe to say, has never come up on a short list of candidates. As you can see, it is — of all people — David Crosby, founding member of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash, a rock & roll bad boy with a four-decade-long career, a wife of twelve years and a thirty-five-year-old son.
Since this will require some time, let’s settle in at the couple’s spacious home in Los Angeles, a 1926 Tudor filled with sunlight, honey-colored wood and antiques. It is a very different home from the one that the pair lived in four years ago, with its careful display of antique match strikers and its Louvre-size collection of dog photos. Now, the effluvia of children are everywhere: half-drunk glasses of juice in plastic cups, Elmo in various permutations, milk and bananas on the grocery list. The match strikers have been relegated to a glass case. As for the dog photos, “Bruce Springsteen once gave me the best parenting advice,” says Cypher. “He said, ‘You know, all of a sudden, your dogs are just gonna be dogs.'”
Cypher and Etheridge give a tour of their abode, pointing out a black baby grand piano in the sitting room before moving on to the toy-strewn family room. “This is the room we live in,” says Cypher. Against one wall is a row of seats from the community theater in Etheridge’s hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas, that the establishment gave to her after she made a donation to help restore it. The two point out a Maori school desk they found in New Zealand. “We love, love, love to antique-shop,” says Cypher.
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