Billy Joel on his suicide attempt, seeing ghosts, and why The Olive Garden sucks

59 year-old rocker Billy Joel has a pretty candid interview in the upcoming issue of Details, and I found myself laughing out loud at a few of his comments. He talks about a suicide attempt at 21, about his young bride, and about the many car accidents he’s had, all of which he claims had nothing to do with his drinking. He also likens the Betty Ford clinic to a “concentration camp” and says that he just needed to dry out.

On his suicide attempt at 21 with furniture polish

Q: Is it true that after the failure of [your heavy metal band] Attila you tried to kill yourself by drinking a bottle of furniture polish?
A: That’s true. Yeah, I was suicidal. I was 21. It’s a tough age. Things hit you really hard. A relationship with a girl had ended and I was devastated, and then it didn’t work out with the recording we did, and I just figured the world didn’t need another failed musician. You take yourself so seriously—you’ve got your head so far up your ass you can’t see straight.

Q: But why did you use furniture polish?
A: I was just lookin’ for poison. I looked in my mother’s closet and there was bleach, and it had the skull and crossbones, and then there was furniture polish. And at the time I thought, Well, the furniture polish will probably taste better than the bleach, so I’ll drink the furniture polish. And all I ended up doing was farting furniture polish for a couple of days and polishing my mother’s chairs.


On his trips to rehab and car accidents

Q: What spurred your checking into the Betty Ford Center in 2005?
A: Well, I had tried to go to a rehab before that, but I was only able to be there for a few days—the press found out about it and they were swarming the place and I had to leave. That was in Connecticut, a place called Silver Hill. It was disrupting the program for everybody else, so I said, “Look, I’m going to split, because you guys can’t get anything done here.” You know, I grew up in a neighborhood where everybody ended up at the corner bar at the end of the day. I guess eventually, if that’s part of your lifestyle, it’s going to become problematic. And I realized I was just drinking too much. I said, “You know, I don’t want to do this.” And I went to Betty Ford—I hated it. I hated it. It was like a concentration camp—well, I can’t say that, I’ve never been in a concentration camp. But for me it was. There’s a lot of dogma that goes with it, and there’s the whole AA thing, and for a lot of people that works. I didn’t necessarily follow that. But it was good. I dried out. And it was probably one of the best things I ever did, because I realized I was just drinking too much, and I really don’t need to do that. Once in a blue moon, I’ll have a glass of wine. But I’m very afraid of going beyond that. I don’t want to be out of control. I mean, I had some car accidents. Everybody thinks that I was drunk driving. I was not drunk driving. There was only really one bad accident, and that was on an icy road. The other two accidents were really blown out of proportion by the tabloids. But that had nothing to do with the booze. It was just a weird time of life for me. I was preoccupied.

On why the Olive Garden sucks

Q: As the man who wrote “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”, do you have any recommendations?
A: Oh, there’s a great place down on Houston Street called Ballato’s. It’s just a humble place on Houston Street, and the food is made with love. You can taste the love in the food.

Q: What are some warning signs that an Italian restaurant is no good?
A: Well, a bad sign is glop. Too much cheese. Too much garlic. Like the Olive Garden. I’m sorry. I know they’re trying to bring an Italian cuisine to America, but it sucks.

On seeing a ghost

I used to live in East Hampton, and it was an old house that had been renovated, and I was going to bed one night, and I walked into my bedroom and I saw what looked like a woman brushing her hair in front of a mirror. She was very old-fashioned-looking—it looked like a 19th-century woman in a dressing gown. It was quite realistic. It was quite three-dimensional. I wasn’t dreaming. I saw this. It lasted for about a minute, and I said, “Okay, I’m one of those people,” you know? I realized I don’t know everything.

Joel’s 26 year-old wife Katie is a cook so he presumably knows what he’s talking about when he says the Olive Garden sucks. Joel also said that Katie wants to establish herself first before they decide to have children, and that “I’m actually very proud of her for doing that. She doesn’t just sit around and spend my money.” He wouldn’t specify if they were planning on children and said “That’s something between me and her, though.”

Have any of you seen a ghost(s)? I thought I saw one once, but I was just 15 and was impressionable and tired at the time. It also was more of a whispy thing and wasn’t all detailed like the one Joel claims to have seen. You would assume that some kind of drugs or alcohol were involved, but I’ve known plenty of smart people who swear they’ve seen ghosts. To continue Joel’s theme of passing gas and near-death experiences, I think apparitions are just mind farts. Sometimes the brain gets too many chemicals sloshing around in there and plays tricks on us. Joel’s is not necessarily in tip top shape after all he’s gone through. He’s got a great sense of humor about it though.

Billy Joel and Katie Lee Joel are shown in the header on 8/14/07. Credit: Antonio Salvador / WENN. He is shown performing on 8/4/07. Credit: Julie Ramos/WENN. Photo below is from 6/14/07. Credit: PNP/WENN

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

49 Responses to “Billy Joel on his suicide attempt, seeing ghosts, and why The Olive Garden sucks”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. KateNonymous says:

    You don’t have to be married to a cook to know that the Olive Garden sucks. You just have to eat Italian food anywhere else.

  2. I like The Olive Garden, and they have the best minestrone soup of any Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to.

  3. Elle says:

    I once lived in a house that had just been renovated after having been abandoned for a long time. The landlord didn’t do a great job and you could see, if you looked closely enough, where the many holes had been patched in the walls. In other words it looked like some turmoil had taken place in the house. Or maybe it was vagrants, I don’t know. At any rate, oftentimes when I was alone in the back bedroom the lights would flicker. Only for me, and only when I was alone. One day I was brushing my hair in the mirror before going out. I could see my boyfriend standing just inside my peripheral vision, waiting impatiently (as usual). Suddenly,apropos nothing, I feel an icy chill go through me and was overcome by an overwhelming sense of terror. I turned to look at my boyfriend and no one was there. I ran to the front of the house and there sat everyone, waiting in the kitchen. They all said they’d been there the entire time. I never sensed anything like that again in the house, although the lights did flicker occaisionly.

  4. brianne says:

    I know Billy’s not terribly topical at the moment, but I love the piano man no matter what he does!!

  5. photo jojo says:

    Me too Brianne; he’s a genius.

  6. geronimo says:

    That furniture polish suicide attempt is hysterical. Great interview. I like him.

    Although I’ve never eaten at the Olive Garden, it’s the small, family-run, slightly shabby places – not the chains or the gimmicky places that serve a diluted version of real Italian food and are inclined towards generic menus – that do the best Italian food. Definitely been my experience anyway.

  7. Bobafet says:

    Screw him. I love the Olive Garden. Sure it may not be totally AUTHENTIC Italian but I like it just the same. I hate Billy Joel. He has always seemed like a little whiny prick to me. And his music sucks monkey nuts.

  8. Syko says:

    Yes, I’ve seen ghosts. The most amazing one was when I was first divorced, the three kids and I lived in a 2 bedroom place, I slept on the hide-a-bed. Our apartment was in the basement, but one end was fully walk-out so we just came and went by that door and never used the door into the hallway of the building, except to go to the laundry room.

    One night I woke up with the impression that someone had a light on, and looked up to see a figure standing by my bed. No face, just a hooded robe with blackness where the face should be. It seemed friendly enough, and I came fully awake and it went away… and I’d have chalked it up to a bad dream except that the light was coming from the door to the apartment building hallway, which was standing wide open, with the dead bolt still in locked position.

    Since then I’ve seen others, fleeting bits, and my grandmother sometimes says my name to me, but that was the most intense experience.

  9. ri23 says:

    I love that everyone gets worked up about the Olive Garden. After his suicide attempt, I bet his breath was lemony fresh.

  10. Kaiser/ Hippacrat says:

    Oh, crap. Are we going to have another Olive Garden thread? 🙂 THE GARDEN RULEZ!!!!!!

    I’ve never seen a ghost, but my mother has. But I have had those spooky, creepy, “I am not alone in this freaky old house” experiences. Once, when I was alone in an old Victorian, I swore I heard someone breathing in the same room. Struggled, raspy panting, actually. Even remembering it scares me.

  11. Wif says:

    Bobafet, have you ever seen him play classical and simultaneously talk to the audience about the history of music? It’s mesmerizing.

  12. Lauri says:

    Hey, as long as they have their incredible toasted ravioli, I’m a fan of Olive Garden. If Joel doesn’t like it, that’s fine. Me, I guess I’m low class. I like Red Lobster, too.

    Oh, and of course I’ve seen ghosts. I would think most people have; just some try to rationalize it away because they can’t admit they believe in anything “supernatural.” I see it as perfectly natural…nothing spooky about it. It’s just another stage of existence, and sometimes communication can occur. I find it comforting, really.

  13. A.J. says:

    When I was 15, I had a really virulent strain of strep throat. I was running a 104 degree fever for several days, and pretty much did nothing but sleep; for the small bits of time that I was awake, I was in a completely loopy, doped-up fog.

    One night when I was particularly sick and miserable, I had a very lucid dream that my great-grandfather, an Italian immigrant whom I’d never met as he died prior to my birth, was sat at the foot of my bed, telling me in semi-broken English that I was going to be okay, and that he loved me and would be watching over me. I of course attributed this ‘dream’ to the combination of running such a high fever and the liquid codeine I was taking.

    The next day, my fever finally broke and I could manage to speak without being in agony (if you’ve ever had strep, you know what I mean) and I told my mother about my dream. She got really silent and serious-looking, and told me that the night her grandfather died, she too had a very realistic dream that he was sitting at the foot of her bed telling her not to cry, that she was going to be okay, and that he loved her and would watch over her. My mother had NEVER told me about that before. We were both awestruck, and still wonder to this day if it really was the ghost of her grandfather/my great grandfather watching out for us.

  14. I choose me says:

    I’ve seen a couple ghosts in my time. One night when I was about seven, my mom and I saw a ‘man’ walk from the kitchen into me and my sister’s room. It was a shadowy figure and we not only saw but felt its presence. (Hair rising all over, that feeling that your head’s suddenly too big, etc) My mom was plaiting my younger sister’s hair and told me to go see what that was. Needless to say I didn’t, too scared shitless, and me and my sister slept with her and my dad that night.

    Oh, I may or may not have seen an evil spirit or manifestation or whatever, a couple of years later. Not sure that one wasn’t just a bad dream but the morning after I saw this thing coming out of our neighbour the postman’s house, he was found dead. The talk was somebody sent the ‘jumbie’ as we call it here, after him. I live in the West Indies btw.

    I got more scary stories but this post is already too long. 🙂

  15. Shane says:

    Billy Joel is cool, he has personality plus. Having people like him around are the spice of life. Full of great stories and charismatic music.

  16. I choose me says:

    If anybody’s wondering how we could see a ghost walk from the kitchen into the bedroom from where we were, we lived in this tiny house where the kitchen led straight into that bedroom, the black and white tv set was set atop the dining room table and you walked from the ‘living room’ into the bathroom. We also had access from my parents bedroom to the bathroom, through a window that you levered up and secured with a hook and that was the only window in the room.

    Good times, good times.

  17. Jaundice Machine says:

    Love Billy Joel.

  18. Codzilla says:

    I’m loving this thread. The paranormal fascinates me, but aside from some weird dreams, I’ve never experienced anything ghostly that I can remember.

    Ps: I like that Billy doesn’t dye his hair and stuff himself into tight clothes like some of the other aging rock stars.

  19. Blackalicious says:

    AH! @ I Choose Me- I saw Jumbie’ and smiled.. I miss living on the islands! We lived on St. Thomas for 4 years. Ahhh yes. Then moved to the B.V.I for a bit before coming back mainland. I was fascinated by jumbie lore!

    Re: Ghosts.. yeah. I know my youngest child sees them (will be screaming then stop suddenly, giggling and staring at something right next to his bed. He interacts a lot with something and other people (sitters, etc.) comment on it. He cannot talk totally yet but something is with him. They are attracted to kids it seems. Kids also do not know better that something is ‘not real’ and they cannot see it.

    I have only seen a few but my first one I was 6. My little sister’s bed was in my room too – she was 3. I HATED sleeping and was laying awake and then noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned and a really tall (like, over 6 foot probably) figure was near her bed (she was asleep) and I was shocked but did not feel totally scared. Just pulled the covers up. It was still there but then after a few more minutes walked into the hallway (our door was left open). My mom totally did not believe me. I saw it a few more times always near her bed.

    In our old house we saw the movie ‘White Noise’ and totally wanted to see if EVP was possible. So.. my friend got some high tech equipment and we asked some questions out loud (HA! We have seen ghosthunters, too so knew that is what you do:) and then of course heard nothing) we were annoyed and made some snarky comments like ‘What a waste’. We left and went out for the night. The next morning I went through the audio I captured (The hub and kids were out of town) and I got ONE thing. I asked the name and heard nothing in person but on the recording it was a clear (but really low, like an older person) voice saying ‘Jane’. It was very matter of fact tone, not menacing.I do not know a Jane, asked family later on and the hub- no one related, alive or dead with that name. Who knows? I played it for people and everyone hears it, clear as can be. It was amazing and it really changes how you think. The house is not too old, so who knows? Maybe a ghost passing thru, or hanging out. Probably more common than we know.

    Sorry so long!

  20. notprfect says:

    My bf is pretty skeptical about the paranormal, but he has seen some things he can’t explain.

    Once, he and his brother saw a black shadow figure of a man with a cape and an old fashioned hat. It was in the “study” of their house. My bf’s brother called him over to look at it and when they were both there looking for a moment, it turned its head quickly to face them(it had no features it was just a black shadow), then “melted” into the floor.

    He also told me that once when his mom was looking into the fridge for something, both of the crisper drawers came flying open at the same time and hit her in the shins. These things and a couple of others happened at the same house. It’s an ooold house, so who knows what happened there, back in the day.

    Personally, I’ve only played with the Ouija board and nothing really amazing happened with that. Just some sort of creepy stuff.

    As for Olive Garden, I love the soup, salad, & breadsticks. Yummy!! :mrgreen:

  21. velvet elvis says:

    I’ve experienced a lot of the paranormal including many full body apparitions and shadow people. A lot of the full body apparitions were animals…cats mostly. Spirits of pets that are dead and gone I guess. Shadow people are are the weirdest because I couldn’t tell if they were human or non human entities…just a thick black mist that rolled and undulated. A lot of the “experts” claim that shadow people are typically demonic but I never felt any kind of fear of them.

  22. G. says:

    I’ve seen ghosts when I was 12. I was out in the woods in my backyard, looking for my cat, and I saw this hooded figure near my cat, then when I got closer to my cat, the figure disapered. it was weird.

  23. Wif says:

    I actually had a really embarrassing experience. We had been living in our place for a year or more, no problems, when I started noticing paranormal activity centred around the kids. Very light stuff. The ceiling projector on the baby monitor would turn on by itself but stop when I went in the room. If my husband and I were talking about the kids at night the lights would turn off on us. A ball would roll down the hall behind my toddler from room to room. An umbrella hanging horizontally in the hall supported by nothing. I tried to dismiss it all until my daughter had a sleep walking experience one night. She had never done it in her life, hasn’t since either. She just kept turning in circles on her bed with a big smile on her face pointing at the curtains saying “This! This! This!” on every revolution.I’d lay her down, she’d stand back up and do it again. At that point I thought, “Maybe I’m crazy, I don’t know, but I won’t take chances with the kids. I’m calling my minister to bless the house.”

    When I called him and told him the story, he said that I’m the only person he’d ever heard of to ask that. I asked if he thought I was crazy and he very kindly said, “The United Church believes in the experiences of it’s people.” Whatever. He did it, there hasn’t been a single issue since, but I’m always embarrassed to talk to him at church, because I’m sure he thinks I’m a WACKO!!!!!!

  24. gg says:

    I haven’t seen any ghosts but I sure have convinced myself of all sorts of scary things (I was scared of radio white noise and the sound of air conditioner vents for the longest time) until I stopped trying so hard to find them. I used to scare the crap outta myself.

  25. geronimo says:

    Wif, sounds like a poltergeist. Apparently quite common although the degree of activity varies quite a bit. Common in houses with pre-pubescent children. You’re not mad. Sorry, hope that’s not scaring you.

  26. Wif says:

    Thanks geronimo. I appreciate that.

  27. Celebitchy says:

    These ghost stories are really freaking me out and I am trying to only skim them, but it’s hard! Wif I believe you and that must have been scary considering your kids were involved.

  28. Ainslee says:

    I don’t like the Olive Garden. Last two meals have been less than worthwhile. Also, my son’s girlfriend found a large insect (maybe cockroach) baked inside her bread stick. Not really their fault I guess as they said they weren’t baked there. It probably fell into the batter from above somewhere.

  29. daisyfly says:

    I love Billy Joel. I’ll never forgive Christie Brinkley for leaving him.

    And I have been told by three different “spiritual people” from three different cultures that I have a “spirit” that follows me around. I’ve always seen it, (it looks like either a very overweight woman or a large man with long black hair), but it really didn’t become “real” to me until my son asked me who the “lady sitting on the couch” was when we were all alone in the house.

  30. northwesterly says:

    Was staying at hotel in St.George, Pribilof Islands out in the Bering Sea for work. Was just me and 3 guys from the crew. Hotel was supposedly haunted and I was only occupied room on 1st floor.

    I kept the hall light on at night but every night when I had to go to the loo, they were off again. The guys from the crew sweared it wasn’t them trying to mess w/ me.

    I wasn’t really scared until one night we got in from the field and the Native woman who cared for place told me she had doused my room w/ holy water. And there was more on the mantle in the library if I needed it.


    It got really creepy the last couple weeks, every morning one of the empty rooms was thrashed as if a couple people partied there the night before.

    But we were the only ones staying there on the entire island.

    Never did see the ghost though.

  31. Anastasia says:

    It creeps me out how much his wife looks like his daughter.

  32. Syko says:

    Another paranormal experience – back in the days when we actually decorated graves on Memorial Day – I was married and the kids were school age. I picked all the flowers we had blooming in the yard – roses, peonies, lilacs, etc. etc., and gathered them all up in a tub. Made a quick stop at a 5&10 for some of those cones with a spear on the end for holding flowers on graves, and went on to the cemetery, where I decorated the graves of all my husband’s family who were buried there (my own family graves were miles away). His mother, his father (who nobody liked), grandmother and uncle. I made four similar bouquets, filled the cones with water and went home. Later that afternoon we drove out to see the decorations, and his mother, grandmother and uncle’s graves had pretty bright flowers on them. The flowers I’d put on his dad’s grave had, in just a few hours, turned totally dead and dried out. I guess if we didn’t like him during his life, he didn’t want our damned flowers.

  33. KPC says:

    Okay, no one brought up this part…Do you think the two of them have s-e-x and really love one another. I heard he is a real jerk…and he hasn’t aged well with all the bourbon and what-not.

  34. Blackalicious says:

    Eh..these ghost stories really should not scare anyone. I mean, it’s comforting to know that something is beyond when you die. At least I think so. Energy cannot be destroyed, only changed, blah blah etc..
    Think of it this way: the intelligent hauntings (i.e. they are aware of you and interact) are usually harmless. They can sometimes be just as baffled by us. It is rare they can do anything to hurt someone.

  35. lanette says:

    oh my GOD he is toooooooooooo funny….!!farting shoe polish!!! 😀

  36. Sue says:

    Maybe the ghosts can help you to find a decent italian restaurant.

  37. KDRockstar says:

    We live in an *old* house and I know things have happened on our property. Once I saw a boy’s face in the window of our barn. After that, I made a conscious effort to be welcoming to whatever spirits are here, as long as they don’t announce their presence to me. I can appreciate that others are happy with their ghostly experiences, but I just don’t want to go there and have made that clear with everyone.

    Still, *goosebumps*.

  38. Jackieee says:

    For vacation every year we used to spend a week in the house on sebago lake in maine. this house was old it was creepy. the showers started and the toliets flushed. the summer i was 16 when we stayed there it was three families. this house was huge, all wooden old and gross. we heard a baby crying one night, the youngest person there was 14 and it was like the heaving newborn cry. then we heard someone/thing run down the hall and the crying stopped. and one night a coupel years before we were all having dinner outside and heard a blood curdling scream come from inside. and one of the mattresses was coated in blood. just red crust blood 🙁 ick.

  39. JOSS DOWNING says:

    Being from West Virginia and knowing KATIE, she was always the one around food and one of her favorites was tube steak with extra sause.

  40. CB Rawks says:

    I think a previous house I had might have been haunted. There were a couple of times when loud footsteps scared the crap out of me.
    One time I heard something in the hall, and when I went to the hallway door to open it I felt something on the other side, right near the door, exactly as if someone was about to open it from the other side. Immediately there was all this thumping and rattling, and I RAN like buggery, all the way out of my house and down my driveway! I mean completely freaked out! And just then my husband drove up and got out of the car, and I sent him inside to check because he didn’t believe me, and I refused to go in myself. Heh. Anyway, he of course looked through the whole house and said nothing was there. Then what can you do but go back in.
    I hope the new owner hasn’t had her pants scared off her too many times.

  41. 100% Italian says:

    It’s quite obvious that Non-Italians love Olive garden. But if your a true Italian than you know what good italian cooking taste’s like. And that’s why olive Garden SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!

  42. Ggette28 says:

    Yeah Codzilla. He just marries 26 yr. olds.

  43. campylaura says:

    This is the funniest thread of comments I’ve seen so far to bounce back and forth with the three topics that are so unrelated to each other.

    I’m fascinated by all the paranormal experiences and every one gives me that delightful shiver and goosebumps! I have had several experiences, so I fully believe.

    My Grandmother lived in an old three-story home for 20 years and there were several accounts of a mysterious boarder that would come in the front door and walk up all three flights of stairs to the third floor. But of course, there was never anyone there. I heard him/her twice. My cousin actually was in the hall one day when the front door opened and closed, but there were no steps that day – maybe his presence scared the ghost.

    I also had a bit of what I assume to be poltergeist activity in a newer apartment we rented when I was in high school. As many high school girls do, I would talk on the phone for hours with my girlfriend and one day I was laying on my Mom’s bed chatting endlessly while my eyes took in every detail of the open closet door. There was a pair of boots and a scarf and all kinds of stuff I remember noticing. I rolled over and looked out the window for the next hour of the conversation and when I turned back the closet door was closed. It wasn’t the kind of door that would swing shut – it had to be slid on a track and it was even rather hard to close which is why it was left open. That one creeped me out big time!

    There were other weird activities in that place. I remember once running into the house and putting my keys on the bar while I went to change clothes to swim and when I came back the keys were gone. I searched and searched and after an hour noticed that the keys were right back where they’d started. Though they hadn’t been there 2 minutes before.

  44. nyn8tivgal says:

    I love the Piano man but is anybody else grossed out by the 33 yr difference in age?? Hell he got songs older than her!!

  45. brainwave says:

    Thanks for this! I’ve actually been looking into this for a while, do you know of any great further reasources for this?

  46. Definitely believe that which you said. Your favourite justification appeared to be at the internet the easiest factor to take into account of. I say to you, I certainly get irked while people consider issues that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and outlined out the whole thing without having side effect , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  47. Callumna says:

    Yes nyn8tivgal, it gives me more hee bee jeebies than the ghost stories.

  48. Callumna says:

    Joel also said that Katie, 26, wants to establish herself first before they decide to have children, and that “I’m actually very proud of her for doing that. She doesn’t just sit around and spend my money.”

    “Proud of her” — creepy dad talk.

    Is he raising a child bride, or is he proud his prostitute doesn’t overcharge?

  49. Ogrody says:

    It is actually a nice and useful piece of info. I’m happy that you just shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.