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19 Questions for Eddie Money

by: Charley Gallay, Eddie Money, still rocking small venues with nostalgic tunes, will be at Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City for concerts on Oct. 30 and 31.

Eddie Money knows what it means to be a New Yorker and a rock star. Don't you dare think the journey from Point A to B hasn't been an adventure.

You know Money as the late '70s/early '80s rocker who filled the air waves with 11 top-25 hits, among them 'Baby Hold On,' 'Two Tickets to Paradise' and 'Take Me Home Tonight.'

There are those who remember him as Eddie Mahoney, born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, the son, grandson and brother of policemen and briefly a New York City police trainee before dropping out and joining Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Berkeley street scene.

Money, now 60, is still rocking small venues with nostalgic tunes, and even some new Broadway tunes from an autobiographical stage musical this past summer. He'll be at Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City for concerts on Oct. 30 and 31.

The Tribune hooked up with Money - divorced, father of five, living in Westlake Village, Calif. - before a recent gig in Thousand Oaks, Calif.:

Tribune: Eddie, I'm with the Portland Tribune …

Money: Great town. I've always loved it up there. Don't think I've ever been to Lincoln City, but I play Oregon just about every year. Sold a lot of records up there.

Tribune: I understand you're bringing your 21-year-old daughter, Jesse, a fine singer in her own right, to Chinook Winds with you to perform with your band.

Money: She'll be up there for sure. She's pretty good. She freelances with a lot of artists. Her mother's managing her. I'm not sure she's going to make all the right decisions in life, but it's beyond my control.

Tribune: What's been more fun in your life: Playing music or working as a police trainee?

Money: Working as a police trainee is a little easier than being a rock star, but not nearly as much fun. In high school, I got a job at the academy. Worked in the 102nd precinct at Jamaica in Queens. It was the real world. I couldn't see myself in uniform listening to people for 20 years. I couldn't take it. I moved out to California when I was 19.

Tribune: What was your upbringing like?

Money: We were Irish Catholic. I was one of five kids. My mother worked. My father worked around the clock. It was a pretty good childhood - great, really. I played in a rock and roll band from the time I was 12 or 13. We played Chuck Berry/Little Richard stuff.

Tribune: Did you really fake report cards to conceal your truancy from parochial school?

Money: That is very true, unfortunately. Four years in a row. You do what you can when your father's a cop. I couldn't tell him I was flunking out, you know?

Tribune: Soon after you moved to Berkeley, you became a member of the SDS?

Money: I was also a Yippie, right in there with guys like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. I was a radical - yes, I was.

Tribune: When did you change your last name from Mahoney to Money?

Money: In 1972. I had a girlfriend who was living at my house. My mother thought she was living in a sorority house. I was a young, starving musician. They still call me 'Freddie Foodstamps' in Berkeley. I actually was on food stamps and welfare. But my girlfriend was taking very good care of me. She came up with the name. She said, 'You have no money. People will get a laugh out of your name.' So we changed it. Sorry, mom.

Tribune: How much were drugs and alcohol a part of your lifestyle in the early years after you moved to California? Did you spend time in jail?

Money: In those days, all I did was smoke that ragweed at $10 an ounce. I never got into harder drugs until they said that cocaine wasn't addictive. In the '80s, like everybody else, I got into the powder. But before that, when I was taking classes at Cal in the early '70s, I did about three weeks in jail for my roommate's dead marijuana plants. The landlord called the cops. I got busted, and they weren't even my damn plants.

Tribune: Was legendary rock impresario Bill Graham the one who discovered you and gave you your first break?

Money: I was the first rock star to get a record deal off a video cassette tape. I did an amateur night thing at the Lone Ranch Saloon in Berkeley. He saw me and then I did the 'Sounds of the City' for 'Bill Graham Presents.' I was opening for the Marshall Tucker Band after that. I wound up signing with Bill's management group and landing a record deal with Columbia.

Tribune: When you were riding the wave of success in the '70s and early '80s, what was that like?

Money: I was making $1,000 a minute for a 75-minute concert. That was a lot of fun. But I was spending money as fast as I was making it.

Tribune: You've spoken before about 'the accident,' after you snorted the barbiturate Fenitol in the early '80s.

Money: The guy who invented that stuff is in jail for life now. It's very powerful, like synthetic heroin. I was drinking vodka, too, that night. I overdosed, went into a catatonic state and killed the sciatic nerve in my left leg. Couldn't walk for a year. I was in the hospital for three weeks, got down to 145 pounds. It was an expensive mistake, too. My medical insurance company didn't cover it. A drug overdose is considered like a suicide. I had to pay the bill, like a couple of mil.

Tribune: There were reports of another near-death experience in 1988.

Money: I'm not sure what you're talking about. That's the year I got married. I guess you could call that a near-death experience.

Tribune: This past summer, your autobiographical stage musical, 'Two Tickets to Paradise,' played for a couple of weeks on Long Island. You served as narrator and your band played the music. How did it go?

Money: I took it as far as I could take it. I thought it was good. We had a really good run over at the Dix Hills Performing Arts Center. I wrote some Broadway tunes for it. When I was a kid, my parents would go see 'Damn Yankees' or 'Carousel,' then my sisters would act out the play.

Tribune: Among all those hits through the '70s and '80s, what's your favorite?

Money: I've always been partial to 'Two Tickets to Paradise.' Who wouldn't want two tickets to paradise? Problem is, these days, if I go to paradise, I have to fly coach. I have five kids, and I'm not Billy Joel.

Tribune: During your young single days, did you ever have a woman take you up on your offer, 'Take me home tonight?'

Money: Hell yeah. It was fun. Being a young Eddie Money, 165 pounds, wearing 29/34 jeans? I was into the rock queens, oh yes. That's always been my downfall. The women. Not the drugs, not the booze, it's the chicks.

Tribune: How much touring do you do these days?

Money: We try to get out every week if possible. But with the economy, it's not always possible. The entertainment business is taking a hit. People who aren't going to go out to eat aren't going to pay to watch a rock show.

Tribune: What do you do with your free time?

Money: I like to play golf. I can break 100, but I'm not a great golfer. I like to watch sports. Go Bears.

Tribune: Can you believe you're 60?

Money: No, I can't. I look pretty good for 60, but yeah, I'm 60. What are you going to do?

Tribune: But life is good for Eddie Money?

Money: Oh, hell yeah. I got two tickets to paradise, but I'm taking everybody along. Hey, try not to dwell on the overdose stuff. I'm not Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin, OK?