Meat Loaf, the man not the meal, made a name for himself as a hard-rocking, larger-than-life musician, but Michael Lee Aday (born Marvin Lee Aday) began his career on stage doing Shakespeare in the Park. Now 61, he is probably best known for his "Bat Out of Hell" operatic rock album trilogy that stayed on the charts for nine years and has sold more than 35 million copies. He stars in the Hallmark Channel's original movie "Citizen Jane" with Ally Sheedy on Saturday at 9 p.m.
So you play a detective in "Citizen Jane." I was wondering, when you were really young were you into true crime stuff since your father was a policeman?
Nah, I wasn't. The only thing I was into was the JFK conspiracy. One of my friends shook [President John F. Kennedy's] hand when he was leaving the airport. It was just all very strange in Dallas what went on.
So you come down on the side that there was a conspiracy?
Oh, absolutely. There was more than [Lee Harvey] Oswald.
Where did the onstage Meat Loaf persona come from, and are you surprised how enduring it has been?
Oh, that just came from me being a big ham, that's all. You know, it's very funny. I saw an interview from June of 1978 on a German TV show, and it makes me laugh.
I was playing such a character, it was unbelievable. I was playing the real Rock character at that point. [Laughs.] It makes me giggle. The problem is some of the people that do it, just keep going with it. They don't give it up. They keep that persona.
You were in a production of "Hair" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," and so many more movies and theater performances. Did you see yourself more as an actor?
Oh, I'm an actor. That's how I place it. It's what I do. That's exactly what I am and what I do. You know, other than my band, I don't get musicians. I don't understand. Actors are my friends.
After you wrote your autobiography "To Hell and Back" was there anything you wished you hadn't revealed?
No, there's a lot of stuff I didn't [reveal], a lot of stuff I didn't put in it on purpose, because I wanted to do another book. [Laughs.] I have seen a lot of things. I've been doing this 42 years now, knock on wood. When I went into show business, the first five years I didn't know it's what I was going to do. I was just kinda getting out of, you know, work [laughing]. I wound up doing "Hair." It was just fate. I think you are just meant to do things, and you just have to know when it's in front of you and just accept it and ride the river. Don't fight it.
I read that you turned down three different recording offers right out of the gate.
I did. I had been in L.A. about a week, and I got hooked up with these musicians. They said, "Let's go cut some demos," and I said, "OK." So we went into this studio on Santa Monica Boulevard. We were in there one day and by the end of the week we had three offers.
And you turned them down?
Oh, yeah. I knew that I had no clue.
That didn't go to your head?
I let very few things go to my head, actually. I've been fairly grounded. You know? People probably would have thought it went to my head because I was so driven to prove everybody wrong on "Bat Out of Hell." At the time we were doing "Bat Out of Hell" [in 1977] everybody was saying to me, "Oh, stop working with this guy Jim Steinman, and go to this and do that and go to this band." They said nobody would play these songs. Then we go play them live, and people went crazy. The record company people would come along and say, "Oh, these are only your friends. People don't react like this." I said, "These are not my friends. I don't have any friends." [Laughs.]
You were quoted as saying you never fit in and you are a true outcast. Don't you think your commercial success and the fact that you are starring in a Hallmark Channel original movie has moved you into the mainstream?
Oh, I've always said that about the music business. I have never felt that about the acting side. You know, you never get everything you audition for, which was something I didn't find out because when I was doing theater in New York, everything I auditioned for I got offered. I was really spoiled. So when they first rejected "Bat Out of Hell" I was really annoyed.
Did you run into a bit of a drug problem?
No, never did. I never did. I don't drink. At one point I had a nervous breakdown. That's what happened to me. I don't drink, and people knew I didn't, so when I started to drink, they said you're in trouble. That was a month maybe. It was short-lived. The godfather of my youngest daughter dragged me to a psychiatrist. Basically tied me up and set me in his office. So that worked out. It was fine. It was everything that had happened. The rejection, and then all of a sudden, after the rejection, you know, all the phoniness that comes out of it. "We believed in you the whole time," you know? One minute they are saying, "Get out of my office," and then patting me on the back, saying, "I knew you could do it." That kind of thing. It gets a little wacky. So that's the only time, so I never did have a drug or alcohol problem. The other thing that they say is I'm a diabetic. I am not a diabetic.
Because your dad was an alcoholic, wouldn't that keep you from it?
Yes, he was, and it really does. The other night we had dinner, and I had, like, half a glass of wine. That's my intake. I have such stage fright when we go on stage for shows that I do have a little sip of something before I go on.
You have stage fright, but once you are on you are OK?
Oh, yeah, it's just getting there. So not sleeping on the road, I understand completely. Most of the people I know, when we're on tour, have trouble sleeping. You know, when they were saying Michael Jackson had insomnia, I went "yeah." There have been times when I've said, "Hey, can you get me somebody in here to put me to sleep?" I'm so tired. I mean, it was unusual that somebody actually did it [for Michael Jackson], but to request it, I didn't find that unusual.
Do you have that same trouble when you are acting?
No. Stage is a different thing. That is more like touring. Acting is consuming but in a different way. When you are touring, you don't have 12-hour turn-arounds. You have to go with the flow because we are constantly traveling. That's the hard part of touring. It's really the most difficult. You can't wait to get off the road because you are so exhausted and so spent.
Is it true you were a vegetarian for nearly a decade and then started eating meat again?
Yes, but then I wanted to lose weight, so I went on an all-protein diet. I did lose some on Slim-Fast. I weigh less now than I did in the seventh grade. My knees are bad, and I broke a foot when I was in the eighth grade. If I do anything, the fracture comes back.
Last question: Will there be a "Bat Out of Hell IV"? It's like a franchise.
No, never. It was all about a trilogy and you know because of some of the things that happened. Jimmy wrote me an e-mail and said we need to do another thing, but it won't be called "Bat Out of Hell IV." I said, "Well, whenever you want to do it." I'm in the middle of a record now with a Rob Cavallo, who is like the god of producers at the moment. He's doing an Adam Lambert track, and I'm going over to meet Adam. Adam Lambert [of "American Idol" fame] is the only singer that I've ever thought was amazing. I think there have been great singers, you know, Freddie Mercury, Steven Tyler, you know, a lot of great rock singers. Michael Jackson was one, but Adam Lambert is one I haven't been awestruck with since [Janis] Joplin in the '60s. I don't think anybody actually comprehends how good this guy is. I mean, I downloaded everything he did for "American Idol." I'm like this Adam Lambert groupie.
Patricia Sheridan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2613.