BEVERLY HILLS, California — For years, both onstage and on "The Osbournes," we've witnessed legendary metal singer Ozzy Osbourne shake, stammer, stutter and shuffle around with a walk that grew increasingly hunched over and motor functions that only seemed to be getting worse.
Speculation ran rampant. Were these maladies related to years of drug abuse dating back to the Black Sabbath days? Parkinson's Disease? Muscular Dystrophy?
The answer is, in fact, none of the above. Thanks to a Boston neurological specialist, Ozzy now knows the cause of the "shakes" that have plagued him for decades and with the help of a new medication, he's already looking, sounding and walking better than he has in years.
"It turns out that it's a hereditary thing that I have from my mother's side of the family," a very animated Ozzy explained Thursday, relaxing in a plush chair in the den of his now-famous home. "This guy in Boston fixed me great. He's taken me off all the medication that I was on. I'm taking one medication now for this tremor.
"And [now]," he said smiling, holding up his now mostly non-shaking hands for emphasis, "I haven't got the tremor."
An unfortunate side-effect of the new medication is what Ozzy called "a terrible dry mouth," a temporary condition that caused him to further postpone an already delayed European tour ("Dry Mouth Forces Ozzy To Postpone European Tour Again"). He said he hates disappointing his fans and mentioned that it's been two years since he's visited his native England, but that ultimately this is all good news, not bad.
"I'm being selfish here," he said matter-of-factly. "I can't tell you how wonderful I feel. Not wonderful in the respect of [being] 'stoned.' I'm not stoned. [But] with [just] a pill, it was like somebody turned the bad switch off. I feel good again."
It turns out that several of the women in Ozzy's family, including his mother, also suffered from the tremor, but that the Osbourne clan was simply too old-fashioned and dignified to ever mention it.
"I phoned my sister up and I said, 'I've got this hereditary tremor,' and she goes, 'Not you as well?' And I go, 'What do you mean? Don't you think it would have been a good thing when I was around 15 to say, 'See Auntie Edna? She's got the tremor!' Nobody ever told me anything!"
Ozzy said he first noticed the tremor in his early 20s and that he's always stammered a bit when he gets excited. But lately, it had worsened and none of the medication doctors had prescribed for him had made any difference.
"I felt like a rattle at the end of the day because there were so many pills in me," he said. "I would go to doctors around [Los Angeles] and they would go, 'Try this.' And I would go, 'I'll tell you what: This is what I'm taking now. I'll do a swap. You take one of my bottles and I'll take one of yours.' Because the box was getting bigger and I wasn't getting any better."
More and more, he started to feel like a prisoner in his own body. "You try and mask it. You try and walk around hoping people won't see your hands shaking," he said.
The shuffling walk America became accustomed to through "The Osbournes," for example, was simply something he had developed to alleviate the constant pain.
"Why do people limp when they've got an injured foot?" he asked. "Because it hurts and you limp because you want to put more weight on your undamaged foot. But if you have that all your life, you learn to maneuver. It doesn't mean to say you're crazy or that you're a cripple."
He hadn't realized how bad things had gotten until late one evening as he and Sharon watched a pre-taped interview he had done on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." "I wasn't aware that it was so obvious that I had a tremor," Ozzy exclaimed. "I said to Sharon, 'I ain't going to do any more TV because I look like a f---ing lunatic!' "
Ozzy began to think that perhaps he did have Parkinson's Disease, so he and Sharon sought out Dr. Allan H. Ropper, who had treated famous Parkinson's sufferer Michael J. Fox. Ozzy's visit to Boston, coupled with the announcement of the tour's postponement, increased press and public speculation about his health.
"I swear on my wife and my children's lives that I do not have Parkinson's [and] I am not covering anything up," Ozzy stressed, clearly annoyed with the idea that anyone would try and spoil his good news by saying he's worse off than he actually is.
"It's just a thing that's been with me throughout my life. And as I've gotten older, it's degenerated. There is treatment for it," he added. "This [doctor] is my guardian angel. When this guy put this medication in my vein, it was like someone had turned this machine off in me. It was like instant, man!"
Sharon, who's been busy taping her new talk show, immediately noticed the change in Ozzy when he returned home on Tuesday. Since then the re-energized Osbourne has continued co-writing a musical based on the life of Rasputin (see "And The Tony Award Goes To ... Ozzy Osbourne?") in his newly built home studio.
He's also promising that the new medication will ensure that his personal demons stay in check. No more falling off the wagon for the Ozzman, he said.
"I've done a fair amount of self-abuse and self-medication for years, but I've got no choice anymore," he said. "If I drink alcohol or do any recreational drugs — like smoke pot — it will affect the medication I'm taking for this tremor and it'll probably make it worse.
"But [now], I'm fine," he said happily. "I'm [taking] one pill a day, an hour and a half before I go to sleep at night."