MONEY LAUNDERS HIS LIFE

Rock singer Eddie Money is a wild man in the midst of being tamed. The taming process is working, too--sort of.

He's trying to be good these days. No drugs, no alcohol, no excesses. But being Mr. Clean doesn't thrill one of rock's foremost hell-raisers. "It's boring," he griped. "I feel like Peter Pan."

It's very important for his career that Money be in good shape now. His first album in nearly three years, "Can't Hold Back," is a hit. His single, "Take Me Home Tonight," is in the Top 10. He's landed the prestigious opening act slot on the Cyndi Lauper tour. It's his biggest career surge since he surfaced in 1977 with his hits, "Baby Hold On" and "Two Tickets to Paradise," from his million-selling debut album, "Eddie Money."

"It's a nutty business--up and down, up and down," Money lamented. "I've been up and down so much, I feel seasick half the time."

Money is sort of a low-grade Rodney Dangerfield, constantly slinging one-liners, scoring more hits than misses. In that thick New York accent, he delivers his lines at machine-gun speed, mercilessly spraying a variety of targets. With Money, his lewd, lively, off-the-record chatter is usually more interesting than what's printable.

Money's speciality is New York street--corner humor, sprinkled with a colorful array of four-letter words. The street corners of lower-class urban areas are cluttered with guys like Money--sassy, shrewd, funny and tough-talking.

"I'm from the streets," Money boasted. "I'm one of the guys. I'm real--no jive. I don't go for this Hollywood crap. I can sample it but I don't fall into it. I don't go to Rod Stewart parties. I don't come down to L.A. (he lives in Lafayette, a small town near Berkeley) for the Grammys. I'm not into fancy cars. I drive a 1974 Mercedes that I bought from my lawyer. It's a piece of junk. I'm trying to sell it to my Iranian dentist."

He showed up at a tony restaurant that afternoon in shorts, smoking cherry-flavored cigarellos. Going to a fancy French restaurant in shorts--and getting away with it--seemed perfectly normal to him.

'What are they gonna do, throw me out?" he asked. "What am I, a bum? . . . Don't answer that! If they do throw me out, we'll just go to Burger King."

Money has spent much of the last three years recuperating from his disastrous 1983 album, "Where's the Party."

"I was so disappointed, I almost quit the business," he admitted. "I wasn't going to be Eddie Money any more. I was going back to being Eddie Mahoney (his real name)."

Assessing what went wrong with the album, Money said: "I didn't have enough time to write the songs. They weren't as good as they should have been. I was fighting with the producer, Tom Dowd, too. I wanted to finish the album with my friends and he didn't want that. I was wrecking things and having fun. He wanted to finish the album and get the hell out of there.

"We were just tired of each other. He's an old New York Irishman and I'm a crazy young Irishman from New York. We just kept clashing. I regret that we didn't finish the album together. If I had done it his way, it would have been a more successful record."

Money hired Richie Zito, best known for his work with the Motels, to co-produce the new album. Though it's a hit, Zito is probably sorry he got involved.

"I was still getting loaded and he was so mad at me all the time," Money recalled. "I thought he was going to wind up in the hospital. I thought he was going to be the first record session casualty. He deserved a combat medal for what he went through."

The coup of the album was hiring R&B; legend Ronnie Spector to sing the line, "Be my little baby," on the hit single, "Take Me Home Tonight." Martha Davis, of the Motels, sang it first but Money thought it would be a great idea to get Spector, whose signature song with the Ronettes was "Be My Baby."

"But I thought she'd be too busy to do it," Money said. "I called her up and asked her, 'What are you doing?' She said: 'The dishes.' I guess she wasn't busy."

Money is in the middle of a reformation, kicking the drug-and-booze habit. He was drinking a Shirley Temple that afternoon. "I get embarrassed ordering this crap," he said, sneering at his drink, which is made without alcohol. "It's sissy stuff."

Money is paying the price for overindulgence. "I'm biting the bullet and doing what's right," he said. "I had to quit getting loaded. My tolerance for everything got incredibly high. I was wasting so much money.

"Things are changing. People I used to get loaded with are also in programs taking the cure. It's difficult, but in the long run I'll get used to it."

Money didn't make it easy for those who were trying to help cure him of drug abuse. "I was fighting them," he said. "You know I just got my credit cards back? They tried to take all my money away to stop me from getting loaded. They were going to stop me? That's a laugh. I'm from the streets. I know the ropes. I knew how to get around everything they were trying to do. Who did they think they were dealing with, Alice in Wonderland? I stopped when I was ready."

Though Money repeatedly claimed that getting drunk or stoned is stupid, he wistfully looked back on his lunatic days in Berkeley and San Francisco.

"I remember once I was in jail for three weekends for breaking probation," he recalled. "I was so drunk I ripped up a liquor store. I wanted a bottle of vodka and ended up stealing a bottle of vermouth. That's how loaded I was.

"Another time I got arrested for drunken driving. The only reason I was driving was because my wife had been drinking. The next thing I knew I was in the back of the cop car and my old lady was driving off into the sunset."

"I was crazy-- crazy . I remember once I was so loaded I got out of the car at the tool booth on the bridge. I thought I was at a concert hall."

This isn't the first time Money has tried to give up alcohol. "I quit for a year to a year-and-a-half one time. I was still crazy. People thought I was still stoned. So I started drinking again."

A belated sense of responsibility, to his family and his fans, helped spur him into sobriety.

"I put my wife, my folks, my manager Bill Graham through so much crap," he said. "It had to stop. And so many kids look up to rock stars. I don't want to lead them astray any more."

His shows, he insisted, are better now, too: "I sing so much better now. I'm not ripping my fans off any more. I wasn't in great shape for a lot of those shows. I think kids used to say, 'Let's go see him, he may OD tonight'."

Being off drugs, Money has discovered, isn't a cure-all for life: "Things are still crazy. I still get mad on the freeway and want to bash my car into somebody. I fight with my wife and kick in the hotel door. And I'm not stoned.

"I'm just crazy--a wild man, drunk or sober. So I might as well do the right thing and be sober. But it really is boring."

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