50 Things You Didn’t Know About Axl Rose

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Today, Axl Rose, the king of wailing, bandanna-wearing hard rock, turns 50 years old. It’s been an eventful five decades for Rose, who’s busted up more cars, relationships, and video shoots than most of us will ever see. We’re resisting the urge to pile on the Guns N’ Roses frontman, who has recently taken a beating in the media for everything from his bizarre statements to his appearance, in favor of celebrating with a list of little known Axl trivia, from his crucifix collection to his favorite books. Rock on.

1. Slash’s nickname for Axl used to be “the Ayatollah.”

2. In the video for Guns N’ Roses’ “Don’t Cry,” the woman who plays Axl’s psychotherapist is his actual therapist, Suzzy London, who occasionally accompanied the band on the road.

3. Axl has a younger sister named Amy and a stepbrother named Stephen.

4. Izzy Stradlin, born Jeffrey Dean Isbell, met Axl Rose in high school when they started a garage band together.

5. Axl often travels with his own psychic, Sharon Maynard, who is known in his entourage as “Yoda.”

6. His stepfather, Pentecostal preacher Stephen Bailey, was nicknamed “Beetle.”

7. Axl believes that he and ex-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour were together in many of their past lives.

8. At the 1992 MTV Music Video Awards, Axl got into a fight with Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, fearing that Love was trying to possess him.

9. In a deposition, Axl’s ex-wife Erin Everly testified that Axl believed he was actually possessed by John Bonham.

10. Axl is a collector of Latin American religious artifacts, particularly crucifixes.

11. Axl’s five favorite books are A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, The Stand by Stephen King, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Zodiac by Neal Stephenson, and James Dean: The Mutant King by David Dalton.

12. The song “Chinese Democracy” was Axl’s emotional tribute to John Lennon’s death.

13. Axl is a night owl, and is habitually late for meetings. He once joked in a Rolling Stone interview that when he died, he would put in his will that his coffin should show up half an hour after the funeral began, with “SORRY I’M LATE” written in gold on the side.

14. His earliest conscious memory is of holding a toy gun in his hand.

15. Rose used to bring copies of Never Mind the Bullocks and Queen II with him wherever he went.

16. Growing up, Axl’s name was William Bailey. He legally changed his name to W. Axl Rose when he signed to Geffen Records.

17. At the first Guns N’ Roses show in LA, only two people showed up to hear the band.

18. On the 2006 Guns N’ Roses tour, Axl dropped opening band the Eagles of Death Metal after the first night, calling them “The Pigeons of Shit Metal.”

19. Tommy Hilfiger and Axl Rose got into a brawl at Rosario Dawson’s 27th birthday party after Rose allegedly “wouldn’t stop smacking” Hilfiger.

20. In the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Axl voices DJ Tommy “The Nightmare” Smith.

21. At GNR’s first gig in Seattle in 1985, the band’s bus broke down en route. They hitchhiked the rest of the way, only to find that the show had been canceled.

22. In Stockholm in 2006, Axl was arrested for biting a security guard on the leg.

23. The abandoned house in the video for Guns N’ Roses’ “Estranged” is Rose’s own Malibu mansion.

24. Axl and Slash’s ongoing feud is so heated that, in 2010, Rose sued the makers of Guitar Hero for including songs by Slash’s band Velvet Revolver alongside GNR tracks, thus emphasizing a connection between Slash and the band. “There’s zero possibility of me having anything to do with Slash other than by ambush, and that wouldn’t be pretty,” Rose explained in a 2009 interview.

25. An art broker sued Axl in 2006 after Rose backed out of a deal to buy an Andy Warhol portrait of John Lennon.

26. The video for “November Rain” is loosely based on the short story “Without You” by Axl’s friend Del James.

27. Axl is a huge Elton John fan, and made a presentation when John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. The two also sang a duet of “Bohemian Rhapsody” at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness.

28. In the Clint Eastwood film The Dead Pool, Axl has a small uncredited part as a musician at a funeral.

29. Axl loves Christina Aguilera, proclaiming her “one of the greatest vocalists of our time” in Blender.

30. When David Bowie visited the set of “It’s So Easy,” Axl found him flirting with then-girlfriend Erin Everly, punched Bowie, and threw him off the set.

31. Bentley sued Axl in 2010 for returning a leased car with more than $72,000 in damages, including a cracked windshield and broken taillight.

32. A coalition of Axl fans banded together to buy a full-page ad in the LA Weekly wishing him a happy 50th birthday this year.

33. Rose served on the jury of a civil trial this year in Santa Monica.

34. In 1992, Rose was put on trial for a riot that had broken out at a GNR show in Riverport, in which 40 concertgoers and 20 policemen were injured. He pled innocent, but was convicted of assault and fined $50,000.

35. Axl is a big fan of Versace — and Donatella Versace admires his style, calling him “a very elegant person” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

36. In 2003, Offspring guitarist Dexter Holland pulled an April fool’s prank by announcing that their next album would be titled Chinese Democracy, stating that “you snooze, you lose.” Axl sued them.

37. Rose and Motley Crue’s Vince Neil have an ongoing feud over an incident in which Neil hit on Izzy’s wife. Both have challenged each others to fight on multiple occasions.

38. Rose has a tabby cat named Dijon.

39. The hidden track on GNR’s The Spaghetti Incident, “Look at Your Game, Girl,” was written by Charles Manson and included on the album at Rose’s insistence.

40. On his left arm, Axl has a tattoo of an Ottoman Empire emblem with the words “Victory or Death” printed below it.

41. Rose is close friends with Skid Row lead singer Sebastian Bach.

42. In order to strengthen his signature high notes, Rose sought the assistance of vocal coach Elizabeth Sabine, known as “the Auntie Mame of Metal.”

43. Axl’s rider includes a provision that the dressing room must be all black and include bouquets of fresh roses, 18 red and 18 white.

44. In the early 1990s, Axl was a big N.W.A. fan, wearing a baseball cap of theirs while filming a promo for the video “You Could Be Mine.”

45. Axl and Blind Melon frontman Shannon Hoon were friends. Hoon sang back-up on several tracks on Use Your Illusion I & II.

46. After Izzy Stradlin left the band, GNR included several small tributes to him in their music videos. In the video for “Don’t Cry,” a sign that says “Where’s Izzy?” is visible for a second, and in the video for “Live and Let Die,” Izzy appears on a milk carton.

47. Rose had a pair of custom-made Converse Weapons with “Axl” embroidered on both tongues.

48. The album art for Appetite for Destruction was originally a painting by the same name by Robert Williams, showing a robot rapist. When stores refused to stock the album, Geffen replaced the art with the famous skull cross depicting the band members.

49. In 2011, Axl was on GQ‘s worst-dressed list for the year.

50. When Axl was writing “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” he listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd records over and over to inspire the song’s sound.