The Untold Truth Of Anthony Kiedis - Grunge (2024)

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ByFrank F./

Anthony Kiedis is not an especially private person. What the funk-rock frontman hasn't discussed in the last three decades of Red Hot Chili Peppers lyrics or said to the press, he's written about in his soul-baring 2004 memoir "Scar Tissue." A pivotal point in his life was his move from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Los Angeles, California when he was 12 years old. That move quickly revealed all the things that would color — and darken — his life for several decades to come: women, drugs, and the bright lights of Hollywood.

Kiedis' life has been a lot like the Red Hot Chili Peppers' music: often rowdy, riotous, and sex-fueled, sometimes dark, lonely, and dejected. His life also follows a similar trajectory to his band's discography, from the crazed, speedy rhymes of the early years to the more mellow tones of today. Here's an overview of that turbulent journey and Kiedis' one-of-a-kind take on it.This is the untold truth of Anthony Kiedis.

A young Anthony Kiedis played Sylvester Stallone's son in a movie

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In 1974, a 12-year-old Anthony Kiedis moved to Hollywood to live with his father, Jack Kiedis. Jack had taken up acting and adopted the stage name Blackie Dammett, which also became the name he used personally for the remainder of his life. Anthony decided to follow suit and change his name to match. "'Well, it's got to be something Dammett, because I'm your son,'" Anthony recalled saying in his 2004 memoir "Scar Tissue." "So Cole Dammett was born. Get it? Cole, son of Blackie."

So Anthony — aka Cole — began taking children's acting classes, per the unofficial Anthony Kiedis website. One of his first roles was as Jimmy in the dirty 1978 anthology comedy "Jokes My Folks Never Told Me," per IMDB. He also landed a role as Jimmy Plummer in an episode of "ABC Afterschool Specials," and as Kevin Kovak, the son of Sylvester Stallone's character, in the crime drama movie "F.I.S.T." In "Scar Tissue," Anthony recalled visiting Stallone's trailer in hopes of bonding, but Stallone yelled for a PA to "get him out of here."

Anthony later dropped the pseudonym, and his acting career ultimately faded away to make way for music, but he has since made appearances in movies including "Point Break" (1991) and "The Chase" (1994).

Anthony Kiedis had unexpected bonds with Sonny and Cher

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"The Sonny and Cher Show" was a television sensation while Anthony Kiedis was growing up in late-'70s Hollywood. As Kiedis wrote in "Scar Tissue," Sonny Bono — a friend of his father's — became an unlikely parental figure and "one of the few conventional positive role models in [his] life at that time." Bono let the preteen Kiedis stay in his mansion, they went skiing together, and Bono worked to teach Kiedis valuable lessons about the importance of honesty. But Kiedis was used to a wilder, laissez-faire environment, and as he grew up, he began acting "in a way that definitely wasn't Sonny-friendly."

When Kiedis was in the eighth grade, Cher volunteered to babysit him when Bono wasn't able to. Kiedis and the Goddess of Pop had a long heart-to-heart. "Then Cher got up to go to the bathroom and get ready for bed," Kiedis wrote in "Scar Tissue." "It was dark in the bedroom, but it was light in the bathroom, so I watched her take off her clothes, all the while feigning to be on my way to sleep ... Not that I had the wherewithal to want some physical relationship with her, but in my mind, it was a stimulating and semi-innocent moment. After she put on her nightgown, she walked back into the room and got into bed. I remember thinking, 'This is not bad, lying next to this beautiful lady.'"

Anthony Kiedis began using drugs with his father at age 12

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Four days after Anthony Kiedis moved to California, his father asked him, "Do you want to smoke a joint?" That was Kiedis' first glimpse into the life he would be living from there on out. According to Kiedis' memoir, "Scar Tissue," one of his first bonding experiences with his father was smuggling "seven giant Samsonite suitcases" full of pot across the country.

Before long, Kiedis was watching his dad strain and cut cocaine with laxative. Jack Kiedis began giving his preteen son sedative pills and quaaludes before their many nights at the Rainbow Room on the Sunset Strip. Each drug was a gateway to the next, and Kiedis soon began snorting cocaine with his father's posse.

In the seventh grade, he met a kid from a nearby school named John, and the new friends started tripping on LSD together. Then, when Kiedis was 14, he accidentally used heroin for the first time, believing it to be cocaine. The drug-addled world his father introduced him to wound up haunting his life for decades to come.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

In high school, Anthony Kiedis and Flea bonded as 'social outcasts'

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One day at Fairfax High School, Anthony Kiedis found his best friend, Tony, held in a headlock by an Australian outsider named Michael Balzary. "He told me to let go of Tony or he'd knock my block off," Balzary — better known now as Flea — told Jeff Apter, who wrote the 2009 book "Fornication: The Red Hot Chili Peppers Story." "He looked pretty mean, so I let go. I figured I'd better get on his good side. He looked so weird. He looked like a maniac."

Kiedis and Flea soon became close friends. "We were drawn to each other by the forces of mischief and love and we became virtually inseparable," Kiedis told Apter. "We were both social outcasts. We found each other and it turned out to be the longest-lasting friendship of my life."

In 1977, 15-year-old Kiedis and Balzary passed a towering apartment complex with a pool. "I looked at the building and said, 'That's a diving board, my friend,'" Kiedis recalled in "Scar Tissue" (via Far Out magazine), and decided he'd dive into the pool from the top of the building. "I jumped, and as I was in the air, I realised that I had put too much into the leap and I was going to overshoot the pool, but there was nothing I could do about it ... I landed smack on my heels and missed the pool by about ten inches." Kiedis broke his back, and was lucky to survive.

Anthony Kiedis excelled in English class

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While in high school, each weekday morning at 6:45, Anthony Kiedis was woken up by pop music blaring from his alarm clock radio. "I really was that anxious to get to school every day," Kiedis wrote in "Scar Tissue." "I loved almost all of my classes."

Despite their hard-partying lifestyle, his father also highlighted the importance of education. "Every day he'd use some crazy-ass esoteric word to get me to increase my vocabulary," Kiedis recalled. "He also expanded my tastes in literature from the Hardy Boys to Ernest Hemingway and other great writers." A major influence was author Charles Bukowski, whom Kiedis namechecked on the "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" track "Mellowship Slinky in B Major."

"At school, the class that I looked forward to most was English," Kiedis wrote in "Scar Tissue." "Every day we'd spend the first fifteen minutes of class writing in a journal. ... Some of the other students would write for five minutes and stop, but I could have written away the whole class time."

His English teacher, Mrs. Vernon, told him he should continue to write, because he had a "special gift" for it. "When you're in seventh grade and this really wonderful woman whom you look up to takes the time to express an idea like that to you," Kiedis recalled, "that was a bell that wouldn't stop ringing for the rest of my life."

Anthony Kiedis initially joined his future RHCP bandmates as a hype man

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In high school, Flea played bass in a band called Anthym with fellow future Red Hot Chili Peppers Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons. At this point, Anthony Kiedis could not really play any instruments and had shown no signs of musical potential beyond his writing abilities. Still, Flea found a way to bring Kiedis in on the Anthym action, enlisting him to introduce the band before live performances as a hype man or, as Rolling Stone put it, "a jive-talking MC."

"Over a few bongs one night [Flea] proposed that Kiedis could MC their shows, adding some 'colour' to their gigs," Jeff Apter wrote in "Fornication: The Red Hot Chili Peppers Story." "The role was pretty straightforward: Kiedis would warm up the audience before the band came on, spitting out jokes and sparring verbally with the crowd, many of whom he already knew from high school. It all came very naturally to the flamboyant 'Swan,' Fairfax High's leading thespian ... Standing centre-stage, he'd declare: 'Cal Worthington calls them the hottest rockers in LA. Their parents call them crazy and the girls call them all the time. But I call them like I see them, and I call them ... ANTHYM!'"

From there, the band would appear onstage and Kiedis would rejoin the crowd and start "throwing himself about like the relatively harmless lunatic that the Fairfax High alumni-heavy crowd knew him to be."

Anthony Kiedis wrote Under the Bridge about his experience with heroin addiction

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Anthony Kiedis wrote one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' biggest hits, the lonely ballad "Under the Bridge," about the heroin addiction that had darkened his life for years. "I was reaching a demoralizing low, just kind of hanging out on the streets and doing my thing and not much else, sadly to say," Kiedis told Rolling Stonein 1992. "I ran into some fairly unscrupulous characters involved with miniature Mafioso drug rings, and the hangout for one of these gangs was this particular location under a bridge ... It's not that that one place was more insidious than other places. But that's just one day that sticks very vividly in my memory. Like, how could I let myself get to that point?"

In 1988, Hillel Slovak, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' original guitarist and Kiedis' longtime friend, died of a heroin overdose. Kiedis wrote "Under the Bridge" shortly thereafter. "I was driving away from the rehearsal studio and thinking how I just wasn't making any connection with my friends or family, I didn't have a girlfriend, and Hillel wasn't there," he told Rolling Stone. "When I got home that day, I started thinking about my life and how sad it was right now. But no matter how sad or lonely I got, things were a million percent better than they were two years earlier when I was using drugs all the time."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Anthony Kiedis has had multiple high-profile romances

Anthony Kiedis has had a string of intensely passionate, occasionally high-profile, and usually doomed, relationships. One of his early romances was with Ione Skye, an actor and the daughter of the Scottish musician Donovan. "From the moment I laid eyes on Ione," he wrote in "Scar Tissue," (via AnthonyKiedis.net), "I knew that goddess was going to be my girlfriend." The pair dated and lived together for a couple of years, but his addiction ultimately ended things.

Kiedis went on to have a somewhat one-sided fling with Sinead O'Connor — they hung out a few times and he wanted them to get involved, but she didn't. Madonna was another passing flame, but Kiedis' father, described their encounter in his autobiography "Lords of the Sunset Strip" as nothing more than "a quiet date at Canter's [Deli] on Fairfax."

Kiedis had a short-lived romance with actor-director Sofia Coppola, which he described in "Scar Tissue" as "another one of my unfulfilled attempts at a relationship." He also had a crush on Mel C, also known as Sporty Spice of the Spice Girls, but it's unclear how romantic things got. Kiedis wrote that the pair "became friendly," while his father wrote that "something akin to lust or love blossomed" when the pair met. In 2002, he had a short but "very intense" relationship with supermodel Heidi Klum, per Apple magazine.

Anthony Kiedis is not sure he will ever settle down romantically

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In a 2016 interview for the German magazine Stern, Anthony Kiedis discussed his extensive love life and said that there were years of his life during which he had sex with hundreds of women. "If I saw a pretty girl, I wanted to have her," he told the outlet (via Alternative Nation).

As of 2021, Kiedis has never been married. He told Stern that he was unsure marriage would ever be on the cards for him. "Maybe it is because I never learned to live in a relationship," he said (via Alternative Nation). "And as silly one sounds, I do not understand women yet. They remain a mystery ... I talked about this yesterday with a friend: Do we focus on finding a person who fits with us, or will we remain single? I am open to both. If the right one comes — wonderful. If not, I accept what the universe has intended for me."

Anthony Kiedis is close with his son, Everly Bear

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On October 2, 2007, Anthony Kiedis welcomed a son, Everly Bear, with Heather Christie, whom Kiedis dated from 2004 to 2008. "We had a long list of names, but I suppose it came to me by way of the Everly Brothers, which is one of my favorite bands," Kiedis said at a fundraiser in 2007 (via People). "And sometimes last names make good first names. The mama came up with Bear. That made sense to me because he's from me and I feel like I'm part of the bear clan, and I think it's nice to have a little bit of earth in your name."

Kiedis and Christie split a few months after Everly was born. Kiedis is his son's primary caretaker, per AnthonyKiedis.net. In March 2018, Radar Online reported that Kiedis took Christie to court over a custody dispute. According to the report, Christie wanted to take Everly to Vermont for spring break, but the Los Angeles-based Kiedis was reportedly concerned that the trip would make Everly want to move to the east coast full-time. The judge ruled in Christie's favor.

Kiedis and Everly Bear have posed together in fashion campaigns for Marc Jacobs in 2015 and 2021.

Anthony Kiedis now enjoys a sober lifestyle

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Anthony Kiedis has been clean and sober since the early 2000s. "The main thing I'm doing now is trying not to be such a self-centered pig," he told the Tampa Bay Times in 2005. "Instead of the drive, the crazy need to get high, I try to think, 'What can I do to be of service to the world?' ... Now I have freedom to create my days as I want to."

So how does Kiedis choose to spend his self-created days? "I have some kitchen rituals, like I make this big green concoction with all this good stuff, and I drink a strong pot of black tea and hang out with my dog by the pool," he said.

He echoed these sentiments in 2016. "I happen to love being sober," he said during an interview (via NME). "Being sober for me is a pleasure, I get a lot of joy out of it; it works for me. I get to surf, I get to hang out with my son, I get to play music, I get to be OK."

The Untold Truth Of Anthony Kiedis - Grunge (2024)
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