Fatherhood, that much overlooked profession, is a job that can make even the biggest, meanest, craziest dad melt like butter at the sight of his little gumpkins. Take shock-rocker Ozzy Osbourne, 37. "The best time we had recently was when the whole family took a bath together," he says. Ozzy's 2½-year-old daughter, Aimee, particularly enjoyed dunking her dad's head while he roared with laughter. "When I'm with Aimee, I become 2½ myself." This from the man who once bit off a bat's head onstage, held a mock hanging of a midget and whose song Suicide Solution has been blamed for one teen death. Ozzy sees no contradiction: Ozzy the Awful is strictly a showbiz creation, as he regularly reminds all six of his children. Rock memorabilia is played down in the comfortable London home of Osbourne and his wife, Sharon, 33, who serves as his manager. "The kids don't need to be reminded of who I am," he says.
Ozzy regrets that the children from his first marriage—Jessica, 14, and Louis, 11, and adopted son, Elliot, 20—knew only too well who their father was. "I feel a bit bad about not being able to always be there for them," he says of the long spells he spent on the road with Black Sabbath, his group from the '70s. "But I have tried to compensate. I call them at least every week, and they're getting the best education money can buy." Not surprisingly he's a soft touch with Aimee, Kelly, 18 months, and Jack, 7 months, his children with Sharon. "We spoil them to death, and I wouldn't have it any other way," he says. "When I see the tears well up in Aimee's eyes—forget it. I melt. Even when they misbehave, I could no more smack their bottoms than fly."
For comedian Howie Mandel, 30, who stars as the flip emergency room doctor on NBC's St. Elsewhere, having a kid is the next best thing to being one. "I love to entertain her," says Howie of his 18-month-old daughter, Jackelyn. "My biggest joy is being onstage. All of a sudden I have an audience that's always willing to be there."
"Yeah, you're an idol of hers," chimes in Howie's wife, Terry, 28, "right up there with Big Bird, Bert and Ernie."
Sesame Street aside, it's hard to keep a straight face when Mandel starts talking fatherhood. "My biggest fear now in having a daughter is how I'm going to react to her dates," he admits. "But we've already discussed that. The way to ensure that she's always home early is to not potty-train her." But seriously, folks, Mandel is just thrilled about being a new papa. "It's neat," he says. "I went into the delivery room and so did my wife. I wanted her support."
Most dads don't hang out in toy stores to buy toys for themselves. Howie does. "I don't picture myself as someone's dad," he explains. Terry thinks he has the perfect daughter. "She has his personality," she says. "She's a ham. I can't wait until she asks her dad if she can play with his toys."
Mandel and Terry, who grew up in Toronto together, were married for three years before they decided to have children. Howie says he first asked Terry about having kids when he was 12 and they were already in love. "I always wanted a family," he says. "I was just waiting for Terry to be ready." For Howie, the hardest part of dealing with her pregnancy was having to forgo their weekly encounter with the roller coaster at Magic Mountain near their home in Los Angeles. Howie also says that Terry got, well, a little goofy late in her pregnancy. "At about seven months, I woke up one morning to the sound of hysterical laughter," he says. "I opened my eyes, and there was Terry standing naked in front of the mirror laughing at her body." (The laughter dissolved "as soon as Jackie was born," Terry deadpans.)
About two weeks before her due date, Terry started having contractions while she and Howie were watching David Letterman's Stupid Pet Tricks. "I was the one who figured it out," says Howie. "She's sitting beside me watching and she goes, 'Oouuuuuu.' I ask, 'What's wrong?' and she says, 'I got the worst stomachache.' 'Maybe it's something you ate,' I said. Then she says it's gone. Eight or nine minutes later we go through the same thing. Finally I say, 'Could this not be a stomachache, Terry? Maybe these are contractions.' So we started timing them, and they were coming every 10 minutes. I didn't know if that meant to go to the hospital or what." They did, and 12 hours later, Jackie appeared. Howie videotaped the whole thing. But he insists that it's "very tasteful" because he "shot it from over Terry's shoulder."
"It was weird," Howie observes of becoming a father. "Before, I was just Howie and she was Terry; suddenly we were Mom and Dad. Parents end up being proud of things other people aren't thinking about. I said to a crowd of guys, 'You know what happened last night? I walked in the door, and Jackie pointed right at me.' There I am, beaming, expecting them to be excited, and they look at me like I just saw a UFO."
The lesson is clear. "Having a kid really changes your life," he says. "She's the most important thing in the world, now. Suddenly you have so much responsibility. The way she's going to be, the kind of human being she's going to be, and what she does in this world, all depends, I think, mostly on us." Heavy talk for a comic, perhaps, but not for a loving father.
A bone-crusher when he suits up, William ("the Refrigerator") Perry is a lamb at home, especially with his younger daughter, Norie. Born prematurely on March 31, Norie weighed only 3 pounds, 10 ounces at birth. (Her famous Chicago Bears lineman father currently weighs 330.) "He didn't like anyone calling her little," says wife Sherry, 22. "When she weighed four pounds, he said she was five, and when she was six, he said she was seven."
Such protectiveness is unnecessary with older daughter Latavia, 3, whom Perry loves to tease. "He picks at her all day," says Sherry. "She pretends to be upset, but she loves it. It always means a houseful of noise." A laissez-faire disciplinarian, Perry, 23, says of Latavia, "She's a kid. She might as well enjoy. I think parents are too strict." His message to his children is simple: "Just grow up and be yourself."
The Perrys live outside Chicago, about 20 minutes from the Bears' training camp in Lake Forest, but Perry has spent a lot of time on the road with commercials and personal appearances. "He wants to take the kids everywhere," says Sherry, "and some places, like fancy restaurants, don't want kids. So, when he hears that, William says, 'Well, I don't want to go there.' " The touchdown-scoring pass-rusher is also versatile at home, where he cleans the house, changes diapers and bathes his offspring. At night, if Norie cries, Perry gets to her almost as fast as he does to ball-carriers. Then he gently rocks the child on his huge belly until she falls asleep. Says Sherry: "William will hold her for the whole night. I say, 'William, you spoil her.' But if she's crying, you give her to her daddy, and she stops."
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