In 1982, Ozzy Osbourne Bit the Bat

Ozzy Osbourne in 1982
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Frank Lennon/Toronto Star via Getty Images

It was Jan. 20, 1982 – just another evening of entertainment on Ozzy Osbourne’s “Night of the Living Dead” tour, supporting his second solo album, Diary of a Madman. That night’s audience of roughly 5,000 fans at Des Moines, Iowa’s Veterans Memorial Auditorium would be treated to such soon-to-be classics as “Crazy Train,” “Flying High Again,” and “Believer,” along with bona-fide classics from Osbourne’s years with Black Sabbath, like “Paranoid” and “Iron Man.”

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A portion of those fans – those in the first few rows – would also have the privilege of being doused with the 25 or so pounds of pig intestines and calves' livers that Osbourne reportedly brought to the stage each night for the purpose of raining down bloody organs and entrails upon his audience’s heads, shoulders, and chests. It was a peculiar ritual, but Osbourne was never one to shy away from an outrageous act, particularly one that might earn him some publicity in its aftermath. And anyway, some fans had taken to bringing their own bloody meats and nasty bits to shows, to return fire.

That night in Des Moines, though, one member of the audience tossed a live bat at the Prince of Darkness. It landed on the stage, stunned and immobile. Osbourne claims he thought it was a toy – a rubber Halloween item perhaps lobbed stageward to accompany the horror-movie-lite artwork featured on his solo records. Or perhaps someone had heard or read about an incident the previous year, when Osbourne bit the head off a dove his wife Sharon had brought into a meeting with record company executives, as a celebratory peace offering.

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Who knows what Osbourne was thinking, or if he was thinking, as he picked up the doomed flying rodent, raised it to his face, and slid it between his teeth? History does, however, record his thoughts immediately afterward.

“Immediately, though, something felt wrong,” Osbourne wrote in his memoir I Am Ozzy. “Very wrong. For a start, my mouth was instantly full of this warm, gloopy liquid, with the worst aftertaste you could ever imagine. I could feel it staining my teeth and running down my chin.

“Then the head in my mouth twitched,” he continued. “Oh fuck me, I thought. I didn’t just go and eat a fucking bat, did I?”

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In fact, he had. After the show, he was rushed to a nearby hospital and tested for rabies.

In the ensuing years, Osbourne has maintained a sense of humor about the incident. In 2019, he commemorated the event by releasing a plush toy bat bearing his logo, with a detachable head. In late 2021, Osbourne also released 9,666 digital bats in his first NFT release, once again in commemoration of the strangest bite he’s ever taken.

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