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Local Boy Makes Good 15 November 2002
Jon is on cover of this week's PEOPLE magazine!


Jon Bon Jovi is not a man who can afford to be late for a show. Buckled into his black Dodge Viper on a Thursday afternoon, he roars out of the garage of his home, an imposing limestone residence that resembles a French château plunked down in central New Jersey. He shifts into high gear and in less than 10 minutes pulls into the parking lot of the local elementary school. He dashes into the principal's office to get a visitor's pass, which he slings around his neck.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Bongiovi," a secretary calls after him. (Even in rock star mufti of black jeans, leather jacket, boots and shades, this is still a place where he goes by his given last name.) He bounds up the auditorium aisle two steps at a time and lets out a big sigh of relief as he takes a seat beside his wife, Dorothea, who dandles their 6-month-old, Jacob. Just in time: The lights dim, and 9-year-old Stephanie Rose Bongiovi -- blonde and blue-eyed like her father -- steps onstage to begin Mrs. Taylor's annual fourth-grade stage production. Stephanie plays a parent trying to teach her child to appreciate classical music. "Even though it's not rock and roll," Stephanie says, "it can still fill your soul!"

Both parents applaud and laugh. "For too many years," says the rocker, "there were too many plays I missed when I was on the road. I just couldn't miss one more." Even now, planning a globe-hopping tour to promote Bounce, his band's eighth studio album, he has plenty of home visits inked into his calendar. "The band used to tour and miss who knows how many Christmases and Thanksgivings," says his brother and former road manager Matthew Bongiovi, 28. "Now it's 'I'm home for the holidays.' "

After nearly 20 years heading the band that bears his name, the 40-year-old Bon Jovi is, along with close-by neighbor Bruce Springsteen and U2's Bono, a member of that small society of aging-but-blazing singers who've learned how to stoke fans while keeping the home fires burning. They can rock -- or rock-a-bye a new baby. Bon Jovi has been married for 13 years to Dorothea Hurley, but they've been together since they were at Sayreville War Memorial High School in the late '70s. Now they have three children: Stephanie, baby Jacob and Jesse, 7, a second-grader and Pop Warner football player. "I jokingly used to say my house was the singer's house -- it was all me, me, me," says Bon Jovi. "No more. Now it's all about kids. I'm right below Copper" -- their dog, a German shepherd mix.

Until the day before, the household had been bigger by two foster children, who have now moved to their grandparents' custody after a two-month stay. "I was doing a lot of homework," says Bon Jovi, who admits he was never much of a student (he had formed his first band by 14). "Dorothea knew the kids through the school system. She wouldn't let them be in an orphanage or a home with strangers."
According to her brother-in-law, that's because Dorothea, like Bon Jovi, is a lifelong New Jerseyan -- which apparently is something like being a Soprano, only without the crime. "Being from here, everyone knows everybody," says Matthew, who grew up with brothers Jon and Anthony, 36, a video director, in a working-class Italian Catholic family in Sayreville. "You go to your local watering hole. You go to the Jersey shore. When you're from here, and if you don't forget it, it will keep you strong."

And grounded. "We live a normal life," says Dorothea, 40. "Mornings, Jon's making scrambled eggs, and the kids are getting up. Then we'll drive them to school. On Saturdays we all lie on the couch, eat junk food and watch football."

Then again, life can never be totally normal given Dad's workload the past few years -- everything from writing new songs with guitarist and longtime buddy Richie Sambora to campaigning for Al Gore ("He's much warmer than he appears to be") to addressing students at (of all places) Oxford University ("I told them to make their plans in pencil because they are gonna change") to acting on TV and in film and even collaborating on a screenplay. (Nearly completed, it's called One Wild Night and is a presumably not autobiographical tale about wife-swapping.) "You have to study to learn how to write a script," he says. "You have to read books on it." Says Matthew: "There is not five minutes of downtime in his life." Bon Jovi gives all the credit to his wife, who runs the house with a staff of 10 and conducts karate classes (she has a fourth-degree black belt) at her own studio. "She's incredibly confident and independent." Asked if he would like a fourth child, he laughs. "I barely have time to make another baby."


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