Ozzy Osbourne’s Infamous Pigeon Incident

In 1981, Ozzy Osbourne’s shocking act of biting off the head of dove at a record label meeting marked a controversial yet pivotal moment in his solo career, setting the stage for both his notorious reputation and unprecedented fame.

A 1981 photograph of Ozzy Osbourne holding two 'Circus' magazines, with a surprised expression on his face. He's wearing a white jumpsuit adorned with red and silver rhinestones. In the background, a repeated 'Happy Birthday' text pattern in pink and blue is visible, suggesting a celebratory setting.
Ozzy Osbourne (1981)
Key Takeaways
  • In 1981, Ozzy Osbourne bit off a dove’s head during a record label meeting, leading to infamy and increased fame.
  • The act resulted in his immediate ejection from the meeting and a ban from working with CBS.
  • Sharon Arden, his manager, turned the incident into a publicity opportunity, boosting sales for his album “Blizzard of Ozz.”

The Unforgettable Boardroom Episode

In early 1981, Ozzy Osbourne was at a pivotal juncture in his career. Having recently parted ways with Black Sabbath, he was forging a path as a solo artist. His debut album, “Blizzard of Ozz,” was already creating a buzz in the UK and was on the brink of its U.S. release. At this critical moment, Sharon Arden, Osbourne’s manager and future wife, was at the helm, steering his career and negotiating a contract with Epic Records, a subsidiary of CBS Records.

To bolster his solo career, Ozzy, accompanied by Sharon, planned to attend a significant meeting with Epic Records. In a bid to make a memorable impression and as a gesture of peace, they decided to bring along two doves. The plan was simple yet dramatic: during the meeting, Ozzy would deliver a speech and release the doves as a sign of goodwill.

However, the event, held on March 27, 1981, took an unexpected turn. En route to the meeting, Ozzy consumed a bottle of brandy, arriving heavily intoxicated. Despite the initially cheerful atmosphere of the meeting, Ozzy, influenced by drugs and alcohol, strayed far from the intended plan.

As the meeting unfolded, Ozzy grew impatient with a PR woman’s speech. In a spur-of-the-moment decision that would become one of the most shocking incidents in rock history, he bit the heads off the two doves. The act of throwing their carcasses onto the boardroom table left everyone in attendance stunned.

Ozzy Osbourne’s 1981 boardroom incident with the doves, a drastic departure from a planned gesture of peace, marked a notorious moment in rock history.

This unforeseen action not only shocked the attendees but also led to Ozzy’s immediate ejection from the convention. It resulted in a ban from working with CBS again, a significant setback in his burgeoning solo career.

The Beverly Hills Encounter

Following the astonishing episode at the Epic Records meeting, Ozzy Osbourne’s day took another bizarre turn. Later that day, Rudy Sarzo, a recent addition to Osbourne’s band, had an encounter with Ozzy at the Arden family estate in Beverly Hills. This meeting would further cement the day as one of the most unforgettable in rock history.

Sarzo, a relatively new member mentored by the legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads, was unprepared for what he was about to witness. During their conversation, Ozzy, still in possession of a third dove hidden in his clothing, casually bit off its head right in front of Sarzo. The unexpectedness and sheer shock value of this act left Sarzo astounded.

This incident served as a stark introduction for Sarzo into the world surrounding Osbourne. He was quickly advised not to take these actions personally and to adapt to the unpredictable nature of events that seemed to follow Osbourne. This advice was crucial for anyone involved in Osbourne’s entourage, as the rockstar was known for his wild, often shocking antics that defied norms and expectations.

Turning Controversy into Triumph

In the aftermath of the pigeon incident, the potential for damage to Ozzy Osbourne’s reputation was immense. However, Sharon Arden’s strategic acumen came to the forefront, demonstrating her prowess as a manager. Rather than allowing the incident to tarnish Ozzy’s burgeoning solo career, Sharon saw an opportunity to generate extensive press coverage.

Immediately after the event, Sharon contacted their publicist, executing a masterstroke in crisis management. She adeptly spun the story, transforming what could have been a career-damaging moment into a legendary rock myth. This calculated move was not just about damage control; it was about creating a larger-than-life image for Ozzy.

Sharon Arden’s skillful handling of the pigeon incident flipped a potential career crisis into a surge in popularity for Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career.

This strategy proved to be incredibly effective. The publicity surrounding the event, while initially negative, coincided with a significant surge in sales for “Blizzard of Ozz.” This boost was not just a stroke of luck; it was proof of the power of controversy in the music industry and Sharon’s ability to harness it.

The success of the album marked a pivotal turnaround in Ozzy’s career. It laid the foundation not only for his future fame but also set the stage for the controversies that would continue to swirl around his persona.

Reflection and Regret

Years after the notorious pigeon incident, Ozzy Osbourne looked back with a significantly evolved perspective. In a notable shift, Osbourne, who became a spokesman for PETA in 2020, openly expressed regret for his earlier behavior.

Reflecting on these incidents, Ozzy acknowledged the recklessness of his younger years. He admitted that his actions, often driven by a desire for shock value, were made with little consideration for the consequences. This reflection reveals a matured understanding and a significant change from his early career persona.

Osbourne also addressed a separate incident from 1982 involving a bat. He clarified that he bit off the bat’s head under the mistaken belief that it was fake. Realizing the grave mistake, he immediately regretted his action, an incident that resulted in him being treated for rabies. This episode, like the pigeon incident, became a part of rock folklore, contributing to his wild reputation.