In celebration of this Father’s Day, PEOPLE talked to a potpourri of famous pops to find out what fatherhood means to them. Here, then, are comedian Harry Anderson, retired N. Y. Jet Joe Namath, presidential aspirant Joe Biden, Bobby Blotzer of the heavy-metal band Ratt and Joe “Run” Simmons of rap’s monster group, Run-D.M.C, on the subject closest to their hearts.
EVERYBODY’S A COMEDIAN
Harry Anderson, the 36-year-old ever-youthful Night Court jester, has been in the parenting business for six years. He lives with his wife, Leslie, and two children in Los Angeles, Calif.
Having a child is the first thing I ever did in my life that no one questioned the value of. It’s something that you don’t have to wonder whether it was worthwhile or important because, well, the importance is pretty obvious.
My girl is Eva Fay Anderson and she is 6. My son, Dashiell, is 17 months. He’s named after Dashiell Hammett, and Eva Fay is named after Anna Eva Fay, who is the most famous lady mentalist ever. My wife is a mentalist. She did a mind-reading act for years. So we have one child named after a witch and one named after a rummy old mystery writer.
Becoming a father mostly just happens. I think it might be biochemical or glandular, but something just happens, and you kick into a certain gear. You automatically love the child. I don’t think you have to make major adjustments. I still drive spikes through my nose in my act. If anything, having a child makes you want to live longer to see as much of this development as possible. But that’s something most people want to do anyway.
I think for the first couple weeks the baby believes it’s a breast. I don’t think the baby realizes it’s something. At that time you look at the child, you dream about it. The baby is so non-ego, so non-self-centered when it’s born. You never see people like that again. They change and they don’t change back.
For Leslie and me, when we decided to have children, one of the steps in that decision was deciding that divorce was no longer an option. We no longer had the option of leaving. I come from a family that split up, and I just did not see a point in having children if that was the way they were going to live. I wanted them to be raised with love.
A lot of people say that they don’t want children because it would be such a change in their life. I’m not certain that it is. Of course I get to sit back and say this because I have a wife who doesn’t work, who gets to really give the children the majority of the quality time they need. I’m free to pursue my professional life as I have always done. I know there are a lot of people in situations other than that.
I’m curious about how Dashiell’s going to turn out. He has a real robust personality and is real down to earth, whereas the girl is more ethereal. His sister is quite an intellectual for a 6-year-old. She reads, and she plays music, and this little guy tends to be more of a rock ‘n’ roll drummer. He’s interested in bang and crash. There are things I hope he doesn’t end up as, obviously. A Republican or anything worse. But I want him to enjoy his life.
With our first child I had the reaction that a first child has when a second child comes because I was used to being the kid in the family. I was the funniest one around, and then the kid becomes the funniest. If you look around, my life is toys and devices and tricks and stuff. A lot of people think I’m going to grow out of it, eventually. But I think Eva is—and Dashiell will be—pleased that they’ve got a dad who’s got good taste in toys.
NEW FIELD, NEW GOALS
Joe Namath, college football hero, pro football franchise, sometime actor and surefire sportscaster, became the father of Jessica Grace Namath 20 months ago at the age of 42.
It was completely new to me. I didn’t really know what to expect about fatherhood. I didn’t really know what kind of caring, loving feeling it is to have a child. Or even a wife. When Deborah [Mays, 25] and I got married almost three years ago, it was the first time for me. And Jessica is our first child. And I have to say, it’s better than I thought it would be. Especially having children.
You know the old saying, “It hurts me more than it hurts you.” It’s absolutely true. Every time Jessica falls, I think it hurts me more. I don’t want to see her get hurt or feel badly about anything. Man, being a dad, it’s a constant test on your nervous system.
The day Jessica was born, I was mostly afraid. There were so many things going on in the hospital. Deborah certainly wasn’t sounding like she was in comfort. We did Lamaze classes, but I didn’t do anything during the delivery. I wouldn’t look is what I did. I held her hand, talked to her. I was there, but I was no big help. I didn’t go down to the business end of the table. I peeked at the mirror a couple of times, and I could see Jessica when she was coming out—that’s all I needed to see. I was just praying for her to be healthy. It’s a wonderful experience, birth is, a great miracle, but I didn’t need to stay there and lock it in.
Already Jessica’s got a loving and open personality. It’s very firm, too. She’ll let you know for sure when something’s bothering her or when she wants to do something. She likes to talk on the telephone, swim, read her books and have books read to her. But mainly she’s just full of all kinds of love. She likes to be kissed and cuddled. And at this point she’s used to being spoiled, and she’s going to be spoiled for a long, long time.
What are we going to do with you, Jessica, when you start going out with boys? We’re going to keep an eye on you. Yeah. We’re going to make sure to the best of our abilities that this lady is in good hands.
TO THE WHITE HOUSE BORN?
Delaware’s Joe Biden was 29 when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972. One month later his wife, Neilia, and baby daughter, Amy, were killed in an auto accident that seriously injured Biden’s sons, Beau, now 18, and Hunter, 17. Married in 1977 to Jill Jacobs, Biden, 44, celebrated the sixth birthday of daughter Ashley on June 8, the day before he announced his candidacy for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.
I was 25 when my oldest son was born; I had three children by the time I was 30. I’ve been there during the birth of each of my children, and it’s the most exciting thing in the world. When Ashley was born it was absolutely no different. I can’t imagine if I had 10 children that it would be any different. Each time, you think the whole world moves. I’m a lawyer, not a doctor, so it’s difficult to describe, but your adrenaline really gets moving when that little tyke first appears.
I never thought about Ashley’s birth as getting something returned to me or anything like that. In our household there is no first and second family. There is no step-anything. I never have once thought comparatively about it. Nor do my sons. And that’s because of Jill, who has been such a wonderful mother to all the kids.
Right from the beginning, Ashley has had her mother’s independent streak. Like all the children, she’s mildly apprehensive about my running for President. Yesterday she said, “Is tomorrow when we run for President? If we win do we have to go to the White House?” I said, “We’ll have two houses.” She said, “How will you know if we win? Do people raise their hands? Will they raise their hands tomorrow?” I said, “No, it’s a long time away.”
MY FATHER THE RATT
Bobby Blotzer, 28-year-old power drummer for the heavy-platinum band Ratt, lives with his wife of seven years, Jeni, and his two sons, Michael, 5, and Marcus, 3, in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Kids are great. It’s fun to have ’em to hang out with. When I pick ’em up from school, some of the other little kids come out and say things like “Why do you have girl’s hair?” and “Why do you wear earrings?” I tell ’em to knock it off. But I’m a hit with their teachers, who are Ratt fans.
I was on tour when Michael was born. Michael was the product of a kitchen floor extravaganza. Then the next thing I know, here comes Marcus, who was born the season that running back Marcus Allen was kicking ass for the L.A. Raiders.
Michael is very intelligent. He’s been writing since he was 3½, and he can spell all kinds of words. I remember phone numbers from the fifth grade, and Michael’s got that knack, too. He’s very outgoing, while Marcus woos people in his own way—with shyness.
One thing I’m gonna do different for my kids is see that they get a full-blown education. I quit high school because I knew what I had to do to make it in this business. But education can really make all the difference in their lives.
Both my kids like Ratt music, but they like to bust my chops. We were on the road one time, and we were leaving the hotel, and I said, “Okay, guys, get ready to Ratt ‘n’ roll!” and Michael goes, “I wanna see Bon Jovi!” and Marcus starts singing Livin’ on a Prayer.
I wonder sometimes if they’re gonna grow up and think their old dad’s music is old-fashioned. It’s sort of inevitable, I guess, but I hate to think of it.
HE’S BAD, EXCEPT AS A DAD
Joe “Run” Simmons, of Run-D.M.C., the band that put rap on the map, was only 18 when his first hit, It’s Like That, and his first child, daughter Vanessa Jean Simmons, now 3, came into the world.
At first it was crazy, hectic, ’cause I was on the road, and I was makin’ no money. The record hit while my wife, Valerie, was still pregnant. I was real excited about it, but I was on the road, and the night she had the baby, I was doing a gig somewhere. I came home from the gig, and there was a note at the hotel telling me to call Valerie in the hospital. I was real happy, but I was upset, too, because I wanted to be in on the delivery.
I knew I was gonna have a girl. We’re having another kid right now, and I know it’s gonna be a girl. No tests or nothin’, I just know, it’s a feeling.
Valerie was 4 days old when I first saw her. Right off, I saw she looks like me. She looks almost exactly like me.
I was 18 years old when she was born, but I knew that I was ready for the responsibility. I thought becoming a father would be just like it is. It was cool that I was makin’ money by then so there was no problems. But I was ready to take care of a kid. She didn’t really change me. I don’t go out as much, that’s about it. When I’m on the road I call home all the time. When I get off the road, I like comin’ home and coolin’ out. I just chill. So I’m not missin’ out on anything.
Vanessa is growing up in Hollis, Queens, the same New York City neighborhood I grew up in. I came up great. Everything was real cool. Perfect. I hope it’s the same for her.
Now, she’s real hectic, like a comedian. She likes to scream and run around and make jokes all day. She’s real funny. She’s been with me to Paris, London, Amsterdam, Germany. She loves it. She can’t wait to go with Daddy to hotels. She loves the food and the pools. When she grows up she’ll probably be an actress. She’ll be in showbiz for sure. Definitely.
I’d tell a first-time father to show a lot of love and affection and listen to what they’re talking about. If you just let it go by, they feel like they’re not wanted. So you have to listen to every little thing, ’cause it all means something to them.