Tormented by drug-induced visions of war, S&M, sex and self-destruction, rocker Bob Geldof broods in an L.A. hotel room before rising to bash a TV set, a guitar and assorted furniture. His fury spent, he moves to the bathroom where he shaves off his eyebrows, chest hair and, nearly, a nipple.
“That wasn’t me,” says Geldof. He’s right. Though Geldof, 29, is lead singer of the new-wave group the Boom-town Rats, those gruesome actions are merely part of his role as the pop idol Pink in director Alan (Fame) Parker’s hotly debated, $10 million Pink Floyd The Wall. Based on the quintuple-platinum LP of the same name, the film—the brainchild of Pink Floyd bassist and composer Roger Waters—is an explosion of music and images with almost no dialogue.
Which is one reason Geldof now feels he has some explaining to do. While he admires the film, he says it has “little to do with me and what I see as pop music. I don’t indulge in such extremes of self-pity. I also have never understood why musicians have to have heroin. Pink is not like me,” says Geldof. “He’s a sod.”
The singer says shooting the film sent him into “black pits of despair.” But the experience had its lighter moments. There was the frazzle about whether his eyebrows would grow back (he was insured for $1 million in case they didn’t). And to allow Geldof to float for hours in a pool of fake blood while filming one movie scene, the producers borrowed the transparent support mold used by Chris Reeve in Superman. The 6’2″, 140-pound singer was dwarfed by it. Instead, he used the mold for Superman H’s sexy villainess, Sarah Douglas. “It fitted me so perfectly it was embarrassing,” says Geldof, who had envisioned a more heroic screen debut. “Fate cheated me,” he says with a laugh. “I should have been Clint Eastwood.”
The youngest of three children born in Dublin to an import-export businessman, Geldof was raised by his sisters, Cleo, now 40, and Lynn, 37, after his mother died of a brain hemorrhage when he was 7. Until he was 17, he attended a strict school run by the Holy Ghost Fathers, who accused Geldof of being an “insidious influence” (he distributed Maoist propaganda). He was kicked off the debating team for not wearing a blazer.
His rebellious nature led him to music. “I hated school sports and started the guitar to get out of them,” says Geldof, a lefty who learned to play the guitar upside down and back to front. After graduating, he took a series of odd jobs including stints in a slaughterhouse, teaching English in Spain, and writing for a rock journal in Canada. Returning to Ireland in 1975, he helped form the five-member Boomtown Rats a year later and scored a succession of hits including I Don’t Like Mondays, Rat Trap and their newest, Skin on Skin. “It’s the longest job I’ve ever had,” says Geldof.
Since 1977 he has shared his life with Paula Yates, now 22, a spiky-haired British journalist. They met at a Dublin party. “He looks as if he’d say dirty things in bed,” she said at the time. Today they drive twin Suzukis and live in a four-bedroom Victorian house in South London full of Geldof’s kitsch: appliquéd cushions, a bust of Gandhi, 1920s lamps and Indian bronzes. “I never cook,” Paula flaunts. “We’re thinking of bricking up the kitchen,” adds Geldof, who has recently gotten out of the party habit, preferring to stay home reading Somerset Maugham and P.G. Wodehouse.
Paula’s just got the word she’s pregnant, but neither wants marriage. “There’s no reason why my pregnancy should alter anything,” says Paula. Bob, recently back from gigs in Warsaw, Israel and New York, still enjoys touring, but the success of The Wall has also inspired him to consider acting lessons. “I wonder what I’ll be doing in the next six years,” muses Geldof, who hazards only one prediction: “When it stops being fun, I’ll stop doing it.”