July 16, 1990 12:00 PM

As a bona fide, hard-driving rock star, Jon Bon Jovi is used to living on the edge. But right this minute he maybe taking it a shade too close—literally. The pop-metal idol is in the middle of the Utah desert, standing perhaps a foot and a half from the lip of a cliff with a drop-off of 200 feet straight down. He has been helicoptered to this precipice to shoot (over two days and nights) the video for his next single, Blaze of Glory, which will be the theme of the brat-pack Western Young Guns II, to be released Aug. 1. (MTV ran the video July 4.) The props atop the butte include rusted-out cars, a ramshackle projection booth and a giant movie screen, which will be set on fire for dramatic effect.

As the sun flames out in the spectacular distance, washing the desert in fantasia colors of orange and pink, nearby thunderclaps and lightning bolts don’t seem to distract Bon Jovi, who concludes his lip-sync-and-rock-star gyrations with an exuberant arena kick. The move leaves him balanced a few precarious inches from the abyss. “I love this, man,” he says moments later, still pumped up while taking an adrenaline-quelling swig of tequila. “I’m not afraid of heights. Don’t leave me locked in an elevator…man, I can do this!”

Eponym and lead vocalist for one of the most popular rock bands of the ’80s, Bon Jovi, 28, seems ecstatic to find that butte-kicking good times can be had without his group, which has been on hiatus since a wearying 16-month, 237-date world tour concluded in February. The solo gig grew out of an invitation to the Guns set in Santa Fe, N., from Emilio Estevez, one of the film’s stars and a Bon Jovi pal. “I went out there,” recounts Bon Jovi, “and he said they were going to use my song ‘Wanted Dead or Alive.’ ” Bon Jovi didn’t think the lyrics worked, “so I did this other one, ‘Blaze of Glory.’ ” In fact the hyperactive rocker ended up penning, performing and producing 10 songs—the film’s entire sound track. He says he doesn’t give a Grammy how well the new album, with guest performances by Jeff Beck, Elton John and Little Richard, sells: “I just wanted the chance to do some weird things.”

Sleeping in a tent atop a butte in the barren desert 18 miles from Moab, Utah, was one of them. “I was never a camper,” he admits. “The furthest I ever went was the side of the house. I would get upset because there was no television in the tent. But what we’re doing here rates right up there in terms of thrills of my career. How many nights do you get to spend 200 feet up on a butte, sleeping out with 50 of your closest friends?”

Those close friends may not, for the moment, include the Bon Jovi group. Bon Jovi downplays talk of a rift but says of the current hiatus: “In the worst-case scenario, this is the end of the band as we know it.” He’s mum about rumored strains in his relations with co-writer and guitarist Richie Sambora, who is working on his own solo LP and producing tracks for his romantic collaborator, Cher. Besides, says Bon Jovi, “The band may be your wife, but the cheating on the side is what makes it fun.”

While in L.A. to work on the album, the Rumson, N., resident was happy to be keeping house with wife Dorothea, 28. The couple nicknamed their rented home Disgraceland, filled as it is with tacky furniture and Dali and Chagall prints they’ve covered with Presley posters. The Bon Jovis have hung out with Estevez and Guns co-star Lou Diamond Phillips. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Jon and for his music,” says Phillips, “and he’s not the sort of guy who wears his celebrity on his shirtsleeve.”

Besides the songs Bon Jovi wrote for Young Guns II, he also contributed his teen-poster-friendly face onscreen. “I get killed,” he says. “Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it. I escape from jail. The sheriff blows me away. I get seven shots. It’s cool!”

But the singer, who has turned down numerous acting offers, despite prodding from Estevez, has no further film aspirations. “I could play a stadium tomorrow, and I wouldn’t be worried,” says the man who braved the Utah abyss. “To go in front of the movie camera and see all those people looking at you—I was scared to death.”

—Steve Dougherty, Craig Tomashoff in Los Angeles and Utah