By David Cobb Craig
October 15, 2001 12:00 PM

For the rest of their lives Jay and Judy Frappier can say that a rock star once served as their opening act. On March 30, 1989, in front of a live MTV audience and fans mobbed along the street, Jon Bon Jovi unlatched the screen door to the Sayreville, N.J., house where he grew up and asked the couple, “Are you ready to see your new home?”

Indeed they were. Just 48 hours earlier Judy had beaten out a million other callers to win MTV’s first rock and roll real estate giveaway. The Frappiers “were shell-shocked,” recalls TV exec Pete Danielsen, then promotions manager at MTV, who arranged to buy the two-story, four-bedroom colonial at 16 Robinhood Drive from Bon Jovi’s mother, Carol Bongiovi. As they crossed the threshold Judy said to Jay, “Our lives are never going to be the same again.”

If only they’d known. The middle-class couple from Levittown, Pa., moved out of the house after a year and have since experienced a complete change of career and scenery. Jay quit his job as a computer analyst and went to law school, partly funded by the sale of the house in July 1990. Now a successful attorney, he and Judy, an airlines service rep, are raising their four kids in the Dallas suburb of Flower Mound. “I get clients that are channel-surfing and they’ll see the MTV special that runs old clips of us,” says Jay, 41. “They’ll call me and say, ‘Was that really you?’ ”

The Frappiers became accustomed to that kind of attention when they first moved into the Bon Jovi house. “Complete strangers would come to the door,” recalls Judy, 38, who met Jay at a party in 1980 and married him four years later. “For some reason a lot of people would think I was Jon’s contact person. They wanted me to get in touch with him, or to use his bathroom, or they’d want a piece of his bedroom carpet.”

In 1990 came another unexpected arrival: a $70,000 tax bill for the contest prize. Jay, who was then making $42,000 a year, recalls thinking he had two choices: “Do I take out a loan, or do I sell the house?” When the house was listed, “we got one group of girls who pretended they were shopping for their parents,” says Judy, adding that they finally sold it for $210,000 to “a young couple who I don’t even think were Bon Jovi fans.”

With the proceeds, the Frappiers paid Uncle Sam and moved to Houston, where Jay enrolled in South Texas College of Law. “Being an attorney seemed like a sexy job to have,” says Jay. Still, the move “was a scary leap of faith.” He almost landed with a thud. “We started to burn through the money,” admits Jay, who spent his limited free time playing golf and splurged on a nanny to help with the kids (Michelle, now 16; Jaymie, 14; Courtney, 13; and Austin, 10). With the nest egg depleted by 1992, he eventually paid for his tuition with student loans augmented by work as a law clerk and graduated later that year.

Now a partner in a Dallas firm, Jay can finally afford some luxuries. A 2000 Cadillac sits in the garage, and there are plans to build a 5,000-sq.-ft. house on enough acreage for Judy to keep a horse. And last May the whole family got tickets for Bon Jovi’s concert in Dallas. Jaymie, who held up a sign that read “16 Robinhood Drive,” says, “I swear [Jon] saw it and smiled at me!”

That’s the closest the Frappiers have gotten to Bon Jovi lately, but they’d still like to thank him for everything that has happened to them since 1989. “Winning that contest changed our lives in a profound way,” Jay says. Adds Judy: “The least we could do is buy him a nice Italian dinner.”

David Cobb Craig

Chris Coats in Flower Mound