When the Prince of Darkness comes to town, you should probably expect a little chaos.
In the case of Ozzy Osbourne’s last visit to Fargo in 2007, your standard “metal god comes to town” legend--written largely by Ozzy himself through antics like whizzing on the Alamo--went off the rails on a crazy train.
It started the morning of Oct. 28, 2007. I was working early shifts at the Hotel Donaldson front desk at the time and was already on edge about our VIP up in the Big Dog Suite. I’m an Ozzy fan, but celebs can be a handful. I’d hate to have to burn my Black Sabbath shirts because I found out Ozzy was a jerk to our staff (you can tell a lot about people by how they treat “the help”).
A celeb’s ego turned out to be the least of my problems. At about 6:30 that morning, just as I’m getting breakfast set up, a Fargo police officer hurriedly comes up the stairs.
There’s a suspicious package in the alley, he says.
You’ll have to move people out of these rooms here, he says.
So, ok. Ozzy Osbourne is sleeping, visions of Sharon dancing in his head, and there’s a bomb in the alleyway, maybe.
Ok, so I start knocking on doors and one is answered by this very tall, very rock star looking guy with a gnarly beard and a “you just woke me up” scowl on his face. It’s not Ozzy, but it’s someone in his road crew, apparently not pleased.
I explain the situation with all the calm of a man who got rabies from biting the head off a bat.
“Oh dear,” he says in a delicate British accent. “Well, I suppose I could do with a cup of tea. Can I just knock on my mate’s room, then? Maybe catch a few winks on his couch?”
I breathed a sigh of relief. I may someday get shredded alive after waking a giant heavy metal sasquatch under threat of exploding to bits, but today would not be that day.
Meanwhile, Fargo’s finest were doing their due diligence with the device outside. They closed off the 100 block of Broadway and called in the Red River Valley Regional Bomb Squad. They used water blasts to see if was a threat and shut down traffic downtown for a good three hours.
It wasn’t a threat. It was an installation by an artist named Don Renner made from computer parts and a mannequin head.
"A lot of people saw that sculpture in the studio and no one said, 'Hey, it looks like a bomb,' " Renner told reporter John Lamb back in 2007. "It looked funny, I thought.” Renner apologized to law enforcement and to Nancy Nerland, the owner of Moxie Java, who called in the suspicious package.
So the bomb thing defuses, which is just lovely. Ozzy, I find out later, chatted up a coworker and was a really nice guy. I didn’t meet him myself, but I did learn firsthand that he loves black licorice, which is the most metal of candies.
But the story doesn’t end there.
While Ozzy and I and that polite British monster were going about our business, the Cass County Sheriff’s Department was looking to crowdsurf in and nab some bad guys.
The Sheriff’s Department had sent “invitations” to 500 people with outstanding warrants to a bogus Ozzy pre-party at the former Playmaker’s Pavilion. Thirty-six people were arrested … but when Ozzy found out about the sting, he couldn’t stop barking at the moon, calling out Sheriff Paul Laney by name.
"...Sheriff Laney should be apologizing to me for using my name in connection with these arrests," Osbourne said in a statement. "It (the sting) is insulting to me and to my audience and it shows how lazy this particular sheriff is when it comes to doing his job.”
"Sheriff Laney went out of his way to tarnish my reputation by implying that I somehow attract a criminal element, which is certainly not true," Osbourne said.
"We meant no disrespect toward Mr. Osbourne or his show," Laney told The Forum for a Nov. 3, 2007, article. "What we did was a very creative law enforcement technique to lure individuals who had active criminal warrants to come to us."
For his part, Ozzy said he would love to come back to Fargo some day. I hope he does … as long as nothing blows up in anyone’s face.