Valerie Bertinelli on the Light Side
The Spirit of a Fighter
Valerie Bertinelli is trying to make me understand. Not about her long and prolific career (which currently includes a stint as a contributor to the Rachael Ray Show), her 20-plus year marriage to (and recent divorce from) rocker Eddie Van Halen, nor her stunning weight loss -- 40 pounds and counting over nine months -- which has left her, at 47, Hollywood's sexiest girl next door. No. These are all important, and they are chronicled in Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time, her gripping new memoir coming out this month about sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll -- and food. But right now there's more at stake. Seated in her New York City hotel room, her hair still damp from the shower, football fanatic Bertinelli is trying to explain to a sports moron (me) the significance of Ohio State University's team, currently playing -- well, someone -- on the flat-screen TV.
"What's so amazing about Ohio State is that even when they lost 11 guys to the pros, the next year they still managed to become number one," Bertinelli begins. She stares at me, waiting for the import of this news to sink in. "They lost 11 of their best players!" she shouts. Nothing. "And they were still able to build their team! And become number one! And stay number one!"
I smile and nod vigorously. Please, I think, please don't hurt me.
She chortles cheerfully and gives up. It's not surprising that Bertinelli loves this team's fighting spirit -- she's something of a fighter herself. How else to explain 20 years with one of rock's most notorious party boys, who still smokes despite battling mouth cancer not once but twice? Or joining Kirstie Alley as a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig and putting herself and her weight woes on display for the whole world? Bertinelli calls herself "an average Joe in a bizarre job" and she has a point. A single mother (to son Wolfgang, 17) who chubs up when she gets depressed: What could be more regular than that?
Later on she and her live-in boyfriend of three years, financial adviser Tom Vitale, 46, who sits at her side during our interview, will leave the hotel to find a sports bar to watch her beloved New Orleans Saints. (Bertinelli was born in Wilmington, Delaware, but her family moved to Louisiana when she was a teenager.) But first she opens up about her painful past, her new life, and her thoughts on love and loss.