Valerie Bertinelli on the Light Side
Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll
LHJ: In your book you talk about using cocaine as an appetite suppressant shortly after your marriage to Van Halen.
VB: Yeah, that's when I got way too skinny. [In the early 1980s, Bertinelli's weight dropped to 98 pounds.] Ironically Ed saved me.... [In her book she says that Van Halen told her, "That's enough. I can feel the bones in your back. I don't care what you think. It's not beautiful."] And he marched me to a hot dog stand where I had this chili dog with cheese. I have always loved food way too much to have an eating disorder.
LHJ: At your heaviest, what would you eat in the course of the day?
VB: I ate unconsciously. I'd grab some Jordan almonds...and before I knew it, I had gone through an entire bag. Or if I made gumbo, I'd have two or three bowls, no matter how full I was after one bowl.
LHJ: Did you have one moment when you realized you were really, really unhappy with your weight?
VB: Last year I did this movie, Claire, for Hallmark. I saw the director's cut. I usually don't like watching myself. But I thought I'd better. I was in denial. When I saw myself right up there on the screen, I went, Oh, God, I can't deny it anymore.
LHJ: Did the breakup of your marriage in 2001 contribute to your weight issues?
VB: No. I can't blame Ed for my psychotic way of thinking about my body. I can only blame myself.
LHJ: What about the media?
VB: Well, I do get mad at designers. When there were several of those models dying from anorexia and I read that Gisele Bundchen said something about its not being the designers' fault but the parents' fault, I was like, well, now, wait a minute, Miss Skinny Girl. Designers do have something to do with this, because they hire women like you. There was this one designer who was proud of herself because she hired models that were a size 4. And when asked why she didn't hire a 6 or an 8 she said, "Because the clothes don't look good. They don't hang right." Well, then, aren't you not doing your job? Aren't you supposed to design clothes that look good on real women?
LHJ: Let's talk about your marriage. Over time, your husband's drinking and addiction -- did it just wear you down? [In the book, Bertinelli says Van Halen abused alcohol and cocaine.]
VB: There was so much denial, so much not talking. Take the cigarettes: The guy has mouth cancer, gets part of his tongue cut out, and he still insists cigarettes have nothing to do with it. [Van Halen has said he believes holding a metal guitar pick in his mouth might have contributed to his cancer.] You should have seen the guy he attributes his "cure" to. [In the book, Bertinelli says Van Halen sought treatment from a practitioner of alternative medicine.] They sat around drinking and smoking in our hotel room. But, well, his cancer hasn't come back yet, so who am I to say?
LHJ: You write about the mid-1990s, when you discovered your husband had been cheating on you. How surprised were you? This was Eddie Van Halen.
VB: It wasn't that I was shocked. But I was so disappointed. [In her book, Bertinelli alleges the other woman took pictures of Van Halen, including one of him naked with his guitar, which was later published in the Globe.] And it was in our bedroom, mybedroom. I threw the mattress away. But anyway, it was more shock at myself about how long I'd managed to stay in denial.
LHJ: Not that you were a total innocent. You reveal an affair you had toward the end of your marriage.
VB: Yes, the weekend I decided to end it. It was like, "Hey, why don't I just make everything wrong?" For the last 10 or 15 years of our marriage, when I was always upset about the drugs or drinking or whatever, his attitude was always, "So, divorce me." And finally I was like, OKAY! I didn't want to. I thought like a lot of women: I wanted my son to have two parents. But of course, I also didn't want him to think that the way Ed and I were with each other was the way people in love treat each other. So in the end, much of the reason I left was Wolfie. He is the catalyst for so many of the good things I did in my life. Ed still doesn't know about the guy I had an affair with.