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Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a bat 37 years ago, and, for some reason, now a toy commemorates it

Ozzy Osbourne performs as part of the Ozzy Scream Tour 2011 in Buenos Aires. (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

Ozzy Osbourne and the bat.

It remains one of rock-and-roll’s most, well, rock-and-roll stories. Nothing better explains Ozzy’s legacy, and no incident better highlights why parents were terrified of heavy metal.

If you’re not familiar, here’s the short version: The rocker bit the head off a real bat that may or may not have been alive while onstage at a concert in Des Moines, on Jan. 20, 1982.

To celebrate the 37th anniversary of the event — yes, we agree that’s an odd number, but this is an odd story — Ozzy released a surprisingly adorable, foot-tall plush bat. The toy bat’s head, naturally, is removable. (Ozzy announced the release on Instagram with a quote that cannot be used in a family newspaper.)

And those of you not familiar with the story, especially the younger crowd, might now be asking: “Why on earth did Ozzy Osbourne, the guy from that MTV reality show who hangs out with puppies, bite the head off a freaking bat?!”

It’s a fair question.

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Long before he became reality-show fodder, Ozzy terrified masses of parents already in the grips of the so-called “Satanic Panic” as the frontman of Black Sabbath. The band’s music was loud; its album covers were decorated with monsters and death and angels with vices; and Ozzy was nicknamed the Prince of Darkness.

In 1979, the band fired Ozzy due to his erratic behavior, which was generally fueled by alcohol and drugs, as he discusses in his autobiography.

So he decided to go it alone.

Three years later, Ozzy was on tour for his second solo album, “Diary of a Madman,” during which he continued to employ his devil persona. The playbill for the infamous Des Moines show at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium depicts Ozzy with horns and a cape. Above his head are the words: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back to a concert.”

The poster also warns fans that “eating before concert is not recommended.”

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Seventeen-year-old fan Mark Neal felt safe going to the concert, and he brought a gift for the rocker: a bat. Why, you ask? Well, stories about Ozzy reportedly biting the head off two live doves during a meeting gone wrong with record executives had made its rounds among fans. So Neal threw the bat onto the stage during the show.

“It landed in front of Rudy Sarzo, the bass player,” Neal told the Des Moines Register in 2018. “He looked down at it and motioned to Ozzy and, as they say, the rest is history.”

Ozzy’s concerts, much like Alice Cooper’s, were enormous stage productions. It wasn’t uncommon for people to throw things like raw meat around. (Ozzy himself had a catapult onstage sometimes.) But usually the animals (snakes and cockroaches) tossed about were made of rubber — mere replicas.

The bat was not made of rubber.

But Ozzy picked it up anyway.

He put it in his mouth and chomped down.

“Immediately, though, something felt wrong. Very wrong. For a start, my mouth was instantly full of this warm, gloopy liquid, with the worst aftertaste you could ever imagine,” he wrote in his memoir, “I Am Ozzy.” “I could feel it staining my teeth and running down my chin. Then the head in my mouth twitched . . ."

"I didn’t just go and eat a . . . bat, did I?”

That’s exactly what he did. Neal said the bat had been dead for some time and had begun decaying, but Ozzy has always insisted that it was alive. Either way, the rocker was rushed to get rabies shots after the show.

“For a week, that was probably 50 percent of my job — fielding calls from England and Canada and all over the United States,” Pam Culver, the local nurse supervisor working the night of the concert, told the newspaper. “People wanted to know how much did it cost to do that, and did it hurt, and how many shots did he have to have, what part of his body did we have to attack.”

For all the twisted stories decorating the halls of rock-and-roll history, this is probably the last one we expected to inspire a plush toy. There seems to be an audience for it though — they’re going for $40 a pop, and the first batch is already sold out.