When news broke that Meat Loaf had died at the age of 74, the stories started flooding social media. The singer and performer’s offstage life was just as bombastic and massive as the songs that made him so beloved. Away from the microphone, Meat, as he preferred to be called, experienced all sorts of wild times, from surviving a murder attempt by his own father to meeting Charles Manson to nearly beating up Prince Andrew. The Texas native lived his life as if he was an actor playing various characters: the benevolent softball coach, the oddball collector of rubber ducks, and the steadfast believer in ghosts. Ahead, we’ve collected some of the most interesting and unforgettable stories from Meat Loaf’s life — with the caveat that he admittedly loved to embellish the truth, or just outright lie, when telling tales — that encompass his larger-than-life existence.
He Lost a Bet Over the Meaning of “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”
One of Meat’s biggest hits is also his most confusing, thanks to the convoluted lyrics by his longtime collaborator Jim Steinman. While he seemingly says over and over that he “won’t do that” without specifying the act he refuses to perform for love, it’s actually right there in the song: “I’ll never lie to you,” “I’ll never forget the way you feel right now,” “I’ll never stop dreaming of you every night of my life,” etc. “By the time you get to the end of all those ‘I’d do anything for love,’ you don’t remember what the line is that you won’t do,” he told us in 2016. “We had a bet of a hundred dollars and he said, ‘Nobody’s going to know what ‘that’ is,” and I’m going, ‘What, are you crazy? People aren’t that stupid.’ I lost a hundred dollars.”
He was a Devoted Softball Coach
A big baseball fan, particularly of the Yankees, Meat took his softball coaching duties very seriously. In an essay for Deadspin, writer Jen Carlson looked back on her time as one of Meat’s players on a 1991 Connecticut JV squad that included his daughter, Pearl Aday. He didn’t like mixing his sports business with his music business, avoiding autograph seekers and refusing to sing the girls any of his songs, save for one time: “He broke character only once, after our first win (suck it, Abbott Tech). When we loaded on to the bus, he started belting out, ‘I Will Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).’ We had never heard the song, and the public wouldn’t hear it for nearly two more years.”
He Made Up Several Stories About How He Got His Stage Name
Meat’s casual relationship with the truth extended to the origins of his showbiz moniker. He loved toying with both fans and interviewers alike about his name, but here’s what we do know: He was born Marvin Lee Aday and later changed it to Michael Lee Aday, but it’s unclear where and when he acquired or invented the culinary nickname. One version has it that his father called him “Meat” when he was born because, according to People, he “looked like nine and a half pounds of ground chuck.” Another version is that his classmates called him that because of his size and his M.L. initials, and one more sees his middle-school football coach calling him “Meat Loaf” after he stepped on his foot. And finally, there’s the version where after he let someone drive over his head with a Volkswagen, someone yelled, ‘You’re as dumb as a hunk of meat loaf.” Believe what you will.
He Almost Fought Prince Andrew
Long before Prince Andrew became known as an accused-rapist pal of Jeffrey Epstein, he was almost on the receiving end of a Meat Loaf beating. In the late ’80s, the singer was one of several celebrity guests on It’s a Royal Knockout, a charity game show involving the royal family. As Meat later recalled to The Guardian, he nearly had it out with Andrew after the latter’s wife, Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, took a liking to the singer.
“Fergie wasn’t exactly flirting with me, but she was paying attention to me, and I think Andrew got a little — I could be wrong, I’m just reading into this — I think he got a little jealous … Anyway, he tried to push me in the water. He tried to push me in the moat. So I turned around and I grabbed him and he goes, ‘You can’t touch me. I’m royal.’ I said, ‘Well you try to push me in the moat, Jack, I don’t give a shit who you are, you’re goin’ in the moat.’”
He Gave a Hitchhiking Charles Manson a Ride
Sometime in the late ’60s, Meat was driving down Sunset Boulevard when he picked up Charles Manson, who promised to introduce him to Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. “There was no Beach Boy there, although it actually was Dennis Wilson’s house,” Meat later wrote about the drive, during which Manson talked about the coming end of the world. The singer didn’t know who his passenger was until he saw Manson’s face on television following the Tate-LaBianca murders.
His Father Tried to Kill Him
Meat’s father, Orvis Aday, was a former cop and a chronic alcoholic who often disappeared on days-long binges. After his mother, Wilma, passed away due to cancer in 1966, Orvis tried stabbing Meat in a drunken rage, an incident that would cause the teenager to leave home for good. “I rolled off the bed just as he put that knife right in the mattress,” Meat told Rolling Stone. “I fought for my life. Apparently, I broke three ribs and his nose, and left the house barefoot in a pair of gym shorts and a T-shirt.”
He Was Present for the JFK Assassination
There are a few versions of Meat’s story about his proximity to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The story starts out with Meat being at the airport when JFK arrived in Dallas, while another version has the Secret Service commandeering his car after the shooting, while another has him arriving at the hospital where Kennedy was taken and seeing the First Lady Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy in her blood-soaked dress. Later, he said that his father knew more about the shooting than the official version, thanks to his background in law enforcement: “It definitely wasn’t Lee Harvey Oswald — and that’s not my theory, I just know things. But I can’t say anymore. I’ve been threatened, so I’ve got to keep very quiet. I didn’t see the assassination, but I was at the hospital when he [JFK] got there.”
He Allegedly Survived Multiple Freak Injuries and Accidents
It’s tough to know exactly which of these are true, but Meat claims he’s fallen three stories out of a building, been in an emergency plane landing, and had 18 concussions. He claims one of the concussions happened when he was hit in the head with a shot put from 60 feet away. Oh, and then there’s this tale he told Conan O’Brien about getting his head stuck in a steering wheel after getting into a car crash involving a buxom woman.
He Proposed to His First Wife With a Salmon
A year after the 1977 release of Bat Out of Hell, Meat was recording at Bearsville Studios in upstate New York, where he quickly fell in love with the studio’s secretary, Leslie Edmonds. As producer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Todd Rundgren later recalled, “We were in the Bear Cafe and he had a package that he had brought up from New York and presented it to her, and it was a giant whole salmon. And it was as if a bear had proposed to his mate. Instead of a ring, a salmon.” Rundgren also noted that they were married a month later by a priest who was so old that he couldn’t tell the couple apart during the ceremony, which took place in the producer’s house. Meat and Leslie were married until 2001.
He Collected Rubber Ducks
While some rock stars amass fancy cars or occult memorabilia, Meat went a more wholesome route and collected rubber ducks. “My most treasured possession is my collection of rubber ducks,” he told Mojo magazine in 2016. “I have around 100 of them. Fans bring them to shows for me … They sit on the top of my road case in the dressing room every show.”
His Music Helps Plants Grow
According to a 2000 experiment by researchers at the University of Sussex, Meat’s Bat Out of Hell was responsible for increased growth in plants and vegetables. The tunes beat out Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in the study, in terms of germination rate and other growth measurements, but the scientists posited that it wasn’t Meat’s powerhouse vocals or Steinman’s madhouse lyrics that did the trick. Most likely, it was the energy coming out of the speakers that created more heat, which in turn led to better growing conditions.
He’s Seen Ghosts
Unless he was bullshitting this interview for ShortList, Meat was a firm believer in the afterlife. Back in 2012, he talked about several ghostly but not too spooky encounters he had with the spirit world, saying, “I believe there’s something when you die because there are ghosts. I’ve seen them, I’ve been around them. Some are just energy left behind, and some are intelligent. I’ve had conversations with them using a K2 meter, which lets them answer ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ I chased one across the room once. And when we were making Bat Out of Hell I saw a blonde girl in a white dress. I went downstairs and told the guys, ‘There’s a groupie up on the balcony,’ and they go, ‘How would she get up there?’ Everybody went up and no one was there.”