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Author Topic: 2003 InSyle Magazine Feature  (Read 13372 times)
walktall2010
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« on: March 21, 2011, 11:30:18 pm »

Love in Bloomington

You can take the guy out of Indiana ... well, actually, you can't. Musician John Mellencamp has traded nonstop touring (and the requisite rock and roll rowdiness) for laid-back family life in his cherished home state

By Degen Pener
InStyle, Nov. 2003

Going out on the road isn't quite like it used to be for rocker John Mellencamp. Just last night he flew to Kalamazoo, Mich., for a concert to promote his new blues album, Trouble No More. The show started at 7:30 P.M., was over by 9, and, with a short flight back and a time-zone change, Mellencamp was safely home in Bloomington, Ind., at a remarkably early 10:30 P.M. His wife, model Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp, and their two sons, Hud, 9, and Speck, 8, were still awake. "It was great, because you usually don't get home until 2 or 3 in the morning. I got on the plane and 1 was home 38 minutes later," he says. Not only was Mellencamp home at a decent hour, but he was up early the next morning for a bit of good, clean, outdoor fun.

The musician who is standing with his wife outside their copper-roofed, Mediterranean-inspired home points to the long, rather steep driveway that winds downhill from his property's entrance gates toward the home's front door. "The whole family was out there this morning trying to navigate that hill on skateboards," says Mellencamp. Adds Irwin-Mellencamp, "He never leaves the house. I have to drag him out, just for lunch or something, to get him off this property."

Back in the eighties, when Mellencamp was making his name as a platinum-selling rock star with such hits as "Jack and Diane," "Hurts So Good" and "Pink Houses" he might have screamed at the thought of being such a homebody. "I was never home," says Mellencamp, 52, who had two previous marriages. "Women had been trying to domesticate me for a long time." And all those post-concert hotel parties had a way of preventing a good night's sleep. "I don't think I ever slept more than three to five hours a night in the 1980s," says Mellencamp. "For a decade."

That began to change in 1991, when Mellencamp met Irwin. The then 21-year-old model had been hired to appear in one of the singer's videos, but their first meeting was far from love at first sight. On set Mellencamp had been in a foul mood because of a problem with the lighting. "She didn't like me when she first met me," he recalls. Counters Irwin-Mellencamp: "I didn't know much about him, so I didn't really have a preconceived notion of what he should act like. But it just wasn't that."

Screndipitously, though, a shot of the pair ended up on the album cover, which Mellencamp's record company then proceeded to promote on billboards around the country. "I was out on tour and no matter where I went, there was me and this woman, so I was getting used to looking at her," says Mellcncamp. "Finally, I played New York and I didn't even know her name, but I said, 'Call that girl and see if she wants to come see what she's advertising,' "says Mellencamp. He was undoubtedly in a better mood on the day they met again. After Irwin-Mellencamp came to see him in concert, they started talking on the phone, and soon after she went on tour with him. "When the tour was over, we ended up here, and I just stayed," she says. The couple were married in 1992.

The two have a teasingly loving way of relating, with Mellencamp playing the role of the mischievous charmer brought back to earth by the plainspoken presence of his wife. "She asked me to marry her," he says. "He's lying!" replies Irwin-Mellencamp. "What I like about John is he never lets the truth get in the way of a good story."

Even an ostensibly simple tale, like how Irwin-Mellencamp ended up with a tattoo of her husband's initials on her left wrist, can make for an animated dispute. "I called up her mom and said, 'Tell her not to,' "he contends.

"He goaded me into it."

"I did not."

"I have to get witnesses now. He always wins arguments because he talks louder."

Mellencamp's brash personality is reflected in the couple's home, which the singer calls an "ongoing art project." There's a dramatic, vibrant quality to the house, beginning with the joyous and ethereal fresco on the ceiling above the central, three-story spiral staircase. A trio of stupendously tall African drums stand in the entryway near the stairway's lowest landing, while two large iron chandeliers hang in the living room.

Mellencamp's extensive art collection covers the walls; one bold work is by German expressionist Max Beckmann. "I've always created my own lifestyle, as opposed to going to New York or L.A. and trying to fit in with what somebody else has dictated is the way you're supposed to do it," he says. Local painters and artisans contributed everything from murals to door pulls, and all the handcrafted touches add a warm feel to the place. "It's eclectic," says Irwin-Mellencamp. "We have a couple oddball things that weren't what I intended, but I like the fact that someone put so much effort into creating them." The house is simply one part of a 56-acre lakeside estate, a property that feels luxurious yet unpretentious. There may be a grand swimming pool with a stone balustrade overlooking the water's edge, but there's also an Airstream trailer about two hundred yards away where Irwin-Mellencamp and the boys some-times bunk during the summer. Mellencamp tools around the place speedily on his John Deere tractors. Over one hill is the art studio, where he paints and his wife takes photos. Closer to the house is the "sports barn," which houses a workout room and a half basketball court. (Since suffering a heart attack in 1994, Mellencamp lifts weights and runs five to six days a week.) Nearby is a screening room, a guest house and an Adirondackstyle gazebo with a fire pit in the center. "Everything I need is here," he says. Indeed, there's a definite feeling that the world stops at the compound's front gate. "You don't feel any pressure from the outside," says the couple's friend, model Karen Alexander. "The way time passes there is sort of endless and easy. You're on Meilencamp time."

Of course that's not to imply that he has completely cut himself off. For one thing Mellencamp, whose brand of populist music has been dubbed "heartland rock," has lived almost his entire life in his home state of Indiana. "Being here allowed me not to get sidetracked by things that are frivolous or not important, such as what clubs I should go to," he says. And Bloomington is about 50 miles from Seymour, the small town where Mellencamp was born and raised. Thirteen years ago he bought a historic home in Seymour and still rents it to a local arts organization for a dollar a year.

Irwin-Mellencamp was raised in a small town too and loves life in Bloomington. "There's something nice about simplifying your options," she says. "You have more time to enjoy what you are doing." Most important that means more time to spend with their family. The couple's sons, Hud and Speck, are avid athletes, and their parents try never to miss their games. Mellencamp rarely does more than 40 concerts a year, while Irwin-Mellcncamp, who has a contract with Ralph Lauren, does shoots for the company about six times a year. "I like to have a project, but not one that eclipses our family life," she says. Mellencamp's first child, Michelle, 33, a stay-at-home mom, also lives nearby, with her husband and four children. And Justice, 18, one of Mellencamp's two daughters from his second marriage, plans to go to college in Bloomington next year. (His other daughter, Teddy Jo, 2.1, works as an agent's assistant in Los Angeles.)

"I'm ready to start a new phase of my life," says Mellencamp. "I've always struggled. Listen, if Elvis Costello wrote a great song, it was no surprise to anybody. If Bob Dylan wrote a great song, it wasn't a surprise. If I wrote a great song, everybody went 'Wow, can you believe it?' I always felt like that guy Sisyphus, pushing the rock up the hill. But now I feel like I'm ready to bust out and start enjoying life."

His former rocker lifestyle isn't a part of that equation. It's almost 5 P.M. dinner hour at the Mellencamp household and the family heads into the kitchen, their hangout, Irwin-Mellcncamp begins making a salad. Hud and Speck disappear for a moment, only to return snuggling two kittens. "They snuck them in yesterday. I was gone a day and they were purchased without my knowledge," says Mellencamp, who doesn't like cats. Hud and Speck know it too, because they start getting in their dad's face with the little felines. "Quit tormenting me with those things," Mellencamp yowls. He's serious, but also seems tickled pink by the two boys' antics. "When you become married, it's a collective entity," Mellencamp says. "It's not just John Mellencamp anymore. It's not Elaine Irwin anymore. I can't just do what I want to do," says Mellencamp. A minute later he banishes the cats from the kitchen, but it's hard to imagine that rule staying for long. Mellencamp is already proving it's possible to be a rock star and a family man. Who knows? Perhaps in time he'll even add cat-lover to that list.
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