HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – Nothing would keep 15-year-old Pete Kurasz from getting Ozzy Osbourne’s autograph Monday afternoon. Not school. Definitely not school.
“What about it?” Kurasz said, smiling. “Ozzy is more important than school.”
Kurasz arrived with two friends at The Flip Side Record Store in the Barrington Square Shopping Center, Hoffman Estates, just after dawn and waited almost nine hours until Osbourne made a rare in-store appearance.
Osbourne, the kingpin of heavy metal screamers, signed everything from T-shirts to posters for the more than 1,000 fans who attended the two-hour session.
The 38-year-old performer promoted his new album, “Tribute,” which inched into Billboard’s Top 10 last week.
“I try to keep a relationship with my fans,” Osbourne said. “This is my way of showing appreciation for another year of success.”
Osbourne spoke with sincerity, but his voice and quizzical face make an almost comical impression. There’s a bit too much “Spinal Tap” in the real Ozzy. He’s not a caricature, but he’s a foggy hard rocker.
Each knuckle on his right hand feature a letter to spell OZZY.
Braving the sweltering temperatures and even an occasional rain shower, Osbourne fans like Randy Remington, 18, displayed their devotion.
“I have to be his biggest fan,” Remington said, sitting first in line. “My room’s covered with pictures and posters of him.”
About eight security guards were on hand to control the crowd, which jammed the cross walk of the shopping center.
“A lot of record stores turned him down because of his popularity,” Lonna Rosenbaum, manager of The Flip Side, said. “But we have security people who are capable of handling a crowd like this.”
Osbourne’s career is well established, but he remains infamous for biting the head off a bat on stage in 1982.
“It’s something people won’t let me forget,” moaned Ozzy. “The whole thing was an unfortunate incident.”
Still, the menacing image didn’t bother Janey Michaelski and Autumn Grissom, both 14, of Hoffman Estates. The pair each gave Osbourne a kiss.
Ozzy’s fans – almost 40 percent of them are female and predominately high school age – said the chance to meet Ozzy would be cherished.
“You’re closer to him here than at a concert,” said Leo Pilati, 18, after Osbourne signed his jacket. “I told him to put, ‘Keep on rocking’ on it. He wrote that, then looked up at me and said, ‘Definitely.’”