Singer Billy Joel fell into a deep depression following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and turned to alcohol to soothe himself.
“I went into a deep, deep depression after 9/11,” Joel told the New York Times May 26. “9/11 just knocked the wind out of me, and I don’t know even now if I’ve recovered from it. It really, really hurt that man could do that to man … I used booze as medication.”
Billy checked into alcohol rehab in 2002, but clarifies that he wasn’t an out-of-control drinker. Joel says he began to drink heavily because he was depressed — not the other way around. “I was kind of in a mental fog, and it had nothing to do with the booze,” said Joel, 64. “My mind wasn’t right. I wasn’t focused.
“I started with Dewars White Label Scotch and then, when I really got heavy into it, it was vodka. Vodka is a hard-core [alcoholic] drink. I could take it in shots or I could just mix it with something. I can’t even smell the stuff anymore. It makes me sick. But it wasn’t consistent. It would be periods of time, during a divorce or something.”
Billy is now in a better place mentally despite having weathered three divorces, most notably to supermodel Christie Brinkley, who still looks amazing at 59. Joel’s daughter, Alexa Ray, is also well after surviving a failed suicide attempt in December 2009.
Billy says he was never bothered by the unfavorable comments people made during his marriage to the stunning Christie. “I was married to some beautiful women,” he said. “I always get compared to how beautiful they are and how not-beautiful I am, and it’s kind of funny. It’s like ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ I don’t mind being the beast. I want them to be good-looking, and if they don’t mind me looking like me, why should I care?
“A lot of guys are just too intimidated to even ask [beautiful women] out, but I had a great way to meet people. People are just interested in you because you’re a rock star. Some guys use a car. Some guys have a cute dog. I’m a rock star. That’s who I am, what I do. What’s wrong with that?”
Joel also weathered financial setbacks during the 1980s, when his former brother-in-law and manager, Frank Weber, grossly mismanaged his money. But Billy says letting bygones be bygones is how he maintains his peace of mind today.
“I have absolutely no hard feelings,” said Joel. “I let all that go. I can’t carry that stuff around. You’d be p*ssed off your whole life. Bad things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.”