Talking (and Killing) Turkey with Ted Nugent
'The left hates me so much because I'm so right all the time," opines Theodore Anthony Nugent, not incorrectly. However, he hastens to clarify, right "as in correct; I live the truth, in logic and common sense."
The fast-talking classic rocker — who turns 65 on December 13 — is also right as in wing, but sometimes, yes, occasionally, he does spew sense. Calm down. Open mind. Keep reading: Sure, for liberals on the coasts, it's difficult to see beyond the hyperbole and gun smoke — though, of course, he prefers bow-hunting.
As befits the season of thanks, the Nuge invokes a moment of silence for his saintly spouse for "putting up" with him: "See, every day at the Nugent house is Thanksgiving." Indeed, it's not hard to imagine that the holiday at the Nugents' is more akin to the Waltons than the Osbournes.
So what's it like to sup at the meat-laden table of rock's own Sergeant Slaughter? Surely in a family of nine children (two were given up for adoption by a then-youthful Nugent, and he recently reunited with namesake son Ted Fleetwood Mann, a restaurateur raised in Bay Ridge), there must be a veggie in the bunch?
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"No," Nugent asserts. "All my kids have good, intelligent, and responsible rounded diets, as the omnivores that we are. They're all trim and fit, and muscular and athletic, and light on their feet. Number one, we eat organic. There's nothing more raw and organic and nutritious than wild game meat; that's not an opinion, it just is. [Wife] Shemane and I eat wild game exclusively here at the Nugent ranch, and we eat in intelligent portions. There's an alert for you, America," he says, his voice rising. "You might want to start eating in intelligent portions, you beached sperm whales, you!"
Yes, it's statements like that — funny, outrageous, self-congratulatory, and sometimes valid — that raise the ire of Nuge detractors. But he couldn't care less. "I don't give any forethought into how I conduct myself or what I say," he explains. "I have a very honest stream-of-consciousness, raw, instinctual life and expression and freedom of expression; my first amendment rights are the most important, God-confirmed, God-given individual rights that we the people in America have. Let me put it this way: I'm a Black Jew at a Nazi Klan rally. Some of those idiots with the sheets on their head aren't going to appreciate me."
And many others as well — even those who appreciated "Stranglehold" and "Cat Scratch Fever" as the soundtrack to their youth — aren't fond of the musician whose primal, good-time American cock rock has been overshadowed by right-leaning sociopolitical rants across numerous media platforms.
It's easy to look to Nugent's upbringing for the man he is today. "I was born [in 1948] following the greatest victory of good over evil in the history of the world: World War II, that unprecedented Herculean positiveness of good over evil," he says. "I think that military discipline was distributed by a lot of parents and parenting in that era, and" — here it is — "my dad was a drill sergeant in the U.S. Army cavalry. Once we were born — my brother Jeff and brother John and sister Kathy — he never stopped being the damned drill sergeant."
The term "chip off the old block" comes to mind. So if Nuge is the Baron von Trapp of rock dads, is it ever Motor City Madhouse at the family abode? Nein. "In the Nugent family, you have to be the best you can be, or you don't get dinner," he hoots. Sent to bed sans venison? "You don't even go to bed: Go out in the yard and do something. You must be productive or you're ostracized, you have to go to the Osbourne family."
Indeed, many in the Osbourne clan have publicly battled substance abuse, and while Nugent is vehement about his drink and drug opinions, he's not a teetotaler. "Let me make it perfectly clear," he says. "At our sacred Thanksgiving Nugent dinner table I will have a wonderful glass of South African red wine to go to my venison shank, or my wild turkey [see recipe, sidebar]. My brothers like a good cold beer, my sons like a good cold beer."
While the rock world is rife with abusers of all stripes, Nugent preaches "intellectual control and moderation, so if your family needs you, you are capable of responding to that need. If one is drunk or stoned, one becomes a liability immediately."
Still, he acknowledges that biology can play a role, and gives kudos where due. "I think coming back from abuse is much more difficult than standing against it throughout one's life. I salute everybody who establishes and pursues and accomplishes an upgrade in quality of life. I've been very lucky," he continues. "My mom and dad were drinkers and smokers. Not to an abusive level, but I believe that any time you allow Mr. Hand to pick up Mr. Poison and put it in Mr. Mouth, there is a suicidal tendency going on. "
Into his mouth, however, goes, along with Mr. Foot, Mr. Meat. And into the maws of the military as well. "Every year we kill so many deer with our bows and arrows, and antelope, and bear, and moose; just a wonderful hunting season every year," Nugent says. "We process and donate over a ton of venison jerky that goes directly to the United States military heroes in Afghanistan. If someone can come up with a better use of renewable protein than that, call 1-800 EAT ME."
Understood. Kill. Eat. Repeat. So, what if a Nugent guest wants Tofurky this holiday season? "Those that prefer a vegetarian diet, have a nice day. I'll make you a damn salad, no problem. In fact, salads are what my food eats," he chortles.
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