06.02.93 THE PLAIN DEALER


The following article by Chris Mundy appeared in a June 1993 issue of The Plain Dealer newspaper...

Sting happy just to kick back...

Sting has made films, records and headlines, been an actor on Broadway and an environmental activist. He is, quite simply, the richest, most famous man in history to have amassed his fortune from singing like a girl. Anyone in disagreement need only try to belt out 'Roxanne' in the shower.

What is lost in the shuffle, however, is any sense of the person behind the personas. Truth be told, Sting makes everyone around him instantly comfortable, not so much because he is exceptionally accommodating but because he is at all times comfortable. Nowadays, however, Sting claims that his propensity toward long-windedness is waning. Living the quiet life has quieted one of the world's most outspoken wordsmiths. At least a little. "I think I'm probably less confident than I was," says Sting. "I remember being very aggressive and very focused and directed in interviews. Now I ramble much more because I'm not so sure about things. I think it's really part of being 41. I'm not so sure anymore. I'm not so ready to jump on the train."

These days, Sting seems perfectly happy to kick back and enjoy his dual roles as musician-icon and father/gentleman farmer. He recorded his new album, 'Ten Summoner's Tales', on his farm, in Wiltshire, England, where he lives with his wife, Trudie Styler, and their three children, Mickey, Jake and Coco.

It is difficult to believe Sting when he looks you in the eye and says, "I find a great deal of solace there watching cows eat grass - it's very calming." But it is instantly believable when he follows that up, saying: "My family is so important. I've reached the point where I want to stay healthy, mentally and physically. I want to reduce the amount of stress in my life. I've seen it kill my parents. I've seen it kill friends. I don't want it."

Gone are the days when, in order to write a song called 'King of Pain', he used to live the part. "I used to believe that you had to be destructive to be creative," says Sting. "I don't want to do that anymore. I want to lead a quiet, well-adjusted life and still be creative. That's my plan."

Part of the plan was mapped out by his youngest three children. While his oldest kids - Joe, 16, and Kate, 11 - live in London with Sting's first wife, Frances Tomelty, the trio of junior Sumners lives the old-fashioned farm life with Sting and Styler. And while having a cook, housecleaner and six or seven gardener-farmers can't be considered that old fashioned, the tykes did their best recently - pestering pop until he made an honest woman out of mom.

"Trudy and I lived together happily for 10 years," says Sting. "The idea of having to get married was really quite alien. The kids would come from school and say: 'Are you two married? We'd feel better if you were married because then you'd stay together.' It was gradually wearing us down. So we started to plan a wedding.'

Fearing a media blitz might turn the event into a dog and pony show, the couple decided to have the wedding at home, hiring one photographer to document the much-publicized fete. But in the end, despite having a limited guest list, the couple did have the pony show. Sting (who was busy recording his album both the day before and after the nuptials) wore tails and led his bride to the altar on horseback - an act he insists was not intended to inspire ironic smiles.

"I thought it was a romantic idea," says Sting. "Was it any more grand than a big car?"

Well, yes. But in the end, the event did seem to bring a great sense of closure to one of the darker chapters of Sting's life. His breakup with Frances corresponded not only with the height of the Police's success but the beginning of his relationship with Styler and, finally, the demise of his band.

"It was a very tough time in general," says Sting. "On one hand, it was the most successful period of my career, and at the same time my personal life had just disintegrated around it. Trudy was the culprit in many ways and also my savior. I made a very tough decision in my life, and I was deciding how I was going to spend the rest of it. And I knew I had to deal with not only my own pain but other people's pain.

And the media didn't help. They certainly never say, 'This is a very tough time in his life, let's just leave him alone.'

Sting does, however, take offense to this one particular batch of Sting-bashers.

"People think I'm doing this to be more famous or because I feel guilty for being rich and famous," he says. "I don't feel guilty about being rich. I don't really feel that guilty about what's wrong with the world.

I didn't create the world. But understanding all those negative perceptions, I still do it. And I still will. If on the first day of criticism about this rain-forest thing, I just threw my hands up, I would have gotten a lot less of that. And I'm not looking for praise. I'm doing it because I think it's the right thing."

Sting is happy to answer, or at least politely evade, any question at all. He is equally ready to answer nothing at all - instead focusing all attention on the people around him. He claims that he has three close friends whom he has known forever, but he won't reveal their names. These are the folks, he says, who know him inside and out - equal parts Gordon Sumner and Sting. Of course, they call him Sting.

Sting seems to truly enjoy the ebb and flow of his life, not simply seeming happy but exuding satisfaction at every moment.

"I wanted to be an adult for a long time," he says, explaining his current contentment. "Always. I never felt very comfortable as a teen-ager. The older I got, the better I felt and the more comfortable with myself I became. Without music, I wouldn't have had a basis in anything. At a very early age it became my mode of expression, and without a mode of expression, you aren't intelligent because you just can't communicate. Music allowed me to develop what intelligence I have. Without it, I don't think I would have. I found the young years very difficult. I was socially inept. So I don't hark back.

"It doesn't really suit my purpose for the world to know what I'm really like," says Sting, when interviewed about the art of being interviewed. "Whatever they've got is fine by me, so I'm not going to go on Oprah Winfrey."

In that case, let's see what we have.

So far, we have an obviously sensitive man who nonetheless does not cry easily. "I cry at very strange moments," he says. "Music can make me cry. I can cry at sporting events. Football makes me cry." He is a man who has narrowed his epitaph to two choices: AFTER TODAY, CONSIDER ME GONE and WOKE UP IN MY CLOTHES AGAIN.

He and his wife - who still cuddle on buses and benches like school kids and seem to walk everywhere attached like Siamese twins - rarely fight. When they do, Sting says, they usually fight about their respective perceptions of celebrity: "She doesn't necessarily see it the way I do. Occasionally, being a celebrity will get in the way of being a human being and, sometimes, for my own survival, I have to be a celebrity, put up a front. And she doesn't like that."

Sting is a man who is acutely aware of his public perception. "I'm not a terribly serious person," he will say, quite correctly. "I think that's a distortion of the media. If you talk to the people who know me, I don't think I'm that serious." Nonetheless, he prefaces a sentence with the words "You know, what Carl Jung predicted for the world, which is very bleak, is actually coming true in many ways."

Sting is a man who will not admit to a guilty pleasure yet will admit that the statute of limitations on taking his shirt off in photographs is fast approaching.

"I think there's a certain point where it becomes unseemly," he says. "Even if you have a good body, I don't know if you need to keep showing it off so readily. I think we're getting about to that point."

He is, all told, a regular, slightly contradictory, guy. He writes catchy songs; he loves his kids; he fails to keep his mouth shut now and again; he gets on, like one of the boys on the bus, with his band.

© The Plain Dealer
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