Living apart together - Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers 

Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)

Chapter 74. Living apart together

I met my third wife, Valery, when I was in London recording The Eternal Idol. I went out to a club called Tramp one night and I met Val down there. She was a model and a dancer. She danced in one of these variety-type shows, where they would have a dancing team with ten women and a bloke, like a musical. And as a model she did advertisements for face cream and hand cream.

We swapped numbers. She called me up and we started seeing each other. I didn’t really want to get involved, because at the time I was too interested in doing more drugs, but eventually we did get a relationship going. We were together for six years and then we got married.

Our wedding was an extremely quick affair. I tried to do it all quietly, but Phil Banfield knew about it and he wanted to be best man. We just got married at this register office with Phil as my witness. We went back home and all my friends were there.

Blimey, what happened here? It’s supposed to be a secret!

Phil had organised it and, bloody hell, that surprise party, it was really good!

We were together for about twelve years. Val helped me out a lot with getting off the drugs, because she hated all that. I really owe a lot to her for doing that. Alcohol was never a major problem, but I was doing a lot of coke and speed. I was going through a part of my life that I didn’t even realise I was in, it was getting worse and worse and I didn’t see it. I got more aggravated and into more arguments and I became somebody else, I suppose.

When we were married Valery wasn’t going to put up with it any more. We’d have a bust-up every time I did a line. She could tell straight away if I’d done something. I used to sneak into my studio and do a line and then it was: ‘You’ve been doing coke!’

So eventually I thought, it’s not worth it, arguing every time I do some drugs. It was either stop, or that’s it. And that’s what I did. Well, I stopped doing it regularly, let’s put it that way. I stopped doing it every day.

Val had a six-bedroom house in north London and I had my house up in the Midlands. She liked to stay in London where her friends were, and I never wanted to move to London, so we’d be in her house for a while and then come back to mine. Or she’d be in London and I’d be home. When I was on tour she wouldn’t stay in the Midlands at all, so that meant I had to have somebody to look after the house there. It was a bit of a funny relationship really.

Valery had a son, Jay, a really nice kid. It was a bit strange for me, moving from not having my own daughter there and getting married and having somebody else’s kid instead. I couldn’t bring my daughter at first, so it was all very complicated.

I desperately wanted to bring Toni home. Melinda married again and had two kids with her new husband. Apparently this guy owned some nightclubs in Los Angeles and was deep in the Mafia, but he got caught for something and he was jailed for seven years. Melinda spent a lot of his money while he was in jail and then dumped him. This bloke got out of prison early, at which time the courts allowed him and his sister to have the kids, all three of them. So I went over to Modesto where they lived, to see Toni at their house, because they would have to be there when I visited. It was an awkward situation because he had the other two kids and Toni was looking after them. She was about twelve or thirteen by that time.

After a while, visiting rights were relaxed. Toni was allowed to stay with me in LA and I took her with me for a week on tour. In the hotels we’d have adjoining rooms, but she’d have to have the door open and the light on, as she was terrified because of all the things that were going on in her life.

After going through this whole procedure in the courts, I eventually got her out. My big problem was that they thought, oh, he’s in a band. Ah, Black Sabbath! I didn’t have a leg to stand on. They’d ask: ‘When you’re on tour, who is going to look after her?’

‘Well, I’ll have a nanny.’

It came down to a choice between an ex-con who wasn’t the real father and me. The lawyer I hired in Los Angeles said: ‘Look, you are the father and we are going to get her back for you.’

Eventually we did get her back and in 1996 I could take her home to England. Finally!

Toni was a nervous wreck when she got here. She was thirteen, she’d been thrown around from pillar to post and she didn’t know what the hell was going on. It took her a long time to settle down and become normal again. For a long time she had bad dreams. She had her own little room with the door open and the light on, and then she’d start screaming in the night and I’d rush in. At first I wondered, how can I help, what am I supposed to do? You give her love, but it was also a matter of me being accepted, because she had missed a great part of her life with me. She didn’t get on with her stepfather, so it was very difficult.

In the meantime my marriage with Valery was in trouble. She wanted this London life and she wanted to travel the world, whereas I didn’t. I’d been all over the world umpteen times on tour already. We both wanted different things, so were at loggerheads a lot. But the crunch came when Toni came to England. Val didn’t particularly want another child. She already had a son whom we both looked after, so she said: ‘She should go to college. Put her in school and let her stay at school.’

I said: ‘You can’t do that. She’s been thrown around everywhere; she’s got to live with us.’

Valery then wanted us to live in London and we went to see a high school down there, but Toni wasn’t happy. She was too young. It was difficult for her to come over from California and suddenly live in London. She didn’t really know Val and then to go to this school where she knew nobody was very hard. So Toni didn’t want to live there and Val said: ‘If she doesn’t want to, that’s it, I’ve done my bit.’

I got really pissed off about her saying that, because Toni deserved a good life. In the end I had to hire a nanny to look after her. I thought, Christ, I’m married, she’s living in London and I’m hiring somebody to look after Toni in the Midlands. I had no other option, because I was on tour. Somebody had to do what I was doing and earn the money. It was a real shambles. One of the reasons why me and Val broke up was that she just wouldn’t accept Toni and I couldn’t deal with all that. We gradually pulled away from each other and then the marriage came to an end. We just didn’t communicate well. Instead of talking things over we were always arguing, and I hated that. I said to her: ‘If we ever get into an argument, let’s just say “stop”. And then we’ll stop.’

We started arguing one day and I said: ‘Stop!’

She went: ‘What do you mean, fucking “stop”!’

And she carried on again. So ‘stop’ never worked.

I just made my mind up: I’m not going to go any further with it. So I said: ‘That’s it, Val.’

And she went: ‘You can’t divorce me!’

I said: ‘It’s not working. I don’t want this life any more. Do your own thing.’

I wanted to break away for her sake as well, so she could do the things she wanted to do and lead the life she wanted to live. She doesn’t see it that way. She thinks I left her for Maria, but that wasn’t the case. Val and me finished long before I met her, but she thinks I had been going with Maria for a while before we broke up.

She’s done all right out of the divorce. Valery saw this house in Spain and I bought her that, and I bought her another house in London as well. She was happy enough, I think. Well, as far as it goes. Breaking up is always hard. But for me, the pain wouldn’t last long.

Soon I’d get together with old friends and meet the love of my life.