The year was 1980, and Valerie Bertinelli had firmly cemented her status as America’s Sweetheart.
The fresh-faced 20-year-old was playing good girl Barbara Cooper on the 1975-1984 CBS sitcom One Day At A Time; she was the kind of girl every American mother would like their chino-clad, plaid-wearing son to marry.
Into her life swept, someone quite, quite different.
Bertinelli, born in Wilmington, Delaware, but having a nomadic childhood thanks to her General Motors executive father, went to a Van Halen concert with her brothers.
They encouraged her to meet the rock god who was the band’s guitarist, Eddie Van Halen – eight months later, in April 1981, they were married.
Valeri Bertinelli posted this photo on Instagram on Tuesday night, after Van Halen died
Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli in July 2001, shortly before they separated for good
On Tuesday Van Halen died, at the age of 65 – Bertinelli by his side, despite having separated two decades ago.
’40 years ago my life changed forever when I met you,’ said Bertinelli, 60, on Tuesday night, paying tribute on Instagram.
‘You gave me the one true light in my life, our son, Wolfgang.
‘Through all your challenging treatments for lung cancer, you kept your gorgeous spirit and that impish grin.
‘I’m so grateful Wolfie and I were able to hold you in your last moments.
‘I will see you in our next life my love.’
Their headline-grabbing relationship was as wild as it was unexpected.
Bertinelli, despite her squeaky-clean image, had tried cocaine for the first time as a teen with her troubled One Day co-star Mackenzie Phillips, born into celebrity as the daughter of John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas.
At the time they were on one of the most popular Saturday night shows of the decade, with Phillips revealing she was earning $50,000 a week (around $240,000 today).
Van Halen and Bertinelli are pictured in October 1981, six months after their wedding
Van Halen in the Netherlands, where he was born, with Bertinelli in August 1984
Bertinelli said that she really got into the drug after getting together with Van Halen, who by that point had just released the band’s second album, Women and Children First, cementing his status as one of the world’s biggest rock stars.
In her 2008 book Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time, Bertinelli confessed that drugs were part of the marriage from the start.
‘The priest we tapped to perform the ceremony gave us questionnaires so he could get to know us better and offer more personal words,’ she wrote.
‘As we filled out the forms at home, we each held a little vial of coke.’
Promoting the book, she told Today: ‘It doesn’t really bode well for the marriage, I don’t think.’
Bertinelli said it was a way for her to fit in, and to control her weight.
For Van Halen, by that point, it had become a way of life.
They traveled the world on tour, but within four years of marriage Bertinelli cheared on him.
Van Halen would also cheat on her.
Both Bertinelli and Van Halen cheated on each other, beginning four years into the marriage
The pair are pictured in Amsterdam, where Van Halen was born
‘Yes, I did, four years into our marriage, cheat,’ she said.
‘And it was a shame and it was a guilt that I carried with me for a very long time. And I don’t like that, so I really wanted to get that out of me.’
Asked how she managed to keep the turmoil secret for so long, Bertinelli said: ‘I didn’t go out a lot. Any partying I did, I did at home. I didn’t want to be in the spotlight.
‘There’s an easy way to get away from the paparazzi; they’re not that difficult to hide from and you don’t need to go out for coffee every five minutes.’
In 1991 Bertinelli gave birth in California to their son, Wolfgang – named after Mozart.
As she grew tired of Van Halen’s partying, he fell further into the abyss.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, prompted her to reassess her true life’s journey, she told Today, and she and Van Halen separated that year.
She writes that it was his cocaine addiction and his refusal to quit smoking that was the final straw – despite being diagnosed with oral cancer and losing one-third of his tongue in the treatment process.
The couple pictured in 1992, a year after Wolfgang was born
By 2004 she was dating financial planner Tom Vitale; they married in 2011, with Van Halen and Wolfgang in attendance.
Van Halen sought cancer treatment in Germany, declaring himself over the disease in 2002.
He went to the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, declaring himself sober in 2008.
The sobriety remained, but the cancer came back.
Wolfgang in 2006 joined his father on the road, becoming Van Halen’s bassist.
Three years later, in 2009, Van Halen married stuntwoman-turned-publicist Janie Liszewski, who was doing PR for the band.
She had been doing PR for the adult entertainment industry: a competitive ballroom dancer, she also worked as a Pro Wrestling Manager for her ballroom dancing partner.
The couple’s wedding was covered by People magazine, which reported that they feasted on mini hamburgers, corn dogs, ring pops, candy necklaces, and custom printed M&M’s, with drinks from a non-alcoholic lemonade bar.
They toasted each other, and Van Halen’s new-found sobriety, to French sparkling apple cider and sparkling pear juice, the magazine said.
Bertinelli was there – as she was on Tuesday, when he died.
Valerie Bertinelli with Wolfgang in 2012, honored with Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Wolfgang and Eddie Van Halen on stage in May 2015 in Las Vegas
, 2020-10-07 02:42:56