Urban myth: Ozzy Osbourne pissed on the Alamo
Published: April 18, 2012
Not quite. On January 19, 1982, a month after he stole headlines by biting the head off a bat during a concert, British heavy metal rock star Ozzy Osbourne gained even more notoriety when he was arrested in San Antonio for urinating on the memorial cenotaph in Alamo Plaza. The former leader of Black Sabbath desecrated the site while wearing his girlfriend's dress. The outrage of city notables was intense, and led to the city council banning Osbourne from making public appearances in the city. The ban remained in effect for a decade, until Osbourne was publicly pardoned after paying $10,000 to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
In 2001, artists Jim Mendiola and Rubén Ortiz-Torres memorialized the incident during their residency at Artpace by commissioning a wax sculpture of Osbourne, replete with a sensing mechanism that triggered a stream of water when approached by a viewer. Historic and religious monuments inevitably attract vandalism and provocation. For the artists, Osbourne's lewd act summed up the 19th century fights for territory as a pissing contest, but rather than taking sides in the old conflict, Fountain/Ozzy Visits the Alamo comments on other profanities: the historical site has been transformed into a theme park, with souvenir T-shirt shops and tourist traps like the wax museum at Ripley's Believe-It-or-Not.
In the early 1800s, Mexico's Spanish government licensed empresarios to bring in settlers to the sparsely populated lands of Tejas. Today, San Antonio lures tourists with picturesque old buildings and stories of patriotic valor. Both efforts have attracted crowds, but the wear and tear on the scenery has been brutal.
> Email Scott Andrews