It’s hard to separate fact or fiction with the life of Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis. He grew up under the guidance of rock legends like The Who’s Keith Moon, his babysitter was Cher, and he notoriously lost his virginity aged 12 to his father’s girlfriend. Abnormality is all he knows.
When Kiedis was a teenager, he roamed the streets of Los Angeles and constantly found himself getting into trouble – like most people that age do. However, Kiedis’ rebellious streak was incomparable to you or me. He thought he was invincible, and nothing would hurt him. Kiedis ventured down a destructive path and now lives with the battle scars to prove it.
The singer was somewhat of a loner growing up and never really fit in with people he went to school with, but that all changed when he met Mike Balzary, AKA, Flea. The two future Red Hot Chili Peppers bandmates soon became inseparable and sought to wreak havoc together.
The duo’s endless summers in California were a constant train of carnage, and they treated every day as if it could be their last. However, the pair’s feral antics almost killed Kiedis when he was just 15 in 1977 and, as a result, he suffered a broken back. It’s a miracle that Kiedis even survived this deranged stunt; breaking his back was the best-case scenario imaginable.
“Mike was my constant companion,” Kiedis wrote in his memoir Scar Tissue. “On those long walks, we’d pass all of these one-, two-, three-, and sometimes four- and five-story apartment buildings that were built around a central pool. One day an amazing idea was triggered. I looked at the building and said, ‘That’s a diving board, my friend.’”
At this point, you’d expect Flea to have intervened and told Kiedis that diving off the top of an apartment block into a pool was a recipe for disaster, but they were both as cavalier as one another. One day, they eyed up the perfect building, and Flea had no qualms about going first. Fortunately, he landed safely, but it was a wildly different tale for Kiedis.
“I jumped, and as I was in the air, I realised that I had put too much into the leap and I was going to overshoot the pool, but there was nothing I could do about it,” Kiedis painstakingly recalled. “The concrete was coming up at me, and I landed smack on my heels and missed the pool by about ten inches.”
Remarkably, Kiedis somehow kept his consciousness, and he vividly recalls the anguished ambulance ride to the hospital. He was knocked from pillar to post en-route to Cedars Sinai, and the pain he felt on that trip is like nothing else he’s ever felt.
“After a while, the doctor came into the room and said, ‘You broke your back, and it doesn’t look so good’,” Kiedis nonchalantly remembered. “At last they got me medicated, and rigged up a pulley system with a harness and a medical bustier girdle. I was told that my vertebrae were flattened like pancakes and that a month in traction would help stretch them back.”
This type of injury is the sort of incident that can devastate a person’s mobility for life, but astonishingly for Kiedis, breaking his back was the equivalent of a mere mortal bruising their shin. If there’s any proof you needed that Kiedis isn’t human, it’s his month-long superhero recovery from a near-fatal accident that he had no right to survive, let alone be fighting fit again in a matter of weeks.
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