It was beginning to get ridiculous: the speculation . .. the rumors . . . the
For three long years, Melissa Etheridge and her partner, filmmaker Julie
asked the same question over and over: Who is the biological father of your two
Once it was a tad amusing to the couple. Then, with the release of Etheridges album
Breakdown, her first in more than three years, the badgering intensified.
On a recent Late Show appearance, David Letterman had a go. "Now,
Im no geneticist, but in some regard there must have been Daddy
somewhere," he said, leaning forward. "Whos Daddy?"
"Well, you were on the short list for a minute," Etheridge
Letterman pressed on. "Just tell me, whos Daddy? Whos
Etheridge threw up her hands in mock exasperation.
"All right," she said, "its Dan Quayle."
Rumors flew on the Internet. Was it Brad Pitt? Hes a friend of
Springsteen? Etheridge jumped onstage with him at a New Jersey show.
Maybe hes the dad! How about Tom Hanks? Is it Tom Hanks?
Cut to a Time magazine interview. "Did Brad Pitt father your children?"
columnist Joel Stein wanted to know. "It is a man, right? . . . And hes
famous?" Yes, she said. "So its Brad Pitt. . . . Come on, its better
if its Brad Pitt. Its good for his career, for your career."
"We just got so tired of this secret," says Etheridge, who didnt even tell
the rest of her family the fathers name until the couples first
was a year old. "It wears you out. And keeping this big secret goes against how we
are choosing to live our lives: very openly." There was also the consideration that
Bailey, now three, will attend school soon: "I didnt want my kids to ever be in
a position where someone could come up to them and know something they dont."
"Because Bailey was starting to ask," adds Cypher."And you know what
It was becoming a joke, more than it should have been."
Thus, after much discussion, the two have decided to reveal the identity of their two
childrens biological father. It is a man whose name, it is safe to
say, has never
come up on a short list of candidates. As you can see, it is of all people
David Crosby, founding member of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash, a rock & roll
bad boy with a four-decade-long career, a wife of twelve years and a thirty-five-year-old
Since this will require some time, lets settle in at the couples spacious home
in Los Angeles, a 1926 Tudor filled with sunlight, honey-colored wood and
antiques. It is
a very different home from the one that the pair lived in four years ago, with its careful
display of antique match strikers and its Louvre-size collection of dog
photos. Now, the
effluvia of children are everywhere: half-drunk glasses of juice in plastic cups, Elmo in
various permutations, milk and bananas on the grocery list. The match strikers have been
relegated to a glass case. As for the dog photos, "Bruce Springsteen once gave me the
best parenting advice," says Cypher. "He said, You know, all of a
your dogs are just gonna be dogs."
Cypher and Etheridge give a tour of their abode, pointing out a black baby grand piano in
the sitting room before moving on to the toy-strewn family room. "This is the room we
live in," says Cypher. Against one wall is a row of seats from the community theater
in Etheridges hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas, that the establishment gave to her
after she made a donation to help restore it. The two point out a Maori school desk they
found in New Zealand. "We love, love, love to antique-shop," says
Bailey races into the room. "Look at me!" she cries, hurling herself onto a
beanbag chair. "Im just a laughing frog!" One-year-old
is being fed by a nanny. The children, whose faces are sweet and apple
cheeked, could be
lifted out of a Victorian postcard. "Beckett looks just like David, doesnt
he?" says Etheridge, looking on happily, a rock-chick mom in a blue corduroy jacket
with silver studs. She produces Crosbys autobiography, which contains a baby photo
from back in the day. The resemblance is eerie.
The pair continues the tour upstairs. "Heres the bedroom," says
Sun streams onto the floral carpet, a pair of cats sleeps in a chair. "Look at
this!" Etheridge says, grabbing a remote control.With a barely perceptible hum, the
curtains whiz shut and the room darkens. "Thats our favorite thing about the
Four Seasons in New York."
They pass a home gym (with a chandelier) and head to Melissas office. "Look
what Julie gave me for my birthday," says Etheridge. "She took a lot of my
T-shirts and made it into a quilt."
It is a patchwork, says Cypher, of places theyve been, "places where weve
had too many cocktails."
"Huey Lewis," says one square. "That was one of my first tours," says
Etheridge. "I opened for them in Europe." She gazes at it. "I love
this," she tells Cypher.
They head downstairs and plop down on a couch in the kitchen. The kids are off to take a
nap, and the women are ready to tell their tale.
It all began in Hawaii, they say, where the two were vacationing. They dropped by to visit
David Crosby and his missis, Jan, whom they had met a while back at a show.
"Wed see them every now and then at a party, stuff like that," says
Etheridge. As the group chatted, the subject of children came up, and Etheridge and Cypher
mentioned their dilemma: Eggs they had. Sperm was another matter.
"And Jan said, What about David? " says Etheridge. "It came
from her, which was the best, most perfect way." They thought it over for a year
before they made the call. "For one, hes musical, which means a lot to me, you
know, and I admire his work," says Etheridge. "And he has his own
life, has his
A few questions:
What do the kids call you?
"I am Mama, Julie is Mamo," says Etheridge.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but how did the fertilization occur?
"It was artificial insemination, done privately," says Cypher.
"We did not use a turkey baster," adds Etheridge.
"No kitchen implements were involved," says Cypher.
It was decided that she should carry the babies because of Ether-idges
was more the homebody, so to speak," Cypher says. "And Im a health nut, a
fanatic, so I was really good at making babies."
Are the Crosbys the kids godparents?
"No, that would be our dearest friends," she says, pointing to a picture of a
smiling man and woman. "Becketts role model," she says, pointing to the
"For people who are worried about the male role model," says
many people are worried about that male role model."
"Sometimes they have a hard time wrapping their head around the fact that this can
work," says Cypher.
Some more questions.
How do your families and friends feel about this?
"Both of our families are so cool about it," says Etheridge.
"Theyre grandkids," says Cypher with a laugh. "They dont care
how they get em they just want em."
When the couple told Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, with whom theyve socialized
on both coasts for the past two years, "I thought it was fabulous," Capshaw
says, "after I said, Whos David Crosby?" She laughs
uproariously. "The name rang a bell! Oh, God. As they sat there with their expectant
faces, right? Im like, I know he was part of a big group that did
well." She laughs again. "I was listening to Claudine Longet back
lets be honest."
Does Crosby share parental duties?
"Its not a parental thing for David," says Etheridge. "David and Jan
totally understood that we are the parents."
"So we see them every once in a while," says Cypher.
"Julie is adopted," says Etheridge. Coming from that place wanting to
know who her real parents were she felt it was important that her children know
where they came from.
"Four or five months ago, when she was two and a half, Bailey said, Do I have a
daddy? I said, Well, yes, you do. Pause. Well, who is
he? I said, You know our friend David, with the funny mustache?"
Bailey moved on to the next subject. Relieved, so did Cypher.
Was there a concern about the fathers well-known past, which includes prodigious
Cypher and Etheridge did their homework on this matter and were convinced there was no
danger to their children. We asked our own expert, New York urologist Mark
Stein, who says, "Sperm are made all the time, and they take three months to
mature. So the
sperm thats coming out today was made three months ago. If you change your
lifestyle, it will take three months for the sperm to reflect it. Also, sperm are
self-selecting, unlike eggs, so damaged sperm usually dont make it."
Why break the news here?
Etheridge and Cypher decided to come to Rolling Stone with their story after the two ran
into editor and publisher Jann S. Wenner at VH1s Concert of the Century last October
in Washington, D.C. "Julie was on a mission to tell everybody," says
"She told Jann, and I made some sort of joke. I said, Oh, yeah, let it be known
in Rolling Stone. And I remember leaving there going, Huh.
an idea. Its musical, which is really cool, its funky, and we could tell the
story the way we wanted to, before the world well, I dont know about the
world but whoever is interested in it picked up on it and did what they were going