Todd Marinovich Goes Deep

The ex-NFL superstar on life, death and everything in between

The teenage phenomenon, bred by his obsessive father to become a professional quarterback, became the talk of sportswriters around the nation in the late 1980s, as the highly recruited, prototype gunslinger out of Mater Dei and, later, Capistrano Valley high schools. Towering at 6-foot-4, lean and strong, with a machine-like training regimen on the field and in the weight room, Marinovich was viewed as his father's football-throwing, Frankenstein's monster of a son.

Soon, the articles and video reports revealed a rebel son whose story spiraled quickly to a drug-infused nadir. He lost his starting spot on USC's roster, popped speed and Vicodin before Raiders games, and exited the National Football League two years after his splashy debut, flailing through unremarkable stops in the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League. In all the photos and film clips, Marinovich appears as a wild-eyed jock or a mean-mugging arrestee, a classic underachiever, a wasted talent.

To those looking for a quick story, Marinovich isn't a fascinating Gen X bohemian; he's a failed baller. But spend 10 minutes with the now-42-year-old man, and one realizes his matter-of-fact humor, sideways grin, and enthusiasm for music and art got lost in the calculated editing. Ask him about his love for Uncle Tupelo, the iconic alt-country band from Illinois, and he leaps to the stereo and blasts Son Volt, which was founded by the former's Jay Farrar. Settling back into his chair, he bobs his head and lights a cigarette while reminiscing about seeing Uncle Tupelo live in the early 1990s.

Marinovich sits next to a painting he’s reworked four times
Tim Melideo
Marinovich sits next to a painting he’s reworked four times
Marinovich: The obsessive artist 
at work
Tim Melideo
Marinovich: The obsessive artist at work

"I had been a fan, but not like my best friend Marco," he says. "I hadn't heard music like that, for one, and I instantly related to my core, like, this is where it's at. 'Cause I've done some traveling from playing and stuff and met people from all over the country, and you wouldn't think that people from the Midwest could identify with your experience. It, like, hit the nail on the head for me."

Indeed, these days, Marinovich seems more nostalgic for past concerts than he is for old glories on the gridiron. There was the three-day backstage bacchanalia at the Forum in Inglewood—throbbing with booze, whores and drugs—at which he used his fame to party with Ron Jeremy, Metallica's James Hetfield and Misfits drummer Chuck Biscuits. "A lot of drinking. And women. And the substances to keep you going for three days," he recalls. "That was out of hand. Fun days those were."

At some point, Marinovich swiped an autograph-adorned linebacker's helmet, added his signature and handed it to Hetfield. "James put that thing on all fuckin' night, except for the stage," he says.

Asked if he got to see porn legend Jeremy's equipment, Marinovich exhales a cigarette smoke-choked laugh. "Haven't we all?" he asks. "I was taking a lot of drugs through the years of concert-going. A Pink Floyd show on acid: Everyone should experience that."

During a set at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, Marinovich was tripping hard when a green laser beam from the back of the stage shot out in his direction, fixing itself next to his head. Floating in a sea of sweaty stoners who were either screaming lyrics or falling deeper into a comfortable numbness, Marinovich naturally wanted a taste of the laser. "I couldn't help chewing on it," he recalls. "It tasted minty."

From a nearby shelf, he grabs an acoustic guitar, a present from his mother-in-law. Marinovich, who played in the short-lived band Scurvy in the mid-1990s alongside his aforementioned best friend, bassist Marco Forster, plucks at the strings and tunes the guitar. Then, a petite, blue-eyed woman in her late twenties, wearing blue jeans tucked into her black boots, walks into the warehouse.

Alix Marinovich, Todd's wife, is also his scheduling manager. On this day, she arrives at the warehouse to caravan with her husband to a nearby auto mechanic; Marinovich needs some work done on his Ford F-150 pickup truck. Soon they are on the road, Alix following behind in an ancient Chevy Blazer borrowed from a friend. With Everlast's "What It's Like" playing on a radio, Alix describes the Todd she knows.

"He's a great husband and amazing dad," she declares. "He is very mellow, and I think we balance each other very well. I'm more straightforward and say exactly what's on my mind. He has certain personality traits that help me and make me the person I am today."

After dropping off his truck, Todd hops into the back of the Blazer, next to a child's seat. He says Alix couldn't resist his baldness, and he landed an outing with her. He took her to get fitted for a bra at Fashion Island, where his mother, whom he refers to as "a boobologist," owns a shop where Alix still picks up free bras and panties.

The couple were engaged for about a year before they got married on March 17, 2009, when Alix was pregnant with their son, Baron, who was born that June. Todd figured getting married on St. Patrick's Day was the best way to remember his anniversary. But he also finds meaning in specific dates. He was born on the Fourth of July. His second child, a daughter, was born on July 19, 2011, one year after the death of Forster, who had relapsed into drugs. She bears his friend's nickname, Coski.

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