09.01.1983 - People
His spiked hair might have been coiffed with garden shears. Some might say his clothes often show more Goodwill than good taste. At times, his confidence flirts unapologetically with arrogance. None of that matters, of course. When Sting, ne Gordon Sumner, struts out as point man for the Police, what shines forth is the sort of feral sexuality that can fill baseball stadiums at .50 a pop.
Which is exactly what Sting, 31, and fellow Policemen Stewart Copeland, 31, and Andy Summers, 40, have been doing since their 28-city North American tour opened July 23 in Chicago's Comiskey Park. Backed by a No. 1 album ('Synchronicity') and a No. 1 single ('Every Breath You Take'), the British-based trio has dense-packed the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia and Shea Stadium in New York. At Shea they sold out 67,000 seats in scarcely five hours, proof of the band's status as the hottest group on the road - and the most successful exponent of Britain's New Wave. Beyond a reasonable doubt, Sting is the Police's most arresting element. An aspiring actor who won praise last year for his performance in 'Brimstone and Treacle', he presents an uncommon blend of beauty, brains and bombast. Ask him about the business and he'll dismiss rock 'n' roll as "atavistic," denounce touring as "life with our nerve endings hanging out" and complain that rock stardom has come to mean "outrageous egos and stupidity." Political parties? "They are ideal institutions for marshaling fear and prejudice and stupidity, but not for realizing human potential." Religion? "I think there is something bigger than us or something in us that's untapped," he says. "I prefer believing the latter."
His musical ideas are more interesting. The Police's blend of reggae rhythms, pop-rock melodies and jazz-influenced textures has powered five hot-selling LPs. Sting wrote all but two of the songs on their newest, which sold more than 3.5 million copies in only two months. Critics have called 'Synchronicity' a rare blend of art and accessibility. "I have no compunctions about trying to write hits," says Sting. "That's the name of the game, and I like playing the game of charts."
For Sting, the will to play began in Newcastle, England, a shipbuilding town, where he was the eldest of four children born to a milkman and a hairdresser. Mixing Jesuit schooling with an early interest in the Beatles ("They were from the working classes and showed a lot of us the way") and then jazz, he eventually took up teaching at a Catholic school while moonlighting in local jazz clubs. A penchant for bright black-and-yellow striped jerseys gave him a bumblebee look onstage and earned him his nickname.
Sting left teaching in 1977 to join Copeland, an American-born drummer, and Summers, an English guitarist who had once worked with the Animals. With Sting as their bass player, the group released Roxanne, Sting's ode to a French hooker, which became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Their first album, 'Outlandos d'Amour', was cut for a scant ,000 and sold more than 2 million copies.
Adopting bottled blond hair as their one concession to gimmickry (they dyed their locks originally for a Wrigley's gum commercial), the group rode the charts with a string of hits that kept them beyond reach of the record industry's recession. A novel 1980 tour to Bangkok, Bombay, Cairo and other exotic locales further spiced their reputations and their music, but the strains of stardom and touring also began to tell. Sting's marriage to English actress Frances Tomelty, 32, has since foundered after eight years and two children (Joe, 7, and Catherine, 1), and his sometimes combative relationship with his musical mates has also had its bumps. "Being in a group is not a natural thing," he observes. "I find it very difficult."
If music's appeal starts to fade - Sting has said he has no long-term commitment to the Police - there are movies ahead. Thanks to his appearances in the 1979 film Quadrophenia and in 'Brimstone and Treacle', he now has a steady diet of new scripts to read ("I can sniff a bad one after three pages"), and next year he will appear as the villainous star of 'Dune', Dino De Laurentiis' million sci-fi thriller.
While other projects wait in the wings (including a screenplay he's written for 'Gormenghast', a Gothic fairy tale), Police business continues to dominate. Between the early U.S. concerts, the group holed up at a Bridge-hampton, Long Island mansion, where Sting could unwind with jogging and tennis.When possible his kids fly in from England to visit with Daddy on tour and his current companion, actress-model Trudie Styler, 30. Already in the works, however, is a possible 1984 trip to Japan and Australia for yet another sure-to-be-sold-out tour. "I've always been very lucky, and that's been strengthened by the fact that I can back it up with talent," says Sting with characteristic nonchalance. "Luck lasts just so long." Perhaps, but right now the Police seem to have luck locked up.