Paulina Porizkova, the widow of the Cars' late guitarist and songwriter Ric Ocasek, spoke in-depth about her husband's last years and final days to Rolling Stone. Ocasek died on September 15th of what was reported to be heart disease, worsened by emphysema at age 75. Porizkova went into detail of how Ocasek was battling several different maladies — none of which should be tagged as his cause of death.
Ric Ocasek wrote such instant radio staples as the Cars' “Just What I Needed,” “Shake It Up,” “Since You're Gone,” “You Might Think,” “Good Times Roll,” “Drive,” “Let's Go,” “Magic,” and “My Best Friend's Girl,” among many others.
Porizkova met Ocasek when she was 18-years-old on the set of the Cars' 1984 video for “Drive.” The couple was married in 1989, the year after the group broke up. The remained married until Ocasek's death, although they had separated in 2017. She spoke candidly on why Ocasek decided to put and en to the Cars at the end of the '80s, remembering, “At that stage, he felt hemmed in creatively. He had been sort of the dictator of a very small country, and I think it was wearing on everybody. All the guys were fond of each other, really, but it had run its course at that time. I know creatively he really wanted to stretch his wings and get a little weirder and a little more esoteric and go in unexpected directions. He had had so much success with the Cars, and I think he was almost bored with it. People expected the Cars thing; the hooks. He was like, 'F*** that, I want to do something else.'”
She went on to say that the non-creative aspects of being a touring musician never really jibed with him: “He also detested the whole 'Hello, Cleveland!' bit. Even onstage when they would tour, he would try to get it as precise as you could. He really admired James Brown. Brown was completely anal about the perfection of his backup band, and Ric really appreciated it. He could value sloppiness in other artists, if it was part of their art. But it wasn’t him as a person. He was extremely precise as a person.”
Although Ocasek kept a lower public profile in recent years, despite a pretty full roster of production projects, Porizkova said that her husband was nearly always working: “To other people it seemed like he was chilling out at home with his kids. That’s not actually true. Our house had a studio in the basement; so on days when he didn’t leave, he was still immersed in music 24 hours a day. He was a complete workaholic. He would wake up and get meticulously dressed like he was going to a photo session and go down to the basement and work all day, even if nobody was in the house. You wouldn’t catch him dead in a pair of sweatpants.”
Porizkova explained why Ocasek finally decided to record and tour with the Cars again in 2010 and 2011: “Quite honestly, he did the (2011 Cars reunion) for our boys, who never got to see him as a rock star. He wanted them to see what dad did. I think Ric wanted to show the kids that he did more than work in the basement. The Cars played Lollapalooza, and I have pictures of my boys with the biggest grins ever watching their father. That’s the only moment when they got to see Ric was an artist and not just a man. They were kind of starstruck. It was a gift.”
Porizkova went on to talk about Ocasek's last days in Manhattan at home, while recovering from a still unspecified operation: “His death was not at all related to his heart or his surgery, which was two weeks earlier. I don’t know how much I want to say about the surgery, but it was successful. He was recuperating really well. So his passing was a f***ing shock.”
She went on to explain that she held off on calling the authorities after Ocasek's death in order to gather their immediate family at their home to say a personal farewell: “His manager warned me that as soon as you call 911, watch out, things will start to happen. So I didn’t call 911 for a long time. He had died in the night, not at 4 or whatever they claimed. That’s when I put in the call to 911. I wanted Ric’s sons to get here so we could all say goodbye to him. So we waited, and we got to circle the bed and hold hands and really say goodbye. We were here with his shape for many hours after his death. It was kind of wonderful because we all understood he was gone. He definitely left us. But the minute I called 911, literally two minutes (after), there were paparazzi at our house. That’s just disgusting.”
Porizkova went on to rail against allowing her husband's personal medical issues to be released in what she felt were an inappropriate and careless manner: “I’m still baffled by (the New York medical examiner’s announcement about heart issues). Yes, Ric did have emphysema, but it wasn’t very bad; he didn’t need oxygen. He was fine to walk around and do whatever he wanted. He did a lot of walking. And he had atrial fibrillation aggravated by emphysema. But he never had high blood pressure. Attributing it to some super general thing was kind of puzzling to us. We knew he had those issues, but they were all very moderate and manageable. He quit smoking 14 years ago. I don’t exactly understand the postmortem, and I’m so super bummed and pissed off that stuff like this is public knowledge. Thanks — so while we grieve, why don’t you all take apart what my husband died of?”