Lifeson Busted In Hotel Clash

By Jonathan Kingstone, Toronto Sun, January 3, 2004

Exit stage left - enter jail.

Alex Lifeson, the lead guitarist for the legendary Canadian rock band Rush, was arrested after a drunken New Year's Eve clash with police at a posh Florida hotel, during which he allegedly spat blood on one officer's face.

Lifeson, 50 - whose given name, Alex Zivojinovich, is used on police reports - his son, Justin Zivojinovich, 33, and his son's wife, Michelle, 30, face a rash of criminal charges stemming from the dust-up at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the Gulf coast town of Naples.

Arrest reports paint a picture of an intoxicated, belligerent rock star and his son, describing them as "wildly combative" and "extremely violent" - with Lifeson allegedly swearing and swinging at police and even pushing a female cop down several stairs.

The alleged frenzied scuffle with Collier County sheriff's deputies ended when authorities delivered repeated jolts from a stun gun to subdue the renowned musician, the reports said.

Lifeson spent two nights in jail before being released yesterday on a $14,500 bond, police said.

The rock star, who says he spends six months a year in his Bay Colony home, was bloodied and sporting a broken nose when he left jail. He didn't want to talk about the incident.

"My lawyer has asked me not to talk about it until we've determined a course of action," Lifeson told NBC as he left the facility. But he did say his family was arrested for no reason.

"We were just ... having dinner," he said.

Lifeson's son, Justin, who was visiting his father, gave a very different account of the incident in an interview with the Naples Daily News. He said deputies broke his father's nose.

"I was singing Happy New Year's, that's all I was doing, singing to the whole crowd. That's all I said, 'Happy New Year','' Justin Zivojinovich said. "Everyone was enjoying themselves. That's when someone apparently started yelling for one of the security guards. There was no violence on our part.

In Lifeson's mugshot, large patches of blood can be seen on his shirt. His son said the family has hired a lawyer and plans to launch a lawsuit if the charges aren't dropped.

Lifeson's wife, Charlene, said yesterday her husband was eager to tell his version but was awaiting legal advice. "I'm sure the statement will come out," she told The Saturday Sun from the couple's Florida home.

According to authorities, the scuffle began when Justin Zivojinovich interrupted the house band and refused to leave the ballroom stage. As security staff and sheriff's deputies tried to remove his son, Lifeson intervened, "swinging and grabbing" at officers and "swearing obscenities," police reports stated.

Told he was facing arrest, Lifeson is quoted in the reports as saying, "Take me to jail, I don't care. It's f--ing New Year's Eve."

The 6-foot, 230-pound guitarist is alleged to have grabbed Deputy Amy Standford and pushed her down several stairs. She suffered injuries that required hospitalization, police said.