Decades before he became TV's Dr. Noah Drake and a rock idol in MTV's golden age, he was merely Richard Springthorpe, a suicidal Australian teen who considered himself, as he laments, uglier than a baboon's rump.

In his new memoir, "Late, Late at Night," the man who would become Rick Springfield details his lifelong battle with depression - Mr. Darkness, he dubs it - and how it followed him along on his journey to superstardom.

Casual fans might cringe at times while reading the 320-page tome, which begins with an attempt to hang himself at age 17.

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Question: This book might shock those who saw Rick Springfield as a well-adjusted "bubblegum" star.

Answer: I think the initial onslaught was a happy, shiny guy, you know. A lot of the hard-core fans - they've listened to the later albums - they know there's more going on. All my songs are written from a dark place. Even "Jessie's Girl" is a relationship that I couldn't make happen.

Q: It's kind of bizarre to see you follow some of the darkest moments of the book with stabs at humor.

A: Self-deprecating remarks, probably more. That's just the way I am naturally. I wouldn't say I'm positive; in fact, I'm a glass-half-empty kind of guy a lot of the time.

Q: Have you second-guessed being that frank in print?

A: No, not really. I was considerate about my wife (Barbara), that she be viewed appropriately. She's a strong woman and we hit all the issues head-on when they happened and dealt with them. We finally decided that we're better together than we are apart.

Q: There are plenty of "rock star meets sex-crazed groupie" stories in there, too. Just curious: Did your parents ever sit you down for the bird-and-bees talk?

A: No, not really. My mom was raised by Victorian English parents and my dad was away a lot. I think the only thing my mom did was give me a book when I was about 11 called "The Facts of Life." She said, "If there's any questions, just come and see me." I got a page into it and went to her and said, "What does 'erect' mean?" And she said, "Go ask your father." So that was pretty much it.

Q: Last year you basically played yourself on Showtime's "Californication." How different was that gig from your "General Hospital" days back in the '80s?

A: Oh, light-years. First of all, the writing is really great. Second, you're working with all really great-caliber actors. There are some great actors on soaps, but for me being on soaps was more about line memorization. Everyone is always struggling to remember all the lines because you have to do an hour a day. It's the toughest gig in acting. On a show like "Californication," you get a week to shoot a half-hour. And movies is different again. You get 16 weeks to do 90 minutes.

Q: Late in the book, you admit to turning down a smaller role as an astronaut in "The Right Stuff" to star in "Hard To Hold."

A: Unfortunately, I think my ego took over at that point. I thought, "I'm at this point now, hey, I'll do my own movie." It was a good, hard lesson to learn. A lot of the reason I put a lot of the self-deprecating stuff in the book is because I learned lessons from them. I made a step forward; that's why I don't regret anything - most things, anyway.

What you learn in 'Late, Late at Night'

Vietnam vet: In 1968, Rick Springfield and his band travelled to Vietnam to play shows for allied forces. The band was often under enemy fire. During one skirmish, Springfield was forced to feed shells into a mortar to hold off the enemy. The next day, he's told one of his shells killed a Viet Cong soldier. "I feel sick," he writes. "I still do."

Baring it all: While playing for an Aussie band named Zoot, Springfield and his bandmates once posed nude for a publicity shot, showing off their backsides. Springfield thought nobody would ever remember the snapshot after it was published in a music magazine. To the contrary, it has reappeared throughout his career.

Dog days: Springfield's dog Lethal Ron - "so named because of his staggeringly bad gas" - became "cover dog" of 1981's "Working Class Dog" album after Springfield fought the record label against putting a beauty shot of him on the cover. The dog is dressed in a shirt and tie with a tiny photo of the singer in his pocket.

No one-hit wonder: Springfield's career includes much more than 1981's "Jessie's Girl." Oprah Winfrey once angered the rocker when she tried to book him for a show about one-hit wonders. He has recorded more than a dozen albums and has scored 17 Top 40 hits, starting with "Speak to the Sky" in 1972. Other tunes you shouldn't have forgotten include "Don't Talk to Strangers," "Affair of the Heart," "Human Touch" and "Love Somebody." His most recent hit was "Beautiful You," which charted high on the adult contemporary charts in 2004.Head

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