People Magazine: Duff McKagan Reveals the Key to His Nearly 25-Year Marriage
16 November 2023
In 1996, Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKaganwas set up on a blind date with model Susan Holmes through a mutual friend.
“We talked on the phone a few times, and she was a mixture between one of my sisters that made me feel comfortable, but she was also super sexy,” McKagan, 59, recalls to PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday. “It was so genuinely nice the things we talked about. Then she offered to pick me up at Burbank Airport. She met me at the gate, and I was like, ‘Holy f—.’ She was breathtakingly stunning.”
A sushi dinner followed.
“The place was packed, but there was nobody there, as far as I was concerned,” says McKagan, who was two years sober at that point. “Because she was nervous, she goes, ‘Do you mind if I have a sake?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t care. Not at all.’ She had one little sake, and she was buzzed. I’m like, ‘Well, I guess she’s not a drinker. That’s kind of cool.'”
Twenty-seven years after that first date, McKagan and Holmes, 51 — who got married in 1999 and share two daughters: Grace, 26, and Mae, 23 — are as solid as ever.
“We figured it out pretty early on: no longer than 12 days apart ever,” McKagan says. “Not even just her and I, but with me and the kids, too. I’d fly home for 10 hours, just to try to keep things normal and our family together. Susan did a great job at keeping our family together. They would also come out a lot.”
From the day he and Holmes welcomed Grace in 1997, McKagan says he fully embraced his new role as a girl dad.
“That moment when she came out, we didn’t know whether it was going to be a boy or girl,” he says. “When that girl came out, I got this superpower. This light came around me that I’m going to be a girl dad, and that’s the biggest responsibility a male has on this planet. It all hit at once.”
When Mae came three years later, McKagan felt reaffirmed: “I’m the girl dad. Let’s do this!”
Growing up, Grace, a musician whom McKagan describes as a mix between “Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry,” and Mae, a designer who graduated from Parsons School of Design, had fun getting to join their dad on the road.
“The catering was fun because there’s dessert there,” McKagan says. “When you’re doing a big gig, they have catering there for the crew and everybody. Sneaking ice cream was their big thing. They’d be all f—ing buzzed! We’d be like, ‘You weren’t supposed to have dessert.'”
When he wasn’t touring, McKagan says he and Holmes lived a “normal” life at home with the girls.
“Their school was walking distance, so we’d walk together to school, hand in hand and stuff like that,” he says. “Then it became, ‘No, you can’t hold my hand. Dad, why do you wear a sleeveless shirt if you’re walking me to school? Why don’t you wear khaki pants?’ You always turn into embarrassing parents. Then they come back to you and realize, ‘That’s cool.'”
“But we were the normal parents, that’s what all the kids said,” he continues. “To this day, we get, ‘You guys were the most solid.’ And we’ve remained married and in love.”