Most people believe that Liv Tyler’s father is Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, and it’s understandable considering they share the same last name and do resemble one another, after all. But here’s the thing: The actress actually spent most of her coming-of-age years under the impression that she was the daughter of another musician.
That’s right: Liv Tyler doesn’t have just one rock star dad – she has two! It may sound like a dream to grow up surrounded by the glitz and glam of the rock star world, with all those colorful characters and an endless supply of stories. But the actress has revealed that her childhood wasn’t as idyllic as you might think or want to believe.
A model, actor, and a mother of three, Liv Tyler has been a fixture on our screens for more than two decades now. She started her Hollywood career at the age of 16 when she had already been working for two years. She became a model by 14, but it soon became obvious to her that acting was going to be a better fit.
In an interview with the newspaper Irish Independent, Liv recalls hating her time as a model. She said, “I just didn’t like being told what to do. I just had to stand there and look pretty and not talk a lot. I didn’t like that very much.” It’s a good thing, then, that the teenager discovered acting — and with it a new purpose in life.
According to Liv, she struggled throughout high school. The pop culture website The Things reported why she had such a hard time. She said, “Basically, I had a really bad attention deficit. I used to fall asleep all the time in class and get kicked out.”
For the high schooler, performing provided her with a whole new way of building something she definitely needed at such a pivotal time in her life. She explained that when she started acting, it gave her a lot of self-esteem. “Because, although a lot of what I did at school left me confused, it turned out that I could really focus on acting,” which is very characteristic of those with ADD (attention deficit disorder).
Before Hollywood started calling her name, Liv made her screen debut in a music video in 1993. At the time, the public wasn’t aware that Aerosmith’s frontman – the leotard-wearing, spirit-screaming Steven Tyler – was her dad. Even the crew on the video of Aerosmith’s Crazy didn’t know.
In the clip, Liv performs a partial striptease. She was only 16 at the time. (It was the ‘90s, after all.) Since that performance, Liv has gone on to star in a series of bigtime movies. She was getting parts in cult classics, like Empire Records and That Thing You Do, and box office hits like The Lord of the Rings and Armageddon.
Liv was quickly becoming a regular on the big screen. But her family history was something beyond her acting that has long fascinated us normal folk. Her life itself reads like a movie script, with all the crazy, sad, and uplifting parts.
During a chat with the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, Liv finally revealed the truth about finding out who her father really was. When she was little, Liv had no idea about her secret parentage. In 1977, she was born as Liv Rundgren, the daughter of musician Todd Rundgren and singer/model/author Bebe Buell.
The name Rundgren even appears on her birth certificate. But there was a bigger secret underneath it all, and even her legal father knew his little girl might not be his. Liv’s mother was a singer, model and author named Bebe Buell who was something of a staple on the music scene in early ‘70s in New York.
Buell’s list of friends and exes pretty much reads like a “who’s who” of the rock world. The young beauty even spent her 21st birthday on a date with none other than Mick Jagger. Oh, and John Lennon sang Happy Birthday to her too.
Later in the decade, Buell started an on-and-off relationship with Rundgren. And it was while she was with him that she met Aerosmith’s charismatic lead singer Steven Tyler. After some flirting, the two chemically charged young adults consummated their attraction, so to speak, in the bed of a friend during a drunken sleepover.
By the time Buell discovered she was pregnant, her one-night-stand partner was in no state to be a father. You might remember his well-publicized battle with drug addiction around that time. That meant that he, Buell and Rundgren had to come up with a solution that could work.
In this particular love triangle, all three sides were aware that the growing baby inside Buell’s tummy may very well be Tyler’s, but the trio decided to keep that part to themselves. The thing is that Buell and Rundgren’s relationship was always on and off.
But it’s clear that he didn’t just get up and leave after discovering Buell was with other men, and especially after they learned that it was indeed Tyler who was the father. Moreover, once baby Liv was born, he officially became her dad – hence his name on her birth certificate.
He and Buell never spoke about the truth in front of her. The trio did, though, make one more pact. Buell, Tyler, and Rundgren all agreed that their daughter deserved to know the truth – and that they would tell her at some point in the future.
The three adults agreed to wait until Liv was 18 to come clean about her biological father. But she was a lot younger than 18 when she found out who her biological father really was (more on this to come).
When Buell had Liv, she was 23 years old and her music career was just starting to take off. With her music career front and center, Buell wanted to save her daughter from what was hardly a child-friendly environment. So, the family came up with a plan.
Raising Liv would involve a team effort, including Buell, her mother, Liv’s aunt and her cousin Annie – all coming together to raise the future star. It may seem like the more the merrier, but it wasn’t at all ideal. In reality, it meant that the young Liv spent her childhood going back and forth between varied surroundings.
Given Liv’s noticeable good manners and demeanor, it probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that her maternal grandmother, Dorothea Johnson, was an etiquette expert. Her grandmother ran a successful etiquette school in Washington D.C., where Liv spent a large part of her childhood.
While in Washington, Liv was found behaving flawlessly at political events, ambassador’s receptions and fancy garden parties in the historic capital. Liv also spent time living with her cousins in Portland, Maine. Then, when she was 12 years old, Liv and her mom moved to New York together.
Buell later explained the reasoning behind having so many of her family members help raise her daughter. She told Harper’s Bazaar: “I always made sure that if I needed to go and be a rock ’n’ roll crazy person, that Liv had that grounding foundation of my mother or my cousin.”
It sounds like she wanted to have her cake and eat it, too. Liv had a lot of love coming her way as a kid, but there were still times when she felt anger toward her mom and resented not being with her.
Liv once explained to Wonderland magazine that it was hard for her as a kid. “I was definitely sad and angry that I didn’t have this perfect mommy thing. But now I have a lot of empathy for her.” As the years rolled on, and everyone matured in their own way, Liv and her family became closer.
But it did take some time for Liv to come to terms with it all. Being the daughter of two rock stars can lead to some odd, even hilarious and definitely embarrassing stories. Particularly when one of them is as colorful as Steven Tyler.
Steven Tyler’s cringe-worthy behavior has been well-documented. And cringe-worthy is the sentiment that Liv expressed. There was one appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in early 2020 when Liv revealed some of the more embarrassing moments with her rock star father.
Imagine that Steven Tyler is YOUR father. It might help you get a feel for how Liv felt. For instance, there’s all of his on-stage antics. Liv told Kimmel, “As a performer, he does things that embarrass me. Like, humping the mic stand. I’m like, ‘Dad…’”
She continued to tell Kimmel that (at the time) Aerosmith was in Vegas… “And he’ll, like, lick people’s faces sometimes.” And then, something else that a young teenage girl/woman might find icky is having her notoriously provocative rocker dad hanging around her friends!
Steven Tyler once told James Corden a story on The Late Late Show in 2020 that was pretty shocking to everyone who watched. So shocking that Corden felt the need to confirm it with the rocker’s daughter. Then, when Liv herself appeared on the show, the host asked the question every viewer wanted to know…
Corden asked Liv if her father had, indeed, hit on one of her friends. And that friend, by the way, was Cameron Diaz! Liv recounted the story with a chuckle, saying that her dad’s memory of the story is very interesting, “cos he remembers little bits but not everything.”
“He said it happened in London, but it happened in New York.” He then asked for Diaz’s number “or something.” Tyler also said that Liv was mad at him, but she doesn’t really remember that. Either way, the star was relaxed about it all.
Liv explained to Corden, “My dad’s… My dad. He’s very flirtatious and sensual.” She said how he looks people in the eye and might even lick your cheek – dogs, grandparents, men, women – anyone. But she made a point to note that her dad’s shameless behavior doesn’t diminish her love for him.
“I mean, he’s pretty amazing.” She has been impressed by the fact that he sings his heart out. And when you think about it, the man is in his ‘70s and still rockin’ it. It’s hard not to be impressed. But when Liv was young, the rock star was really just a poster on her wall.
For the first decade of Liv’s life — when she was living between Maine and D.C. and New York — she believed that Rundgren was her father. After all, she had no reason to think otherwise. And even after Buell and Rundgren split up for good, Liv continued to visit him.
Then, around the time she was 11, she started questioning things. She was invited to see Aerosmith perform live, and as Liv was standing by the side of the stage, taking in the loud and exciting performance, she noticed a few notable details in the scene playing out in front of her.
The first thing Liv noticed really shook her. On the opposite side of the stage, there was a girl who look very much like her. Unbeknownst to her, Liv was looking at her younger half-sister, Mia. Liv later explained to Marie Claire that it was a very big deal to her.
“I was by myself a lot as a child. I so wanted a twin. Then I met my twin. She looks exactly like me. That’s really weird!” Liv started to look closer at Aerosmith’s frontman, and his resemblance to her also became apparent.
The 11-year-old girl, wise beyond her years, then asked her mother if the singer on stage was her father. Her suspicions were confirmed, and she reportedly smiled through tears. That’s when she said, “Christmas is going to be fun this year.”
Liv revealed in an interview with The Guardian that the emotional effect of meeting her real father were quite overwhelming. “When I realized that Steven was my father, it was a moment that was bigger than me, it was almost spiritual. When you meet kin, there is an energy and a sparkle between your bodies. It must be chemical somehow — DNA and genes.”
For Liv, though, it’s important to note that discovering that Rundgren wasn’t her real dad never changed how she feels about him. She told The Guardian: “I’m so grateful to him for choosing to be a father figure to me.”
“Although he and my mom weren’t together, he was always a very stable, loving force in my life.” The girl already had a huge family, and having a new dad meant there was a whole new batch of relatives. It was fun for her, getting to know Tyler’s side of the family.
Her sister Mia would “just move her hand in a certain way and the mannerism is so like mine, it’s crazy,” Liv described. Other than her near twin Mia, Liv also gained another sister named Chelsea, and a brother named Taj Tallarico.
Sure, the way these half-siblings met is under bizarre circumstances, but they all grew to share a bond that can’t be broken. In fact, Liv has only good things to say about her two dads. “They are like unicorns or wizards. They are musicians through and through,” she said of them.
Her unusual upbringing left a lasting impression on the star. She explained that she had a very “family-rich childhood” where she learned to lean into her family – to “ask for help and show compassion.” She also forgave her mom for leaving her for so long.
Liv told The Guardian that “when you’re a kid, you make judgments about wanting your parents to be a certain way.” When she became a parent, she realized “Wow, how could she have done that, at 23, a single mom living in New York City?”
Becoming a mom herself eventually is what gave her perspective and a new sense of compassion. “My mom always followed her heart. I really admire that.” Of course, there were scars made along the way, though.
Tyler reportedly told Net-a-Porter that her female-centric upbringing left her “incredibly strong and resilient.” But it also left the star feeling that men were “a bit of a mystery.” More than that, though, they were a transient presence. “[Men] are visitors,” she said. “They visit my life. I am always surprised when there is one around.”
Aside from her two dads, Liv has other male energy around her. She has two sons, Milo and Sailor, and a stepson named Gray. Then there’s Liv’s ex-husband Royston Langdon, who’s Milo’s father. David Gardner, a sports agent, is her current partner and father to Gray.
With Gardner, they had Sailor as well as a girl named Lula Rose. So how do her rocker dads react to being grandparents? Liv told U.K. talk show host Jonathan Ross in 2015 that Tyler in particular is a doting, proud granddad. “We are very close with all of the grandparents,” she said.
All you have to do is check out Steven Tyler’s Instagram to see just how much of a proud grandfather he is. But his involvement in his grandkids’ lives doesn’t stop there. Liv explained how he’s playful and funny – “not your typical grandfather.”
Believe it or not, Tyler even took part in the impromptu delivery of his grandson. When Liv was pregnant with Sailor in 2015, she was thrust into premature labor. “Sailor surprised me and came six weeks early,” she explained. Her husband was on a flight at the time.
So, she called Mia who came straight to the hospital. She also called Tyler who came and walked into the room moments before Sailor was born. He even cut his umbilical cord. “It was wild,” she recalled. In 2016, Liv moved to the U.K., where she lives with Gardner and their kids.
In 2017, she said that she is “celebrating my new family coming together.” After having gone “on this crazy adventure together,” in which they blended all their families together and moving to London, it’s “beautiful.”
Her children have started speaking with an English accent since they’ve been living in London. Despite surrendering and trying to adapt to the U.K.’s traditions and lingo, Liv has been trying to keep a balance in her American/British household.
“Every time they would say something in the English way, I would sort of repeat it and say the American word, too,” Liv explained. She also said that her only quiet time is when she’s on a plane. She said she usually only goes away from the kids when she’s working.
In 2017, Liv and Steven Tyler underwent genetic testing for an episode of the series Who Do You Think You Are. The testing revealed at least five generations of musicians and performers in their family tree. Liv wasn’t surprised at all.
If there’s a dominant trait that’s ultimately responsible for making someone a celebrity, Liv seems to have inherited it from her dad. In 1999, when she was 22, she wore a T-shirt to the Met Gala and wound up on the cover of a fashion magazine. It started when her friend Stella McCartney invited her out for a night on the town.
Stella, Paul McCartney’s daughter and fashion designer, called Liv and said, “Do you want to go to this fashion thing with me?” Liv said she had no idea what it was, and they even did their own hair and makeup. While everyone was in gowns, Live and Stella wore matching one-shoulder T-shirts with the words “Rock Royalty” bedazzled on the front.
Liv said she got the shirt from Filth Mart on the Lower East Side. “We got a lot of strange glares and snarly looks.” The next day, the two girls were on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily. Over two decades later and Liv still wears Stella McCartney’s designs.
Buell may be best known for her days of modeling, including a 1974 spread in Playboy, as well as for all the long-haired rockers she’s loved. Then, of course, she’s the mother of Liv Tyler and a co-parent with Steven.
But the 67-year-old has had her own share of rock successes. Her recent album Baring It All: Greetings From Nashbury Park, was produced by her husband Jim Wallerstein, the former Das Damen guitarist. “Ageism is one of my crusades,” she stated. “I don’t think people should have an age. It’s not really important.”
In her opinion, what’s important “is where you go and how you go.” In an interview with Rolling Stone, Buell spoke about different anecdotes in her life, including playing Monopoly with Hugh Hefner and when she had to carry Steven Tyler home.
Buell developed a love for rock and roll before she became a model. She said when she was little, she always stuck her leg out in a rock stance for family pictures. She was obsessed with Mick Jagger and would stand in front of the mirror and copy his moves.
Eventually, she ended up dating Mick. Her first four dates were with Todd Rundgren, David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger. Talk about a who’s who of rock and roll, right? She recalled how she ended up meeting Rundgren.
When she was on the modeling circuit, there was gay guy who wasn’t interested in any of the models. And he would take Buell and the girls dancing in New York. One night, he took Buell to see Man of La Mancha, but they had to stop by his friend’s house “and drop off some tapes” first.
In her friend’s car, there was an issue of Rolling Stone and there happened to be a story on Rundgren. Buell recalls looking at it and saying, “Wow, he’s fantastic.” She and her friend pulled up to his friend’s house, which was Rundgren’s house.
Buell recalled having to throw a penny at his second-floor window because he didn’t have a doorbell. Once he came downstairs, he and Buell made eye contact “and there was an immediate connection that you can’t deny,” she said. She was 18 at the time and he was 23.
Before long, Buell became rock royalty: “There was Mick and Bianca, Angie and David, Bebe and Todd. We were one of the trinity.” Buell also recalled the first time she met Steven Tyler. As she recalled, she and Rundgren flew to Boston at a time when Aerosmith was considering Rundgren as a producer.
It was 1974, they were at the outdoor show, and it was pouring rain with mud everywhere. “I was dressed in a long white dress and espadrilles and didn’t want to step over the mud. Todd was going, “Bebe, stop it.”
Tyler could see what was going on and so he hurried toward her, threw his coat over the puddle, picked her up and carried her across. “I thought it was hilarious, and very gallant. Like a knight in shining leopard.”
There was another time when Tyler was in New York for a basketball game and Buell was at her friend Liz Derringer’s apartment. Liz was married to Rick Derringer and Buell used to sleep there when Rundgren was on the road. At 3 a.m. one morning, Tyler called her and said, “Bebe, come get me.”
He told her, “I’m at the Pierre hotel and I can’t walk. And I’m the only white person in the room.” Bebe went to save him, basically. Buell had just taken a fireman training class, because Rundgren was worried how she would get out of their townhouse if they ever had a fire.
So, she threw Tyler over her shoulder and took him to Liz’s apartment, and they tossed him into the bathtub. Finally, he woke up and Liz said go sleep in our room. Buell admitted that she has since joked that her daughter Liv was conceived in Liz and Rick’s bed.