This interview with Grace was in the entertainment magazine "Blitz", in November 1989 to promote her then new album Bulletproof Heart. This is the last magazine interview with Grace that I know of, do you have a more up-to date one,
The Return Of Grace Jones.Interview Jim Shelley
Photograph Greg Gorman
G is for GRRRRACE How did you get like this Grace?
"You learn. From experience. You create yourself. You're not born this way. I didn't look strange, when I was young, no.
I believe whatever I dream. I like to do things. Whatever I dream, I want to do.'
Did people think you were strange when you were young?
"Energetic. I couldn't sit still. Still can't. A jumping bean, that's me. I was all over the place. I wouldn't shut up. Ate like a pig. I was skinny as a rake. Just burnt it all off. When I was growing up, the Rastas were considered strange. Now the Rastas are no longer strange and I am, hahaha.'
Did you feel strange?
Did you never feel strange?
"No.I felt a little bit strange when I came over from Jamaica and started school. I had an afro, a Jamaican accent, I looked really old. I call my life a normal, conventional life. I'm only dealing the cards I was born with. It's instinct. I don't feel strange. I'm normal, ab-sol-utely.'
Grace: Grace is black beauty, black muscle, the colour of beautiful bruises; cold bruises; coldpurpleblack and shines; audacity and fire; cold heat; warm love; cold hate; hot blood; slender-sleek, vicious, volatile; purr-fect grace. What a creation. What a creature. To touch Grace is to touch black sex. Indescribable. Grace.
Five things I did with Grace Jones:
a) played with her jump leads;
b) asked if she was sure she wasn't a virgin;
c) found out what sort of sex she likes;
d) found out what the one thing she hasn't done is;
e) examined her nipples.
R is for RAISING GRACE Grace was raised in Spanishtown, Jamaica, the daughter of a Pentecostal minister. She moved to Syracuse, New York in her early teens, where she was the only black girl at her junior-high school. Perhaps this, her father and her upper-middleclass upbringing generated her defiance. "It was a very strict religious upbringing. I couldn't even listen to the radio.'
When did you first become interested in fashion, in image?
"Well my mum was a really great dresser - she was a seamstress. I used to make my own clothes. You learn about shapes, form, colours. Some designer stuff - not frightening, no, I couldn't say so, cool though. Quite extreme, yeah, probably - for school. But not compared with what kids are wearing to school nowadays.
"I remember one Givenchy dress I made up - you'd buy the pattern then pick out your own material, and buttons, and thread, stay up all night and sew, watching scary movies. That's why I'm such a late-nighter, I should think.'
Where do your looks come from?
"Mum was quite beautiful - my Dad's not bad either. There's a long, long history of music in my family. My mother sings. Two of my uncles give piano lessons. My grandfather had a jazz band. I'm most like my other grandfather on my father's side - very stubborn... Sometimes when I talk I sound like my Dad - the preacher. Mum calls it the gift of the gab. Jamaicans are often very mature, like I was. At 13 or 14 they're ready for marriage a lot of the time. That's the way society works. At 13 people thought I was 35. Now I'm... they say I'm more like 17. I'm getting younger haha.'
Did you want to be a singer, be famous?
"No, that wasn't until I ran into my teacher at Syracuse, when I was 14, 15. I was training to be a teacher in languages, even at 10, 11. In Jamaica you do that. At Syracuse I studied theatre and drama.'
When did you first become aware of your body?
"I was always aware of my body - I was an athlete at school -100 metres, high jump, hurdles, the mile, relay. Ye-ah, I was highly competitive. My mother was a number one high jumper, went for the Olympics. Now my son is the best high jumper in his school. Bloodline. I liked bodybuilding, yeah. I can go in the gym one day and look like I've been working out for a year. I like the fact that if your ass is falling down, you can go and do thirty lunges a day and get it tight, kicking.
Waiting for Grace, I tell you, you have knots in the knots in your stomach. The driver who meets me at Los Angeles airport is a London Jew who warns me about the perils of driving around the city by blithely nattering on about the Englishman who had his face blown away - "dead" - for opening, or not opening his car window. After two minutes I see what I presume (hope) are two undercover cops spread-eagle some kid's face on the pavement. "Blew 'is face clean off, 'edid;' the driver's saying. Yeah thanks, pal.
I was in Los Angeles (for the first time) but even EMI weren't absolutely convinced Grace would be there too. A month ago they'd despaired of trying to locate her, informing BLITZ she had neither an agent nor a music manager at present. She'd missed three court appearances in Jamaica for possession of cocaine. For her first EMI Capitol album, Inside Story, Grace did next to no UK promotion and it died. A video for the single 'I'm Not -Perfect' ($900,000 worth) was withheld by Grace. After flying from NYC to Munich to record a single TV appearance, she refused to remove a black silk veil, and flew home without filming anything.
Prior to meeting her, almost every one I spoke to talked about taking protection, bodyguards, ambulances; about whether the interview would last two minutes or ten. The press didn't want to send me too many clippings because most of them were about Grace clocking various hacks, photographers (when she turned up) or press agents (one had had a tooth Thai-boxed out). Some interviews have Grace flare, fire, flee after mere minutes. She takes offence easier than the Pope at an orgy. Other erratic endeavours - not turning up on film sets, turning up onstage two hours late, doing two-song sets - were rife. She once burnt Dolph Lundgren's entire wardrobe. (Favourite Dolph-on-Grace quote: "When my Dad saw Grace on television, he said, 'What kind of drugs have you been taking, son?' Favourite Grace-on-Dolph quote: "Dolph had plenty between his legs and nothing between his ears.") This is Grace, the prima donna diva blowing fire, spitting nails, cursing, scratching and bawling, the man-eating Amazon bitch myth, the crazy-crazed vixen-vamp, cold-hearted machinestress, saying things like: "Men are terrified of me. I have to smack them around sometimes.
After no one contacts me for two days, I'm told to stay put until 3pm. At 3.20 I'm called up and told that as Grace is late, I'll have even less time than the planned forty minutes. Also - "Grace only wants to talk about the music, the album... you knew that, right?" Terrific. Ten minutes later, Grace walks-stalks into the room. I look her in the eye. And look her in the crotch.
A has to be for ATTITUDE. "My attitude is; they throw it at me, I throw it right back at them. That's how I deal with it. I get abuse, yeah, people try to con-trol me. Mostly I frighten them off. I'm glad I frighten them. I did it on purpose, really. I wanted it - it was an instinctive thing, never calculated. It was a natural way of protecting myself. I did it for a long time before even being aware of it until much later. That's why I called my new album Bulletproof Heart. If you don't have some kind of protection in life, you die, don't you find? People have hurt me, sure, I get hurt very easily. I'm spoiled. When I don't get what I want, I get very hurt.'
You've never been afraid to be or live this wav?
"Never. Never will. I don't care. I do not ca-rrre, haha. I'd rather be like this than be in someone else's trip. I'm not giving up all my power to someone. When they say 'this is the rule' or 'the computer says...,' Oh, I get mad. People try and stop me every day. Of course. Yesterday they told me my friend couldn't take her puppy into the restaurant, so I[get really pissed off...I said. 'You're a Nazi...You're living like a Russian, you don't belong in this country. I marched in anyway.
Tell me about your temper.
"Oh I have a terrible temper, terrible. I'm so stubborn. [can't help it. Two months ago, I kicked my toe so hard at the airport I got tendonitis. I was sorry about that... I'm flying all the time - always, always have run-ins there. This woman at the desk said, 'Oh you've just shown up' and I[said I've been here for half an hour, you bitch: Then she says, 'We're not waiting: I got so mad. I got mad. I started making a speech to the whole airport, a real Jesse Jackson number, haha.'
I wish I had seen that.
"Oh, I do it all the fucking time. What really gets me, what really irks me is that it's so fascist. I get mad [screams]. I got so loud, so terrible, the main manager comes down and says, 'Let's calm down, shall we? Let's sit down and have a little drink; and then I get furious (raging). Then I kicked the wall... I've toned down a lot... Normally, I would've hit the woman. Norma1ly, I would have fired a shot at her feet so fast and so hard. Like lightning, bam, bam. Before they've even realised I've hit her, I'm in the car and I'm gone. Sometimes I'm so angry, I hold it all in and I go outside and say, 'damn it! I should have hit her.' Hahahaha.'
Why have you calmed down?
"Because I realise people can take you and do things to you for that type of behaviour. It's better to get them with words or with a vibe so that they self-destruct, hahaha. If you are out there, you're vulnerable. People prefer to disappear in life. If I were to repress my nature it would be killing myself. Convention... people repress their personality, that's not living, it's dying. That's death. I see it all over the place, the walking dead. I can't bear that. It's not hard for me to be myself, no. There's always a place you can find people who are just being themselves. If I can't, I create it in my mind. You know?"
Do you ever feel unhappy?
"Well, I have unhappy mo-ments. No, I'm having a ball. Yup. Better late than never. Ohahahahahhhahha."
It's the longest, wildest laugh since Joker Jack.
Grace glides in with a walk like a panther, dressed to stop the traffic, decked out to drain the colour and the hope from any journalist's pale heart. A vision.
She has sharp stiletto shoes, black latex body stocking, a bum-hugging flimsy gold dress, bright pink plastic wraparound shades and a yellow and black policecap perched low over dark, darting eyes. Thin and feline, only five-foot eight-inches tall, she looks vintage-sleek, like the cover of Nightclubbing. She looks sensational. It slips out. You look sensational.
"Why thank you.'
Not to mention the jump leads. Grace is wearing a pair of tough rubber-cabled jump leads, the shiny black hose wrapped two or three times round her bony, thin hips with the tough gold metal six-inch heads snapped happily right over the graceful Jones crotch. Like a mantrap. Quite an entrance.
I bought them at a filling station in Italy. They're for starting a truck. It's real comfy. Take a look.'
I stay seated but she strides up and up to me. Staring into Grace's groin, I must say, is a frightening and thrilling experience. Grace Jones smells unbelievably sexy. I know you believe me.
C is for CREATION, SELF-CREATION Does it surprise you that people can't see beyond your Image?
"No. It's amazing but I can understand it. That's what image is for. They don't want to see beyond it. I want them to be able to see what they want to see. Whatever they like, I'll be. I don't reallv care. I do what I want regardless you ask me my favourite qualities about myself, you're not asking the precise question. You bloody well know an answer that you want to hear"
Does it happen that some men can't get past the Image?
"Oh it happens, sure. That's never a problem for me. That's a problem for them. I'm too grown-up to have regrets about that. I have a lot of trials. I get a lot of things to test me. I have to learn or watch out. I survive."
The mysteries of Los Angeles are many. Things I didn't do in Los Angeles include:
a) look under Grace Jones's cap;
b) talk about her new album;
c) understand Americans (again).
I mean, why do TV newsreaders say, "It's fifty-two-and-a-half minutes past the hour" instead of, "It's nearly seven minutes to seven"? Why does an American from Capitol ask me what time my flight leaves and then sav, "What? 1730? What is that? What does that translate as?" Why do shop assistants ask me "How are you today?" as if I've just come out of major surgery; as if they've heard something? And why is Telly Savalas's pavement star on Hollywood Boulevard the only one with any graffiti?
E is for EVERYTHING BUT EARRINGS Grace is graceful, Grace is wild. I hear things: she hit heartless Harty, has taken cocaine through every orifice imaginable, has bruised and bloody sex fights, has she stripped and whipped Kenzo, and more besides.
Is there anything you haven't done Grace?
"Weeell. I never pierced my ears. I'm about to do that now. It's the one thing I've never done. Seriously. I've got a collection of earrings I've never worn - I put them in scarves. Yeah, a tattoo, too. I have a body suit of tattoos. I'll decide where to have the tattoo if I dream it. I follow what I dream. Things come to me a lot that way - decisions and things."
Things I did find out in Los Angeles include:
a) when you fall over, when you're pushed over, on Hollywood Boulevard, you fall on Orson Welles's star;
b) the best billboard in Los Angeles is THE FAMILY THAT PRAYS TOGETHER STAYS TOGETHER;
c) Paul Mathur was right: when you cross the road in Los Angeles you need to take a packed lunch for the journey;
d) driving down Sunset Boulevard to the ocean is nearly as wild a thrill as asking a biker to take you for a ride down the Strip;
e) I found out why it's called Sunset Boulevard. Violent, cosmic sunsets everywhere, stretched over the city like an unreal, touched-up postcard.
J is for JONES Great Grace includes: warm leatherette; private life; she's lost control; the hunter gets captured by the game; walking in the rain; pull up to the bumper; use me; nightclubbing; la vie en rose; demolition man; feel up; my Jamaican guy; nipple to the bottle; the apple stretching; I'm not perfect; victor should have been a jazz musician; party girl; barefoot in Beverly Hills; slave to the rhythm; crack attack.
She's all there.
Holding Grace's gaze is about as courageous as I get: jet-black eyes flecked with red; all the warm charm, exuberance is in her voice, a cosmopolitan blend of London street, Jamaican lilt, French purr, American drawl. You never know that she's not going to get up and leave, but she's quixotic, erratic but finely behaved. Of course she's won-der-ful. The morning after, hotel reception is still bristling as Hurricane Grace has stormed through.
O is for OH, VIRGINITY, SEX AND DEATH. How old were you when you lost your virginity?
"I can't remember. I wasn't quite sure whether I'd lost it or not. It wasn't a dramatic thing for me. I was like, 'Was that it?' I wasn't quite sure what had happened. You know - it doesn't go in, it doesn't go up... hahaha. Virginity's all in the mind. I never had that traumatic thing that a lot of people have - they say you bleed, you break a cherry or something. I don't remember any of that. I think I had my eyes closed, hahaha."
Maybe you never lost it.
'Well, it's funny you should say that. When I had my son [10-year-old Paul/Apollo] everyone said, 'But, Grace, we never saw you pregnant.' Maybe it was a miracle birth. An Immaculate Conception.'
What about sex, what sort of sex do you like?
'All sorts, hahahahaha. Hedonism? I believe that as long as your motive is one of not being able to help yourself, haha, but trying to have some control, then that is right. I don't believe in abuse of pleasures, to the point where you are going to self-destruct. I do believe in having certain releases, certain outlets, whether you do them openly or in private. As long as you're not hurting anyone, or you're not hurting yourself. You're going to be suffering any how.'
Are you afraid of anything, of death?
"No, because I have to live my life. I have to be myself, you know? I don't care about getting old, I don't think about it. My mother and my father, good God, they're like middle-aged people. My grandfather lived to be 98 and he looked incredible. Strong genes. I know I'm not going to look old for a long time and anyway, I told you, I'm getting younger.'
What's the closest you've come to death?
"The closest I ever came to dying? Oh, when a speedboat ran me over in Jamaica while I was waterskiing. Yeeesssss. I was very close to drowning. Actually, after that I decided that that is the way I would really like to die. In water. There was something very comforting about it. It was not harsh or hard, it was floating and soft. A high-speed death? Oh no, that's too violent. Your body gets all cut and twisted and smashed, urgh, no.1 don't want that. I want to die in water'
My driver on the way home is a Chicago-born grandfather wh9 has a remedy for transatlantic plane fatigue for me, for you. "Eleven hours is nothin' man. just call up yo' girlfrien' suck her titty an' play with her bottom. Then yoll feel better' Fair enough.
N is for NIPPLES Let me just look under your hat, Grace.
(Grace beats me off, giving a playful moan, laughing.) "No, nooooh. You can't look under there. It's really long at the top, needs a crop. Stop it! [She fights me off whacks me in a sort of Dick Emery 'Ooooh you are awful sort of way] You can't see my hair. Here. Look, I'll show you my tits.' Grace yanks down her dress with both fists.
"Thank you;' she purrs.
Grace's nipples are very black, very long, like rolls of tobacco. (I don't smoke.)
No bra, Grace?
'Are you kidding? What for?"
You don't care, do you Grace? "
I don't care, hahaha."
Like a real star, Grace has put her Art into her Life.
E Is for EXTREME, EXTREMELY EXTREME You're always extreme - emotionally, romantically, either very secure or very insecure, very calm or very volatile.
"I used to be more. I think I'm becoming more and more balanced. Much more calm. But being extreme is, at the same time, a balance - one extreme balances the other. I get bored, though. I provoke things to happen, without even realising it. Just follow my instincts. I don't really think about it, really..."
Why are you?
"I'm extreme in that I'm Taurus and Capricorn ascendant. A double whammy, hahaha. Ram behind the bull, hahaha. No wonder everybody's scared to death of me, hahaha. My moon's in Scorpio. I have a lot of water in my houses, and a lot of houses in Cancer.
"I think, you know, I must have frightened people all along, men. My father? Well, he was always to himself anyway. He frightened me, if anything. I think men frightened me in general and that's why I frighten them back now. I never thought about it like this, but men always frightened me. The whole authority thing, as well as the physical. Jamaica's a very patriarchal society. I have a side that's just built up for protection... I became like them, but I know there's still the other side there, that I just keep hidden, for my friends.'
Where do you get your energy from?
"Vitamins. Special vitamins. When I wake up in the morning I don't like to leap out of bed, no. I'm very pleasant, don't take coffee. Nev-er. I'm very calm, ac-tu-ally." Drugs?
"Nooooo. No thank you. Camomile's my drug. Camomile tea."
S is for SON OF GRACE What sort of mother are you?
"Great. I'm great. I take him with me everywhere, let him see things. I give very balanced advice, you know - like you're the worst person to give balanced advice to yourself, but you can give it to others? I encourage him to try everything that he feels he wants to. I say, 'This does this' 'That does that', 'This is a little better than that', 'This doesn't work like this for everyone.' I'd rather he tried his first cigarette in front of me, his first drink or joint, and watch him cough, hahaha. I know he loves to dance, so if he has his tutor on the same day as his dance class, I do everything I can to see that the tutor can be switched. Or, I tell him: 'Skip the tutor, hahaha, go to the dance class."
vWhat will you be doing when you're 60?
"Writing. My songs are like little stories. I like writing I tend to read when I'm writing myself, no real preference. Truman Capote, my old friend. Ill still be living in Paris. It's an older culture. They know more about life. In America, my God, they're talking about nostalgia before they're even old, haha. Really weird. That frightens me.'
Are you glad you turned out this way?
"I haven't turned out yet. I've still got a lot left to go. I'm just beginning, hahaha.' I tell her I don't know anyone in Los Angeles and she says, "You must come to my show on Saturday - it's AIDS week. I love doing my club tour-I want everyone horny, lots of raunchy stuff. Now that no one's having sex I think we should talk about it.'
What are you doing tonight?
"Having it, hahahahahahaha.'