This year, I will turn 55 years old on my birthday. Fifty-five. Five five. I’m sure there will be many more significant posts about that event as it gets closer but I only mention it here now to give a sense of history and perspective as I begin my yammering for today. I guess the reason I find it necessary to discuss my age is that I like to think I have “been around” and “seen some things.” I have a sense for what is real and unique, special and genuine. And, on a really convoluted path, that brings me to female “pop” icons from the last few decades.
You know their names (or at least I hope you know some of them):
Cher. Babs. Celine. Madonna. Janet. LaToya. Christina. Britney. Mariah. J-Lo. X-Tina (same woman, new name). Beyonce. Ke$ha. Lady Gaga.
All pop icons of varying degrees of talent. However, before all these ladies, there was the original. The Goddess. Her name is Grace Jones.
I will admit – I am totally in awe of Grace Jones. I first became infatuated with her as a young gay man in the late 70’s/early 80’s. I mean, there she was – foreign and mysterious and exotic and beautiful in the most unconventional way. Her androgynous presence made her living art to me. That, and the fact that she was partnered with Dolph Lundgren for a time (I seem to recall they were dubbed the “Most Beautiful Couple on the Planet”). She was everything: super chic, a model-singer-actress-celebrity, friends with the likes of Steve Rubell and Andy Warhol.
I mean, She. Was. It. for me…
Grace Jones had a fabulous, jet set life, with fabulous friends always doing fabulous “things.” She didn’t wear clothes, she wore art. In fact, when she was out and about, Grace Jones wasn’t wearing art, she WAS art. Her every movement and motion seemed calculated, like she was living in a performance art piece. Even some of her career choices seemed to mimic that notion. I think most people associate Grace Jones with her songs (click on any image to enjoy a Grace Jones tune) but she also appeared in a number of films, some big, some small.
She was super human bad ass May Day in the Bond flick, “A View to a Kill.” In “Conan the Destroyer,” she was Zula opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan. In my favorite Grace Jones movie, “VAMP,” she plays Katrina, Queen of the Vampires. In “VAMP,” Grace Jones commanded the screen while only having about seven lines of dialogue in the entire film. Talk about screen presence…
I have had the great good fortune to see Grace Jones, live and up close, three times. Thanks to my friend Danyo, I even have her framed autograph from her concert performance at Cleveland night club U4ia probably two decades ago. Sure, the autograph says, “To Hellen, Love Grace Jones” – somehow the phrase “…for my friend, Tim” turned into “To Hellen” in a noisy gay bar – but that autograph means the world to me. In person, even after that concert, Grace Jones seemed otherworldly and magical. It’s like she really isn’t human at all…
So, despite huge stage shows with thirty back-up dancers, fifteen costume changes and blazing pyrotechnics, despite fifty-show worldwide tours and sold-out stadium venues, despite meat dresses and albino boa constrictors, there will NEVER be anyone that compares to Grace Jones for me.
She is unique. She is special. She is the real deal.
She is “The Original.”