TRANSSEXUAL PUNK GODDESS JAYNE COUNTY LOOKING AMAZING IN
When I was one of the resident drag go-go dancers at the Pyramid club, a headliner came to town that had the whole jaded dump buzzing: Jayne County. I'd seen her on the local news in Chattanooga announcing that Wayne County of The Electric Chairs had switched to Jayne.
I met her in the basement before her soundcheck and we hit it off immediately--for some reason she wanted some diet pills and for some reason I had them. And I've always hated diet pills and obviously, dieting. Jayne's from Georgia and I'm from Chattanooga, Tennessee, so we had that southern thang going. We've lived together, fought tooth and nail, but somehow got through it and whatever our friendship's ups and downs were, I have seldom seen a more riveting entertainer. Sadly, the brilliant footage of her was not featured in Wigstock: The Movie. I asked the director why and he said "She scares straight people." Totally perplexed, I said "I hadn't realized that placating straight people was the goal of the film!" Anyway, Jayne now lives back in Georgia and I recently visited with her when she came to see the play I was in in January. But luckily The Diva spills all.
RUPERT SMITH: What do you think when you look back on your career?
JAYNE COUNTY: For a long time I was very bitter. I felt that I’d not been given credit for what I’d done. I was a pioneer in so many ways – I was the first completely full-blown, in-your- face queen to stand up on a rock ‘n’ roll stage and say, ‘I am what I am, I don’t give a damn.’ I influenced so many people, from Bowie onwards. But for years I was just dismissed as a crazy trannie freak. How could someone like that possibly be important? Rock ‘n’ roll is such a fucking macho world, they don’t want people like me around. But now, things have changed. People look back at what I did in the ’70s – and you can see it all there on YouTube, which is fabulous – and they think, ‘My god, Wayne County was a transgender rock ‘n’ roll artist when I was in my cradle!’ I’m proud of what I’ve done. I made some great records and I entertained a lot of people with my shows. It’s nice that I’m finally getting some credit for it.
JAYNE'S DAY LOOK IN GEORGIA
RUPERT SMITH: What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?
JAYNE COUNTY: Oh, where do I begin? The early ’70s, play- ing at Max’s at the time of the New York Dolls, that was great, a legendary time, like ’20s Berlin. The punk era – doing the Roxy in London in 1977, hanging out with the Sex Pistols, then touring round every club in Europe. And then the Squeezebox years in ’90s New York, when the trannies really crashed into the rock ‘n’ roll world, and I finally felt the world had caught up with me. They’ve made a documentary about the Squeezebox, which was the best rock club of all time, and I’m in it a lot. I’m very proud of that.
RUPERT SMITH: How did being transgendered fit around all that?
JAYNE COUNTY: It was hard! I was in the public eye all the time, right from the early days in New York when I first started giving it some serious thought. At first I was considered to be a crazy drag queen, like a lot of the Warhol girls – but for me, it went deeper than that. I felt like a woman inside. I started taking steps to make it real – I took hormones, my body shape changed, my tits grew. A lot of people in the rock world found that very hard to take – people that you’d expect to be a lot more liberal, like Patti Smith, who was freaked out. Others, like Debbie Harry and Dee Dee Ra- mone, were really supportive. Then I had my nose fixed, I changed my name from Wayne to Jayne, and I started coming on looking super-femme, really hot and sexy. That was really hard for people to handle. It was okay for me to be weird and funny, but once I started looking like a woman – oh boy. They didn’t know what to do with me. I’m well aware that that damaged my career – but I never thought about life in those terms.
RUPERT SMITH: You never had a sex change, though.
JAYNE COUNTY: No. I stopped short of surgery. That’s a step too far for me; I don’t like to burn my bridges. I decided that I was happy being transgendered. A lot of girls have the operation and regret it. It doesn’t solve any problems. So I’m kind of in-between, which suits me fine.
RUPERT SMITH: Have you given up rock ‘n’ roll forever?
JAYNE COUNTY: Of course not. I still record here and there – I did some tracks in Los Angeles with Holly Woodlawn and Ginger Coyote, and I’ve just done some sessions in New York with the Lipstick Killers. Protest songs, mostly, very basic, garage stuff.
RUPERT SMITH: Do you ever go to Atlanta?
JAYNE COUNTY: Every once in a while. I’ll jump in the car, get all dressed up and do a show in there. It’s a real trans city, there’s a lot of punks and rock ‘n’ rollers, and they have a lot of respect for me. When I appear at the clubs in Atlanta, they have conniptions! It’s like fucking Madonna turning up!
RUPERT SMITH: What are you doing right now?
JAYNE COUNTY: I’m cooking a duck. A whole duck. Peking style. It’s something I always wanted to do, and so I’m trying it.
RUPERT SMITH: Are your parents there, too?
JAYNE COUNTY: Yes, my mother is in the next room watch- ing Jeopardy, then she’ll watch the news. She is a total news freak. She always complains that she’s depressed – but what do you expect if you watch the news all the time!
RUPERT SMITH: And how are you dressed?
JAYNE COUNTY: I’m wearing a Rolling Stones baseball cap, a T-shirt with a cat on it, and Simpsons baggy shorts. You should see me!