Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Bad Reputation Nation

December 2000 News

Page updated on December 31, 2000
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A Determined Rocker Takes on Broadway

Stripped down to the bare essentials — tattoos and a tiger-stripe bikini thong — between costume changes for a publicity shoot at the Circle in the Square Theater, Joan M. Jett seems less formidable than the sneering, snarling bad-girl-of-rock reputation that preceded her to Broadway. Her speaking voice is a tired contralto, and beneath a rainbow of lid-to-brow stage makeup, her left eye is flecked with blood: she spent the morning at the hospital having a piece of theater grit extracted by her favorite physician, the one she entrusts with her vocal cords. But Ms. Jett's "Rocky Horror Show" understudy won't inherit her dual roles as Columbia and Usherette, or that solo wail on guitar in "The Time Warp," tonight.

No one has ever called Ms. Jett a quitter. When 23 record companies declined to produce her first album, dismissing a leather-wrapped, guitar-slinging teenage girl as offensively unmarketable, she did it herself. "I knew that people telling me girls can't play rock 'n' roll was just an absurdity, code words for a social statement which was `girls shouldn't play rock 'n' roll because girls can't be blatantly sexual,' " she fumes, forgetting about resting her voice. "I've kept a fire in my belly about it even still. I mean, Oprah has this promotion, `Women Who Rock,' and none of them are musicians! One thing I know, definitely know, is that I rock."

She hangs up her leather shorts and chain-link suspenders and shrugs into gym shorts and a sweatshirt. You can't, Ms. Jett notes, wear leather 24/7. A vegetarian, she says it's an excuse, "but a genuine one," that she takes her cues on wearing animal skins from Native Americans: revere the source. "When I'm at home, I just walk around naked: I had a terry cloth bathrobe, but I gave it to my cats," she says, revealing an irreverent grin and a show business rarity, teeth that have not been bleached to unnatural heights of white.

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