Jones, Jenny 1946- (Janina Stronski)

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Jones, Jenny 1946- (Janina Stronski)

PERSONAL:

Born June 7, 1946, in Bethlehem, Palestine; immigrated to Canada, 1948; daughter of John and Zosia Stronski (business owners); married, 1969 (marriage annulled); married Al Gambino (a comedian), 1970 (divorced, 1972); married Buz Wilburn (a record marketing executive), 1973 (divorced, 1980); partner of Denis McCallion (a film location manager).

ADDRESSES:

Home—Los Angeles, CA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, broadcaster, philanthropist, and talkshow host. Jenny Jones Show, host, 1991-2003. Worked variously as a waitress, bookkeeper, fashion model, caterer, temp worker, musician, singer, songwriter, and comedian. Worked as a backup singer and arranger for entertainer Wayne Newton and as an office manager. Image Foundation, founder, 1992. Founder of Jenny Jones and the Cover Girls (a rock band). Frequent guest on television programs.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Star Search Comedy Grand Prize, 1986; Silver Angel Award, Excellence in Media (three-time recipient), and Shine Award (two-time recipient), for the Jenny Jones Show; Chicago Race for the Cure, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, honorary chair.

WRITINGS:

Live from the Improvisation (sound recording), DIR Broadcasting (United States), 1987.

(With Patsi Bale Cox) Jenny Jones: My Story, Andrews McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1997.

(And photographer) Look Good, Feel Great Cookbook, foreword by Donald Redhun, Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

A household name among viewers of American talk shows, Jenny Jones is an author, memoirist, philanthropist, and the former host of a successful if controversial talk show, the eponymous Jenny Jones Show. Jones offers her own personal insight on her sometimes fraught, sometimes charmed life in her memoir, Jenny Jones: My Story. Raised in Canada, Jones was a rebellious teen who sought to strike off on her own as soon as possible, according to a biography on her home page. To her parents' dismay, she left home at age seventeen to become a drummer in a rock band. Three years later, Janina Stronski had changed her name to Jenny Jones and founded an all-female band of her own, Jenny Jones and the Cover Girls. Her first major break came when she was selected to fill in for one of perennial entertainer Wayne Newton's backup singers. This opportunity soon led to a position as a vocal arranger for Newton. While onstage with her own band, Jones discovered an aptitude for comedy, filling the spaces between songs with humorous, and popular, jokes and banter. Supporting herself as an office manager and game-show contestant, Jones continued to develop her comedy act. Her efforts culminated in a winning turn on the mid-1980s talent program Star Search, where she won the Comedy Grand Prize and earned a 100,000-dollar check.

After her Star Search experience, Jones worked in numerous larger comedy venues in Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles, where she opened for or worked with many popular singers and entertainers of the day, including Smokey Robinson, Gregory Hines, the Pointer Sisters, Glen Campbell, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, and Dionne Warwick, the Jenny Jones home page biography noted. She developed an innovative comedy show for women only called "Girls' Night Out," which led to profiles and interviews in national magazines and on prominent television programs. As a result of the exposure, Jones came to the attention of an executive at Warner Brothers, who offered her the opportunity to host her own daytime television show. Soon after, the Jenny Jones Show debuted, beginning its solid twelve-year run as a staple of the evolving shock-talk format. Though Jones's show topics sometimes skirted the edge of good taste, as did many of the talk shows of the day, she was also an innovator in many ways. The Jenny Jones home page biography noted that Jones's show was the first daytime talk show to feature upcoming hip-hop and rap acts, and was also the first such show to broadcast outdoor concerts. The show also developed a strong reputation in fashion and makeovers.

In 1995, Jones and her show became embroiled in a controversy after a guest on the show was murdered. At a taping of a program in which guests were intended to learn who had unspoken crushes on them, participant Jonathan Schmitz anticipated finding out about his secret admirer. To his shock, Schmitz's admirer turned out to be another man, Scott Amedure. Three days later, Schmitz fatally shot Amedure, allegedly in rage and embarrassment over finding out about Amedure's same-sex crush. Schmitz was later convicted of murder, and the Jenny Jones show was held partly responsible. However, the twenty-nine-million-dollar judgment against the show was overturned by the Michigan Appeals Court in 2002.

Though her involvement in her talk show had brought considerable turmoil and controversy to Jones's life, she also found that her celebrity enabled her to speak out on causes important to her. She has gone on record with the troubles she experienced after six breast-implant operations, encouraging women to avoid the costly and risky procedure. She has established a scholarship fund for disadvantaged students, been a contributor to Chicago-area schools, and encouraged young people to pursue their education. A high-school dropout herself, Jones completed her own GED in 1996, reported the home page biography.

A cookbook author, Jones endorses a healthful approach to cooking and eating in Look Good, Feel Great Cookbook. A one-time owner of a catering business, Jones endorses nutritious foods that are high in antioxidants. She offers more than eighty recipes for breakfast, salads, cookies, and much more. Her tone and approach to food is a "reasoned, unsensational one, and her conversational style should reassure novice cooks," observed Judith Sutton, writing in Library Journal.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

(With Patsi Bale Cox) Jones, Jenny, Jenny Jones: My Story, Andrew McMeel (Kansas City, MO), 1997.

PERIODICALS

American Fitness, November 1, 2002, Bonnie Siegler, "Cultivating a Taste for What's Real: How Her Interest in Whole Foods and Realistic Fitness Program Helped Talk Show Host Jenny Jones Lose Weight," p. 18.

Broadcasting & Cable, April 12, 1999, Dan Trigoboff, "Jones to Testify in ‘Secret Crush’ Trial," p. 77.

Chatelaine, May, 1987, Bob Pomerantz, "What Makes Jenny Funny?," p. 88.

Daily Variety, April 22, 2002, Melissa Grego, "Tribune Speaks Up for ‘Jenny’," p. 4.

Electronic Media, November 3, 1997, Greg Spring, "Jenny Tells Her Side," p. 1; April 12, 1999, Lori Brasier, "Jenny Jones to Testify: Trial Enters Second Week in '95 Slaying," p. 59; April 19, 1999, Lori Brasier, "Jenny Gets Feisty This Time," p. 51; October 28, 2002, "Hollywood Notes; ‘Jenny Jones’ Ruling Overturned," p. 31.

Entertainment Weekly, February 20, 1998, Alexandra Jacobs, "Baring Her Pain," profile of Jenny Jones, p. 130.

Library Journal, February 15, 2006, Judith Sutton, review of Look Good, Feel Great Cookbook, p. 142.

Los Angeles Times, May 12, 1999, Howard Rosenberg, "The ‘Jones’ Verdict—As the Squirm Turns," p. 1.

New York Times, March 14, 1995, Bill Carter, "Killing Poses Hard Questions about Talk TV"; March 19, 1995, "Ideas & Trends; Shameless Homophobia and the ‘Jenny Jones’ Murder"; March 23, 1995, Frank Rich, "Journal; Jenny Jones's Victory"; March 28, 1995, "Critic's Notebook; As TV Sows Outrage, Guess What It Reaps"; October 29, 1996, Caryn James, "From Talk to Murder, via TV"; October 31, 1996, Bill Carter, "Talk-Show Host Is to Testify in Trial"; November 1, 1996, "Talk-Show Host, Testifying at Murder Trial, Plays Down Her Role in Program"; November 13, 1996, Keith Bradsher, "Talk-Show Guest Is Guilty of Second-Degree Murder"; March 24, 1997, Walter Goodman, "Behind the Scenes at Talk Shows"; March 30, 1999, "National News Briefs; Jury Selection Begins in ‘Jenny Jones’ Lawsuit"; May 8, 1999, Keith Bradsher, "Talk Show Ordered to Pay $25 Million after Killing"; May 13, 1999, "Critic's Notebook; Curbing Jennys and Jerrys without Curbing Rights."

People, May 21, 1990, Cynthia Sanz, "Called ‘a Kinder, Gentler Joan Rivers,’ Comic Jenny Jones Makes Feminist Sport of Men in a Show for Women Only," p. 139; June 14, 1993, Marilyn Achiron, "Less Is More: Minus Implants, Jenny Jones Is Smaller and Happier," p. 77; November 18, 1996, Tom Gliatto, "For a Few Hours in the Afternoon," profile of Jenny Jones, p. 17; November 10, 1997, Michael A. Lipton, "True Confession," p. 79.

Publishers Weekly, February 13, 2006, review of Look Good, Feel Great Cookbook, p. 83.

TV Guide, November 16, 1996, "Jones Talks Down Hands-On Approach; Court Statements Conflict with Earlier Interviews in Which Host Claims She's the One in Charge," p. 51; February 1, 1997, Joe Queenan, "Portrait of Jenny," p. 14.

ONLINE

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Web site,http://www.cbc.ca/ (November 10, 2000), "Jenny Jones’ Guest Found Guilty of Murder Again."

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (January 8, 2008), filmography of Jenny Jones.

Jenny Jones Home Page,http://www.jennyjones.com (January 8, 2008).

Zap2It.com,http://www.zap2it.com/ (July 23, 2003), "Court Denies Appeal in ‘Jenny Jones’ Case."

[Sketch reviewed by JennyJones.com Web site administrator, Lynn.]