“Grace Jones slinks on stage wearing a floor-V3 length wedding veil, a black corset, and fishnet stockings held up by fancy garters. Flicking a long red leather whip, she struts from one end of the small stage to the other, singing her hit song, I Need a Man, and inspecting two half-naked male dancers as though they are tigers in her cage. The whip snaps and off come the dancers’ baggy pants to reveal their black jock straps. Grace steps back and inspects the wares, occasionally slapping the dancers’ bare buttocks with her red whip. She’s not satisfied. She dismisses the bejocked dancers, and from the audience that jams three sides of the stage grabs a man by the collar (‘Come on! I know you’re a hot number!’), pulls him onto the stage and demands that he remove his shirt. Before long, there are dozens of half-dressed men on stage, and Grace is almost lost in a sea of sweaty, gyrating bodies. One fellow takes off all his clothes.” It is precisely this kind of performance, described in Ebony in 1979, that made Grace Jones famous.
After her first album, Portfolio, in 1977 and a series of hit dance singles, Jones became a virtual legend with nightclub audiences. Although her music always stayed right in step with the latest trends, it was more accurately Jones’s appearance and performances that catapulted her to fame. A strikingly handsome Afro-Caribbean woman, Jones deliberately accented her sculptured features with a shaved head, dramatic make-up, and outlandish clothing. She cultivated an image so unusual to mainstream American audiences that it led to a variety of rumors and questions about her identity, as the Ebony writer demonstrated: “So is she European? African? South American? Isn’t she really a man? Did she have a sex change?”
She also cultivated the behavior that made her an icon for the late 1970s nightclub audiences that anticipated the rise of New Wave and punk music and fashion. The games that Jones played in particular with gender roles and sexuality brought her solid success with gay male audiences, as well as the title “Queen of the Gay Discos.” She inspired such adoration that, after a performance, she would receive lines of admirers backstage, many bearing gifts. One man even handcuffed himself to her ankle during a performance.
Jones’s image began in a large, religious, middle-class family in Spanish Town, Jamaica. She and a twin brother, Christian, were born on May 19, 1952, to the Reverend Robert Jones and Marjorie Jones—both the offspring of powerful Afro-Caribbean families. Jones described the environment in Rolling Stone: “My father’s
For the Record…
Born May 19, 1952, in Spanish Town, Jamaica; immigrated to U.S., c. 1965; daughter of Robert (a minister) and Marjorie Jones; married Jean-Paul Goode, c. 1979 (divorced, 1982); married Chris Stanley, c. 1989 (divorced, 1990); children: (first marriage) Poalo. Education: Studied theater at State University of New York at Syracuse, c. 1968.
Worked variously in theaters and nightclubs in Philadelphia, late 1960s to early 1970s; became employed by Wilhelmina Modeling Agency, New York City; moved to Paris to pursue modeling career, mid-1970s; recorded first album, in France, c. 1975; signed with Island Records and released Portfolio, 1977; signed with Capitol and Manhattan Records, late 1980s; re-signed with Island, 1991. Worked with ACT UP and other AIDS relief organizations, late 1980s. Appeared in films Gordon’s Wars, 1977’;Conan the Destroyer, 1984; A View to a Kill, 1985; Vamp, 1987; Siesia, 1987; and Boomerang, 1992.
Addresses: Record company —Island Records, 14 East 4th St., New York, NY 10012.
side of the family was heavy into politics. The bank and the library—real government stuff. We were kept away from them because my mother’s side was very religious.” The religion—Pentecostal—was so strict that Jones was required always to wear dresses with high necks and long sleeves. Not surprisingly, she sees this upbringing as the beginning of her later rebelliousness. The discipline increased when Jones’s parents moved from Jamaica to Syracuse, New York, and she was left to the care of her grandparents. She described those years in a 1985 Los Angeles Times interview with Robert Hilburn: “As a little child I wasn’t allowed to do anything.… No television, no radio, no movies, nothing. I wasn’t even allowed to straighten my hair or wear open-toed shoes… Even when I moved to Syracuse to live with my parents when I was 13, 1 had to go by strict rules.”
By the time she was 17, she was studying theater at Syracuse University. Before the first semester was over, Jones decided to pursue her interest in performance through different channels. First she moved to Philadelphia where, for a few months, she held odd jobs at theaters and nightclubs. In the early 1970s she moved again, this time to New York City, where—according to Mademoiselle —she “began to be seen nightly in the city’s shadier discos.” Newsweek reported that “she shaved her head, became a nudist, tried go-go dancing.” New York also provided her with her first break: a modeling job with the Wilhelmina Modeling Agency. When one last move took her to Paris to join her brother who was already a model there, Jones succeeded as a top international model. The career that began with a cover for Essence in the early 1970s soon led to covers for Elle, Vogue, and Der Stem.
For Jones, however, the modeling career was only a stepping stone to the stage and film work that she had always wanted. Her “discovery” came in 1974, according to Ebony: “While dining with friends, Grace got so carried away when she heard ‘Dirty Old Man’ by the Three Degrees that she jumped on the restaurant table and sang to the record. Her captivated audience applauded… One of the models with her was so impressed by the impromptu performance that she told her boyfriend, who just happened to be a record producer.” The first record was produced by a small French label that couldn’t market the work well. In 1977 Jones signed instead with Island, an important British label, and cut the album Portfolio, which launched her career as a disco performer. By 1980 she had released three more albums, Fame, Muse, and Warm Leatherette, as well as a string of singles that were successful on the dance charts: “I Need a Man,” “Do or Die,” “La Vie en rose,” and “Love Is a Drug.”
In the late 1970s, when Jones met and eventually married French artist Jean-Paul Goode, she moved away from the provocative performances that had made her a favorite at New York nightclubs like Studio 54. Under Goode’s management, the “Queen of the Gay Discos” began giving concerts intended to broaden her audience. The 1981 release of Nightclubbing and a 1982 tour, promoting both Nightclubbing and new material for Living My Life, the album she would release later that year, introduced audiences to the new Grace Jones: less shocking, more “aesthetic.” Goode carefully redesigned Jones’s stage show, replacing the animals and whips with a series of “Tableaux Vivants”—living pictures.
Although her concerts received mixed reviews—some critics appreciated the new quality of the show, others clearly missed the exhibitionism—Nightclubbing kept Jones right in sync with the dance music trend, just as her earlier albums had. “Pull Up to the Bumper” reached number five on the charts—the biggest hit Jones had ever had; “Nipple to the Bottle,” from Living My Life, became one of the dance hits of 1983. According to Melody Maker, “[Jones’s] ‘Nightclubbing’ album changed the path of dance music.”
Despite persistent ambivalence on the part of critics who wanted musical quality out of Jones, she had in fact moved into a realm of greater seriousness among her peers. Chris Blackwell, the president of Island, still handled the production of her albums; his co-producer for Nightclubbing, Alex Sadkin, had worked with such successful New Wave bands as the B-52s and the Plastics. Several songs were penned by respected New Wave musicians, including David Bowie and Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing” and Sting’s “Demolition Man.” Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar, probably the most sought after rhythm section in reggae music, worked with Jones for the second time on Nightclubbing.
By the mid-1980s, Jones was enjoying the peak of her fame. Newsweek noted: “She seems to be turning up everywhere—astride a blood-red Honda in a TV commercial, curtsying to the Princess of Wales at the London premiere of ‘A View to a Kill.’ In the July issue of Playboy, Jones and her Swedish boyfriend, Dolph Lundgren… are splashed across the pages.” Probably the most important consolidation of Jones’s fame came with her two major film roles—Conan the Destroyer in 1984 and A View to a Kill in 1985. Both of these, unlike Jones’s first film appearance in 1977 in Gordon’s Wars, were high visibility roles: the first was the sequel to the immensely successful Conan the Barbarian; the second, one in the long series of James Bond films dating from the 1960s.
It was soon after the release of Slave to the Rhythm in 1987 that Jones’s career began to falter. Although the album did well enough, other problems beset the singer. Vamp, a 1987 horror movie in which Jones plays a vampire/stripper, had no success with movie audiences. Consequently, from 1987 to 1990, Jones was scarce on the public scene, except in news stories that focused on distress in her personal life. She had declared bankruptcy in 1986 and was still working against a debt that some sources estimated at $750,000; her largest creditor, American Express, eventually sued for $80,000. In 1989 a series of news reports focused on Jones’s appearance at a drug trial after she was charged with cocaine possession; she was eventually acquitted. She was married to and then divorced from Chris Stanley. Her attempt at a comeback in the late 1980s—including a move to Capitol Records and then Manhattan, the release of Bulletproof Heart in 1989, and a limited concert tour—failed to fan the waning flames.
In a 1991 interview for The Advocate, Jones added a different perspective to the stories about what had happened to her career in the late 1980s. The performer who had first found her fame, her most adoring audience, and many of her good friends among gay men, found herself losing many of those people to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome): “It was a strange period…. I got very depressed for about two years…. So many of my close friends were sick and passing away. As I said at the benefit I did last year for [artist and activist] Keith [Haring] and ACT UP [AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power], ‘I felt like dying along for a while.’”
In response to her sense of loss, Jones became involved with AIDS benefits and relief work in general. She described the kind of support that she gained from these activities: “I always perform at gay clubs, even if I have an international movie or whatever big success. I still go back. That’s where I have the most fun! Gays appreciate me more than anybody.” In a similar gesture of homecoming, Jones re-signed with Island Records in 1991, intending to once again produce an album with Chris Blackwell.
Portfolio (includes “I Need a Man” and “La Vie en rose”), Island,1977.
Fame, Island, 1978.
Muse, Island, 1979.
Warm Leatherette (includes “Love Is a Drug”), Island, 1980.
Nightclubbing (includes “Pull Up to the Bumper,” “Nightclubbing,”and “Demolition Man”), Island, 1981.
Living My Life (includes “Nipple to the Bottle”), Island, 1982.
Island Life, Island, 1985.
Slave to the Rhythm, Island, 1987.
Bulletproof Heart, Capitol, 1989.
Inside Story, Manhattan, 1990.
Advocate, September 10, 1991.
Ebony, July 1979.
Essence, June 1985.
Jet, May 1, 1989; September 25, 1989; February 5, 1990.
Los Angeles Times, May 18, 1985.
Mademoiselle, November 1982.
Melody Maker, January 24, 1987; April 7, 1990.
Newsweek, July 1, 1985.
People, June 8, 1992.
Rolling Stone, August 20, 1981.
Stereo Review, May 1986.
—Ondine E. Le Blanc
Jones, Grace 1952(?)-
Jones, Grace 1952(?)-
Birth name Grace Mendoz; born May 19, 1952 (some sources cite 1948), in Spanishtown, Jamaica; immigrated to the United States, c. 1965; daughter of Robert (a clergyman and politician) and Marjorie Jones; married Jean-Paul Goode (an artist), c. 1979 (divorced, 1982); married Chris Stanley, 1989 (divorced, 1990); married Atila Altaunbay (a bodyguard), February, 1996; children: (first marriage) Paulo. Education: Studied theatre at Syracuse University.
Agent—Central Entertainment Group, 166 5th Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10010; Sun Gateway Entertainment, Taubenheimstr 30, 70372, Germany.
Actress, singer, and model. Began modeling career with Wilhelmina Modeling Agency; performer as a vocalist at nightclubs and in concerts; directed the music video, "I'm Not Perfect." Appeared in television commercials. AIDS activist and performer at AIDS benefits.
Screen Actors Guild.
Grammy Award nomination, best video album, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1983, for Grace Jones: A One Man Show; Saturn Award nomination, best supporting actress, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, 1985, for Conan the Destroyer; Saturn Award nomination, best supporting actress, 1986, for A View to a Kill; Saturn Award nomination, best supporting actress, 1987, for Vamp.
Mary, Gordon's War, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1973.
Cuidy and performer of song "I Need a Man," Attention les yeux (also known as Let's Make a Dirty Movie), 1975, Group 1 Film Distributors, 1978.
Quelli della calibro 38 (also known as Colt 38 Special Squad), 1976.
Armee der liebenden oder revolte der perversen (documentary; also known as Army of Lovers; or, Revolt of the Perverts), Westdeutscher Rundfunk, 1979.
Slick's girlfriend, Deadly Vengeance, Active Video, 1981.
Zula, Conan the Destroyer, Universal, 1984.
May Day, A View to a Kill, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, 1985.
Mode en France, 1985.
Katrina and performer of title song, Vamp, New World Films, 1986.
Conchita, Siesta, Lorimar, 1987.
Sonya, Straight to Hell, Island, 1987.
Running Out of Luck, (video), 1987.
Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol, 1990.
Strange, Boomerang, Paramount, 1992.
Masako Yokohama, Cyber Bandits, IRS Media, 1995.
Performer of songs "Hollywood Liar," "I'm Not Perfect (but I'm Perfect for You)," and "Pretty Girl," She's So Lovely, Miramax, 1997.
Alonzo Richter, McCinsey's Island, Big Island Productions, 1998.
In and Out of Fashion, 1998.
Ms. Remo, Palmer's Pick Up, Winchester Films, 1999.
Herself, No Place Like Home, Romano, 2006.
Falco-Verdammt, wir leben noch!, EOS, 2008.
Bev, Chelsea on the Rocks, Wild Bunch, 2008.
Also appeared in Italian films.
Musician for film, Toys, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1992.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
100 Greatest Dance Songs of Rock and Roll, VH1, 2000.
Shaka Zulu: The Citadel, 2001.
Retrosexual: The 80's, VH1, 2004.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Tarzan in Manhattan (also known as Tarzan in New York), CBS, 1989.
Christoph/Christine, Wolf Girl (also known as Blood Moon), 2001.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Host, Island Records: The Allstar Story, Showtime, 1987.
Marvin Gaye, 1987.
Christmas Special (also known as Pee-Wee Herman's Christmas Special), CBS, 1988.
Rich and Famous 1988 World's Best, 1988.
A Reggae Session, 1988.
"Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol," American Masters, PBS, 1992.
The Full Wax, Arts and Entertainment, 1992.
In Search of Dracula with Jonathan Ross, 1996.
In and Out of Fashion, 1998.
Andy Warhol: The E! True Hollywood Special, E! Entertainment Television, 1998.
Pavarotti & Friends 2002 for Angola (also known as Pavarotti & Friends 2002 for Angola, from the parco Novi Sad in Modena), 2002.
Ich will spab-die 80er-jahre-pop-und-schlagernacht mit perlen aus ost und west, 2004.
Performer of song "Slave to the Rhythm" in The Comic Strip Presents The Supergrass (also known as The Supergrass), Channel 4.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
The 25th Annual Grammy Awards, 1983.
The 26th Annual Grammy Awards, CBS, 1984.
Presenter, American Video Awards, 1985.
The 1st Annual Soul Train Music Awards, syndicated, 1987.
The First International Rock Awards, ABC, 1989.
Presenter, The 2000 MTV Europe Music Awards, MTV, 2000.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Bandstand (also known as AB, American Bandstand, American Bandstand 1966, American Bandstand 1965, and VH1's Best of American Bandstand), 1979.
Soul Train, 1979.
Top of the Pops (also known as All New Top of the Pops and TOTP), 1980.
The Tube, 1986.
Soul Train, 1987.
The Full Wax, 1991.
De mar a mar, 1991.
Bellezas al aqua, 1993.
"Studio 54," Behind the Music (also known as VH1's "Behind the Music"), 1998.
So Graham Norton, Channel 4, 1998.
Nokinja, "The Umpatra," BeastMaster, syndicated, 1999.
"I Love 1985," I Love 1980's, BBC2, 2001.
Nokinja, "The Trial," Beastmaster, 2002.
"Girls Night Out," VH-1 Where Are They Now?, VH1, 2002.
V Graham Norton, Channel 4, 2002, 2003.
Tout le monde en parle, 2004.
"Julian Clary's Showbiz Hissy Fits," Favouritism, 2005.
La Tele de tu vida, 2007.
Les Grands du rire, 2007.
Also appeared on Harty, BBC.
Grace Jones: A One Man Show, Island Pictures/Vestron Video, c. 1983.
Playboy Video Magazine, Vol. 8, Abril Video, 1985.
A State of Grace, 1986.
The Best of So Graham Norton, United Film & Television Productions, 2000.
Inside ‘A View to a Kill’, 2000.
Premiere Bond: Opening Nights, MGM, 2006.
Appeared in Grace Jones—State of Grace and the music video "I'm Not Perfect."
Solene Solux, Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller, Take 2, 1995.
Fame, Island, 1978.
Portfolio, Island, 1978.
Muse, Island, 1979.
Warm Leatherette, Island, 1980.
Nightclubbing, Island, 1981.
Living My Life, Island, 1982.
Island Life, Island, 1985.
Slave to the Rhythm, 1985.
Interview Picture Disc, 1987.
Bulletproof Heart, Capitol, 1989.
Inside Story, Manhattan, 1990.
Sex Drive, 1993.
Island Life 2, Universal International, 1996.
Grace Jones: Private Life—The Compass Point Sessions, 1998.
20th Century Masters-The Millenium Collection: The Best of Grace Jones, Chronicles, 2003.
Universal Masters Collection, Universal International, 2003.
Bulletproof Heart, EMI, 2004.
The Collection, Universal International, 2004.
Best 1200, Universal, 2005.
Grace Jones Story, Island, 2006.
Colour Collection, Universal, 2006.
Ultimate Collection, Universal, 2006.
Also recorded No Compromise, Capitol. Singles include "Private Life," 1980; "Slave to the Rhythm," 1985; "Do or Die"; "I'm Not Perfect"; "I Need a Man"; "La vie en rose"; "Love Is a Drug"; "Nipple to the Bottle"; "On Your Knees"; "Pull Up to the Bumper"; and "Sex Drive."
Title song, Vamp, New World Films, 1986.
Songs, Rooftops, New Visions, 1989.
Song "7 Day Weekend," Boomerang, Paramount, 1992.
Songs, She's So Lovely, Miramax, 1997.
Television Songs; Episodic:
Songs, A Reggae Session, 1988.
"Demolition Man," Beavis and Butt-Head, 1993.
"Pull Up to the Bumper," The Wire, HBO, 2002.