Jancee Dunn, But Enough About Me...
If you tell me a book is about a girl growing up in the 80's, I'm all over it. But if you tell me the girl also grew up in my home state of New Jersey, you better believe I'm going to devour the book like it's a New York City pizza, hot from the oven and dripping with greasy cheese.
But Enough About Me...by former Rolling Stone interviewer and MTV2 host, Jancee Dunn, is so much fun, a great book with parts that are equally nostalgic and hilarious. Jancee peppers the book with descriptions of her interviews with many, many celebrities. She also talks about growing up in New Jersey which made me homesick for living in the suburban oasis of Jersey. No one here says they are going "down to the shore". I miss that- along with bagels, big hair, hero sandwiches and really good Italian good.
You should absolutely run out and get a hold of this book, I know you will like it as much as I did. Before I read it, I thought for sure I wanted to interview celebrities. Now, I'm not so sure.
Writers are much more interesting!
You worked on MTV2, do you have any idea what happened to the music videos on MTV? Where does one find music videos these days?
They have them all in a huge library – sad, really, because they’re just going to waste! I find music videos on VH1 Classics, which is the closest thing to MTV2 in the old days. They have 80s pop videos, alternative videos, dance videos. The best is the All Request Hour, because then you get the really nutbag, obscure ones.
I moved from New Jersey six years ago and have yet to find really good pizza and/or bagels. If you moved out of New York, what would you miss the most?
I would miss all of the things I love about Brooklyn: Grimaldi’s Pizza, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the beautiful, historic Green-Wood Cemetery, and just the weirdness of New York. I was just eating at a sidewalk café and a guy came up and offered me a giant vacuum cleaner. He sort of heaved it over the rails.
Which interview subjects have been most interesting, movie stars or musicians? Who, specifically comes to mind as being really charismatic? Who surprised you?
I think it’s more of a generational difference in terms of who is most interesting – I really like the musicians and movie stars who came of age in the sixties or seventies, because they’re less inhibited and usually more eccentric.
In terms of charisma, Bono was hands down the most charismatic person I ever met. I really was embarrassingly swept away, and he’s so intelligent, and funny, and granted he was cocky, too, but, y’know, with good reason. I love Cher, who says whatever comes into her head and really has that It quality. Also I rarely want to be friends with people but I really did with Rosie O’Donnell, who was one of the funniest people I ever met and is really smart. James Brown just electrifies a room, too.
You know who surprised me? Aerosmith. The guys were sort of dull offstage. And Christina Aguilera was incredibly nice, as was Mary J. Blige – they’re supposedly ‘difficult,’ but they weren’t. And I’m telling you, I had the best time with David Spade, of all people.
After reading your book, Barry White seemed cool and suave, Loretta Lynn was nice and down to earth and fun, Dolly Parton was exactly as I imagined her to be. Did you ever just click with someone and maintain a friendship?
Shirley Manson of Garbage, for a little while. But mostly, I only get a few hours with people and because our time together is all about them, it’s hard to get your personality across, so it’s not like they get a real sense of me. I’m sort of shy, too, so I generally flee, and they, too, are wary of people wanting things from them. But maybe that’s an elaborate justification for the fact that I don’t have any famous friends.
Is there a downside to interviewing celebrities? Aside from long airplane rides, I can't seem to find anything terrible about jet setting with the rich and famous. (note to self: find those Calms mentioned in the book)
There really isn’t. I would sound like a jerk if I complained, right? The only thing – aside from a cranky celebrity every once in a while – is that you need to have a strong ego and a strong sense of self, because you are not really part of the equation. It’s all about them. I have spent days sometimes with people and they don’t know my name. They certainly don’t ask anything about me, because it’s an interview, not a conversation. So it’s a little weird sometimes, in that regard, but fortunately I don’t get my validation from celebrities.
Aside from that, believe me, it’s a cakewalk. What’s not to like about staying in nice hotels and flying to London and talking to good-looking people? I am very lucky. I still jump on the bed in nice hotels. I don’t take anything for granted.
Is there a person you would like to interview but haven't had the chance yet?
Elizabeth Taylor. Bill Clinton. Peter O’Toole. Mick Jagger.
Your family is so close and I think that's great. You didn't have the wacky, dysfunctional childhood that many people write about. Did you read Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs? Do you like reading memoirs?
I did read it and I didn’t love it the way everyone else did, but I think he’s a good writer. I generally don’t read contemporary memoirs and to tell you the truth, I really felt funny terming my book a memoir. To me, Winston Churchill is memoir-worthy, or Eleanor Roosevelt. You know? But, as they say in Jersey, what are you gonna do.
If there was a soundtrack to your life, what would be the first five songs on the album?
Ooh, what a great question!
The first would be the theme to “The Electric Company,” which I watched incessantly as a sedentary kid. Then it would be any song from Canadian folk troubadour Gordon Lightfoot, because my father played that goddamn album every weekend of my life. Then “Borderline” by Madonna, because I loved her throughout my teen years in the 80s, followed by “Satisfy My Soul” by Bob Marley, whom I played to death in high school when I went through my requisite suburban reggae phase. Then maybe “In Between Days” by the Cure, which reminds me of all of the high school soccer players I had crushes on.
Since I grew up in suburban New Jersey just like you, I want to write something, sort of like those "You Might Be A Redneck …" books. Mine would be called, "You Might Have Grown Up in New Jersey During the 80's If…" What stands out in your mind during the 80's in NJ?
Ha! I love it. You might have grown up in New Jersey during the 80s if: you paid a dollar for Jenkinson’s Beach in Point Pleasant; you requested songs from WDHA, the Rock of North Jersey; you ‘sprunched’ your perm with Aussie Sprunch Spray; you bought Guess jeans that zipped at the bottom at the mall; you puked in front of Maxwell’s in Hoboken, you wore your Hard Rock London (or Los Angeles or New York) t shirt over your bathing suit at the shore with your Esprit shorts, you sprayed on Anais Anais perfume, or Giorgio Beverly Hills, or Love’s Baby Soft, or Benetton Colors; you sang along with Bruce at the Brendan Byrne Arena during his three-hour concerts and you tailgated beforehand in the parking lot with sloppy joes (no, not the ones with ground beef, and those from Jersey will know what I’m talking about.)
What's going on in your life these days?
I am writing for magazines like ‘Vogue’ and ‘Oprah,’ and starting a second book (set in the 80s, as it happens) and also “But Enough About Me” was optioned by Lisa Kudrow’s production company. The whole thing has been a little surreal. They want to turn it into a half hour show so they are writing a pilot now for NBC. These things have to go over a lot of hurdles to actually happen, so I’m not counting on anything (some of my writer cronies get their stuff optioned but it often just kind of peters out) but just the experience has been really exciting. I was just in Los Angeles meeting a bunch of TV people last week. I almost passed out from nerves.