Stick It In Me! (You Are Entering Jayne County) In this episode of The Lower East Side Biography Project, we present transgendered punk legend Jayne County.
Jayne (née Wayne) recounts how she made the tricky detour during the Summer of Love in 1967, taking a Greyhound bus from rural Georgia and landing in New York instead of San Francisco.
“I escaped from Georgia, you know—the conservative upbringing, the rednecks who carry guns and shoot you if you are different, shoot you if you have a hairstyle they don’t like.”
After meeting Leee Black Childers (who would go on to become a famous rock and photographer) at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, she showed up at his apartment three days later with her suitcase and moved in. They connected by chance with Warhol superstars Jackie Curtis, Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn. Jackie and Holly promptly moved into their tiny apartment on East 13th Street as well and they soon found themselves immersed in the chaos and lunacy of the underground art scene centered in the infamous back room at Max’s Kansas City.
Getting involved with early experimental theater, Wayne made his stage debut at LaMama in Jackie’s play “Femme Fatale” with Penny Arcade, Mary Woronov and Patti Smith—and “Wayne County" was born. She went on to write her own play which was produced by Andy Warhol and toured with his production of “Pork.”
After that, she put together a band—Wayne County and Queen Elizabeth—the first of several—garnering her the distinction of being the first rock and roll band to headline CBGB’s, months before the Ramones, the Talking Heads, Television or Blondie.
She incorporated her experience with Ridiculous Theater into her stage act, using explicit language, lewd props, and over-the-top sexuality—performing in drag at a time when doing so could literally get one killed (and people would have called it justified!)
But Jayne was no mere novelty act, nor just a footnote in music history. She graced the cover of Melody Maker early on as “a drag rock Lenny Bruce” for her provocative act and for songs like her signature “If You Don’t Wanna Fuck Me, Baby—Fuck Off!” The Village Voice’s Michael Musto believes her to be a pioneer.
Jayne also defines “transgender” in a way that makes it make sense beyond the cliché “man trapped in a woman’s body,” describing the experience of becoming “Jayne” on a medical, philosophical, psychological and even anatomical level—inviting you into the most personal aspects of her life. But as she continues: “There’s so much more to me than that!” as you will see.
The Jayne County Biography is a part of The Lower East Side Biography Project and was written, directed and edited by Dean Lance in collaboration with Penny Arcade and Steve Zehentner.
The Lower East Side Biography Project was created in 1999 by performance artist Penny Arcade and video producer Steve Zehentner as an ongoing biography series and oral history archive.
The project seeks to stem the tide of cultural amnesia by bridging the cultural gap between long time residents and newcomers to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of New York’s Lower East Side. To this end, the LES Bio Project has a community-media training component where young filmmakers are trained in production and post-production technologies and then become shepherds of an individual oral history that they edit into a 28-minute biography. Since its inception, the LES Bio Project has trained over forty individuals, completed forty 28-minute biographies, videotaped dozens more interviews and live events.
The project’s biographies cablecast in New York City every Monday at 11pm EST on Time Warner Channel 34, RCN 82, FIOS 33, and stream live on Manhattan Neighborhood Network Channel One mnn.org/live/1-community-channel
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Writer/Director/Editor: Dean Lance
Producer, Interviewer: Penny Arcade
Producer, Director of Photography: Steve Zehentner
Associate Producers: Dean Lance, Rick Jungers
2nd Camera: Dean Lance
Lighting Desing: Carol Bereson
Sound: Keith Geller
Graphics: Tony Reinemann, Dean Lance
Location DAT Recording: Chris Rael
Digital Conform: Richard Speziale
Archive Footage: Penny Arcade, James Karnbach
Performance Emcee: Mistress Formika
Jayne County Band: Charles T. Hall, Dee Pop, Elliot Michaels