Grace Jones is an icon of music, fashion, film, and more — the woman’s 67 years old and she’s still prospering like someone 40 years her junior. The Jamaican-born singer has released ten studio albums, starred in the 1985 James Bond film A View to Kill, contributed to last fall’s Hunger Games soundtrack, and just headlined two successive nights of Brooklyn’s Afropunk Festival last month. Now, she’s releasing a memoir — winkingly titled I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, after a line in her 1981 song, “Art Groupie” — that’s incredibly revealing, with no shortage of salacious details. Dancing with famed graffiti artist Keith Haring at New York City nightclubs, recording with Nile Rodgers, shooting Polaroids with Andy Warhol, verbally sparring with Duran Duran at the Grammy Awards: Jones’ legacy can’t be f–ked with.
In advance of the book’s release — it’s due out September 29 via Simon & Schuster — Worldmusicfests has rounded up 11 of Jones’ wildest anecdotes from the lengthy tome for your viewing pleasure. Find them below.
The singer famously won’t go onstage unless she’s been paid in full before the show’s start — a truism that the electronics company LG learned the hard way at a corporate event in London.
I am ready for action. The champagne is flowing, the oysters slipping down nicely. Again, though, no money, and it is a Saturday. They are begging me. We will have the money on Monday. No, I am not moving until I am paid. I won’t even leave the hotel and go to the venue, because there is too much pressure once you arrive. We say, “Well, give us all your jewelry and watches, your Rolexes, as a deposit. We’ll keep them in the safe until I get paid.” They do not want to do that. They get increasingly desperate. Finally, after a couple of hours with me not budging and everyone trying to come up with a solution, they call with an idea for a deposit for the weekend until they can get the cash on Monday. They say, “We have an employee who has a baby she is prepared to offer as security. We have a baby! You can keep the baby until we bring you the money.” The baby is the most outrageous story of them all. I didn’t take the baby, They couldn’t get the money. I didn’t do the show.
Jones showed up to the 1986 wedding of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver late, with Andy Warhol, after changing into her outfit in an airport bathroom.
I got ready in the bathroom at the airport when we landed… Because of the weather, and the traffic, we were late for Arnie’s wedding. I swear it wasn’t my fault… Andy and I got into this jeep that had come to get us, no limo, and we arrived at the church, a charming little white wooden building, and everyone is cheering and screaming outside and we enter the church. Late. At the exact moment that Arnold and Maria are on their knees finishing off their special, intimate ceremony, we arrive. The doors noisily crack open and they turn around to see what the commotion is, and it is, guess who, Grace and Andy. Late. They didn’t say anything, but you could see from the looks on their faces that they were not at all impressed.
An intruder once broke into her apartment, but Jones negotiated with the home invader. She told him she would let him go out the front door — without calling the police — if he untied her.
This tall black guy suddenly appeared out of nowhere on the terrace, quiet as a panther. He was wearing a beautiful Italian-style suit and had the most perfectly shaped Afro. He didn’t look like a New Yorker. He had a bag slung over his shoulder, very casual. My eyes scanned him very quickly. I said, a little shocked, but there seemed nothing else to say, “Hello, can I help you?” Then I noticed that he was holding a gun. A very small gun… I ran to the bathroom and closed the door. The tall guy followed me and kicked down the bathroom door… He tied us [Jones and then-boyfriend Jean-Paul Goude] both up. I started to use my mother’s technique and tried to charm the guy and get a grip on the situation. “Yeah, I was on Merv Griffin.”…
He untied me but not Jean-Paul. I gave him our keys so he could get out, because you needed to open the lock to make the lift work. I said, “Leave the keys on the fourth floor, and we will give you time to get away.” After about twenty minutes I untied Jean-Paul, much to his anger and relief.
She had her 1979 baby shower at the famous New York City disco, the Garage — with an A-list guest list.
You entered by walking along an extended ramp, like a fashion-show walkway, and that was such a thrill, your heart would be pounding like you were about to enter a fantasy. You were about to become surreal — it made you realize how great music played in the right surroundings is in itself a surreal act. I had my baby shower at the Garage when I was pregnant with Paulo. Debbie Harry of Blondie and Andy Warhol threw it for me. That’s showing you normal.
She has an inside joke with Prince Charles, and another with his mother, Queen Elizabeth.
I had met him before, at the premiere of A View to Kill. We were all standing in a line waiting to be introduced, as is the ritual, and when he got to me, he leaned in close to my ear and said something, winking knowingly, about one of the blond actresses in the film, along the lines of, I wonder how she got the part. As he said this, Diana was right behind him. We both laughed out loud, and the picture of us laughing made the papers. Everyone was asking me afterward, What did he say that was so funny? I didn’t tell anyone.
When [the Queen] got to me in the lineup [at the Diamond Jubilee] she did seem a little disappointed that I had changed [from my stage costume], and said to me that it was a shame I was wearing something else. I think she might have hoped I was still hula-hooping. I said I didn’t think it was appropriate to be introduced to the Queen with my legs all on show and my ass hanging out! We both laughed and everyone afterward was asking, What did she say to you? I didn’t tell anyone.
Jones had a celebrity with her the first time she took ecstasy — and she had a very unique preference when it came to how she did her cocaine.
I had my very first ecstasy pill in the company of Timothy Leary, which is a bit like flying to the moon with Neil Armstrong, and I learned the taste of what was good, and what was bad. On very good ecstasy, I was okay. I would only take half a tablet, because my body is not good on excess. I know my body. I like to be in control of being out of control. Extreme, but in moderation. Crazy out there, but within reason…
Coke was never my drug, although there are some who might be surprised by that. By being so closely associated with Studio 54, the assumption is that I was a complete cocaine fiend. If I had taken as much cocaine as it is rumored, I wouldn’t have a nose. Actually, I preferred to put a rock up my ass rather than snort it. Sometimes it might get blown up there, one way or another. Then you get a very wonderful sexual feeling in your lower half. Stick a tiny little rock up your butt and it feels fantastic. The coke must be clean, of course. Very clean — that’s the word, more than “pure.” Or you put it in a bit of lotion and rub it on your skin. Tried that with a couple of girlfriends in Paris — nice. And the Cocoa Puffs. That way of taking it, rather than putting it up my nose.
She got into a fight with Duran Duran after they won a Grammy she was also nominated for in 1984, and then got thrown out of an after party from the show.
Following the event, I lost my invite to the after-party. I had presented an award, and I had been nominated for the video “A One Man Show,” but I didn’t have the right pass to get into the party afterward. I got incredibly upset — we were in this huge line, and they would not let me in. When they turned me away, I tried to hold it in, but I was so upset. There was a lady in the queue, and she said, “Don’t mess with Grace!”I had had enough, especially because I didn’t even win the award. Duran Duran won, and they said to me, “Oh, Grace, you deserve the award, not us. You should have it.” I said, “Well, give it to me, then.” They kept it. They admitted that they had copied the staircase in their winning video from me and Jean-Paul in A One Man Show.
To me, being beaten by Duran Duran reminded me of the Oscars a year or two before, when Martin Scorcese’s Raging Bull and David Lynch’s The Elephant Man were beaten by Ordinary People and Robert Redford.We ended up catching a cab, with this awful leopard-print pattern on the seats. I sat with my Lagerfeld hat on my knee, miserable because it had all gone wrong. “A One Man Show” lost to Duran Duran, enough to make me scream and scream.
She once tried to fetch then-boyfriend Dolph Lundgren from his Los Angeles home with a gun.
I actually had a gun. It seemed very natural that I would go and fetch Dolph holding a gun. I did so out of desperation — we had been together for years and had made this move to L.A., a place I absolutely loathed, against my better judgment, and then he comes back from being away and Tom [Holbrook, Dolph’s manager] blocks me from even seeing hi. What is going on?
We turned up at the hotel, not to shoot anyone, but to make sure he came with us. We banged on the door of his room. Bang, bang, bang! I’ve got a gun! I’m screaming, “Let him out, you bastard!” It was as though Tom was holding him hostage and we had come to rescue him, hair flying, legs flailing, breasts heaving, guns flashing, music pumping. This was the kind of hysteria that took place in Los Angeles. In one of the many lives I never got to live, another Grace (one who never came true) shot Dolph there and then… And that was the end of the ballad of Grace and Dolph.
Jones was meant to be the female lead in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner but turned it down without reading the script, due to a rivalry the director had with her then-boyfriend Jean-Paul Goude. She also passed on the title role of Octopussy.
Jean-Paul wanted me only to work with him. Especially if I was going to do a film. He wanted me to do a film only with him, before anyone else. I knew he would be adamant that it was a bad move to appear in Blade Runner. I immediately said no, before I had even read the script and before I had even asked him. When he heard about the film, he said what I thought he would say — it would be too commercial, and I would become too Hollywood. I would be a sellout.
I still had the script, though, and the night after I had passed on the part, I was flying to Paris. I decided to read it on the plane. I absolutely loved it. It was set in a universe I visited a lot in my work and play. As soon as I landed I decided I would call them back and reverse my decision. I was too late. Overnight they had cast someone else. I should have made that decision myself, rather than being caught up in Jean-Paul’s rivalry with Ridley Scott in the world of commercials… If I had seen the film Ridley had made a couple of years before, The Duellists, which was fabulous, I wouldn’t have thought for a moment about accepting. I said no without reading the script, which was very stupid of me…
The James Bond producers had really wanted me to be in a Bond movie, because in the 1980s, with the franchise threatened by changing times, they were chasing fashion and looking to reach a wider audience by involving more pop and rock. They had wanted me to be in Octopussy, in the title role, played by Maud Adams, but there was some anxiety about having a black woman as a villain. A Bond movie is, for all the appearance of sex and violence, a fundamentally very conservative franchise.
One time, her producer asked her to come to the studio immediately to record additional vocals for a song. The studio was 15 minutes away. Jones showed up three days later because she was busy cutting/burning Dolph Lundgren’s clothing.
When Trevor [Horn, “Slave to the Rhythm” producer] called me at my apartment, I was having an argument with Dolph. The relationship had reached a turbulent period. Trevor had called because he really needed me to get down to the studio a few blocks away and add some vocals [to “We Need Some Money”] so he could check that he had cracked the rhythm problem — he called just when I was setting fire to Dolph’s trousers. I was in a very bad mood. Trevor said, “I need you now, please get down here.” The studio was only fifteen minutes away from my apartment. It wasn’t like I had to cross the Atlantic.I made it three days later. I had some things I needed to clear up. A few more items of clothing to cut up and burn. When I got to the studio, though, I was in a very good mood. Did he want me on time and in a bad mood, and therefore of no use, or late and in a good mood, and ready for action?
Her move to Capitol Records almost stopped her from wanting to ever release music again.
My contract with Island Records had run out. I had promised to re-sign, but Capitol was chasing me like crazy. They had courted me for a year, sending me baskets of fruit and cheese. It was one of those million-dollars-an-album-for-five-albums deals. Very tempting. In the end I felt really bad that I didn’t stay with Island, but Capitol was offering so much money… I was in tears. I took the money, but I should have resisted the temptation. It was emotional turmoil, and I learned my lesson: Don’t always go for the money.The people who were chasing me to sign with Capitol were reactivating the great Blue Note jazz label, which made the move seem human, and about music… but they were replaced. I ended up dealing with a whole different set of people who never wanted me in the first place and didn’t really like what I did. They decided I was a disco queen whose crown had slipped, if not totally fallen off… I wasn’t in a position to push them. I could write with whomever I wanted, but they wanted to choose the producer, and at that point in my new situation, I didn’t have the power to get what I wanted.Signing to Capitol was like signing a contract where they give you something on the first page, and on the final page they take it all away. They wooed me with treats and pleasantries, and then they wanted to dress me in a little leather bikini and have me submit to being f–ked in the ass.