Grace Jones: Andy Warhol Would Have Loved Selfies

Jean Paul Goude
"You would have themes in the clubs," says Jones of the '80s party scene. "People would make an effort to dress up."

Ahead of documentary 'Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami,' the music and screen icon reminisces about the Manhattan party and art scene of the 1980s.

Ahead of the April 13 premiere of Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, a new documentary by Sophie Fiennes (sister of actors Ralph and Joseph) that spans five recent years in Jones' life, THR spoke with the music and screen icon to reminisce about her years partying till dawn with Andy Warhol and Keith Haring in 1980s Manhattan.

In the Studio 54 days, I wasn't in New York a lot. I was in Paris a lot. And then back and forth when the Concorde was there. You were able to go back and forth very quickly and very easily. There was great music, great fashion, great conversation. Going out was a way of celebrating and exchanging ideas. Just dancing. The whole atmosphere. You would have themes in the clubs. People would make an effort to dress up. Maybe the drugs at the time had something to do with it. It was very, very relaxed going out. It wasn't about thinking about yourself — it was very social and a fantastic inspiration for artists.

I remember when I was signing autographs, I thought, "God," not that I wasn't worthy, but what good does it do? What's the meaning behind it all? And I remember Andy Warhol just saying to me, "If you don't sign their autographs, they're going to go home feeling really badly and they're never going to buy your record again." And after that I said, "Yeah, you know, you're right!" And I started signing autographs. Now it's all about taking pictures. So I wonder what Andy would say, now that every time you turn around someone has a smartphone camera in your face all the time? He'd probably say, "Yeah, great, come on, do it!"

When we went to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver's wedding together [in Hyannis, Massachusetts, in 1986] I remember doing my makeup in this small plane, and we were running late and there was bad weather, of course. So we ended up getting to the church late. Everyone was already sitting down. There was this big commotion outside when we arrived, and when the doors opened everyone just turned around and looked at us. And Andy was just, "OK. Relax. Be cool." I didn't want to take my coat off — my Azzedine Alaia dress was too tight, hidden beneath a Fendi fur by Karl Lagerfeld. He said, "It's OK, just take your coat off." He was so relaxed, very calm. He always calmed my nerves. 

Keith Haring and I were very good friends. Keith would just come over and say, "I want to paint you." And I'd say, "OK. Now?" We traveled a lot to the same places. We would know each other's schedule and try to meet wherever we were. Keith was like family. We would go to the Garage disco together a lot. When I was asked to do short performances, Keith would come over, and we'd say, "What should we do tonight?" We'd come up with something right on the spot: "I'm going to paint you and put you in chains on a column that is painted the same way!" You couldn't tell me from the column until I started moving. We would just come up with stuff and do it! No rehearsal. 

When I did the film Vamp, we thought, "Let's do the body paint there." Andy and Keith and I all teamed up together and came up with a character for Katrina: a narcissistic vampire. That would be the worst thing — not being able to see yourself. Keith painted me in Beverly Hills on the street. He painted me naked there on the street in front of my house! It was an amazing, amazing time.

When I lost him to AIDS in 1990, and was losing many of my friends very quickly around me, I remember saying to my mom, you know, that I was experiencing that strange feeling of survival, like when you survive a plane crash, and kept thinking, "I probably I should be with them." So I would perform for them after they were gone. I just thought that they were inside the spotlight that shone on me while performing. That's how I dealt with that.

A version story first appeared in the April 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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