Jane Wiedlin: Go, Jane, Go!
Why did the Go-Go’s cancel last summer’s tour? Blame Jane Wiedlin and a fall that left the guitarist-singer-songwriter with two seriously injured knees. Then you can thank her, because what was originally planned as a farewell tour for the pioneering all-women rock band has been rechristened as the nonfinal Ladies Gone Wild tour, which kicks off Friday in Las Vegas. The new North American tour celebrates the recently released 30th anniversary remastered reissue of the group’s debut album, Beauty and the Beat. Wiedlin, who has also found success as a solo artist and actress, opens up about her surreal life as a bisexual minister, sci-fi geek, and honorary queen on the San Francisco drag scene.
Advocate.com: The Go-Go’s had their farewell tour scheduled last summer, but it was canceled after you injured your knees when you fell off a cliff during a light-saber battle on a midnight hike. Cut to a year later and the tour is back on, but it’s no longer a farewell situation. Do you think there was some sort of destiny or divine intervention at work in your otherwise unfortunate accident?
Jane Wiedlin: [Laughs] I don’t know about all that. But it is nice when something bad happens and something good comes out of it — it eases the pain a bit. I’m really happy we’re not calling it a farewell tour this summer, which means there’s the possibility for more fun and games for the Go-Go’s.
After Cher’s fake-outs, the idea of a farewell tour lost its punch anyway.
I totally agree. When artists say it’s a farewell tour, no one believes it, so what’s the point?
You had said in interviews last summer that it was being called a farewell tour because Belinda Carlisle wanted to move on. So Belinda basically reconsidered her position during the past year?
Yeah, she has. At this point we’re all just open to the future, as opposed to making the firm decision that this is it. It’s hard to walk away completely from the Go-Go’s. We all have lots of other stuff going on in our lives, and the Go-Go’s aren’t our primary job or even hobby anymore, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to get together and have fun in the future.
When you’re out on tour, do you plan to party like it’s the old days?
Onstage we still rock it out, but it’s definitely more subdued offstage. We’re not up to our old antics. Most of the band has been sober for a long time now, so those of us — me — who aren’t, have become very moderate in our habits. You might even call it boring.
So you won’t be pounding shots between songs.
No, but I’ve never really been a shot person. I think I’m just too short, because one shot puts me under a table. Maybe a glass of wine — it’s a lot more refined and dignified. [Laughs] Not really. I’m actually not much of a lady.
And yet the new tour is called Ladies Gone Wild, which sounds very classy.
Yes, it’s definitely meant to be funny. Wait until you see the picture of us on our backstage passes — we’re all riding those little motorized scooters that old people ride.
Belinda released her memoir, Lips Unsealed, last year. Have you thought about writing a memoir?
Well, there are a couple reasons I haven’t. First, I have a terrible memory. Honest to God, I can barely remember what I ate for breakfast, so me trying to remember 30 years ago is too daunting. And as a compulsive truth-teller, I think it would be very hard for me to tell my story without hurting anyone’s feelings, and I don’t want to do that, because I love everybody. I’d rather get on with my life than dwell in the past.
Did you take issue with anything in Belinda’s book?
I actually thought her book was incredibly diplomatic, and I don’t know how she managed to do that. I was pretty impressed with that aspect of it, because it could’ve been some horrible thing with her calling people out and stuff. She called us when she was writing it and said it was really going to be her story, and it was her story. Kudos to her for doing it right.
When did you first become aware of the group’s gay following?
I don’t remember gay guys being a big part of things in the early ’80s. It was after we broke up for a little bit and then got back together in the ’90s that we really started developing our gay following. A lot of guys we met in the ’90s said, “Yeah, I was a big fan in the ’80s, but it wasn’t really cool for boys to like the Go-Go’s.” So it turns out that there were a lot of Go-Go’s lovers in the closet. [Laughs] Over time, it’s just gotten bigger and bigger, and it’s fantastic, because gay guys have always been my people and who I identify with. I’ve had a relationship with the gay community going back to the fifth grade, when all my friends were gay boys who didn’t even know they were gay yet. I’ve just always been drawn to gay men. I love me the gays. And it’s the best audience you could ever hope to have, because — let’s face it — gay guys have the best taste. If the gays love us, we must be cool!
When did you notice your lesbian groupies?
Oh, from the beginning, even in the ’80s. Lesbians have always loved the Go-Go’s, which makes sense because we’re five women. But the support from that community doesn’t seem to have taken off the way the support from gay men has.
Did you ever hook up with a groupie?
No. I was always in a relationship, so I wasn’t that type of rock star.
If you could do it all over again, would you do it single?
I don’t know, because I really lived it up in so many other ways. Sometimes I think it would be fun to have the bragging rights — Oh, yeah, I had groupies in every town! — but I don’t really have any regrets.
Were you conscious of lesbian rumors about the band?
Oh, everybody in the public eye deals with rumors like that. But I’ve always been on record as considering myself bisexual, so for me, in my mind, it wasn’t really a rumor. If you’ve had sex with multiple women and multiple men, I’d say that makes you bisexual, right? So those rumors never bothered me.
You definitely put it all out there when you were on The Surreal Life in 2005 and made out with housemate Adrianne Curry.
I think it’s very helpful for people in the public eye to be honest about their sexuality. It helps everybody, especially in this age of bullying, because we know how hard it can be and how alone people can feel. I’m not really a fan of labels, but I determined for myself, Well, how would someone who disapproves of me label me? They would label me as a bisexual, so that’s why I’m fine with it. If people don’t approve of me, it’s their problem. I refuse to be ashamed of who I am, because there’s nothing wrong with me. I own it. I own my life, period. It’s better to own what you are and accept any consequences than it is to hide and live in fear.
When same-sex marriage briefly became legal in California, you became an ordained nondenominational minister and dubbed yourself Reverend Sister Go-Go. How’s that going?
Before Prop H8 happened, I became a minister to marry gay couples — not that I have anything against straight people, but I was inspired by gay marriage — and I’ll still marry gay people whether it’s legal or not. Everyone in the world should have the right to get married, and I’ll be here to help you with that if that’s what you want to do. But so far I’ve only been hired to do one wedding, and it was a guy and a gal.
You moved to San Francisco last year. Have you connected with the gay community there?
Oh, I know everybody now. I’m on Twitter a lot, and sometimes I’ll see these tweets, like, “Holy shit, I just saw @janewiedlin in the Castro!” It’s like, Yeah, duh, I live here. I really love the San Francisco drag scene. I’ve been to multiple Trannyshacks, drag queen pageants, drag king contests, and I also got to be a part of The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes, where legendary San Francisco drag queens play the Golden Girls live on stage. It’s been super-fun.
I hear you’ve also broken into San Francisco’s gay filmmaking scene.
Yes, I did a movie with Billy Clift called I Want to Get Married, which is about a young, shy gay man who desperately wants to get married during that little sliver of time when marriage became legal in California. I also did a movie in San Francisco called Doggie Boogie by gay writer-director Romanus Wolter, and that’s coming out soon too.
Another gay filmmaker, Steve Balderson, cast you in Firecracker and Stuck! with Karen Black.
Yeah, I’m one of Steve’s little stable of actors. We recently finished The Casserole Club, which will be hitting the film festival circuit soon. Wow, every director I’m working with is gay, and I didn’t even pick up on that until you said it. [Laughs] Acting really frightens me, but I’m drawn to things that frighten and challenge me, so I’m happy that I’ve gotten to do more of it lately.
I still love you as the singing telegram girl in Clue.
My five seconds of fame, right? [Laughs] I’ve also just written and directed my own first movie, The Pyrex Glitch, a science-fiction comedy that will hopefully come out next year. And I have my own sci-fi comic book series, Lady Robotika, so I’m very busy.
Aren’t you also working on a Lady Robotika musical?
Yeah, it’s already done and ready to go, so I’m kind of just sitting here waiting for some theater angel to help me make it happen. I have no idea how to make a musical happen. It wasn’t hard to write, but getting it made is the tricky part.
You wrote the official theme song for the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. How did that come about?
The owner, Doug Quint, is a longtime fan who I’ve become friends with over the years. He asked me to write the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck theme song, and it came out great, so I encourage people to check it out on iTunes. I love being associated with what he’s doing because it’s good for society and because he’s doing wonderful things with ice cream. If you’re in New York City, you definitely want to find his truck because he has the most amazing, crazy, exotic toppings.
You’ll also appear as a guest judge on the upcoming season of RuPaul’s Drag U.
Yes. I’ve always felt in touch with my inner drag queen. I’ve known RuPaul and Lady Bunny for decades, so it was fun to see them again, especially now that they’re all successful and stuff. It was a great time hanging out with all of those characters.
Does being around drag queens inspire you to glam it up?
No, it’s the opposite. Seeing what those fabulous men go through to transform themselves makes me want to stay in my pajamas and never wear makeup again.