‘Man Enough to be a women’ and autobiography of Jayne County, the description on the back cover describes this autobiography as the, ‘weirdest and fiercest vision to ever appear on a rock and roll stage’. As early as 1972, this dragged up Lenny Bruce was astonishing New York’s blasé rock scene with her filthily lyrics and demented stage antics. Andy Warhol and David Bowie courted her, and for the emergent punk generation, she was an inspiration. When it came to an outrage nobody could beat Jayne County, but it was more than just an act. Beyond the outsize wigs, the on-stage dildos and toilets, Wayne was turning into Jayne: a transsexual who’s longing to be a woman had begun at childhood. As her fame spread through Europe, the pressures increased. Finally, she turned her back on rock and roll, changed her name and disappeared into the Berlin Underworld.
“Man enough to be a Women is a hilarious, shameless journey from rural childhood to the deepest Georgia, through the hippy 60’s, Stonewall, Woodstock, punk, gender bearing and resurgence in the drag dominated 90’s.” (County and Smith, 1995). This autobiography shares a shameless account of Jaynes gender-baring career from her early days in Georgia to her current 1990s renaissance. The American singer songwriter, and actress, life started as a confused young boy, playing with girl’s toys and dresses. Growing up in a strict religious environment it seems that it was clear to Jayne, he was something different but unsure of what that could be. During his younger years in Atlanta, he became a street queen, with an aim to shock people, and fun with his new-found image. In 1969, with the summer of love upon us, Jayne left Atlanta in search of something more, and that more was San Francisco, the place to be for a queen. However, he never quite got there. On route, Jayne stopped in New York and never left, getting lapped up in the dark glittery underbelly of the outrageous 1969/1970’s nightlife. It wasn’t long before she was quickly a part of, and a major influence of, the celebrity underground world. Firstly, settling in at “The Stone Well Inn” a nationally famous Gay Bar filled with every type of queen. New York was her home, with or without living rough, Jayne never looked back.
Soon after, Jayne’s life started to really take off; after meeting a man called Lee Childers, who soon became her lifelong best friend and on and off roommate. He was sitting on top of a stoop on Christopher Street and they got to chatting, Leee spelled his name with three E’s simply just to draw attention to himself they were a perfect match. He was an aspired photographer from Louisville, who has described the life he lead as a series of accidents. He started off very much a part of Warhol’s factory, therefore Jayne became more and more involved in this life, the New York underground, where anything was possible. Her peers became the likes of Jackie Curtis (one of her biggest influences), Andy Warhol, Candy Darling, Debbie Harry, which then lead to musicians such as Iggy Pop, Bowie to name but a few. Jayne and Leee were very much a part of an intense celebrity environment and too became very well known. Leee was building up a reputation as the photographer for all the freaks in the Village. In 1969, an event changed Jayne’s life, though admittedly he did not think so at the time, a historical event within the Gay rights movement, we now refer to as Stone Well riots. Jayne’s commitment to the riots unknowingly proved her commitment to the type of life she wanted to lead, as a drag.
A place where Jayne spent all her time was Max’s Kansas City, a steak house which became the Headquarters of the New York underground; everyone who was involved in theatre, music, films, whatever, was hanging out at Max’s. It was the place where all different scenes crossed and merged, which is what made New York so fabulous in the 60’s and early 70’s. The gay scene, the drug scene, the theatre scene, the music scene, the art scene. Everyone was getting ideas from everybody else, everyone ended up in a film or a band or something. It was during this time, Jayne got the first idea of getting up on stage. From here onwards, Jayne delved into the life of being an entertainer, whether as an actor or singer, she took taking everything as it came. Using the industry as a tool of expression, Jayne was who she was and did not hide.
Developing her career in New York she first started as an actress, being in many plays that were written by the likes of Jackie Curtis and Tony Ingrassia which were controversial, to say the least. Society was changing, and Jayne was pushing it. Later, County was part of Warhol’s stage production ‘Pork’, and in its success moved to Warhol took it to London. A dream of County’s was to end up in England one day, so when the opportunity arose Jayne was on the first plane over. Jayne moulded and slotted in straight away developing her career as a musician, flickering between New York, London and eventually Berlin, hoping over any hurdle to fulfil her life. Becoming the first transsexual rock artist, she was an inspiration vision. Her career was an adventurous rollercoaster, and sometimes a struggle, sometimes uncontrollable, sometimes offensive; but fortunately, she didn’t care. And Even though not commercially successful, other artists wouldn’t be who they are today without Jayne County. A legend in her own right, one that should never be forgotten.