CLEVELAND, Ohio – “You’re no Jane Scott!”
Oh, heck no. Nobody will EVER be Jane Scott. Only Jane could have that honor, and only a fool would even try to claim to be worth her pen, pad and backstage pass.
Dick Clark was billed as “the world’s oldest teenager,’’ and Jane was known as “the world’s oldest rock critic.” You know her story – from Navy cryptographer to society writer to music critic respected by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to David Bowie to Bono and U2 and Lyle Lovett to the kids in a Butthole Surfers mosh pit (more on that in a bit).
Why was she respected? I think there were two reasons, and as her successor – not her replacement – I’ve tried to follow those reasons. I know my predecessor, John Soeder, did as well. I know, too, though, that none of us ever even thought about trying to be the next Jane Scott. Instead, we wanted to follow the trail she blazed:
First, be honest. If an artist was bad, Jane would say so, and in no uncertain terms. She had people she did not like, and made no bones about it.
Second, and I believe this was her strongest gift, Jane could find something good about just about anyone. Oh, I’ve heard stories about one or two artists she couldn’t stand, and wouldn’t go out of her way to see. But I can’t think of a single time when she let that cloud her judgment. And she was a genius at that whole “damning with faint praise” thing.
“Man, I felt like I’ve always known Jane,” said Lovett in a call from his home in Texas.
“The first time I have a vivid memory of Jane was seeing her in the front row in a show in Cleveland with her glasses on and her steno pad and her pen, and the whole show, she was writing things down,’’ he said.
“Then I met her after the show and she was so charming,’’ said Lovett, who always dedicated his song “If I Had a Boat” to Jane when he played Cleveland.
“She always made time for me and my guests,’’ he said. “I just liked standing next to Jane.”
Jane was one of those people who was so sweet, so good-natured that you could “forget that she was generous and a great writer,” Lovett said.
It’s something I saw time and again, because for 12 years, I was The Plain Dealer’s Friday! magazine editor. It was and always will be the longest tenure in the history of the paper’s music entertainment mag (started by Jane, by the way, with her teen pages and then Action Tab).
It fell on me to edit her What’s Happening column every week. Truthfully, it was sometimes difficult. Jane was already 73 when I took over the magazine. Management at the paper had tried to push her out a few times already – they eventually succeeded in 2002, 10 years after I became her editor.
Jane by that time had a tendency to omit important details, so she was required to turn in copies of press releases with all her items announcing concerts, etc. But not with her backstage bits, and as good as she was writing reviews of the Beatles and discovering Springsteen, that was Jane’s forte.
Today, backstage access is restricted like you wouldn’t believe. In Jane’s heyday, for example, photographers could shoot entire shows, sometimes standing on the stage with the band, even. Reporters hung around for the entire show, then went back to talk to the artists afterwards. It’s how she built relationships with people like Lovett.
She’d show up with that big handbag of hers, a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich as emergency rations just in case, her ticket pinned to her blouse, her pen and pad and, of course, her trusty camera.
If there is an artist from Bruce Springsteen to Bruce Cockburn who escaped her handy little lens and “smile!” I don’t know who it is. I’ve had Tico Torres of Bon Jovi mention her to me, and at U2′s recent show at FirstEnergy Stadium, the band paid homage to her in their finale.
And she didn’t limit it to the “big guys.” Back in 2015, when Beau Coup was getting ready for a 30th anniversary show, co-lead singer Frank Amato talked about the interest Scott took in the Cleveland band.
“Jane really took a liking to the band early on,” Amato said in that 2015 interview. “She was always helping us, writing articles about us and all the positive stuff that was happening.”
Amato and his Beau Coup bandmates were among the ones who led the charge when the paper tried to dismiss Jane. But they had some pretty heavy firepower from Springsteen, Bowie and more.
Jane was loyal, and loyalty begets loyalty, a fact I think people tend to forget today.
I have two favorite Jane stories – that I can share, at least. One involves my daughter, Brandi. Now a married mother of two, including a teenaged wannabe rocker, Brandi was the typical rebellious teen, and a huge fan of Black Flag.
So when Henry Rollins’ band played Jacobs Pavilion, or whatever it was called back then, she had to be there. So did Jane. Only it was just one of them was crowd-surfing. She was able to avoid doing it like a snitch, but a concerned Jane wanted to be sure I knew my 13-year-old, 4-foot-11 daughter was riding a sea of hands all evening, just so I could check to see if she was OK.
The other is something I witnessed myself, at that Butthole Surfers show. Jane wanted to get a close picture of guitarist and band founder Gibby Haynes, so she went wading into the mosh pit. Being the stupid, but gallant, Texan that I am, I followed her, worried about what might happen to an old lady in a sea of thrashing teens and twentysomethings.
I need not have worried. The crowd parted like Moses walking through the Red Sea. Even above the din of guitars and drums, I could hear, “That’s Jane Scott!” Of course, there’s one in every crowd, and this particular young upstart decided he wasn’t moving. At least until he felt Jane’s high heel come down on his instep.
“Sweet Jane” indeed.
Navigating crowds as I’ve done for the past 10 years or so, I’ve often thought how useful a nice, sharp high heel might be. But that was Jane’s gig. And as I said, there’s only one Jane.
No one could ever walk a mile in her pumps. Or even try.
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Jane Scott Centennial: You can follow a legend, but you can’t replace one: Chuck Yarborough have 1455 words, post on www.cleveland.com at April 26, 2019. This is cached page on Game Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.