SCI-FI VIXEN AND AUSSIE SOCIETY WOMAN
JANE BADLER TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT HER DEBUT CD 'THE DEVIL HAS MY DOUBLE'
FINDING HER VOICE AND DOING SOMETHING ORIGINAL
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
I would be lying if I said that the sight of actress JANE BADLER scarfing down a guinea pig in the 1983 sci-fi classic didn't stick with me to this day, but it was BADLER's wide brown eyes, dark hair, wide cheekbones, and pouty lips that made her protrayal, as the reptilian dominatrix comandante bent on harvesting the human populace for food, so memorable. In a show littered with recycled special effects footage and annoyingly over-the-top performances from the likes of B-actors MARC SINGER and FAYE GRANT, perhaps being devoured by an alien sexpot nemesis like DIANA wasn't such a losing proposition after all.
25 years later, the world has changed and the only thing that's changed on the lovely Ms. BADLER is her accent. Having lived in Melbourne Australia for the past nineteen years since her marriage to businessman STEPHEN HAINES, BADLER lives the life of a society woman. She has also returned to the world of music; a vocation she put on hold thirty years ago when she found herself singing standards in clapped out bars instead of doing something unique and original. This time, she's doing both with the release of her debut album 'THE DEVIL HAS MY DOUBLE' from UNSTABLE APE RECORDS with a little help from the Melbourne-based band SIR. According to BADLER, "It feels the most right of anything that I've done"
'THE DEVIL HAS MY DOUBLE' is a surprisingly dark and edgy listen in the vein of JULEE CRUISE or PORTISHEAD. The opening track 'WHEN WE GOT HIGH' brings to mind the urgency of MARIANNE FAITHFULL's 'TIMES SQUARE' and JANE teams up vocally with JESSE JACKSON SHEPHERD on the playful 'I LOVE EVERYTHING', where the results mirror the teaming of NANCY SINATRA and the late-LEE HAZELWOOD (had HAZELWOOD been a robot). With solid backing from the SHEPHERD fronted band SIR, 'THE DEVIL...' is a deliciously crafted concept album exploring themes such as fame ('EVERYBODY KNOWS MY SECRETS'), sex ('SINGLE TONIGHT') and loneliness ('THE DOLL THAT CRIES REAL TEARS'). The female psyche hasn't been put on display this artfully since EURYTHMIC's 1987 album 'SAVAGE'.
ROCKWIRED spoke with JANE BADLER over the phone. Here is how it went.
I guess I should preface things by saying you look great! It's as if time stood still for you and not for me or anyone else.
Well thank you! But I must say that I do spend a great deal of time on it. It doesn't come naturally. You've got to work at it.
And your CD 'THE DEVIL HAS MY DOUBLE' has come as quite a surprise to me.
How great! I love surprising people! That is such a great response to hear that you were surprised!
And now that it's out there for everybody to hear, how do you feel about it?
I'm so proud of it. I really am. Looking back on it now, I think we've evolved the persona of it a bit more. When I'm in performance, I bring it to the next level and it all makes alot of sense when you see me peform live. We've gotten rid of some of the songs on the album that don't quite work with our concept, but things do evolve and change. At the monent we're writing new songs but I'm really proud of this CD that we've put out.
I guess there is this musical side to you that has taken me by surprise. All I ever knew of you was DIANA from V.
Well let me tell you that there are lots of sides to me that people don't know. I grew up playing flute, guitar and piano and I've been singing since I was about seven and I started singing professionally at age eighteen in clubs throughout New Hampshire and then I sang on weekends in Chicago when I was at University and then I sang in New York at the PLAYBOY CLUB and then I stopped for years. Then I started again about seven years ago. It was mostly jazz. I worked withthe greatest jazz pianists here in Melbourne, Australia and did lots of cabaret and then JESSE JACKSON SHEPHERD of SIR approached me about a year and a half ago and I have to say that THE DEVIL HAS MY DOUBLE feels the most right of anything that I've done.
It does feel right, and I'm saying that as a listener.
It's kind of magical how those weird things happen. I was singing these jazz covers and it really wasn't going anywhere and it really wasn't all that edgy and when you know that there is something out there for you that's a little more original and then, when it finds you, it's amazing. Around that time, JESSE approached me and I heard the music and I was like "Oh, this music is really strange! I'm not sure." JESSE and SIR had a very different approach than me. We sort of evolved together and created this character and it sort of makes so much sense now to the both of us. We're very excited.
Before meeting with JESSE, were you familiar with SIR at all?
Not at all and he really wasn't that familiar with me. He knew me as DIANA the icon, and he knew that I had been singing around town, but he really had no idea of the extent of what I could do and I didn't realize how much this music would tap into my own fantasy life and touch me very deeply in my own way. So it was just kind of this weird thing that has happened.
In the small press snippets that I have read, the album is described as being autobiographical. Is that really the case?
Well, lets put it this way. I am very fortunate that in my life, there is one aspect of me that would be a "society woman". I'm lucky that I live a beautiful life and I married a business man and I go to charity functions. In the creation of this character for this album, I have used that. I have used what appears to everyone as this woman who fits in so perfectly into society circles and I kind of exaggerate it with the couture and the glamor and hair and the CHANEL. And in the course of the music, you have the unravelling of this character with her very dark sexual obsessions. So it kind of came from me from where I'm at and where I've been.
The artwork and photography for the CD is amazing!
Isn't it unbelievable.
Let me tell you. JESSE SHEPHERD is the most unsung hero. He thinks out of the box. He's so brilliant! He's a beautiful artist and now he's a songwriter and he teaches art. He found this photographer and he created this scenario and the most strange locations we went to. He kind of knew what he wanted and we created this alter-ego of the character. It took about a year to do all of the photos because we did it on a very limited budget, which you would never know from looking at the art work. Because it's an independent release, we didn't have access to tremendous amounts of money but sometimes you are forced to become more creative and in a way it's more satisfying.
And I think you've got the perfect shade of blue on this album.
Isn't it great! I'm just so happy with the artwork and how much it mirrors the whole experience of the character in the songs. A part of what we are doing with this project is the visual aspect. We're now trying to get a show going where it's kind of cabaret/pop, where we would have a video installation and take it a step further in a way that DAVID BOWIE or IGGY POP did - that sort of thing where it's performance art .
Personally, I think some of the tracks lend themselves perfectly to music videos.
We're actually about to do one.
For which song.
We don't know yet actually. But we're thinking about the first song 'WHEN WE GOT HIGH'
I was thinking that one myself actually.
Yes. There was either that one or 'I LOVE EVERYTHING' - the song about screwing in the backseat of a car and touching you up in the cinema. We're just talking to a director right now about geting something up and onto youtube and getting it out there. It's all quiet arty and we want to start doing some visual things.
Well, the track 'WHEN WE GOT HIGH' was the track that sort of reeled me in. It's got this sort of MARIANNE FAITHFULL vibe to it that I really like.
Can I tell you that it's one of my favorite tracks too? It was one of the last things that JESSE wrote for me. When we started working together, he would write some things and some of the songs we'd throw out and some of them, we kept. As he started writing that one and 'EVERYONE KNOWS MY SECRETS', that was when we both felt that he was really starting to tap into my persona and what we were doing was really starting to click. So the next album that we are collaborating on will go in a much more moodier direction and certainly not as poppy.
So you were pretty much the muse in terms of the creative process or did JESSE have these songs already.
Some of the songs he had already like 'THE DEVIL HAS MY DOUBLE' which was great. He had alot of songs and most of them I wasn't happy with because some of the were quite poppy and poppy isn't my thing. Even some of the ones that we kept, I don't think are my strongest songs. One song that really worked, which was an exisiting song was 'THE DOLL THAT CRIES REAL TEARS', which was used in a feature film. I think that one works very well. Another existing song that I think really works is 'SINGLE TONIGHT' which he had sung years and years ago and had dragged out and I went crazy over it. So that song had already existed but later on, you can hear where he had written these more moodier songs for me. So when I heard 'WHEN WE GOT HIGH' I was like "Oh my God! JESSE! I'm so excited about this song! This is where I'm at!"
You've got a very interesting label behind you - UNSTABLE APE RECORDS. I interviewed another artist on that label earlier today.
Oh, GUY BLACKMAN?
He's doing well. He's amazing! He's a reviewer, a writer, and performer and he's very well known in Melbourne and Australia as a writer as well as a musician. He's going on a tour right now and it's so much easier for him in away because he can fit into a genre a little more easily than I. We struggle a bit and people don't quite know what to do with us. We don't quite know what to do with us.
What are your thoughts on the label that your with? They seem kind of hands-on to me.
They're great. They're small and the label is really quirky and they're really excited about all of us. None of us are huge but you never know. I think it's great! I like what they're doing and I like the creativity. I like that everyone is really original. It's not generic. Everyone is really original. I'm excited to be a part of their quirky stable of artists.
What drew you to music initially?
In the beginning, it was more about an expressing myself. I didn't have the most ideal upbringing -not that I had a tragic one, but it wasn't blissfully happy either - and I was very much into the fantasy and was eager to express myself in a way that I wasn't able to in my personal life as a child. That was probably the initial reason why I got into performing and singing. I was kind of generic in that I was singing in cover bands and singing things like 'JEREMIAH WAS A BULLFROG' with these evening gowns and false eyelashes, you know?
A long way from having reptile skin and a laser gun.
Exactly. I was eighteen! I did attract a crowd because I was cute and busty, but I certainly wouldn't say that I was doing anything extraordinary and I guess there was a time when I had realized that my music wasn't going anywhere. I stopped because I didn't have an original voice and I didn't have anything original to say with it. Now I'm at an age where that's what I'm most interested in; saying something original in my music and my acting. In everything I do, I want express myself in an original way, if I can.
Maybe having an accent helps.
Yes it does actually. I'm a little bit of an oddity here in Melbourne. I'm very glamorous in my outlook on how I like to present myself and I don't think that people are much that way here in Australia. They're a bit more laid back. And I've never wavered from that. I've always been who I am which is pure glamor in my presentation. We did a big indie festival recently and I can tell you the people were quite aghast at us when I walked out like 'Miss Glamour Puss' and I think they all went "Good God! What is this?" There was all of this folky, weird indie stuff going on and I come out. There were very mixed reviews, needless to say, about me but that's okay. I've got to do what's right for me.
I've interviewed a couple of other women from Australia and they were kind of butch, so yeah, you are the glamor queen amongst the lot.
Well yeah, it's kind of what makes me feel good. It makes me feel good and empowered, to be glamorous.
In doing my research for a picture to use, I came across this one photos of you as a beauty queen.
Yes, I was in the MISS AMERICA pageant. There you go honey, it's all making sense now.
It does make sense.
And that's kind of what JESSE wants to do with this show that we're trying to do. He wants me to come out with this crown and the MISS NEW HAMPSHIRE sash and sort of play with that.
In looking at the liner notes, this project looks like it was recorded rather quickly.
You have no idea how quickly it was recorded. I think I had two days in the studio. I'm really proud of what I did. It wasn't 'stop' and 'start' and nothing was dropped. It was pretty much singing the songs from beginning to end and the band all played live. The album isn't spruced up with special effects or anything like that. It's got a real clean sound.
Are you acting still?
Yes. It's weird because my acting is starting to happen again too. I did a movie in November. There's going to be a screening for it pretty soon and I just finished doing a play for six weeks in Melbourne, which was an incredible experience for me and now I've got three projects that are all about to happen or may happen; a few films and one series. One is a horror film and the other is a thriller so it's kind of a good time for me where things seem to be happening. There was a lull for many years but it seems to be my time again honey.
How long have you lived in Australia? You've acquired an accent.
I've been here a long time. Nineteen years. I'd like to say half my life but it's not. It wonderful here, you'd love it.
I heard a rumor about a new 'V' project called 'V: THE SECOND GENERATION'. Would you be interested in doing it?
Oh yes. It's weird that you say that because I got an e-mail form KENNY ('V' creator KENNETH JOHNSON) yesterday. We've been e-mailing each other back and forth. I was telling him that it was weird that I'm doing a pilot for a new series. It's a sci-fi series and my character's name is DIANA. In a way, the series creators are playing on that even though I'm just playing the nice mom of a teenage son. Right now, KENNY says he's working really hard to make 'V' happen in the movies. For 'V', a series is not really in the works. What seems to be happening is more of a movie. I don't know how close he is right now. You hear rumors, but who knows. If it would happen, absolutely I'd do it. It's not anything really deep or profound, but if KENNY was doing it - who was involved in the original mini-series - it would be worth doing it and I think it would be very special.
What do you want a person to come away with after they've heard 'THE DEVIL HAS MY DOUBLE'?
That's a very good question. I'd like them to come away thinking a little about their own sort of sexuality, their own fantasy life, a bit of fun, a bit fo whimsy and a bit of titillation.
That's the best answer I've ever had to that question.
Yes. No one ever brings up sex. You'd think they would with something called ROCKWIRED.
I think that's all I talk about. It must be my age or something.
There's a great recent interview with Susan Sullivan on broadway.com. She talks about her new play Buffalo Gal, about Falcon Crest and about her relationship with Connel Cowan. Have fun reading this:
by Kathy Henderson
An actress needs a strong ego to sign on for a play about aging, with a script that makes fun of her character's fading status as a TV star, inability to remember lines and diva-like backstage antics. "My phone doesn't ring much these days," laments Amanda, the leading lady who's come home to headline The Cherry Orchard in A.R. Gurney's Buffalo Gal, now at Primary Stages. Of course, it helps when the lady in question is played by Susan Sullivan, who makes 60-something look as chic and alluring as 40. Though she has spent most of her career in Los Angeles headlining TV shows ranging from Falcon Crest and The Monroes to It's a Living and Dharma and Greg, Sullivan got her start onstage 40 years ago when she appeared on Broadway alongside Dustin Hoffman in Jimmy Shine. Theater has remained a priority over the years, and Sullivan proudly touts the quality of the
What drew you this play and this character?
My life! That's the shortest answer I can give you. It very much parallels on many levels my life—becoming involved with television as opposed to staying where I always thought I would be and should be, which was the theater. As Amanda says in the play, "You called and said, 'Come home and do a play about coming home…'"
Aren't you too glamorous for this part?
Were you able to find humor in the idea of playing, and I'm quoting from the press release, "a once successful television personality whose star is now fading"?
[Laughs] Yes, I could identify with all of that. I mean, everybody's star fades in every business; that's just a natural part of life. You know, this is such a well-written play. The deeper you go into it, the more you find. It relates to my own life, it relates to the life of the theater and hopefully to the journey all of us take. I think we're all trying, particularly in this hectic and chaotic world, to find some sense of personal integrity. And that's the struggle Amanda faces.
You're wearing skinny jeans and orange patent-leather mules onstage!
When I'm working—and I've been doing a lot of theater this past year—I don't eat, so I've lost about 10 pounds, which is probably not so good. I'm hyped up when I'm working. Some people eat when they're hyped up and some people don't. I'm the "don't."
Like your character, you've done Chekhov, but I doubt you have Amanda's fear about learning lines.
I must say, I'm having a struggle, not with learning the lines but with saying the lines exactly as Pete Gurney has written them. He's very particular about that, and he has every right to be. There's a sweet little intern writing down notes every night, and I get four or five pages after each performance of exactly where I'm not saying "and," "but" or "it" or, even worse, where I'm adding words. The character says, "Ah, the curse of
This play takes a rather dim view of television. Did you feel comfortable with that, given the number of series you've done?
Well, at this point in my life, when my character says, "It's so tiring, television," I couldn't agree more. I just did a pilot, interestingly enough, and all that sitting around, all that gearing up, it's just not as satisfying an experience [as theater] in terms of the time you take to create and develop a character. You're sort of thrown in. But having said that, I wouldn't have the life I have without television. I wouldn't be looking out my apartment window onto the
It's called Castle [starring Nathan Fillion of Waitress and TV's Firefly]. I play an old Broadway diva, emphasis on the "old," who is running around in fancy outfits looking for love and excitement and singing "Hey look me over!" It's completely fun, and every actress in town wanted to do it, so I feel very fortunate. Who knows if it will be sold?
Can you imagine turning down a part in a TV series in order to do The Cherry Orchard in
That's a hard one. [Amanda] obviously has enormous guilt and conflict in terms of what her life's journey has been—and now she has the opportunity to come home, do a play and have it take her on another road in life, as opposed to going back [to Hollywood] and doing something she doesn't really feel has any substance or value other than money. I don't have the money issue, and I've found myself being offered things in television and thinking, "Why am I even considering this? There's no reason for me to do it other than [to demonstrate] I'm still in the game."
So, you weren't part of the
I really wasn't. I remember one of the first parties I went to on the
Is it true you dated
Yes. He was the age I am now when I met him, and I thought he was an old man [laughs]. He had just broken up with Dyan Cannon and had had a child. He said to me, "Why are you being an actress? They're all neurotic." I said, "Even Katharine Hepburn?" And he said, "Especially Katharine Hepburn!" I said, "Well, what do you think I should do with my life?" And he said, "I think you should become impregnated."
I know. He made it sound so unglamorous and so unappealing, I didn't give it a thought. I'd rather be a neurotic actress than "become impregnated."
You made your Broadway debut in 1968 in Jimmy Shine opposite Dustin Hoffman. What are your memories of that?
My strongest memory was going out of town, and the extraordinary pressure. I remember being in my hotel room in one of those awake/asleep states, dreaming that there were rats in the room. That's the degree of terror I remember feeling. It was the first time I really understood that I was going to have to have courage to deal with the anxiety that comes with performing. A part of me wanted to stop. So whenever it comes back up, I think, "This is just part of what artists have to deal with, and you must have the grace and the courage to move through it."
How did you decide to go into the theater?
I always wanted it, since I was a little girl. I came from a chaotic family, and by doing little plays and constructing organized drama—as opposed to the disorganized drama of my family—things worked better. That's the psychological aspect of it, but it's also in my genes. My father's aunt, my great aunt, came over with the Abbey players and was a protégé of David Belasco, so it's part of my background on the Irish side of my family.
You're the ultimate example of an actor who mixes crowd-pleasing TV series and highbrow plays. Is it a fluke that the two sides of your career are so different?
No. If you're doing commercial television and you land on a hit series, it's good news and bad news. When I started Falcon Crest, I was in my late 30s, and by the time it finished, I was in my mid-40s. Those were really good years of my life that were spent making money and having a good time and playing a character that people connected to—but basically it was about entertainment. So if you're going to do theater at all, you want to do something that's deeper and of more value. You want to do Chekhov as opposed to Dharma and Greg.
Dharma and Greg was a clever show.
My mother watches all the reruns of Dharma and Greg. I hadn't seen that show or thought about it for five years, but since my mom watches, I peek in on it, and boy, is it timely. It's about people getting together from all different cross-sections of life, and if we don't do that, we're doomed.
Isn't it wild that Robert Foxworth, your Falcon Crest spouse, is on Broadway now in August:
We just did a play together, Honour, in
The other big reference in the play is to [
Have you seen August?
Oh yes. Did you read the article in The New York Times about Estelle Parsons standing on her head? Oh my god! That's such a gift to actors to see that and think "Not only could I be doing a play at 80—to hell with that! I could be standing on my head!"
You could play Violet Weston in August.
I think so. When I saw it, I thought, "That would be an interesting part somewhere down the road," although it looked exhausting.
How do you stay so glam-looking and in such great shape?
It's good genes. My mother eats carbohydrates, she eats sugar, she does not exercise—I keep trying to give her "notes," and she says, "I'm 92! Everybody else is dead!" I am really blessed, and maybe that's one of the gifts of being a little neurotic. I have no desire to eat. Once this is over, I will put the 10 pounds I've lost back on.
Your bio mentions your 20-year relationship with psychologist Connell Cowan, author of famous books about relationships [Smart Women, Foolish Choices], including several about marriage. Yet you two never got married.
Isn't that interesting? He had been married a few times, and I have an inordinate fear of…I don't know what. God knows, he's a shrink and we've talked about it. My parents didn't have a great marriage; I saw some really awful marriages, and I so love the fact that we are deeply connected to each other without it having to be on a piece of paper. There's something about that that seems deeper to me. It's a commitment of the heart as opposed to of the head.
As opposed to in
Are you happy with the level of fame you've achieved, and with how your career has gone?
Yes. I mean, I could say, "I didn't have the career of Meryl Streep" and be miserable about it, but I choose to be happy. I see people who were wonderful actors but didn't stay with it for one reason or another and choose to be bitter; they blame the business or say "I wasn't the right type." We all carry a critic in our head. But when you move into your fifties and sixties, things start to shift a little bit. The things that were important in your thirties and forties, like what people think of you, are not so important anymore. I'm happy with what I've done, and I'm delighted that I'm doing this play. I'm quite interested in where I'm going next.
See Susan Sullivan in Primary Stages' production of Buffalo Gal at 59E59 Theaters.
Most recently, Ackerman was co-executive producer for Berlanti Television, in charge of production on "Eli Stone," for ABC.Prior to that, he worked in the same capacity for Berlanti/Liddell Productions, helping to bring to the small screen both "Everwood" and "Jack & Bobby."
In 2001 Ackerman was executive VP of Production for Warner Bros. Television, where he was responsible for overseeing the production of all Warner Bros. Television series, including: "The West Wing," "ER," "The Drew Carey Show," "Friends," "Norm," "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and "Third Watch."
He began his career in 1977 at Lorimar Television as a production assistant on mini-series "The Blue Knight."After joining the Directors Guild in 1978, he served in various capacities on such productions as "A Death in California," "Eight is Enough," "Falcon Crest," "Kaz" and "Berengers."In 1986, he was named director of production for Lorimar Television, and was subsequently promoted to VP, where he supervised production on series including "Max Headroom," "Homefront" and "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman."
For the 1990-91 season, he was producer on "Gabriel's Fire," returning to his post as VP, Lorimar Television, the next season.
In 1993, Lorimar Television and Warner Bros. Television merged and became Warner Bros. Television; Ackerman maintained his post as VP, production. He became executive VP of production in June 1998.
Ackerman is survived by his partner Jennifer Lence, a daughter, a son and a brother.
Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society.