“Grace Jones holds book signing tomorrow at Waterstones, Piccadilly!” Facebook announces, my attention immediately leaving the political grumbles and pouting selfies. I check my timetable – I finish work just before that – the die is cast.
Grace will grace my life.
The day ticks on, I think of nothing but what I’ll say to my idol (since a year ago.)
The clock strikes four and I rush down to change. I pick out my trusty, subtly opulent peacock headscarf and apply the matching eyeshadow, sparkling glitter on the inner of my eyes to really make the look POP!
The swift march from the South Bank to Piccadilly passes with nervous excitement – my Texan cowboy boots bounce off the pavement.
The nerves jitter away as I spot the lit up sign of Waterstones – I spot the queue.
I decide to try my luck and waltz right in and join the queue downstairs. The flustered looking staff do not look pleased with my blatant rule-breaking – “No. You need to buy a book. No, Grace will not sign a post-it so you can stick it in your book at home. Please join the queue outside.”
The security escort me to growing queue outside the shop after I’m obliged to buy a (second) copy of Grace’s biography, I’ll Never Write my Memoirs.
I look around at the queue – I am highly aware that the majority of fans here followed Grace from the first time round in the 1980s and, feeling my look, ask for pictures with the holy grail of biographies.
I realise this is the first time I’ve been to a book signing, or purposely gone to something to meet a celebrity. And what a celebrity!
I remember first seeing Grace Jones on Jonathan Ross back in 2008 – I was still in secondary school and living in Wigan. I remember thinking to myself with my 14 year old mind that she was so scary – she was like no other celebrity I’d seen before. Her face, almost invisible eyebrows covered by a veiled hat with alien curves and undulations, were dominated by her wide red lips, which slanted to the side as she spoke in her chocolatey, smoky voice. I remember thinking she had a presence that was – to use the heavily clichéd term – otherworldly: her jerky movements and complete lack of inhibition as she commanded our attention, accented with her wild laughter I now know to be famous.
The television again brought Jones back into my mind when I watched Bond film A View to a Kill last Spring at my Auntie’s house in suburban Wirral and when she appeared on the screen. To spot this statuesque, scowling creature wrapped in a red cloak and hat amongst the other Ascot-goers I such a banal setting as a living room brought the mesmerised feeling as before, but this time I was filled with admiration and was completely starstruck.
The 1980s, which I never experienced first-hand, is an era which I am fascinated by and devour any experience that somebody who lived through it can bestow upon me.
To my understanding, it was an incredibly layered decade in the Western world, with sharp, calculated cynicism giving birth to the masculine aesthetic and love of lookin’ rich – gold earrings, gold watch, gold everything to set off those blood red nails to get the pulses pumping in the boardroom. The use of bright colours on everything in such a conservative era in politics teamed with the contemporary brightly painted androgynous stars provides a paradise as I trawl through old publications, media and art on the modern wonder that is the Internet.
Grace Jones was and is the embodiment of the aggressive, hyper glamorous aesthetic of the era.
I paw through my newly bought copy of her memoir, smiling at photos I’d never seen before: intimate family photos from The Time Before; photos of her contemptuous glare in her heyday.
I smile at a red haired lady looking over my shoulder and invite her into a conversation about her love of Jones.
She shows me an old record, ‘La Vie en Rose’, that she hoped to get signed that evening. Never having seen the cover before, I ask to hold it, reading the names of these songs first conceived in the late disco era.