Sunday, 19 May 2013

Life in Dubly - An Interview with June Chadwick


My heart was pounding as loud as the music as I sidled up to the back doors of the arena. I thought about backing out, but I knew she was in there, I could feel it, and I had to get to meet her... I was a man obsessed.

Then as I got nearer I saw the bouncers, they looked huge and terrifying: like two silverbacks guarding their young. If I was going to get in there, I'd have to use all my cunning and wit. I checked my forged I.D, it was a pretty good copy, but was it good enough? God, I hoped so. You see I was only 17, although I did look older and with my new skinny-fit jeans and highlights I might just get away with it.

I took long last draw on my ciggy and a swig of my cider and approached the goons.

The taller one stared at me, his expressionless face never changing. "I.D." he said in a baritone drawl. Then, just as I was gingerly pulling out my home-made card, a man with a long bleached perm and shiny trousers came careering out of the doors, and I was flung to the floor. Jesus, what was this guy's problem?

"And stay out!" shouted a third bouncer, this one was even bigger and goonier than the others. He terrified me, but for some crazy reason this wiry little man didn’t seem bothered, too hopped up on something to care, was my guess. He screamed back in a comically high-pitched Welsh accent, retorting "Or what then?" The bouncer looked taken a back, he'd probably never had anyone retaliate before and, growling to himself, he turned to go back inside. Suddenly this freakin’ guy sprang to his feet and jumped on the bouncer's back, screaming and kicking. During all this commotion I remained on the floor, it felt unreal and was making my head spin. Then I felt two hands on my arms and I was lifted up. "You look harmless kid," came that same low tone, "Quick get inside before this joker gets crazy." Crazy? How more crazy could it be?

I rushed inside, sweat pouring from me, and snaked my way through the people and props. Two little people came past me, shouting at each other and carrying what looked like a scaled down copy of Stonehenge. There was a man carrying a large pod, mumbling to himself about it not opening properly, there were groupies and roadies and a blond-haired man with a cricket bat smashing things, it was like a circus. But I couldn't see her anywhere.

The music was getting louder, I knew I was nearing the stage. She must be there, watching in the wings. Suddenly I saw them... the band, Spinal Tap! They weren't actually on the stage yet. They stopped and asked me directions, and I said that I wasn't sure but I guessed - from the sound of the intro music - that it was nearby. Then I asked them where she was, they told me to follow them.

After getting lost, asking the way again, getting lost again and a lot of 'Rock and Roll' shouting, we found the stage and the band rushed on, and that's when when I saw her. Like a goddess, she was sitting on an unused speaker, dressed in Spandex and fringed scarves. Her heavy make-up accented her beautiful features, she looked like a heavy metal princess sitting on her Thrown of Rock, this was the one and only June Chadwick, aka Jeanine Pettibone.

I approached her cautiously, I knew better than to jump in too quickly, that's how I'd frightened away Patti Smith. 

I spoke tentatively - "Hi" I said. I must have seemed like a little kid to her, she turned
and stared at me. I clumsily searched for my notepad in my breast pocket. Removing it I muttered "Can I ask you a couple of questions? It’s for Retro LadyLand Magazine..." I flashed her my library card, she wasn't to know that it was really for my school paper.

She looked me up and down and nodded nonchalantly. She was so cool, I prayed that I wasn’t about to make an arse of myself.

I started reading my questions:

So June, some have described Jeanine as the Yoko Ono of Spinal Tap, did you base her on anyone?

"I never thought of Yoko actually.  I based Jeanine on how I  felt about David and his success (of course) with the band .  In fact I was a classical musician, but grew into heavy metal!"

These words were like music to my ears: heavy metal music.

Everything seemed so natural, how much of the film was improvisation?

"Everything was improv.  We had story points to cover but no written dialogue."

I couldn’t help but notice her outfit, who couldn't? I just had to ask.

Jeanine was described by Iain as dressing like an 'Australian's nightmare', how much of this was your input?

"Most of the clothes were my own -  I was quite hip in those days!  The wardrobe lady helped me to put everything together that didn't go together!"

I knew that she had been living in the U.S. for a long time now, but her Warwickshire accent still shone through. I knew that some of the others' accents were put on, so I was prepared for my next question.

As a Brit, how did you rate your co-stars accents? Did you ever have to correct their pronunciation? 

"I had to audition for the role with improvising and I was amazed at how accurate their accents were.  Chris's father is a Brit and he taught the others.   They are all brilliant comedy actors and writers, but I didn't know who anyone was at the time."

Now the conversation was flowing, and I was feeling more relaxed.

I bet it was fun filming! Was there much corpsing?

"We couldn't 'corpse' without ruining the scene since it couldn't be repeated.  There were times when the camera kept rolling and it got funnier and funnier - e.g. the intro of the 'black' label and waiting for the 100 fans (not) to appear in the record store.  I often had to think of being somewhere completely different and not really listen (which fortunately quite suited the character!)  Not visibly biting my lip became an art."
 
So, how did you land the role?

"It came down to a choice between me and another actress who was quite famous. The fact that I didn't expect them to pull off the accents probably helped my attitude!  We had a great time and really clicked in the audition I remember
."

Did you even realise how iconic the film was going to be? 

"No, I had no idea of the film's future."

I listened intently, but in the back of my mind all I could hear was her saying; You don't do heavy metal in Dubly” and "I’ve told them a hundred times: put ‘Spinal Tap’ first and ‘Puppet Show’ last”. I wondered if she had ever got heckled?

"Nobody ever recognized me without the clothes and accent unless I was at a screening!"

Now, I had obviously watched June on many other films and TV shows, like V, The A-Team and The Evil Below, but always hoped we’d see Jeanine again, so I asked;

Was there any truth in the rumour of a sequel?

"None of us wanted to do a sequel.  The band was on tour anyway and sequels have a tendency to be second best.  Part of the movie's success was that a lot of people thought it was a real band!!  We did however do a "Where are they now?" for a TV movie."

Are you still in touch with any of the guys? 

"Barely.  My passions now are outside of the 'biz' - teaching the Alexander Technique and spending time with my 4 horses, dog and 3 cats (oh -  and husband)."

I suddenly realized that the band was just finishing up 'Big Bottom', ready to come off for a breather and a costume change, so I quickly asked my final question.

If you could put together a perfect Tap-esque band, who would the Jeanine be?

"Hmm...I'd try Jennifer Lawrence or Adele."

Just then the music stopped and the band came running off stage to thunderous applause. David grabbed June's hand and dragged her off, mumbling something about armadillos and trousers and she was gone, my heavy metal princess out of my life.

Then, just as I got up to leave, wondering what to do next there was a huge ‘BOOM!’ I nearly jumped out of my skin. Something nearby had exploded! The crowd gasped, people ran around in panic and I ran onto the stage where the sound had come from, to find myself staring straight at a smoking drum kit. Not again...

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