The second I stepped through the doors of Rolling Stone as a real employee, I wanted to shake off my old personality like the rigid husk of a cicada. But how could I cultivate a new, hip persona when I lived with my parents in a New Jersey suburb and wore black leggings as pants?
New Jersey in the 1980s had everything Jancee Dunn wanted: trips down the shore, Bruce Springsteen, a tantalizing array of malls, and, especially, her family. Barreling down the Turnpike in her parents’ Buick LeSabre, her perm brushing the ceiling of the car, she felt ragingly alive. But one night she met a girl who worked at Rolling Stone magazine in New York City. To Jancee, who visited the city exactly once a year with her parents and two sisters, New York might as well have been in Canada. But she loved music, so with bleak expectations she passed along her résumé, dashing her father’s hopes that she would carry on the family legacy of service to J. C. Penney (a man so revered that a bust of his head was proudly displayed in the den) .
Soon Jancee found herself backstage and behind the scenes, interviewing a countless (and nerve-racking) parade of some of the most famous people in the world, among them Madonna, Cameron Diaz, and Beyoncé. She trekked to the Canadian Rockies to hike with Brad Pitt, was chased by paparazzi who mistook her for Ben Affleck’s new girlfriend, snacked on Velveeta with Dolly Parton, and danced drunkenly onstage with the Beastie Boys. She even became a TV star as a pioneering VJ on MTV2.
As her life spun faster, she plunged into the booze-soaked rock-and-roll life, trading her good-girl suburban past for late nights and hipster guys. But then a chance meeting turned Jancee’s life in an unexpected direction and helped her to finally learn to appreciate where she came from, who she was, and what she wanted to be.
Riotously funny and tremendously touching, But Enough About Me is the story of an outsider who couldn’t quite bring herself to become an insider and introduces readers to a hysterical, lovable real-life heroine.
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About the Author
A writer for Rolling Stone since 1989, Jancee Dunn was a correspondent for Good Morning America and an MTV veejay. She has written for GQ, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, the New York Times, and other publications.
Read an Excerpt
But Enough About MeA Jersey Girl's Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous
By Jancee Dunn
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Jancee Dunn
All right reserved.
I am fifteen. I am going to my first concert unaccompanied by my parents. This is thrilling for a number of reasons. One, because I was invited by Cindy Patzau, the most glamorous girl in my sophomore class, still glinting with stardust after a recent performance during a school assembly in which she did a dramatic interpretive dance to Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." She wore a clingy black bodysuit in front of the whole school. She was my hero.
"You want me to go with you?" I squeaked when she called. I sat with the popular kids in our high school cafeteria, but I certainly wasn't A-list. When I got my braces off that year, no one noticed for a week, whereas when Liz Kincaid had hers removed, there was much squealing and jubilation in the halls. During senior year I was voted Class Clown when I desperately wanted Best Legs (won by a girl with the movie-star moniker of Jill Shores). As the clown, I was the peripheral Don Rickles figure to the bronzed, carefree Dean Martins and Frank Sinatras, bristling with sour flop sweat, one bad joke away from being banished from the Sands. At the time of Cindy's call, I was on unsteady social ground due to a recent gaffe at a party. I wasleaning against a wall, waiting in the bathroom line, when a senior named Mark, a hip soccer player who wore Adidas Sambas and liked the Clash, materialized behind me. He smirked. "Holding up the wall?" he asked.
Tell me, what is the sharp, snappy rejoinder to "Holding up the wall?" I gawped at him as everyone in the line nudged each other, waiting for my trademark lightning comeback. Holding up the wall. Holding up the wall. Seasons passed. The leaves on the trees outside withered, dropped, bloomed, and withered again. Holding. Wall. Mark abruptly turned away from me and started chatting up another girl. Good-bye, Rat Pack, hello, dinner theater in Jupiter, Florida.
"This show," I said to Cindy. My words came out in a high-pitched, phlegmy squawk: Zhis gghow. I hurriedly cleared my throat. "Is it just you and me?" Surely there would be others.
"Yes," Cindy said calmly. "I know you have good taste in music, so the ticket won't be wasted." While I was processing this, I heard the click of a phone being picked up in my parents' bedroom. It was my younger sister Dinah. I could tell by her breathing. If I didn't play this phone call right, it could be my Waterloo, and I was frantic that Dinah shouldn't hear any bumbling. I needed to scare her. I inched toward the hallway in order to get a view of the bedrooms upstairs. Because there were three girls in our family, the phone cord in our kitchen had been stretched until it was ten yards long in our efforts to have a little privacy. Recently, my youngest sister, Heather, had managed to reach the hall closet, and conducted her preteen business with the door shut and key words muffled by the coats. I stretched the cord, gently but firmly, and crept over to where I could just glimpse Dinah in my parents' room. I waved furiously and her head jerked up. Goddamn you, I mouthed, affecting a tough squint. She froze like a snowshoe hare -- out of fear, or stubbornness, I couldn't tell -- but she didn't hang up.
While I fought rising hysteria, Cindy detonated this: The concert was to take place at a college. We would have to cross the New Jersey state line to Haverford College in Pennsylvania. With her older sister! And we'd spend the night! In a dorm room!
"Cool," I said, elaborately casual. "I'm in." I could hear Dinah's sharp intake of breath. She knew as well as I that it would take a typhoon of tears to persuade my strict father to let me go. Hear me out, old man, I thought grimly (he was thirty-nine at the time). I am going. Oh yes. I am going.
A week later, after frenzied negotiations with my parents that rivaled the SALT talks in length and intensity, I was allowed to accompany Cindy to Haverford. The night before I left, after a bout of gastrointestinal distress at the thought of hanging around a VIP like Cindy for a sustained length of time (this would become a lifelong pattern), I retired to my room to pack.
Soon enough, there was a timid knock on the door. Dinah and Heather stood silently, knowing that they must be invited in. "Hey, can we watch you pack?" asked Dinah. At fifteen, I still held powerful sway over my younger sisters, and I carefully polished my mystique. Usually when they were allowed to enter the sanctum, it was so that I could extort their cash. My "garage sales" were a frequent scheme. "Garage sale in my room, five o'clock," I would announce briskly as they raced to their rooms to scrounge for money or begged the folks for a forward on their allowance. Meanwhile, I rummaged through my drawers for tchotchkes to unload: a frayed collection of Wacky Pacs, a half-empty bottle of Enjoli, a trio of black rubber Madonna bracelets. As they waited by the door, twitching with eagerness, I would build momentum by popping my head out every once in a while with updates. "Five more minutes," I'd bark. "Lotta good stuff in here, lotta good stuff. I really shouldn't be selling some of this." Finally I would fling open the door and they would push over each other, running.
During one of these bazaars, my mother watched from the doorway, arms folded, lips pursed. "You should be ashamed of yourself," she said.
"Why?" I asked coolly, shutting the door on her. "For bringing color and excitement into my sisters' lives?"
I also gave various lessons. Ballet instruction cost fifty cents, seventy-five cents for the deluxe. For that particular con, I . . .
Excerpted from But Enough About Me by Jancee Dunn Copyright © 2006 by Jancee Dunn. Excerpted by permission.
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Reading Group Guide
ABOUT: With her impenetrable Rick James perm, her plaid interview suit, and her state school education, there was no way Jancee Dunn was going to land a job at one of the hippest magazines around. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, Jancee not only got her dream job at Rolling Stone, but quickly became one of their top reporters, interviewing such mega-stars as Brad Pitt, Madonna, Barry White, and Ben Affleck. But when this suburban New Jersey girl from a conservative middle-class family gets caught up in the rock-and-roll lifestyle, she turns in her good-girl past for late nights and hipster guys. Booze-soaked nights turn into years, and Jancee wakes up one day to discover she's the oldest Rock Chick at the magazine. A chance meeting helps Jancee appreciate where she came from, who she was, and what she wanted to be.
Questions for Discussion
QUESTION: 1 How did Jancee's feeling of being an outsider early on in her life actually help her interviewing skills?
2. Do you think Jancee's job influenced her rock-and-roll lifestyle, or do you think the men she met had more influence over her choices?
3. Jancee's family plays a big role in her life. One day Jancee finally "interviews" her mother and discovers there's so much about her own family she doesn't even know. How does this event begin to turn Jancee's life around?
4. Barry White's advice to Jancee was "Love as hard as you can, and as strong as you can, but never, ever fall in love." Why was this an important piece of advice for Jancee to heed?
5. "The more it was apparent that my days as a Rock Chick were waning, the harder I clung to the crumbling identity I had built up so carefully" (page 199, HC). Did Jancee still see herself as an outsider playing a role? Why do you think she never fully became that Rock Chick person?
6. The Dunn family could not be more hopelessly conservative and retro while Jancee's life spirals in the complete opposite direction. Why does Jancee call her father when life with the famous begins to get too surreal?
7. Near the end of the book, Jancee visits Rolling Stone and realizes that she had become one of the magazine's older people that the younger staffers tolerated. Did you agree that it was time for her to find another line of work? Is rock and roll a younger person's game?
8. Jancee has interviewed Patti Scialfa, but never one of her childhood idols, Bruce Springsteen. Many people never want to meet their idols in person in case they might be disappointed. Do you agree with this line of thinking?
9. Do you think that people pay too much attention to celebrities? What is the danger of celebrity worship? What need does this seem to fulfill in our own lives? With the rise of internet celebrity coverage, we are turned into a collective high school, as we comment on stars and condemn or celebrate their behavior. Do you think that candid photographs are an invasion of their privacy, or is everything fair game when you're a public figure?
10. Jancee has rules for engaging celebrities in conversation, such as 'never begin with 'I' . . . Leading off with something about yourself is deadly.' Are there rules in the book that could apply to everyday conversations with others?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed this book soooooo much. Following Jancee through her life was just a joy and I loved the all the little snibbles of information about stars that she had interviewed. A fun, light read that I recommend highly.
Very disappointing. Sadly, the title was the best part of the book.
Jancee Dunn starts out her memoir with solid advice about how to interview the absurdly famous. She alternates her hard won knowledge with the fascinating story of her transformation from a typical middle-class Jersey teen to a famous Rolling Stone journalist and MTV-2 VJ. Jancee's writing style is both charming and hilarious. Her objective and insightful story-telling is fully engaging and at times, it felt like Jancee was a close friend sharing her most thrilling and humiliating life moments. Throughout her story, Jancee shares her personal experiences with famous celebrities, such as Madonna, Loretta Lynn, Elton John and Brad Pitt, which allows the reader to catch a glimpse of what it would be like to interview the most famous celebrities and how difficult it would be to challenge them with questions they are determined to avoid. Jancee's insights into how to ask those challenging questions made me both cringe and laugh, as I could easily envision being in her shoes. I was completely delighted by Jancee's first book and terribly disappointed when it came to an end (though it was a fabulous ending!). I cannot wait to start her most recent release, "Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask", where I hope I can get learn more of Jancee, her family, and her fantastic life experiences. I strongly recommmend this book for anyone who enjoys pop culture and fantastic story-telling!
I really enjoyed this book. Dunn has an easy to read writing style that combines wry observations and funny commentary. It's interesting because she is fairly straight and narrow (no drugs, etc) but she skillfully interviews rock stars and other celebrities.
Cute story of a New Jersey girl that became a Rolling Stone celebrity profiler.
This book is so boring. I tried reading it for school and it was really boring. i hated this book.
During the summer, I tend to learn toward fluffier books that are pure, unabashed guilty pleasures. This book fits the bill. Its intelligently written, but funny. I actually giggled out loud at a few parts. It was an easy and fun read, perfect for by the pool or beach, I think every 20-30 something woman can relate to Jancee.
I'm not a real reader and certainly never write reviews, but I bought this book at my friend's insistence. I couldn't put it down and was reading all week-end. It's funny, it's sad, it's relevant and above all, it's honest. Ms. Dunn is a real talent!
Grabbed this book off the advance reading copy shelf at the bookstore I work at, and I'm so glad I did. Anyone interested in pop culture will enjoy this book. I love how Jancee intertwined her life growing up with her life as a celebrity reporter for Rolling Stone, MTV2, etc. I was laughing out loud at parts because it reminded me of growing up with my brother and sister, especially her attempts to get rid of her junk by selling it off to her younger sisters, and her and her sister dancing around with their Sweatworks sweatsuits. I also enjoyed reading about her visits to celebrity homes and her interaction with the Olsen twins. Great reading from a normal girl, who strived to be a little bit rock n' roll.
I loved this book. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. Jancee has a wonderful and relateable writing style. She makes you feel like you are sitting down to coffee with an old friend. I took this book with me on vacation and ended up spending extra time at the pool so I could read one more chapter. This book is a must have for every thirty something female.
I picked this book up after reading a review on it in People mag. Normally, I don't venture into the realm of biographies, but I was really impressed with this one! It's a lightning fast read and absolutely hilarious. Her stories and experiences are easy to relate to and offer a glimpse into the life of a rock 'n' roll journalist...something highly coveted and scary at the same time! Loved it! Grab this one!
A fun, light read for summertime (or any time). I grew up in the same town as Ms. Dunn and found her stories extremely amusing and her depictions of life in suburban NJ very real. Her self-abasing humor is laugh-out-loud funny, totally my style. Thanks, Jancee!
Took it to the beach and read it all afternoon. The title depicts the book, she is so quick and funny and very much what I imagine a 'Jersey girl' to be. Some family stories we can all relate to and enough juice about the rich and famous to keep it moving but it never becomes sleezy or not believable.