This 'Rolling Stone' Has a Tale to Tell
By Jeanne Sager
BROOKLYN January 2, 2007 She’s been French kissed by Barry White, thrown open the doors of Dolly Parton’s kitchen cabinets and asked Kelly Ripa about her sex toys.
She can name drop with the best of them.
But Jancee Dunn’s more concerned that she’ll “give” the kind of good interview she’s known for.
“Do you need me to talk slower,” she asks. “All I do when people interview me is think about them and what they need.
“I get tense when I start rambling,” she says. “I am so not analyzing their interviewing technique… I’m just trying to deliver.
“I know what it’s like when someone’s going on about their new age techniques or scientology… and I’m thinking, ‘oh, please be quiet,’” she says.
Yes, Jancee Dunn is every bit the neurotic geek she crafted in her memoir, “But Enough About Me: a Suburban Jersey Girl’s Unlikely Adventures among the Absurdly Famous.”
Ask the former Rolling Stone contributing editor who her favorite interview of all time was.
“Oddly enough,” she says, “Ron Woods of the Rollings Stones… really, any Stones, they’re probably my favorite band of all time, and I got to ask all those music fan questions you always want to ask… or James Brown … or, oh, who am I kidding, Madonna.
“When I get intimidated by anyone I’m going to interview I think, I went to the mountain top already… so, yeah, Madonna.
“I grew up in the 80s, and she was everything,” Dunn said.
“Hmmm, but I like campy people too, like Don Rickles… and anything a gay man would love… Cher, Dolly.
“Oh wait, Dolly, yes, Dolly,” she says. “Oh no, see, I’m rambling again!”
Yes, she rambles. And she’s still a little proud that a photo of her with Ben Affleck during the “Bennifer” days sold for thousands when he made her pose as his girlfriend to prove the paparazzi will pick on anything to make a story.
But Dunn is a Jersey girl who had the romantic dream of moving to Sullivan County, settling down and writing full-time in the country.
She bought a house in Callicoon Center two years ago, wrote much of the memoir Salon called one of the year’s best reads at the little home on Gulf Road.
A writer for Rolling Stone since 1989, Dunn had her own show on MTV2 where she was a bumbling deejay from 1996 to 2001.
She worked as an entertainment correspondent for Good Morning America and wrote a sex advice column for GQ.
All major accomplishments for a girl whose family wanted her to follow in dad’s footsteps to a job at JC Penney’s.
But Dunn said her “childhood dream” was to write a book.
She wrote up a proposal for a “story behind the story,” a sort of celebrity tell-all.
It got accepted, but Dunn said they kept asking for “more family,” more anecdotes about growing up in Central New Jersey with a Southern belle mother and the father who dressed his kids in Garanimals clothes from Penney’s.
Slowly the “tell-all” became a memoir.
“I was actually nervous about putting out a memoir,” Dunn admitted. “I’m not Winston Churchill, I’m not Hillary Clinton!
“I’m only 40,” she continued. “But I did it anyway.”
She said the day the book was accepted by Harper Collins was the “happiest day” of her life.
Although she still writes for magazines most often for “Oprah” Dunn said she’s trying to make the transition to books because the mag. world is a young one.
“Rolling Stone, it’s a young person’s game,” she said. “I’m like freakin’ Jessica Tandy!”
She remembers going to her last rock show.
The Hives were rocking out, and she was looking for the fire exits.
“I was thinking, these hipsters aren’t going to save me if there’s a fire, and I remember thinking, ‘I’m old!’”
Dunn said she made up her mind not to become that “rock chick that won’t leave the club.”
Besides, her memoir reveals she’s not really a rock chick after all.
She might love the music, but she’d rather cuddle up at home with a good historical novel.
She called her move to Sullivan County a “romantic dream that crumbled.”
Her sister and brother-in-law had opened Stella’s restaurant in Jeffersonville, and Dunn and husband Tom Vanderbilt bought their second home.
She’d just begun to feel like a local (joining in the band of residents who resented the intrusion of the visiting television show “Town Haul”) when they had to sell their home.
“I liked the bookstore in Livingston Manor… ” she said, reminiscing. “I had that frequent buyer’s card.
“I had just gotten up to eight when I had to move!” she said, without a hint of irony.
Dunn said she spent much of her time in Sullivan County visiting Viv and Joe’s (better known as Jeffersonville store Global Home) and eating at Gus’ (a sign she was truly a local the restaurant’s real name is Ted’s).
“I had finally gotten to the point where I was in my sister’s restaurant, and every second person who walked through the door I could say ‘hi’ to,” she recalled.
“I kind of thought I could live outside the city, and my editors wouldn’t care.”
But writing for magazines required a city presence, and Dunn and Vanderbilt have moved back to Brooklyn.
“I just found I had to be in New York all the time, and my romantic vision started to crumble,” she said with a laugh.
She still harbors that notion of moving back; although she’s joined a celebrated list of authors who have penned successful books while living in Sullivan County (among them Stephen Crane and “V.C. Andrews” ghost writer Andrew Neiderman).
These days, she’s working on a fictional novel while Vanderbilt writes his own book on the psychology of traffic (a concept she insists is much more interesting than she can ever explain!).
She’s wary of calling herself a celebrity she’s a journalist who writes about celebrities.
People like Kurt Loder, a Rolling Stone writer, MTV personality and aging boomer, are the ones who’ve walked over the line from celebrity follower to full-on celebrity.
In writing a book, Dunn said she hoped to find a “quieter kind of spotlight.”
“In a weird way, I’m quite shy,” she said. “I definitely liked when my book got a good review!
“One question I used to ask people what would be the dream, when you’re driving around and you’re thinking, what if?’ I could ask you,” she said, deftly turning the question back to her interviewer as she’s done hundreds of times to celebrities who have wandered away from the nitty gritty she needs for her piece.
When the question came back to Dunn when she was reminded the interview was, after all, about “Enough About Me” and Dunn herself the answer was at the ready.
“Mine was to do a reading in New York and have all the chairs filled… and also to see someone reading my book on the subway, which I haven’t seen yet… but that’s as big as it got.”
She did that reading, excited audience and a man who rushed the stage (“I guess he just needed to get to the personal growth section!” Dunn quipped).
Now she’s waiting for someone to sit on a subway or a bench in Sullivan County reading “But Enough About Me.”