What Would Kenny Laguna Do?

Joan Jett may not give a damn about her reputation, but her manager does.

W.W.J.J.D.—What Would Joan Jett Do? The question at hand appears on the T-shirt of a young guitarist for the all-female punk rock group the Applicators during yet another late-night, sweat-filled practice session in a small storage center in South Austin. For her, and countless others around the world, Joan Jett is more than just an extraordinary musician. She is punk rock, an iconic symbol of female empowerment and liberation from male patriarchy. She is a timeless, sexual siren—the feminine mystique. She is an inspiration. She is god.

However, the question "What Would Joan Jett Do?" becomes more confusing when it's not Jett who answers the question but her longtime manager—and writing and producing partner—Kenny Laguna. Such was the case on a recent phone interview for which Jett's voice was conveniently "gone." This led to Laguna, who was supposed to read Jett's typed responses to the questions, answering both for and as Joan Jett. After 25 minutes, there was no distinction possible between the two separate entities: the musician and the manager, the artist and the art, the product from the machine.

Instead, Laguna, as he has done for more than 25 years now, attempted to sell the ideology and legacy surrounding Joan Jett. In regard to performing for a younger generation at this past summer's Warped Tour, he replied: "Joan's younger than people think. You just think she's older because she's been around for so long, but the first time you heard of Joan Jett she was 15." Right, and now she's 46, old enough to be the mother of most kids at a summer festival.


Joan Jett

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts perform Monday, November 13, at Gypsy Tea Room.

But, "Did you know that Tom Petty opened for her at CBGB?" Laguna asked. Or that "there was a band on the tour, Senses Fail, that had already covered one of her songs, and their version was in The Bad News Bears. How about that?"

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Wait, there's more. "Bad Reputation" was the theme song for Freaks and Geeks. Oh yeah, it was also in that big fight scene in Shrek, Laguna said.

The lopsided conversation ended with one last pitch: "Let's make sure, I'll tell Kenny to e-mail you, to make sure you have all of them, 'cause our materials are very expensive. You wanna make sure you get the 14 things you didn't know about Joan Jett. There's more to her than just the biography...That other material should really provide you with a lot of stuff...I hope you're coming to the show...I will be there, and we will treat you properly."

Can't think now, must feed the machine. Just put another dime in the jukebox, baby.

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