Cleveland Rock Critic Jane Scott May Be Pushing 70, but She's Still Got the Beat

updated 06/08/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/08/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Jane Scott is 68. She wears bifocals. At the moment she is wearing tennis shoes, standing backstage at Cleveland's Phantasy Theater doing an interview with Gibby Haynes, 29, lead singer for a punk band whose name is insufficiently wholesome to mention here. Suffice it to say that the opening act for Haynes' group is called My Dad Is Dead.

"What type of people come to see your concerts?" asks Scott.

"F—-ing burnouts," says Haynes, simultaneously spilling beer onto his torn jeans. "S—-heads who think we like them."

"Uh huh," says Scott. "And who are your musical influences?"

"Julio Iglesias!" offers one band member. "Madonna!" says another. "Walter Brennan!" adds a third.

"And what do you hope to be doing at age 40?" asks Scott. Haynes, in Ianguage that is colorful, precise and, alas, unprintable, expresses the fervent hope that he will be able to maintain a robust and satisfying sex life. For an encore—and as a preview of his band's stage antics—he concludes the interview by setting his hand on fire.

To many 68-year-olds, such behavior might seem alarming or, at the very least, rude; to Scott, it's simply good material. As the rock critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, she has long been inured to rock's egos and excesses. "Jane is pretty well shock-proof," says her editor, Tom Feran. She is also busy. Before attending Haynes' concert on a Friday, the self-described "only rock critic for a major metropolitan daily who has a senior citizen bus pass" had seen Billy Idol on Monday and Eric Clapton and Robert Cray on Thursday. "I cover all these groups," she says. "You have to speak the kids' language. Once they know I've been to the Dead Kennedys, they talk to me."

Scott, who has a degree in English and speech from the University of Michigan, began her newspaper career selling ads for the Cleveland Press in the '40s and later became a society reporter for the Plain Dealer. That led to a job writing a weekly teen page, which put Scott on the cultural frontlines when the Beatles first came to America in 1964. "That was a turning point for me," she says. "It really changed my life. I started to look at things from a rock point of view." Although a generation older than most of her subjects, Scott immersed herself in the spirit of the era, and along the way scored interviews with everyone from John Lennon and Paul McCartney to Jim Morrison, David Bowie, Lou Reed and Meat Loaf. Among her favorite interviewees: Grace Slick and Frank Zappa, "who always have a point of view and say just what they think." Her worst interview? Debbie Harry. "She just didn't give anything out, even though I was with her for a couple of hours."

Although she thinks musical generation gaps are inevitable—"Kids need their own music, even if it's lewd"—she also thinks parents are wrong to dismiss rock as dumb. "There's a Stardust syndrome," she says. "People think nothing has happened since Stardust." She credits her own career longevity to persistence. "You have to be there at the beginning, the first time a group comes to Cleveland. Once you sit behind a desk and do only established people, you're on your way out."

Earlier this year it seemed that Scott herself might be on the way out: Editor Feran admits that there was talk of reassigning her. But 126 of her Plain Dealer colleagues signed a pro-Scott petition, and the paper left her on the rock beat. Scott, who has never married and whose principal other passion is antiques, was relieved. "What else would I do?" she says. "Write about the PTA? Or real estate? No. Once I found rock, I was never interested in anything else."

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