See Jane Write Rock at 75

Article excerpt

IT IS well past midnight in a dark nightclub thick with sweat and smoke. As the band with the No. 1 hit in Cleveland screeches a hard-driving song, "Empty Promises," the air throbs, bass sound waves pound from 10-foot amplifiers to skip across the dance floor and buffet the young crowd.

Weaving toward the stage, through the throng of gyrating hip-hoppers, comes an old lady in running shoes, her trifocal lenses set in rose-colored frames and her pocketbook dangling from her forearm.

"Hey, everybody, look who's here," shouts the lead singer, interrupting a rambling intro full of angry, unprintable adjectives and adverbs. "It's Jane Scott from the Plain Dealer."

Hundreds of kids young enough to be Scott's grandchildren rise to applaud the woman who stands out as a drop of bleached blonde and pink polyester in a roiling sea of blue denim and black leather. America's oldest rock critic smiles self-consciously and removes one of her earplugs.

"I don't mean to embarrass ya, Jane," the singer says. "I love ya."

Like their parents before them, most of the hipsters in the audience need no introduction to Scott. As she cheerfully admits, she's the only rocker in the place to carry a backstage pass and a Golden Age bus pass in the same wallet.

For three of her more than four decades as a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Scott has been writing about rock 'n' roll. And she's still rocking at age 75, eight years after an editor suggested she retire and let someone younger take over the beat.

John Lennon explained to Scott why he said the Beatles were more popular than God. Paul McCartney, who talked to Scott about his relationship with girlfriend Jane Asher, told her after the Beatles' breakup that he remembered her vividly from the '60s because she was the only middle-aged, peroxide blonde who interviewed him.

When a Cleveland radio executive bumped into Robert Plant of Led Zepplin in Germany, the rocker's first question was, "How's my friend Jane?"

"She's a legend," says Richard Masarik, 28, a mixer whose company provides sound systems for rock groups performing in Cleveland clubs. "She has interviewed anyone who ever was or will be. I read her. My parents used to read her. She is rock 'n' roll in Cleveland. If you're from Cleveland, you have the Cleveland Browns as your team and Jane Scott as your rock critic."

Coming of age in the '30s in suburban Cleveland barely a mile from the lakeshore condominium she lives in today, Scott and her generation danced and romanced to the strains of "Deep Purple" - the much-reprised saccharine song, not to be confused with the heavy metal group of the same name. Scott's father was an accountant for a comapny that made steel barrels. Her mother, a homemaker, always hoped her only daughter would become a nurse.

But when Scott went away to the University of Michigan to major in English and speech, she worked on the school paper and got hooked on journalism.

After finishing a tour as a Navy Wave in Washington during World War II, Scott discovered that none of Cleveland's three daily newspapers was interested in hiring a female reporter. So she attended secretarial school to learn shorthand, got a teacher's certificate "just in case," filled in as a librarian, and worked for a public relations firm.

It was years before she snared a $50-a-week job on an upstart weekly newspaper, where she wrote society briefs and took ads for manure spreaders.

She was 33 in 1952 when she chanced by the Plain Dealer office the day a clerk announced her pregnancy. Scott was hired to replace her as a "society assistant." She would have preferred the police beat, but an editor who knew her father refused, saying, "We can't have our Janey working nights."

Her job was to make random calls to families listed in Cleveland's Blue Book, trawling for anecdotes about vacations and wedding receptions. …