Joey Ramone Interviews Pia Zadora

originally published in Spin magazine, August 1986
reprinted without permission, no copyright infringement intended.

A maid greets Joey at the door of Pia's spacious Fifth Ayenue apartment, and
immediately asks him to remoye his shoes. He is wearing purple socks. Pia wanders in from a pboto session wearing nothing but a bathrobe. On the wall, etched in glass, is a life-size portrait of Pia without the bathrobe, which Joey considers at length. On the way to the interview, he had been concerned about Pia's commitment to punk rock. His fears were groundless.

"It's like the Rolling Stones were for us when we were kids," she enthused. "Remember when they first did that song 'Let' to Bed Together'? That was like, wow, big stuff."

"Let's spend the night together," Joey deadpanned. But it wasn't to be; instead she lent him her white stretch limo to get back downtown.

Joey: Why did you make an LP of show tunes?
Pia: I actually started singing those songs six or seven years ago, when I was an opening act for Frank Sinatra. Then I went through a whole bunch of crap with my lousy movies and pop records. I had people behind me kind of steering me in that direction, but it wasn't really my bag. Pia & Phil was actually my manager's idea, he thought t would be right for me for credibility. It was really a career-saving move, to be perfectly honest.

It wasn't the kind of thing you'd have done ordinarily?
You know, it was important for me to do something like that, because nobody ever really thought I could do anything except look sexy on a poster and go shopping. I mean, I'd become a cult figure to a certain extent because of my movies, but unfortunately it was because of how bad they were

What was your first movie?
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It was a Christmas movie for kids.

What was that like? The title's great.
It was a cute film for kids. I was seven years old, I didn't have good advice, what do you want me to say? But I had a hit with the title song, "Hooray for Santa Claus." That was my first hit record. So I've been working for a long time now. When I was 21 I stopped and got married. I tried for a while to be the perfect wife, society this, society that but it wasn't working, so after about a year I went back to work.

Was your husband happy about that?
He encouraged me. He told me to get out of the house and go back to work. He sensed that I had to do it. I'm just not comfortable with that society stuff. I mean, we were just invited to the White House, but my husband won't take me because he knows I don't want to go.

Can I go instead?
Sure. I've no interest.

So what's your husband really like?
He's the greatest guy in the world. He's like the original Mr. Mom -- he loves my world, the young people around me, the baby. He's heaven-sent.

How does he cope when you're on the road?
He comes with me! He sits at the hotel with the baby and shows her the sights in every new city, brings her to the concerts... he's just great.

But when he's not there, don't you ever get... er... sidetracked?
No, I don't. It's not my thing.

That's nice.
Now my husband, that's another story.

Oh yeah, let's get the dirt here.
This guy, when I met him he was 47 years old, he'd just come out of a divorce and he was, you know, very desirable. He had every Cosmo cover girl and undercover girl. They were just coming out of his ears. Baking cakes on his doorstep, one in the back door, one on the roof, one waiting in the basement, another in the elevator. So I know I have to keep an eye on him.

How do you do that?
By calling him 83 times a day, just to instill the fact that there is a hidden eye watching him from somewhere. Like if he has a business dinner I'll take my mother and go to the same restaurant and sit at another table. You know, look at him out of the comer of my eye and every once in a while wave. It's cheaper than a detective. And he knows I'm violent. Just give me a butcher's knife and you're finished. Tell me, Joey. Do you think I'm crazy?

No! I like you. You're all right. Actually, I like you better meeting you than if somebody had just given me your record.
That's good. Because a lot of straight people think I'm nuts.

OK. What's the life of a sex symbol really like?
Uh... I don't know. I don't consider myself a sex symbol.

Well, what about the sex scenes in your films. Did you enjoy doing them?
I didn't dislike doing them. The thing you do is escape from them by immersing myself in the character you're playing. Someone once asked my husband that question. Of course, he's naturally uncomfortable, but he looks at it with the right attitude. He says, 'As long as she comes home for dinner.'

Were you embarrassed by the scenes with the garden hose [in Butterfly]? *
Er... well ... I didn't look at them literally. Besides, nothing was done, you know, the hose was never even used on me.

Well, I hope not! How did you cope with the abuse from the critics during that period?
I coped with it by understanding. I knew my product was crappy, and I also understood that people thought I was just a creation of a Svengali. They thought I got married and my husband said, 'Come here, little girl, you can go onstage and be a star.' Which was not true, because I've worked since I was a kid. So it made me rebellious, more determined.

Right. Now, where were we here...? (Pia leans over to read Joey's question list.)
"How old were you when you lost your virginity?" (laughs) I don't believe it! You wouldn't have asked me that question if I hadn't read it? You were just looking around it thinking, "How am I gonna say this?"

WeII,you know, I have to do this...
I tell you what -- I don't remember, it was so long ago. Jesus Christ, who wrote that question? He must be a pervert.

It was James Truman.
Oh, fabulous. That's why he didn't want to come.

We wouldn't let him. He lust gave us all these horrible questions. OK. What advice will you give your kids about falling in love?
That's a nice one. I'm gonna give them the advice that I always took myself, that it's better to get to know somebody before you jump into the sack with them. Because then if you jump into the sack and fall in love, and you liked them already, you're home free.

How did you get involved in recording with Jermaine Jackson?
Don King. Don was over at the house one day and he heard this song, 'When the Rain Begins to Fall,' which I'd recorded with a backup singer. He loved the song and took it to Jermaine, who also liked it. Jermaine didn't know much about me, he hadn't seen any of my movies because his wife is very Mormonesque and never allows him to see anything that shows, you know, the sleeve above the elbow.

Yeah, she's tough. I don't blame her. If you have a guy like Jermaine, it's a pain in the neck. When we were on the road together in Europe, Jesus, I had to kick the girls off of him. I mean, they throw themselves on the floor and take off their hats. You know what I mean?

I know. Sometimes, when I go to a Jermaine concert, I notice the little girls wear hats!
Joey, let me ask you a few questions. Why did you come to interview Pia Zadora?

I did it for my career. It was a career move. I did it for the credibility.
I see. Credibility. I hear it.

And I decided my next album will be show tunes.

'Cause I mean, it looks simple, singing show songs, but after listening to you I realize it's not as simple as it seems. So what do you think of punk rock?
I love it. I personally think I'm over it age-wise, but if I was 17 I would get into it. I love listening to it, but it's not my world.

Yeah, I can understand that. What about Rodney Bingenheimer?
I love Rodney. He's a little doll, he really is. I like his hair now. He changed it.

And Alice Cooper?
Great. I love Alice.

What about Rodney Dangerfield?
Oh, he's too much. I used to be his opening act. You know the classic story, no respect? Well, he was onstage and his dressing room went up in flames.

I guess he was hot that night. Do you like David Letterman?
Aagh... David is, uh, unique.

You rolled your eyes. You don't like David, huh? OK, what about John Waters?
I love John Waters. You see, I want to be the next Divine.


































* Actually, this scene happened in The Lonely Lady -- the editors at Spin weren't paying attention. Go back!