COVER STORY: Jane Doe IDENTIFIED

GLORY DAYS | Gloria Cortez, clockwise from left, Vicci Stewart, Susan Carson and Deborah Drouin in a promo shot for Jane Doe.

After a high wave in the mid-’90s, Jane Doe broke up before blowing up. 15 years later, they reunite with a new perspective and the same drive to rock your face off

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

I know that you are my best friend / I can tell you anything, anything / Last year at your birthday party / I had a little too much to drink / Didn’t know what I was saying / Didn’t know just what to think / You know that I like to sing, you know that I like to dance
“Little Secret” by Jane Doe, 1997.

Deborah Drouin likely didn’t realize how prophetic her lyrics would be years later. The singer was just penning lyrics to what would be the first track off Jane Doe’s only CD release, Cherry Pie. In December 2010, she, guitarist Gloria Cortez and bassist Susan Carson all made their way to Los Angeles to surprise friend and drummer Vicci Stewart for her birthday. The intent was to perform a quickie gig at famed Hollywod club Boardners, but the reunion turned into a surprise for all four ladies. The show didn’t just celebrate Stewart — it rekindled a fire, and Jane Doe would rock once again.

“I don’t know how they kept it from me,” Stewart recalled. “They planned it for six months. I wondered why my friend would ask me to jam to Jane Doe songs. It made sense. When we got together, it felt like we never stopped and that spurred our idea to re-form.”

In the Dallas club scene in the mid-‘90s, Jane Doe was a household name. They were “that lesbian band,” but in short time, they outgrew fringe status. Not only did they begin the live music Sue Ellen’s offers to this day, they were gigging throughout clubs in Deep Ellum, winning over non-gay audiences as well.

Coming together in 1995, Cortez and Stewart teamed up with Carson and Drouin and the result, for them, was a realized dream — the perfect band.

“You dream about that ideal combination where everybody is creatively on the same page,” Drouin said.

“The camaraderie was there. I looked forward to playing gigs and rehearsals. Nobody was a downer in the band,” Cortez added.

The women hit at the perfect time, with all-female bands making an impact on the general music scene. As The Bangles and The Go-Gos were fading away, harder-edged bands like L7 and The Donnas were riding the alternative grunge wave and gaining notoriety for not being novelty bands, but respected as musicians. Jane Doe reflected that in Dallas and other female bands, lesbi-centric even, joined the fray, such as Blanche Fury and Ciao Bella.

Jane Doe holds the distinction of being pioneers in Dallas — especially in the queer scene. Former Jack’s Backyard owner Kathy Jack was with Sue Ellen’s at the time and took a chance on two things — the band and offering live music in the club.

“We were the first band to play there,” Cortez recalled. “Kathy hired us for Wednesdays and then we moved to Sundays.”

“It’s so different now. Clubs want you to bring in so many people and it just changed how you look at playing a gig,” Carson added. She now performs with her partner Kimberly Castrellon in Bandmates.

They found themselves playing to big crowds at Sue’s but also booking venues like Club Clearview, Club Dada and Gypsy Tea Room. Initially supporting acts, they were soon sharing bills with such Deep Ellum favorites as Pimpadelic. Lesbian fans followed, and the scene was, for a moment, a perfect cross-section of diversity. Gay and straight mixed together, all for the love of music, and it was because of Jane Doe.

“That gave us a feeling of pride to be who we were,” Cortez said.

Carson added, “Deep Ellum and Cedar Springs treated us so well and with a lot of respect. We were just riding high.”

The quartet quietly fizzled by 1999. Visions were heading in different directions and without a grandstanding show; they played their last gig at Club Dada. The Jane Doe chapter, which spanned the mid- to late ‘90s, may have been a short-lived one, but it wasn’t without impact. Fifteen years later, the ladies have broached 50 and look at their reunion with ecstatic vigor, but also realism. Stewart reflected on that era with the wisdom of time passing.

“Now it’s about embracing the moment, and then I was trying way too hard to become a famous rock star,” she said. “You know, I’ve been playing so long that I am a rock star.”

The idea for Jane Doe’s reunion in Dallas came from singer Deborah Vial, who hosts a CD release party Saturday, Aug. 20 at House of Blues. After witnessing them together again at Stewart’s party, she asked if they would perform on the bill for her event. Without much hesitation, they agreed.

“It’s not just nostalgia. These are four strong women who play music and have successful careers and I love that. I love Jane Doe and I’m so glad they agreed to performing with me,” she said.

The ladies simply want to rock it — on Saturday and henceforth, but it’ll happen a lot different than before. While Cortez and Carson have remained in Dallas, Stewart lives in California and Drouin calls Seattle home. But they’ve worked this into their favor. For the foreseeable future, Jane Doe has three cities to play. Their goal is not to reach the glory they once had. Instead, they just can’t leave the music behind, and if the chemistry is just as good as it was then, why the hell not?

“I catch myself going, ‘Wow!’” Drouin said. “That was an amazing time, but now we get to know how amazing it was.”

Carson added that while music is the passion that has kept her (and the rest of the band) young at heart, she wants to remind old and potential new fans that they’ve still got it. But is there really anything left to prove?

“Maybe to ourselves, but we’ve appreciated support from the community then and now,” she said. “I want the audience to have a lot of fun, and even if it’s still a straight world out there, they can see how talented four lesbians can be.”

Jane Doe opens for Deborah Vial at House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. Aug. 20 at 7:30 p.m. $10. HouseofBlues.com.


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