BOOKS:Big-nosed boy on the offensive

MAN ENOUGH TO BE A WOMAN by Jayne County with Rupert Smith, Serpent's Tail pounds 11.99

Ben Thompson
Saturday 15 July 1995 23:02

IT WAS easy enough to be outrageous in the Deep South in the early Sixties: all you had to do was like the Beatles. For Jayne (nee Wayne) County, who started out in life as "a big-nosed boy from Georgia" and mutated into the hardest working trans-sexual in show-business, outrage was to become a way of life. But as much as the foreground attraction, it's the background details - like the way in which fondness for the Fab Four brought young black and white Southerners together in the teeth of fundamentalist Christian disapproval - that make this such an informative, entertaining autobiography.

You do not (and this is probably a mercy) have to regard such County standards as "Toilet Love" and "Cream My Jeans" as landmarks of the songwriter's art to be beguiled by the jaunty matter-of-factness of this torrid tale. County's voice has none of the whining quality that characterises the memoirs of former Warhol acolytes. For all the extravagance of her performances, a grain of downhome common sense persists: it is hard not to warm to any counter-cultural icon who admits to having left Woodstock early to avoid the traffic.

For those lucky enough not to have been present at such key moments in the County entertainment odyssey as "U-Bahn to Memory Lane", which culminated in her singing the Shangri Las' "You Can Never Go Home Any More" while flushing a baby (presumably not a real one) down a toilet, this book offers the chance to experience them in the serenity of your own home. Even those well-versed in County lore might turn a hair on hearing of her (mercifully) short-lived stint as a magazine advice columnist. A few months after advising a struggling musician to do whatever it took to make it, County received the following poignant missive: "Dear Wayne, I did what you said, I held up a liquor store. Now I'm in prison."

Only when observing that some people (ie David Bowie and Boy George) made millions out of what she regarded as watered- down versions of the County persona while she "had to go on the game" does a note of recrimination sound. Shifting backdrops of Stonewall and Warhol, punk and Berlin, and a cast of cameos including former Coronation Street star Chris Quentin, an unnamed Scottish football team and pop group The Police ("The most boring people I have ever met") add yet more colour to an already colourful journey of self-discovery. "The more offensive I was," County muses, "the more people seemed to like it."

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