For the next forty minutes, Benatars guitarist/fiancé/advisor (and Cleveland product) Giraldo sequestered himself in the next room to watch the game, and Benatar chatted affably about her career in between sips of tea. An alert and candid conversationalist, she interrupted herself only once, to betray her New York roots by announcing shed spotted a brown cockroach crawling up the rooms brown dresser at a distance of ten feet (When I first moved out of the city, we had little spots in the design of the counter of our new place, and if I would move my eyes fast Id swear I saw one move). A genuine talent for whom everything seems to be going right, Benatar talked freely about the joys and the incongruities of rock and womanhood.
SCENE: You said in a recent interview that youre really not cut out to be a star. Yet you are a star, or practically so. How do you reconcile that?
PB: Now that its beginning to happen, I dont know what to do about it. I guess Ill have to find a way. This second record especially was like real quick- like gold in 13 days quick. You get real scared real fast. I think in a little bit Ill slow down. I was just talking to my manager the other day and told him I thought my whole problem is that I think I can have anything I want and then I get it.
SCENE: Is the dream beginning to fade yet?
PB: I dont think you ever get tired of it. You get tired of the bullshit part of it. The work part of it tends to tarnish the dream part of it. When you go on to play, though, that seems to rectify anything that went on all day. You forget about it. You can be so mad when you go onstage, and by the time its done, everything is so smooth. It really isnt anything except pressure, and that goes away.
SCENE: Did your efforts to get Chrysalis to stop pushing your sex kitten image make you feel that control of your career had slipped out of your hands?
PB: I always feel that you know best whats going to hurt you in the long run. You do what you can, its a big corporation, and youre just a little person, but you have a lot of power. If you just use it right and dont go overboard, people are pretty cooperative. When Chrysalis found out what they were doing was really upsetting me, they put a lid on it. You wont ever see these kinds of things again (gestures to pert ballet poster). They thought I wanted that, so they did it. They wont totally stop, cause theyre not stupid. They know it sells records. But they promised to compromise.
SCENE: How come theres all kinds of ways to market a male artist, but the marketing of women always seems to, make their femininity an issue?
PB: Thats just the way society is. Im really in favor of everybody being equal, but I know they never will be. Its been too long. Maybe it will level out a little. They put you into stereotypes, and rather than me be the Patti Smith stereotype, they decided it was better to go the other way, it was more saleable and believable than trying to make me look like a guy.
SCENE: It must be frustrating to be forced into such a confining role.
PB: Its a pain in the ass, is what it is. When you begin it never enters your mind. You dont realize that when you put your leg up on a speaker people go wild. And then when people make you aware of it, it makes you inhibited; afraid to do it, because thats never what you intended. So I found out I became real inhibited, and right now Im trying to stop being that way.
The first thing they do when you go to a radio station is... Can you sign my little poster? Lets talk about the record; give me a break. If I was a guy, they wouldnt be asking me to sign their stinkin poster. So what I did is I took my tights off, I put a jacket on, I cut my hair, and thats my way of saying Im not gonna do it no more, please stop. The middle is very hard to stay in, but thats where you wanna go. Because all youre trying to portray is a modern woman who does not have to be ugly to be talented; can still have some kind of looks. I hate that pretty girl who can sing thing. I mean, gimme a break; I cant help it. You wanna find strength, but still be soft and feminine. To me, thats what a woman has always been. Just something in between, and thats hard to do.
SCENE: It can probably be more like bouncing from side to side than steering straight down the middle.
PB: Thats it exactly.
SCENE: Do you think women rockers are finally coming into their own?
PB: From my point of view, theyve always been there. Janis Joplin did it; those girl groups did it. Its just in the last ten years theres been a drought, but I think the cycles come back around. I dont know if its already passed again, and no more new people will come out. I dont know if we did the year and now its gone and all the new ones are not gonna happen. That would be a shame. It basically depends upon material, and how you put it across. If you dont have good songs, and youre a great singer and you look great or bad or whatever, you wont make it.
SCENE: Of the women making music today, whom do you like?
PB: I like Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders a lot, because she is the harder side of me. Shes like real left of me. I wouldnt ever wanna do that, because I prefer to stay this side, but Im glad that somebody did it. I like her songs, I think shes a really good writer.
SCENE: To me, your style and Hyndes are direct opposites: you were trained classically, by the book, and shes so earthy and self-taught. Do you think you might envy her naturalness?
guess a little. I dont think you can learn how to rock and roll. You can learn how
to project it, but its gotta be in there. The only thing I dont envy is that
shes probably a slave to it,
PB: I guess a little. I dont think you can learn how to rock and roll. You can learn how to project it, but its gotta be in there. The only thing I dont envy is that shes probably a slave to it,she probably lives the riff. Its better for me that I can turn it off and go home.
SCENE: Is a smash debut album a scary thing to follow?
PB: Its the worst experience Ive ever had.
Wed make tapes and Id be crying, It doesnt sound like the first
one! Theyre gonna hate
PB: Its the worst experience Ive ever had. Wed make tapes and Id be crying, It doesnt sound like the first one! Theyre gonna hateit! It was terrible. I hated every song. I hated every vocal. I hated everything.
SCENE: You wouldnt be a perfectionist, would you?
PB: To a point. Neil is too. Hes nuts; weve recut whole songs again and again. Youre all tense, and nobody knows what theyre doing. You really do, but youre so much more afraid and nervous. Neil was really cool, he was at the helm; he was saying, Dont worry; everything is fine; its gonna be great and Im going, Its gonna be shit! I was really scared.
SCENE: Do you feel better about it now?
PB: Yes. Im one of those Monday morning quarterbacks. Ill wait until people say they like it and then Ill like it. The one thing I did like about it right from the beginning was... I didnt know if it was gonna be good or bad, popular, but I thought it was much more like we are really. You know, it was a better example of what the band was about. I just didnt know if it was gonna do well.
SCENE: How much of you was concerned with pleasing yourself, and how much with pleasing the public?
PB: Probably about 75/25. I think you mostly always try to please yourself and pray that they like it too. Id think about it, but I would never change anything to make em like it.
SCENE: So then why werent you-sure about how you felt about it until you saw others reactions?
PB:Its like anything else. You can paint a picture and you like it, but its a little harder to put it in a gallery. Youre vulnerable, you love the picture, but you dont wanna say you love it, cause then youll really get killed. Thinking it is bad enough, saying it out loud seems to be worse.
SCENE: Youre an impressive singer, but your band contributes a lot to what people have come to identify as the Pat Benatar sound? Do you ever feel that they dont get enough credit, since everyone always focuses on you?
PB: Its a terrible-thing. To me, its so obvious. Its just that a lot of times people can be so narrow-sighted about things, thinking, Its her name; it must be her thing. Thats not true at all; I do so little of everything. When you see us on stage, you can see that its a band. It always was a band. No one knew, though, when it began that thats how it would be including us. Thats what I wanted, but I didnt know if thats what was gonna happen because Ive played with side people for so long and nothing ever came together, people had such egos and they were assholes. But this band just went right together immediately. It was great, because it wasnt left up to me to do everything. I couldnt anyway. I mean, to hold a whole show by yourself is like.. its horrible. Its much more fun to have people to play with up there.
SCENE: Do you like to tour?
PB: No. I like playing; I hate touring. I would
probably like it if we went out less, like two months instead of four or six. Its
really grueling; I mean I know why more women dont do it. Its very tough.
Its different for a guy, I hate to say that, but it really is. Theres a lot of
things I like as a female that I cant have when Im in a hotel room. Its
just something about not being home that makes me crazy. You have things; women are
attached to things, and animals; I mean I love animals and stuff.
PB: No. I like playing; I hate touring. I would probably like it if we went out less, like two months instead of four or six. Its really grueling; I mean I know why more women dont do it. Its very tough. Its different for a guy, I hate to say that, but it really is. Theres a lot of things I like as a female that I cant have when Im in a hotel room. Its just something about not being home that makes me crazy. You have things; women are attached to things, and animals; I mean I love animals and stuff.
SCENE: Thats an interesting point.
PB: Thankfully, at least I have my man here, and thats easier. I cant imagine what it would be like to be a single-woman on the road... I think youd be slitting your wrists a lot of times and be crazy. Theres no people that youd wanna meet. A man can be a little more callous toward that sort of thing.
Its great to go all over the entire country, though. And playing makes up for all the hassles. When people say, Your records no. 6, its like: oh great; who cares? But to go out and see throngs of people... I dont think you realize it til you see them and know theyre there, and theyre really coming.
SCENE: Is there a special challenge to having a successful relationship with someone under the kinds of conditions youve had to get used to?
PB: Its pretty difficult. You know that under normal circumstances, everything would be very easy. But youre forced into a situation where youre together 24 hours a day.
SCENE: Most people dont care to be together that much.
PB: Nobody does. Its unnatural. Thats why we have separate rooms on the road, so he can go in his and I can go in mine and do my things. You need time to be by yourself. But its better than being away from each other for five months out of the year I dont think he would like that either.
Because youre human, you fail a lot. But its something thats worthwhile, because you know thats more important than any of this. So you work at it, because you know that if its really right, ten years from now youll still be there. This may not.
The interview was over, but Pat Benatar did one more thing to demonstrate shes a normal human rather than a fluffy marketing concept; a gesture mentioned here as proof that her desire to be accepted as a flawed but real person is more than empty talk. When offered a cardboard cutout of her famous ballet pose to sign for a friend, the one with her eyes seductively wide, arms stretched forward and derriere poised invitingly, she took the pen and reached automatically for the armpits. I always want to put hair here, she chuckled.
Cleveland Scene, October 16-22, 1980.