Kennedy, the MTV VJ Everyone Loved to Hate, Has a New, Salacious Memoir
You know you're a polarizing figure when Courtney Love takes a liking to you.
For anyone who regularly watched MTV from 1992 to 1997 during the height of grunge and gangster rap there was no presence on the network more memorable (or more irritating) than the single-named Kennedy, she of the nerdy glasses and hair as unruly as her mouth, who was once voted most hated MTV VJ in a Rolling Stone readers' poll.
She annoyed artists and viewers alike -- including Thom Yorke, Roseanne and poor Martin Landau, who schooled her on the red carpet for not knowing he was in the Mission Impossible TV show -- and caused a healthy amount of trouble. But she also had a bird's eye view of alternative rock at its zenith, and got to make out with almost every one of the era's gods -- who didn't wanna cup Trent Reznor's balls in the early '90s? -- while the rest of us could only stare at them on our college dorm room walls. She even wrestled with a few, including Reznor and both of the fratricidal Gallagher brothers.
Now a morning time host on 98.7 FM, Kennedy revisits those years in her new memoir, The Kennedy Chronicles: The Golden Age of MTV Through Rose-Colored Glasses (from Thomas Dunne Books), a Cinderella story of a teen KROQ intern and DJ who became an MTV staple while barely in her 20s. She'll be discussing the book at Book Soup on Wednesday, Aug. 7 at 7 p.m.
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It's been so long since MTV got rid of music that hardly anyone cares anymore, but Kennedy's remembrances still feel like both a eulogy and love letter to its pre-Snooki era. And though calling House of Style, MTV Sports and Jenny McCarthy golden is a stretch, Kennedy's tenure at her former job marked the waning days of MTV as the singular arbiter of not only music but pop culture.
Kennedy Kennedy with Mel Torme
"Like sexual harassment in the workplace and two-martini lunches, VJs are the stuff of legend whose time and train have passed, but I was fortunate enough to sneak into the express and ride it through the greatest age," she writes.
Born Lisa Kennedy Montgomery in Indianapolis, Kennedy was 18 when she was hired as a KROQ intern and then DJ by former program director Andy Schuon, who also later hired her, at 20, as a VJ on MTV, namely as host of Alternative Nation (Schuon is now helping Sean "Diddy" Combs spearhead Revolt, a new music cable network.) Over the years, she got to cover seminal moments like the 1994 version of Woodstock and sat in on Nirvana's MTV Unplugged performance. (Fact: The show's producers wanted the band to play an encore, but moody Kurt Cobain refused).
More famously, she interviewed bands at their douchiest (Radiohead), druggiest (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis) and most awkward (Bjork, Beck). Some interviews were epic; in the book she reveals Radiohead's Thom Yorke really was a creep and weirdo, but he seemed that way in their interview mainly because he couldn't answer a question. Later, during Radiohead's performance at the MTV Beach House, Yorke jumped into the pool and almost drowned thanks to his heavy Doc Martens. "To say we were oil and water is an insult to those innocent liquids, because they blend more beautifully than Thom and I ever could," Kennedy writes.
"What people consider my worst interviews were kind of the best, as well, in a way, because they were so surreal, like J Mascis," Kennedy says during a phone interview, referring to her 1993 one-on-one with the Dinosaur Jr. frontman, who was nearly catatonic and couldn't stop rolling his eyes. "You know John Lydon [aka Johnny Rotten] got so mad he ripped off his mike and walked away. That was pretty great. People would consider that disastrous. Same applies to Martin Landau. The fact that he kept coming back to lecture me, there's something poetic about it."
Up next: the people (and microphones) she hooked up with