Jeanne Field occupies a niche all her own; no single description defines her. She’s been a nanny, a caterer, a restaurateur, a clothing designer, a camera assistant, an editor, film distributor, concert tour manager, producer of documentary and feature films and legit theatre, an agent and literary manager and now, an author.
No wonder she decided to write a memoir. Adding to her list of achievements, she also self-published the book.
“F*Words: My Life of Film, Food, Feminism, Fun, Family, Friends, Flaws, Fabric, and the Far-Out Future” takes you on a magic carpet ride through Jeanne Field’s exceptional life, one suffused with all the elements in her subtitle.
Just a few of the notable names she’s worked with include Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and soon, Johnny Depp. She was part of the production team that made the legendary, Academy Award-winning concert film “Woodstock,” the emblem of a generation.
Jeanne herself can be said to be a voice for her generation, beginning in the turbulent and revolutionary 1960s and continuing today.
In her foreword she writes: “I was young in the time of extraordinary change in America, post-war and into the ’60s and lo and behold, things have been changing rapidly ever since. I’m telling this story because I feel proud and grateful to have witnessed, and even taken part in, many moments of change and beauty.”
Women were a rarity and certainly not treated equally in the film business in the 60s and 70s (and arguably still), so she had to make her own way through the world of men and movies.
Her journey wasn’t planned but, she told me in an interview, had much to do with “Being in a good place at a good time. If there’s a lesson in this book for the younger generation of women, it’s about learning when to say ‘yes.’”
Following a breakup and facing an unsatisfying job in New York, she was invited by friends to Aspen, Colorado, and within a week, she was on a plane.
She took work as a nanny, but fatefully, she helped a man down a ski slope during a “whiteout” – a blinding snowstorm, saving both their lives. It turns out he was one of the investors in Janus Films, an early producer and distributor of art house and independent films. She was soon working there.
“Janus became my film school,” Jeanne says. With her then-boyfriend, director Michael Mann (“Miami Vice,” “The Insider”), she saw Ingmar Bergman’s groundbreaking “Wild Strawberries.” Her mind was blown, her eyes were opened as she discovered that, “This is what movies could be; so different, visual, ephemeral.”
Those qualities would dovetail with the spirit of the movies musician Neil Young wanted to create. She ended up living at his ranch to make them and later became tour manager for “Rust Never Sleeps.” After meeting Joni Mitchell, she produced two music documentaries with her.
Working with David Lynch on his iconic “Eraserhead” and through a connective tissue of friends, she met Steve Peck, son of actor Gregory Peck, and they married. It did not end happily. “We were together for five years, married for 11 months, then it was disaster and I fell down a hole.”
Weaving in and through her life, however, was successful Hollywood writer John Binder. They’d worked together on Woodstock and other projects over time. Each was partnered with someone else whenever they crossed paths. “In the 70s, it didn’t seem like it was in the cards,” she said. “He’d been married, had two sons, and after they split he was a rogue with lots of women.” So she felt it best to remain friends.
But after divorcing Steve in 1985, Jeanne invited John to a meeting in Ojai with her spiritual teacher, Krishnamurti. It wasn’t long after that they found themselves living together and by 1993, getting married. “So my good friend became my romance,” she says. They have lived for decades in Mandeville Canyon.
As the industry changed, so Jeanne adjusted. By the age of 48, she’d moved into the agency side of the business. By 55, she opened her own company managing such writing clients as the Edward Bunker Trust; he wrote the novel that became the 2015 Nicholas Cage and Willem Dafoe movie “Dog Eat Dog.”
Jeanne Field is not sitting still. In his book “LAbyrinth,”her client, journalist Randall Sullivan uncovered the story of LAPD Detective Russell Poole’s investigation into the murders of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur and their connection to LAPD’s Ramparts Division. A film is about to start shooting starring Johnny Depp.
Meet Jeanne Field at Beyond Baroque in Venice, on Saturday, November 19th at 8 p.m. “Retro Visions of the 60s” features Jeanne reading from “F*Words.” Joining her in the presentation of 1960s words and music are author and host Michael C. Ford, guest artists Russ Tamblyn and Bonnie Tamblyn with her Blue Heaven western swing band, actress Elizabeth Ruscio, Crossroads School founder Paul Cummins and others. The event is $10, $6 for students and seniors; tickets at the door.
Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also written features and reviews for various print and online publications. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.