The tender side of night
Baby Jane Dexter shows her softer, gentler side at Helens Hideaway
By JERRY TALLMER
And the lioness shall lie down with the lamb. Baby Jane Dexter, the downtown diva, has always been a great many of Gods creatures wrapped into one, but in her current show at Helens, just to the left of the Joyce Theater, on Eighth Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets, the roaring, stomping lioness is playing peekaboo, popping in, popping out, but mostly letting that other side of BJ take overthe thoughtful, sensitive, aching, probing investigator of emotional loss and gain.
Even her great flaming mane has been tamed, transformed, into a long, gleaming, lovely pony tail, as if by the magic of some Jean Cocteau belle et bete hairdresser.
Dont look for that frightening, disturbing 15 Ugly Minutes on the Bottom of the Floor, her long-ago personal memoir of an even longer-ago rape. Just delight in the segue from a gutbucket Sophie Tucker/Texas Guinan Some of These Days (Did you leave me? It will grieeeeeve me.) to the dark brooding honey-smooth flow of I Concentrate on You, Cole Porters hunger a la Dexter.
Or a seesaw jaunt from a Gershwins classic, They Cant Take That Away From Me, to Hoagy Carmichaels down-home Bread and Gravy rendered by the lioness side of BJ so as to restore real meaning to the words rock and roll.
Dont think for a minute shes lost her sense of humor, the offbeat, unpredictable stuff that is pure Baby Jane, like her tale of finding behind the piano in her apartmentwhich has had so many paint jobs, its getting smallera 10-year-old sackful of yellow crime-scene police tape. Why? Who knows?
Speaking of pianos, Dexter gives Ross Patterson, her music director these past 14 years, every possible opportunity to go crazy on the keys. They are a remarkable pair. And lioness or lamb, Baby Jane Dexter is one of a kinda force of nature for fury or for reflective calm. She will be at Helensformerly Judysthrough May 28, and the gig is now also available as a Bread & Gravy CD.