Directed by Marie
Losier, the 72-minute documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (on Cat & Docs) is “one of the best love
stories of all time.”
I typically detest self-referential ledes, but back in the
autumn of 2007, I posted the following bad
“Psychic TV’s Lady Jaye (née Jacqueline Breyer) died suddenly at her
home on Tuesday, October 9 from a previously undiagnosed heart condition. The
condition is thought to have been associated with her ongoing bout with stomach
cancer. My lady was 38.”
I just knew that the widowed Genesis P-Orridge, then Genesis Breyer P-Orridge,
was crestfallen. “Right now, somewhere in the Stuyvesant Heights section of
Brooklyn, a pandrogyne noise pioneer is cursing God and weeping uncontrollably
– unsure if s/he can even go on,” I wrote further. To this day, it still
strikes me strange that to be so extreme and confrontational on record, thee
Genesis P-Orridge was capable of such vast amounts of love and affection at
I mention the above not to prove some sort of Nostradamian faculty of my own.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Little did I know that filmmaker Marie Losier
had captured the whole ordeal. Having shot the happy-go-lucky couple for three
years at that point, four years later, with The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, she’s turned in one of the best love stories of all time. Not bad for a feature
debut. And at the heart of its 72 minutes, that’s what this picture remains –
an exquisitely wrought document of the love between two unique persons and,
ultimately, what happens when that paradise is lost forever.
Apropos of the two leads here, it’s not exactly boy-meets-girl, per se. Whereas
most of us are content to merely be with our beloved, the all-consumed
Gen and Jaye took co-dependency to its next Cartesian plane: dispense with the
preposition and just BE one another: “I am; therefore, WE are.” Theirs was a
“pandrogynous” paradise, evidenced by a Valentine’s Day visit to the plastic
surgeon. If Genesis’ two daughters with his first wife got his nose, then so
shall Lady Jaye have hers sculpted in his image. In fact, one of the funnier
scenes in the film sees a topless, face-shaving Gen recounting his eldest
daughter’s response to the news of her father getting breast implants. “‘That’s
fine, Dad, but you could’ve used the money to buy me a car,'” explains Genesis.
“An emblem in flesh of their passionate synthesis,” wrote Matmos’ Drew Daniel
in his review for The Wire (no stranger to the concrète arts of
cosmetic surgery, himself). But to focus only on the headier aspects of the
pandrogyne here is to miss the film’s bigger, more poignant point. Be it
rooftop parties with friends and family, cuddling up to flip through The
Post in Central Park, or the domestic bliss of sharing household chores,
Losier breathes love even into the minutiae of their relationship. True,
Genesis and Lady Jaye endeavor to be one. But as I ask anyone with a companion
all their own (albeit a little less literal), aren’t we all? Giving equal time
to simpler questions like “what’s for dinner, sweetheart?,” Losier makes it
look as if their band could be our life.
Speaking of lives and bands, Losier doesn’t skimp on the vintage Throbbing
Gristle footage either. Chris, Cosey and the late Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson,
they’re all here archivally — perfectly timed for the reboot of TG’s
Industrial Records. Sleazy died in his sleep just this November, so,
understandably, there’s no mention of his passing here in Losier’s film. I do
hope she’s preparing some sort of post-script extra for the DVD, all the same.
With Coil’s Love’s Secret Domain getting its own re-issue soon, Losier’s
timing could again be perfect.
As for Genesis’ Psychic TV – the group Sleazy left to do Coil, and the one Lady
Jaye would reluctantly join – Losier’s shot an even better roll. PTV3’s tour of
Hell Is Invisible…Heaven Is Her/e was plagued with all kinds of
logistical nightmares, but you’d hardly know it here. The band is all jokes and
laughs, Gen and Jaye get caught stealing multiple kisses, and even Butthole
Surfer Gibby Haynes shows up for a quick cameo in a toilet stall. It’s here, on
the road and making music, than Genesis and Lady Jaye seem the happiest. “The
last thing I wanted to do was be in rock band,” Jaye tells Gen before embarking.
Of course, this tour would be her last.
The way Losier frames it, it’s almost as if Lady Jaye knew she was going to
die. Asked what she wants to be remembered for when the reaper comes, Jaye
would always say, “as a great love affair.” And to be fair, Genesis noticed she
had been feeling sickly. But not even Gen, her soulmate if ever anyone had one,
knew just how sick she was. As Genesis describes that fateful day, he and Jaye
had just finished “making love.” Jaye then gets up to use the restroom, but not
before leaving him with the most amazing parting words this grizzled writer has
ever heard: “When I get back, I’m going to suck you dry!” Alas, Lady Jaye never
got that chance because she never did come back from the bathroom. Like
everything in life, including and especially itself, her heart could not go on.
Turns out I was wrong about the crying. Like my old man, Genesis shows us nary
a tear. Not that he wasn’t distraught; he had to be. In fact, not too long
after Jaye leaves this world, Losier flashes to a lonely Gen playing a single
snare drum on a solitary street — just as his own father once taught little
Neil Andrew Megson years before. The Genesis here is unkempt and paunchy, as if
swollen with grief. Ironically, he looks not like himself. The fata morgana of Lady Jaye still looming large, like one of Cubby Selby’s trannies, he’s
moved everything he owns into a cramped apartment by the last exit to Brooklyn. No matter how hard he tries to hide it, Genesis
P-Orridge remains a broken man.
But he hasn’t given up. No, Jaye would not have wanted that. To wit, Gen
refocuses his attention to the spoken word with his group Thee Majesty.
Eventually, PTV3 get around to releasing a new record, Mr. Alien Brain vs.
The Skinwalkers. And from the department of me calling it again,
Genesis dusts off his violin and starts scratching duets with a pajama-clad
Tony Conrad in an old can factory. Everything he does hence, however, is
dedicated to her. And in that regard, perhaps Lady Jaye got what she hoped for
Exceptional on stage and certainly in love, most of us will never know the kind
of love that bound these two together. Across country, age and even gender
itself, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye is a truly star-crossed tale
worthy of the greats like Anthony and Cleopatra, or better yet, Gore
Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge. Or, better still, at least for the similarly
obsessed industrial music fan – and as Losier’s title suggests – our own John
and Yoko. What Lennon noted in his Ono song, in the end, is a near verbatim
sentiment for Gen and Jaye, as well: “They look just like two gurus in
drag…and you know how hard it can be.”