The real reason Grace Jones whacked a TV host live on air

According to her new memoir, a combination of bad coke, pigeon shit and hallucinations made her want to slap Russell Harty

The 1981 “hitting” incident between Grace Jones and television host Russell Harty has become legendary. The hilarious clip, which has garnered over 300k views on YouTube, and is the first thing that comes up when you Google “Grace Jones”, sees the music icon pout and protest when Harty turns his back on her, before thumping his shoulder repeatedly.

To be fair, it is quite rude to turn your back on your guest, and they are poking fun at her, plus it doesn’t look like it hurts at all. Although somewhat predictably, the video is used as an example of Jones’ “diva-ish” behaviour, with the narrator referring to her as “wacky” and “causing a scene” because God forbid a woman loses her cool like that.

In Jones’ autobiography, which is out today, the artist goes into detail about the infamous appearance, explaining how she was “covered in pigeon shit”, her sinuses were infected, and how she had been given some “really bad coke”, saying: “Bad coke was the last thing I wanted before I went on a live television show. The purest form, maybe, but anything else was not going into my body”

She then says that they had rehearsed the show, but once they were live on air, the arrangement was different. “We rehearsed the show in some detail; the three of us politely sat all facing each other in a semicircle. There didn’t seem to be anything to worry about…On the live show, the real thing, it was all very different. There was a live audience, which immediately changed the atmosphere. Things moved very fast, and I wasn’t feeling any better.”

“I was meant to sit next to Russell Harty and keep still and quiet. I was all dressed up like an Amazonian seductress, and treated like the hired help. I thought, This is no way to treat a guest. This wasn’t at all like what we’d rehearsed. Being stuck there while he ignored me made me feel very uncomfortable.”

“I felt I was provoked. I was feeling exhausted, had no idea where I was, and was coated in pigeon shit; now it seemed I was hallucinating that I was on a live chat show and the host was ignoring me. Pissed off, I poked him in the back.”

“I wasn’t attacking him because I was drunk or stoned. I was lashing out because I felt he was not being proper. You can see if you watch it. I am being sensitive rather than unruly. In fact, because I was tired and disorientated, everything was heightened. I never wanted to do these kinds of shows high. If anything, I get high afterward.”

“When he did turn around and look at me, I started to see Mas P (her step-grandfather) in his face, and an irritable expression that seemed to say, women are the root of all evil….Harty was rude. I wasn’t going to put up with it. I lashed out on live television. It takes balls to do that, which could be seen as a little crazy. And then they tried to get me back on the show! The ratings soared. I had done him a favor. They wanted a rematch. It was all so tacky.”

“When he died, my phone never stopped. It rang off the hook. What do you think about Russell Harty dying? Well, I am very sorry, but what do you want me to say? I didn’t know him at all. I didn’t kill him. I had nothing to do with it. I wasn’t there at all. I had an alibi."

Read our recent interview with Grace Jones here