By Stacy Jenel Smith and Stephanie DuBois
Juliette Lewis heads out on Vans Warped Tour June 24 with a supply of brightly colored spandex jumpsuits, a band made up of pros who've played with the likes of Hole and Jewel, and astonished audiences in her wake.With her Juliette Lewis & the Licks "Like a Bolt of Lightning" album due this summer, the "Natural Born Killers" and 'Cape Fear" actress is the latest high-profile Hollywood name to decide she/he is a rock 'n' roller. It doesn't seem fair -- while recording stars as diverse as Whitney Houston, Will Smith
, Queen Latifah, Reba McEntire and Madonna
(okay, maybe not Madonna) found love at first sight with the movie cameras - actors from Minnie Driver
to Gina Gershon to Leonard Nimoy have come up with musical efforts that have been knocked and mocked.
Will Juliette break the curse of Tinseltown's music star wannabes who raise more eyebrows than they do album sales?
Her assessment of her musical prowess: "I'm f---ing good!" Others' assessment? Well, Entertainment Weekly describes the actress' back-bending, duck-walking, splits-performing stagecraft and her song stylings ("a strange brew of Joan Jett, Pat Benatar and Lou Reed") and reports that her audience watches "half horrified, half seduced." One fan proclaimed, "It's like an exorcism!"
Hm. Perhaps it's wise not to place your bets on Juliette just yet.
Jada Pinkett Smith has her own rock-soul band, Wicked Wisdom, with a first album on the way which will feature guest artist Will Smith. Hubby Will also had Jada guest on his last album. Jada went out and quietly performed gigs around L.A., honing her skills, and then her band joined Britney Spears' Onyx Hotel Tour to open shows in the U.K. in Spring. How does she find time for her active movie career, TV producing, and motherhood as well as music? For one thing, her and Will's two tots come to the recording studio and hang out when mom and dad are there, she says.
Russell Crowe's 30 Odd Foot of Grunts band has lots of fans - panting female fans, for the most part. As Austin Chronicle reviewer Mindy Labernz cheerfully admitted, "I went to this show to see Russell Crowe cuss, sweat, and peel off his shirt."
And he gives the ladies what they want. Crowe's known for mopping his sweaty brow with a hankie he'll then toss out to a lucky adoring woman. He's even stuck such rags down his trousers before tossing them out. Ooh la-la! Let some critics grouse that 30 Odd Foot of Grunts is merely a glorified bar band - obviously, this is fun! The group has put out three albums -- "Gaslight," "Bastard Life or Clarity," and "Other Ways of Speaking."
Crowe first tried his hand at rock 'n' roll in his twenties under the name of Rus Le Roc. His first single was "I Want to Be Like Marlon Brando."
Keanu Reeves played bass guitar for the band Dogstar for years, and is also currently playing with a group called Becky.
Kevin Bacon, who's part of The Bacon Brothers with his sibling Michael, plays regular gigs with his band and has even released three albums, "Forosoco" (1997), "Getting There" (1999) and "Can't Complain" (2001).
Bruce Willis has been moonlighting as a musician for decades. Today, he fronts the band Bruce Willis & The Accelerators.
Billy Bob Thornton began his career as a musician and released his own CD in 2000 - "Private Radio" for Lost Highway Records.
The list goes on and on. Megan Mullally sings with L.A.'s The Supreme Music Program. Nicole Richie is a member of the fledgling rock group Darling. Shane West writes music and plays guitar with his band, Jonny Was. David Arquette's in a rock band called EAR2000. James Marsters' band, Ghost Of The Robot, released their first album, "Mad Brilliant" in 2003. Woody Harrelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Jared Leto and Bill Paxton all perform with bands.
There are some big success stories among today's actor cum music makers: Jack Black has created a major cult following with his rock/comedy band, Tenacious D. And Hilary Duff has both a hot movie career and a smash hit album to her credit.
For many of the others, it might just be that topping the charts isn't the goal.
As the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin once observed, "Music creates order out of chaos? melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous."
Perhaps that explains why so many actors who've carved out successful careers in front of the camera feel compelled to perform as musicians. Music soothes the savage breast of the most chaotic, disjointed and incongruous among us, and gives pure performing pleasure.