ANDERSONVILLE — When the Ramones and other punk bands were on their way to Chicago, among the list of people to call was Jane Nye.
Nye, a North Side barber and fixture of the local punk and rock scene, didn’t just know where the party was, family and friends said. She was the party.
Nye died Feb. 18 unexpectedly of natural causes at her Andersonville home, leaving a music scene and neighborhood without one of its most colorful and outspoken members.
“She was a rock star without having taken the stage,” said Carmen Lopez, Nye’s friend. “She was just a force to be reckoned with. She touched my life in ways I couldn’t have expected.”
Nye lived on the North Side much of her life, raising her son, Wesley, in West Ridge before they moved to Andersonville in 1990. She was one of the area’s foremost punk and rock-and-roll barbers, and owned Barbarella Salon in Uptown from 2007 to 2011. After that, she worked at a number of Andersonville salons.
“She was known for doing punk rock styles, but she had clients across the board,” Wesley said of his mother. “She was really talented.”
Before she was a well-known barber, Nye was a fixture of the punk music scene. She had a knack for getting to the center of the action, too, Lopez said.
While at a show at the Metro, Nye somehow got herself and Lopez backstage. They managed to make it to musician Tommy Lee’s dressing room and started drinking the beer and eating the food on hand. When the band came in, the two split, Lopez said.
At a local stop of a hard rock music festival, Nye got some friends backstage and rode golf carts with members of Metallica and Kid Rock’s touring band, Lopez said.
“That’s what she did for people,” she said. “She showed them a good time.”
Wesley recalls musicians including Johnny Ramone of the Ramones calling his house, looking for his mom. The family even toured with the Ramones for a bit, Wesley said. Al Jourgensen of Ministry was also a family friend.
“My mom pretty much knew everyone,” Wesley said.
In Andersonville, Nye was known as the punk rock woman who rode a “weird” bike, decorated with tassels and other frills, Wesley said. She rode her bike everywhere, and didn’t mind being called “the witch on the bike,” Lopez said with a laugh.
Nye was also involved in LGBT and progressive groups and was a vocal proponent of equality, Wesley said.
“She was Andersonville before Andersonville was Andersonville,” Lopez said. “She loved the neighborhood.”
Nye’s death was a complete shock to her friends and family. She remained the life of the party until the end, they said.
A small service was held for Nye in February, but her family is planning a more fitting celebration of her life, they said. In August, the group will hopefully be able to gather in a bar or venue and throw Nye a birthday party. One stipulation is that the bar will have to be able to put Nye’s name on the marquee, to honor the rock star she always was, Lopez said.
“It’s such a shock,” she said. “She was that light in the room that you thought would always be there.”
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