"Bread with holes." That's how Jayne Rogovin scornfully dismissed the bagel she brought to our first meeting. It was the winter of 1994, and she had just made herself an office/nest on my dining room table — notebooks, folders, pens, laptop computer, bagel and the Diet Cokes she consumed like fuel. We were writing the script for the first Nashville Music Awards, and I soon found out she was an inveterate tweaker — she couldn't leave a line alone.
But as with the many things the outspoken Rogovin offers an opinion on, from bagels to dialogue, she had the cred to back it up. Born in New York, she was raised with two younger siblings in Oceanside, Long Island. Her father is a lawyer whose clients included theater producers. The first Broadway show she ever saw was Hair, when she was 11.
"It was a very defining experience," she remembers, "in more ways than one."
Lately, her defining experiences have taken on a darker cast. Last July, as she was working on the successful Americana Music Festival, the veteran publicist was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. Yet the grim news has brought remarkable outpourings of concern and goodwill — the latest of which will come April 5, when friends throw her an all-star fundraiser. With a delicacy she would appreciate, it's called "Kick the Crap Outta Cancer."
The event, to benefit the Jayne Rogovin Medical Fund, will feature performances by friends and clients including Jim Lauderdale, Steve Cropper, Foster & Lloyd, James Intveld, Mandy Barnett and Raul Malo. Her boyfriend, drummer John McTigue, is putting together a band, while Randy Rayburn, Craig Clifft and Brian Uhl, co-owners of Cabana, have donated the room, food and bar. Friends made while working on countless fundraising events are producing the whole affair.
"I got to know Nashville through volunteering on fundraisers," Rogovin says, a sassy blonde wig covering her now-bald head. She sips tea rather than Diet Coke. "I've never lived in a place that takes care of their people like Nashville."
When she was almost 12, her family moved to Miami, and she became a surfer girl. She also played tournament tennis, studied the flute, classical piano and dance, and taught herself to play the guitar. At the University of Florida, she majored in broadcast journalism and minored in surfing at nearby St. Augustine Inlet.
So how did a beach-loving nice Jewish girl end up landlocked in the Bible Belt's buckle? Blame broadcast news. After graduating, she pursued opportunities that took her to Palm Beach and then Houston, where she found a new love. "What does a surfer without water do?" Jayne recalls. "She gets a horse."
When she was recruited in 1989 by WTVF, she accepted if they would move her horse along with her. Both came to Nashville. Her next assignment, at another CBS affiliate in Dallas, ended with the violent conclusion of the 50-day standoff between the Branch Davidian sect and the FBI outside of Waco.
"I spent nearly two months in a trailer covering that story, and the conclusion was horrifying," Rogovin remembers. "I was done with television news."
In 1993, she came back to Nashville for good. "I had three choices if I wanted to find steady work in film and video," she says. "New York was too shut in, and L.A. too expensive for my horse. I loved Nashville and had made friends here. It was a comfort zone for me."
Over the next decade, she built a respected career as a freelance producer of videos, EPKs and commercial work. She segued into PR and marketing, carving a niche representing locally owned restaurants as well as artists in the then-developing Americana genre. Danny Flowers, Jim Lauderdale, Sam & Ruby, Doc Watson, James Intveld and Matt Urmy have all benefited from her relentless media hounding, as has the Americana Festival, which she has worked on for the past five years.
She met McTigue on Aug. 1, 2001, across a buffet at a party for clothing designer Manuel, another client. McTigue is currently drummer for Raul Malo, a longtime friend of Jayne's. "There is barely one degree of separation in Nashville," she says, laughing.
A large community drawn from Williamson County's horse world, television, music, hospitality and nonprofit groups has jumped into action to help as her medical expenses have soared. She is being treated at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center — a place she knew well, thanks to her time on the board of VICC partner the TJ Martell Foundation.
Just a few weeks after Rogovin received the devastating news of her diagnosis, Salon writer Mary Elizabeth Williams (whom both Jayne and I follow religiously) wrote a column titled "My Cancer Diagnosis." In it, our fantasy friend revealed that detection of a bump led to diagnosis of a malignant cancer, much like Jayne's.
In a follow-up column, Williams wrote that getting cancer doesn't so much show you what you're made of as it shows what everybody around you is made of. In other words, what she got when she got cancer was "love from every corner of the world, from friends and strangers." Jayne couldn't agree with the sentiment more. Though she would probably tweak it just a bit.
Kick the Crap Outta Cancer runs 6-10 p.m. Tueday, April 5, at Cabana. Individual tickets are $50 and include show, wine, beer, cocktails and food. Order online at www.cabananashville.com/jaynesbenefit. To read more about Rogovin and other ways to help, go to thejaynegang.wordpress.com.