Joan Jett, wearing a fantastic mohawklike feather hat, with her perfectly flat 51-year-old stomach bared, was perhaps the most memorable of the motley crew of celebrities walking the runway at last night’s raucous annual Dressed to Kilt fashion show at M2 Ultralounge. Put on by Sean Connery’s Friends of Scotland nonprofit group, Dressed to Kilt is known as perhaps the most delightfully chaotic, ridiculously cheesy party of the year — the province of Al Roker in a kilt and Mike Myers dancing a jig with Sir Connery and Donald Trump looking on — not exactly the kind of event where you’d expect to find the most badass woman in rock.
So why was Jett there? For the troops, it turned out. The event benefited the Wounded Warrior Project, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Erskine Hospital of Scotland, and though Jett is emphatically anti-war — “even if it’s something that seems justified” — she’s spent a lot of time doing USO shows. “When my first band broke up, the Runaways, I was kind of in a really bad place and I didn’t know what to do with my life, and for a very short period of time I really contemplated joining a branch of the military, just to get myself straightened out, to figure out what I was gonna do,” she explained backstage.
“When my first dream ended and I was so devastated, I was just trying to get back on my feet. So what [the Army] was going to do was give me some space to get back on my feet, mentally.” Instead, just before enlisting, she met Kenny Laguna, her songwriting partner, producer, and current manager, and never went. Concerts for the troops and the Dressed to Kilt show are her way of making up for not having served. And she loves it, she said. “It just made me recognize that all these people are just like me, and all soldiers, it’s not like they want to go in and kill, kill, kill. A lot of times people do it for reasons like they want to go to school, get a scholarship, travel, meet other people, just get out of where they live and experience life a little bit. So I’m sort of an anti-war military person. Because you can’t blame the soldiers for the policy.” What does Jett think she could have brought to the Army had she joined? “I thought I’d be an aggressive soldier,” she said, laughing. “So, uh, yeah. Aggression.”
Dressed to Kilt, of course, has another strong draw besides the good cause. The combination of copious Glenfiddich and the Scottish tradition of men going commando under their kilts means that anything can happen on the runway. Sam Waterston wouldn’t say whether or not he’d gone “traditional.” “Those things can’t be spoken of,” he said. Shani Davis, gold medalist in the men’s 1,000-meter speed skating in Vancouver, said he avoided flashing the crowd by treating the runway like a rink. “You keep your skater stride going, which I do every day, and you do okay. Keep your legs low. No high kicks. No dancing flares and you’re good,” he said. Matthew Modine abandoned his plan to ride a bike down the runway while wearing a kilt and wore trousers instead. “They were worried if I got off my bicycle wearing my kilt, that I might shock some people in the front row,” he said. And he ended up carrying the bike in the end, because “it might have been dangerous, maybe, for me to ride out on the catwalk, having had half a bottle of Glenfiddich.” So in the end, from our front-row seat, we saw little to no wardrobe malfunctions. Jett sympathized with our disappointment. “I didn’t see anything,” she said, clearly upset. “I heard all these amazing rumors about balls flying. It was all I could talk about all day. That was what everybody was telling me. I came for the balls!”