Bainter didn’t plan on becoming one of pop’s most sung-about women when she moved to L.A. in the mid-’80s. A native of Arizona, she’d graduated from Smith College and moved into a group house on Wilton Street, a Victorian crammed with nearly a dozen musicians. Farrell was one of them; together with Eric Avery, another Wilton house resident, a band emerged. Bainter was the house’s most mercurial presence; her habit brought some unsavory characters around, and a former boyfriend of hers was living under the same roof, which only made the situation more volatile.
“She’s really intelligent and full of drama, and everybody on this planet who’s met her loves her,” says Casey Niccoli, a former Wilton roommate. “But she was bringing around bad people, drug dealers. People who stole.”
When things went wrong at the house, the mayhem was often blamed on “Jane’s addiction,” so when Farrell needed a name for his band, there was a ready-made phrase in his head. “They jumped into my room one day and said, ‘We’re going to name it Jane’s Addiction! ’ ” Bainter recalls. “I thought it was sort of a lackluster name. I didn’t take it as a tribute at all.”
Nor did her parents. Bainter’s photo appeared on the insert of the vinyl version of the first Jane’s album, and on thousands of posters that appeared all over the world. “It was very hard for my family,” she says. At the time, she was leading a double life of sorts. By day, she’d put on a sensible suit and work at a management consulting firm in Century City. At night she’d put on a wig and wade into L.A.’s music subculture. And she was nearly always high.
“No one at work knew,” she says. “Once you’ve developed a good tolerance, it’s not hard to work while you’re on heroin.” Contrary to popular belief, she says, she never sold her body for sex. “A lot of people hear the song and assume it’s about a prostitute. It’s not. If you could clear that, I’d appreciate it.”