1986: Starred in American Anthem
1988: Starred in Police Academy 5
1992: Pitcher in A League of Their Own
1995: "Alpha" in Tough and Deadly
1988-Present: Married to the greatest hockey player of all time
So Janet Jones Gretzky, smiling, playing with her blonde locks, sitting across from me in the back of Nello, one of those froufrou New York City restaurants where people come to be seen, is asking—quite earnestly—for my help. "People feel that I don't want to work and I don't need to work," she says. "That I should stay home and be a good wife to Wayne. They don't understand: Performing is in my blood. I want it back."
Mrs. Gretzky is a rare phenomenon, a famous actress who's not famous for being an actress. Ever since her royalesque marriage to the Great One was broadcast across Canada a decade ago, she has lived in a spotlight that has, at times, cast a very harsh glare on her. In one sense, that is the price one pays for hitching up with royalty. Diana knew it. Hillary Rodham Clinton knows it. Juanita Jordan knows it. Right before the nuptials, newspapers asked Wayne about the March 1987 issue of Playboy, the cover of which was graced by his nearly naked bride-to-be. ("You can't see anything," he said at the time. "I showed it to my mother; she loved it.") That wasn't good enough for the press. What was she thinking, they cried? Where were her morals'?
A year later, when her husband was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the L.A. Kings, a nation dumped all its sorrow and pain on the shoulders of what it perceived to be a shallow, self-centered seductress they tagged Jezebel Janet. Throughout Canada hockey fans decided that she was just an opportunist. " Jones is the biggest reason Gretzky is making the move to Los Angeles," declared USA Today. She made Gretzky move to LA. because she's an actress. It's all about her. Her! Her! Her! Even now, many years later, mentioning Janet Jones Gretzky in Edmonton is about as smart as screaming, " Tupac sucks!" in an East Oakland alley.
The same thing happened when her husband was shipped from L.A. to St. Louis. Wasn't that her hometown? Wasn't that her grand scheme? "No one ever threw eggs at me," she says. "But it wasn't always easy."
All this has led to the evolution or—depending on how one looks at it—devolution of an ambitious, talented woman's career. It's as if someone had decreed that, by becoming Mrs. Wayne Gretzky, she could no longer be Ms. Janet Jones, star of Police Academy 5. Jones Gretzky, 37, mentions her children every fifth sentence, bragging of 9-year-old Paulina's ballet lessons and Ty, 7, playing hockey and Trevor, just 5, growing oh so quickly. She loves living in Manhattan, loves watching her man wrap up his career as a New York Ranger. She is taking dance classes, working out every day, doing all the things actresses—and the wives of athletes—do. She is still quite youthful, with crisp brown eyes and a warm smile. Very ail-American. Great woman. Great husband. Great life.