But there could be more, and she knows it. Jones Gretzky never officially said she wanted out of Hollywood. It had been her life since age 16, when she appeared on Dance Fever and caught the eye of Merv Griffin, who seemed to know a thing or two about talent. "He called and asked if I wanted to audition for Motion," she says. "So I flew out to L.A. and got the job. I was 19, and it was amazing." That was 1979. What followed were three seasons on the show, where she met Gretzky, who had been a Dance Fever celebrity judge. The two stayed friendly over the years, talking every so often but never dating until the mid-'80s. At the time they met, Jones was—in America, at least—as big a name as Gretzky.
Nowadays, though, she walks anonymously through the streets of Manhattan or L.A., recognized sometimes, but rarely as Janet Jones, the actress. "I love being married to Wayne more than anything," she says. "But has it hurt my career? I'd have to say yes." She is not alone. Of the seven wives who posed with their husbands for this issue, all report that they have had to sacrifice some measure of their individuality. Diane Johnston, spouse of Dallas Cowboy Daryl (Moose) Johnston and, for nearly a decade, one of Texas's most oft-used regional models, sums it up well. "You many an athlete, you lose your identity," she says. "You're a bed-and-breakfast innkeeper, you're an entertainer, you're a counselor and a therapist when the game doesn't go well. You're everything, except people can forget what you used to be."
Jones Gretzky realizes that this is the curse that comes with living side by side with the greatest hockey player of all time. "But I'm more than just a wife and mother," she says. "I'm a dancer and a performer and an actress." Despite a few of those missteps all thespians make from time to time—Jennifer Aniston in Leprechaun, Denzel Washington in Carbon Copy—Jones did, for the record, have an impressive run in Hollywood. She received rave reviews opposite Matt Dillon in The Flamingo Kid; she was, according to PEOPLE, an actress who "steals every scene she's in," one who, Playboy said, "works wonders for a bathing suit." In American Anthem, a 1986 movie about American gymnastic glory, she displayed true athletic prowess, and the movie, goofy as it was, had a quirky, endearing quality because of her screen presence. Even Police Academy 5 had a really interesting...uhhhm...well, at least she got to meet Bubba Smith.
The point is, Why did marriage have to kill her career? "Couldn't I play the Annette Bening character in The American President?" she asks. "I would love to be in a movie with John Travolta—I think the chemistry would work."
So she continues to pursue a career that many would consider over. Jones Gretzky auditioned for a part in the Broadway musical Chicago, but it didn't work out. She read for Tomorrow Never Dies, the latest James Bond film, and Armageddon, an upcoming Bruce Willis thriller, but was cast for neither. "Right now I don't have a name," she says. "But all it takes is one good role. Not a mediocre role, not something that's going to embarrass me. Something solid."
Police Academy 12?
She laughs. "I said something solid."
As if on cue a rotund waiter walks toward us. He is tentative and quiet and a bit awestruck. He hands Mrs. Wayne Gretzky an invitation to Nello's 7th Annual Winter Fest, a black-tie affair for special customers only. "We would love if you could make it," he says. "If you have the chance to come."
His eyes are wide. His face is red. His hands wobble like Jell-O.
He has never seen Police Academy 5. Trust me.