Anything could happen when Jack E. Jett entered a studio, which is probably why Sandra Bernhardt agreed to be his co-host
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
Jack E. Jett had a reputation for being wild, crazy, unpredictable — and always entertaining.
On his last appearance on Lambda Weekly, Jett said, “My goal is to read the Internet from front to back before I die. So right now, I’m at the H’s. I keep reading Huffington Post and they keep putting stuff in there, so I’m stuck.”
On March 21, Jack Pinson, better known as Jack E. Jett, 58, died of a heart attack, just days after celebrating his 21st anniversary with his partner John Gennusa.
Gennusa said Jett was born in Grand Prairie, the son of a Baptist minister. He got out, Gennusa said, as soon as he could.
Jett moved to California and became a fashion model. He was featured in Playgirl, but had his greatest success working on a gig in Japan. He became so successful, he stayed and became one of that country’s most successful print models at the time.
Once he moved back to L.A., Jett became Belinda Carlisle’s personal production assistant.
“He did all the stuff people hate doing,” Gennusa said. “They palled around together for 10, maybe 15 years.”
Soon after Jett moved back to Dallas in 1994, he and Gennusa met at JR.’s Bar & Grill. Gennusa said it was odd they met, because neither normally hung out at the bars.
At the time they met, Jett was working for Prime TV, looking for programming for the Australian television company.
During that time, Jett was also developing the Jack E. Jett character, who dressed in a long black coat and wore one yellow rubber glove. He soon began doing a public access TV.
In the early 2000s, the “reality” show Cheaters began filming in Dallas. Host Joey Greco would accompany someone who would catch a two-timing spouse out with someone else. When it was a lesbian couple, they’d inevitably end up fighting in the parking lot behind Sue Ellen’s.
In one episode, Greco was “shot” by the enraged spouse who was caught in the act, and Jett filled in while the host “recovered.”
In 2004, the Q Television Network began production in a studio in Haltom City. The cable network’s main show was a two-and-a-half hour, five-day-a-week talk show. His co-hosts both loved his creativity and off-the-wall sense of humor while sometimes feeling frustrated by him.
“Tell you what. Working with Jack was challenging, because he didn’t always play well with others,” said co-host Chrisanne Eastwood, a comedian from L.A. “But, when he was on a roll, he could surprise the shit out of you. He was funny and fearless and fiercely ambitious. And gone much too soon.”
“Jack and I used to fight like cats and dogs,” said Scott Withers, another co-host. “Our boss pitted us against each other to ensure we gave our best on camera.”
While the rest of the cast could finish an episode and go home, the show consumed Jett.
“I’ll never forget the time he called me while I was shopping in IKEA,” Withers said. “He yelled at me for nearly an hour. Over the years, we had come to respect each other and became friends. We enjoyed laughing about our fights. He was more talented than I could ever become. I never told him that and I will regret it forever.”
Mimi Snow worked on the QTV crew. She met Jett while she was editing Cheaters and did some side work editing his public access show.
“I immediately fell in love with his quirky, fun, glove-wearing persona,” Snow said. “He came to me one day and asked if I’d be interested in editing for an all gay network. He said the current editors were straight and they needed someone give it the gay touch. I took him up on the offer and that eventually led to my dream of being a successful editor in Los Angeles.”
When QTV moved to California in 2005, Snow moved with the network. But Jett, who began doing his own show, commuted from Dallas to tape in L.A.
Jett’s show was called Queer Edge with Jack E. Jett. One of his first guests was Sandra Bernhardt. Gennusa said Carlisle, a friend of Bernhardt’s, arranged the appearance.
Bernhardt and Jett hit it off and he asked her to be his co-host. He was shocked when she agreed.
“She enjoyed his sense of humor,” Gennusa said. “He was good at setting things up for her and letting her do her thing.”
Gennusa said Jett and Bernhardt remained friends and kept in touch until the end.
Jett retained ownership of that show, which he sold into syndication.
After QTV folded later that year — it was funded through a fraudulent penny stock scheme and with few advertisers quickly ran out of money — Jett mostly did radio broadcasting.
He and Gennusa co-hosted a program on Rational Radio in Dallas and later hosted ilume radio. Gennusa said he came to the studio during the first show just to help out, but once he sat down at a mike across from his partner, he stayed through the rest of the run of the show.
Ilume developer Luke Crossland called Jett brilliant and creative.
“We will all miss him,” Crossland said.
People who worked with Jett often credit him with helping them get their careers on track.
“Jack Pinson was sweet, giving, funny and incredibly entertaining,” Snow said. “There will always be a yellow glove in my heart with his name on it.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 27, 2015.