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TODAY   |  June 14, 2010

’80s rock icon talks love, music videos and sexism

Rocker Pat Benatar just penned a new book,  “Between a Heart and a Rock Place.” She speaks with TODAY’s Ann Curry and recalls making music videos and being asked to hide her pregnancy in fear of ruining her sex appeal.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

ANN CURRY, co-host: Pat Benatar is one of the most successful female rockers of all time. For more than 30 years, she's been turning out hits and blazing a trail for women in the music industry . She won four consecutive Grammys and has sold 22 million records. And her video for "Love is a Battlefield " was one of the first to successfully blend a story-driven plot and a music video performance. And she writes about it all in her new book, it's called "Between a Heart and a Rock Place ." Pat Benatar , good morning.

Ms. PAT BENATAR: Good morning.

CURRY: You know, what's surprising, I think, for many people who will read this book is that it is about a woman who had so much balance, who is -- has been with the same man in a marriage for 29 years.

Ms. BENATAR: Mm -hmm.

CURRY: Two beautiful daughters.

Ms. BENATAR: Oh, thanks.

CURRY: And yet a rock star . I mean, how did you when so many have not emerged out of this profession unscathed?

Ms. BENATAR: Well, I'd like to say that I was really smart and that I had something I had to do. And I just -- I don't know, I just think that it's personality, that's the way that Spyder and I are, it's the way that we met, and we were really kind of working-class kids, so it stays with you the whole time and it just didn't really have any effect. And I had the luxury of having my support with me all the time, my husband, we were together, so it wasn't like being a female out on the road with all the pitfalls and everything that happens, I had my support right with me the entire time.

CURRY: Yeah. In fact -- in fact, since you brought him up, let me ask you about this. Because this book is pretty much a, in many ways, a love letter to this -- to this man...

Ms. BENATAR: Oh.

CURRY: ...your husband. You call him Spyder .

Ms. BENATAR: Spyder .

CURRY: His real name is Neil Giraldo .

Ms. BENATAR: Right.

CURRY: And, you know, he was your collaborator...

Ms. BENATAR: Absolutely.

CURRY: ...songwriter, producer...

Ms. BENATAR: Mm -hmm.

CURRY: ...lead guitarist.

Ms. BENATAR: Mm-hmm. Yeah, we started the band together in 1979 . And when he walked in the door and I saw him, besides all the fabulous chemical and physical attributes that we had together, musically it was perfect, it was exactly what I had been hearing in my head. And like I say in the book, he was the one who was the catalyst and he was able to help me bring it all together. So we began the whole thing together.

CURRY: I mean, you write, "Somewhere in the distance, the hallelujah chorus was playing" when you first saw him. "I froze in my tracks, something shot through my entire being. Every nerve ending"...

Ms. BENATAR: Yeah.

CURRY: ..."in my body lit up." I mean, this is such a pretty high bar for your -- for your daughters.

Ms. BENATAR: Yes, I know. I tell them, `Don't settle. Just marry for love. Don't be stupid,' you know?

CURRY: And you weren't stupid; together you marched on and you did so much, including the -- one of the first music videos ...

Ms. BENATAR: Yes. Mm-hmm.

CURRY: ...ever made.

Ms. BENATAR: Mm -hmm.

CURRY: And you have a story about that because, you know, nobody knew how to do this.

Ms. BENATAR: Right. Well, including us, I mean -- no, it was great. We were the second video ever played on MTV . It was in August of 1981 . And, you know, we shot the -- they called us up about three months before and they said they had this new idea. None of us had any idea where this was going, we thought, `OK, that's kind of interesting,' but truthfully I don't think anybody expected it. And the first week that it was played in August, after that week we couldn't go anywhere anymore.

CURRY: Well...

Ms. BENATAR: It had changed the world. Yeah.

CURRY: It changed your world, definitely.

Ms. BENATAR: Mm-hmm. Mm -hmm.

CURRY: And yet this was the time, and there still -- and there still is, but there still was a tremendous amount of sexism...

Ms. BENATAR: Oh, yeah.

CURRY: ...in the profession and throughout the world.

Ms. BENATAR: Right.

CURRY: And at one point when you actually became pregnant...

Ms. BENATAR: Mm -hmm.

CURRY: ...you were told to hide your pregnancy.

Ms. BENATAR: Yeah. I mean, this is incredibly hard to believe for people today to understand, especially since it seems to be like a prerequisite for celebrity right now. So they literally -- they -- you know, they didn't want us -- they didn't -- it was bad enough that I was married but to actually be pregnant, it ruined the whole sex symbol image and everything. And I mean, it was -- it was incredible. And it was -- it was just one of the things in the long laundry list of all the sexist things that they did while we -- while we were together.

CURRY: And yet -- and yet you nevertheless, despite that environment, you were bold. You know, your music, and that's I think what really happened...

Ms. BENATAR: Mm -hmm.

CURRY: ...you seized with this music something that I think women...

Ms. BENATAR: Mm -hmm.

CURRY: ...really needed. Where did this boldness come from?

Ms. BENATAR: I think it's just growing up on Long Island , you know? I mean, we just, you know, we came from a working-class family and you were scrapping all the time. And it was just kind of the way that it was. But in the book, I mention this story about how, you know, I just -- I grew up and you had to kind of fight for your position all the time, and then as it went on and in traveling to radio stations and things like that, there was always some kind of, you know, some kind of producer or some program or that would, you know, just, you know, tap is leg and say, `Why don't you sit down here'...

CURRY: Mm -hmm.

Ms. BENATAR: ...`and we'll see if we can get that record played.' So it just kind of fueled everything. And we were the first -- my age group was basically the first of the young women who were going to try and put the ideology of the women's movement into practice, so.

CURRY: Well, you did -- you did for so many of us. Pat Benatar , thank you so much ...

Ms. BENATAR: Thank you, Ann.

CURRY: ...for your music over the years...

Ms. BENATAR: Thank you.

CURRY: ...and for joining us this morning.