Grace Jones isn't saying that she's psychic, exactly. It's just that she can sometimes tell in advance what is going to happen. Like that time she was at a party in Mexico with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, waiting for an elevator. The elevator doors opened, and Jones thought, I'm not getting in there. She had a bad feeling.
"And they all got stuck," she says now, sounding pleased.
Jones spent decades at the epicentre of everything, famous for so long, it's easy to forget what she actually does. In the 1970s, she was a supermodel-turned-disco-singer. She posed for Helmut Newton, walked the runways of Paris, hung out with Andy Warhol at Studio 54.
In the '80s, she became an action-movie star, with a stormy romantic life and a fondness for her bodyguards.
More recently, she has released a memoir (I'll Never Write My Memoirs, in 2015) and a documentary, Bloodlight and Bami.
It's the documentary that brings her to the bar at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills. Jones is smaller than her glamazon reputation would suggest, but still a formidable presence. She's interested and friendly, with an easy laugh and a halting Jamaican accent that can sound vaguely French or British. She looks serene and watchful, her face a collection of right angles.
Celebrities tend to appear more pedestrian in real life, but Jones seems even more like an alien cyborg who reluctantly came to earth for a visit. It's impossible to imagine her doing normal-person things. There's a shield of mystery and myth that protects her. She tries to keep it that way.
"I tell a lot of untruths. My age is one. I always tell everyone only the FBI knows my age."
To Jones, time is irrelevant. She sees herself as an entity that has always been and always will be. "I'm already 5000," she figures. By more reliable estimates, she will turn 70 in a few weeks.
You let go of stuff that's going to hold you back. If you keep fear, you're never free.
To make Bloodlight and Bami, Jones spent a decade submitting to the ministrations of director Sophie Fiennes, whom she adores. Fiennes had previously made a documentary about Jones' brother Noel, who, like their father, is a preacher. Her cameras followed Jones to Jamaica, where she was born, and where she reminisced with family members about her fire and brimstone childhood.
"I grew up with fear," she says now. "Letting go of fear was the best thing that ever happened to me. Fear of God, fear of hell, fear of fire."
Jones, who would move with her parents to a town near Syracuse, New York, when she was a teenager, wasn't allowed to listen to records or the radio. She fled to Manhattan as soon as she could, and eventually to Paris. She became a model and a nightclub fixture, an androgynous, warrior-like figure of great fascination and novelty. Music seemed like a logical next step.
When she made her first official recordings in the mid-1970s, Jones, raised on church music, had no cultural reference points to navigate. Her first hit was a 1977 cover of Edith Piaf's La Vie en Rose and she became a disco sensation in that genre's waning years, then a new wave singer. She released a series of albums that sold well enough, growled her way through a series of hits such as Slave to the Rhythm, and began to grow more confident.
"You learn and you better yourself, and you know what path you want to follow, and then you go at the speed of light."
It was around this time that Jones began a relationship with French photographer Jean-Paul Goude. She was his muse and he was her great love. The art they made was iconic, and occasionally problematic (on the cover of Goude's book Jungle Fever, there's a picture of Jones kneeling naked in a cage), and their relationship was fittingly turbulent.
To Goude, Jones represented perfection. "He looked up to me, and I didn't realise." Jones felt as if she had to be fierce every moment of the day, in case Goude and his camera were watching.
Their relationship fell apart when Jones became pregnant with their son, Paulo, now 38. She was a transgressive star at the height of her fame during much of Paulo's childhood, but she tried hard to give him a normal upbringing.
"You have borders that you don't cross. You don't expose children to certain things."
After acting in a string of forgettable films, Jones co-starred in the 1984 Schwarzenegger movie Conan the Destroyer, and in the Bond film A View to a Kill the following year. She was officially famous, and now with a famous boyfriend to match: Dolph Lundgren, Swedish and hapless, who was her equal in pure physical splendour. One day, late in their disintegrating relationship, Jones pulled a gun on him in an aborted kidnapping attempt. They broke up, anyway.
The '90s were even more difficult. In an era of grunge and supermodel waifs, her aesthetic wasn't in demand. Jones took a job in a touring production of The Wiz and married her Turkish bodyguard, who she alleges became abusive.
The past 15 years have been kinder: In 2008, Jones released Hurricane, her only album since 1989, though she's working on another. She became a grandmother when Paulo had a daughter, Athena, and was even name-checked in Black Panther, which meant a great deal to her.
Bloodlight and Bami makes an argument for Jones' role as an artist, not just a provocateur. Her autobiography, though not a work of great introspection, charts her interior life from her fearful childhood to the not-quite serenity of her present day.
"It's a learning process. As you grow and pick up things like a rolling tumbleweed or something, you pick up stuff that you can identify and learn with, and you let go of stuff that's going to hold you back. If you keep fear, you're never free."