Jane Marx, B.A.’65

Real-Life Goddess

By Carol Olechowski

Jane Marx has been a teacher, an editor, a “terrible” waitress, a secretary who typed “90 words per minute – most of them unreadable” – and even an actress. But her most enduring job to date has been goddess: As the self-proclaimed New York Tour Goddess, Marx offers city dwellers and tourists the opportunity not just to see her beloved hometown, but to “swallow it, savor it, soak it up!”

Marx was born to the tour goddess calling. The daughter of “a loving and talkative family” from Queens had just turned 17 when she enrolled at the University at Albany. “I discovered another world. Albany was smaller than my high school, and it was a perfect environment for me. I just loved being with these people who were not all from New York City,” recalls the former history major. She made friends from all over the state and particularly enjoyed her anthropology and economics classes. Two professors, Catharine Newbold and Helen Horowitz, set a good example for Marx, who “wanted to be a social studies teacher since fifth grade.”

She did go on to teach 10th-grade social studies for three years in a Long Island school district. “I loved the kids, and I liked being in front of an ‘audience’; it was like theater. But I didn’t want to go to committee meetings.” Marx left when her roommate, Janice, who drove them both to work every day, quit her job. “I’m a terrible driver. It’s boring to look only at the road. I had seven car accidents in three years,” Marx admits.

At that point, she made a career change, taking a position as an editor with Random House. She remembers: “I worked with Toni Morrison; she edited English books, and I did social studies. She was working on her novel The Bluest Eye at night.”

Four years later – after visiting the Virgin Islands, where she worked at a jewelry store and learned public relations – Marx switched jobs again and became a secretary at a publishing firm. While interviewing for that position, she recalls, the personnel director observed: “You’re so theatrical; you’re an actress. Why don’t you go to acting school?” So the highly suggestible Marx attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She landed some acting jobs, “but I would memorize my lines at the last minute and forget them on opening night.”

Still, all the job experience added up. As an independent tour guide, Marx has used the skills she acquired in teaching, editing, writing and public speaking, as well as her love of history. The job “also allows for zaniness, since I’m my own boss.”

The job had a rocky start, but Marx handled it with characteristic aplomb. On her first day, the fledgling guide was paired with a coach driver new to the city. “In Manhattan, we went down a street that was too narrow and hit a car,” recalls Marx. “My fault; I forgot the route. Everybody on the coach was fine after I told them: ‘Look, accidents happen every day. Today was our turn.’”