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Monday, September 6, 2010

The Day I met my idol: Janis Joplin © 2010 Dakini Verona

The day I met my idol: Janis Joplin © 2010 Dakini Verona


It was a cold winter’s night in the middle of December, 1969. There I was, standing on the street called “St. Mark’s Place”. St. Mark’s was where I hung out. It was the East Village (lower east side of Manhattan). I did more than hang out in the streets, I lived there. Most people do not understand street life; they think living in the streets means you sleep in the street. That is not always the case and it was not the way it was for me. I spent my waking hours hanging out. Sometimes I would be panhandling; sometimes I would just stand and watch the people go by. Sometimes I would watch them watch me, like those brightly colored tour busses with the gawkers and their flashbulbs. 

We called ourselves “freaks” but everyone else called us “hippies”. Didn’t they know that all the real hippies were gone? Sure, there were those that looked like the flower children of yesterday, but there were posers. We called them the “bourgeois hippies”. They were those that came to the East Village on weekends to attend the concerts at the Fillmore. They lived in the comfort of their mommy and daddy’s home in the suburbs and never went hungry. They wore bell bottoms that were sold in boutiques, not those found in Navy surplus stores. They had money and lots of it. Those “hippies” had no clue about the ideologies embraced by those of us that lived in the subculture. They still revered the values of their parent’s and we – the real hippies had thrown that all away. Materialism was not only rejected it was our enemy.

Well back to the story. There I was – on the streets, no place to go. How did I get there – all alone, on that street corner, in the dead of winter? What was a 15 year old doing in the streets with no place to call home? I’ll get to that a bit later, but meanwhile, let me finish telling the story of how I met Janis.
I was standing in front of the Hippodrome with a small group of freaks. Suddenly, everyone around me started to whisper “Far Out! Look, right there. Across the street, it’s Janis!” I turned and looked. Sure enough. It was Janis. My heart stopped.

Suddenly, I found myself drawn to her. I just had to get closer. I rushed across the wild New York City traffic and melted into crowd which surrounded her. I stood back and watched in awe. Her presence was unmistakably that of the goddess she was. She had earned the title “Queen of Blues”, but even when she was not on stage, she had an unmistakable charisma. I was on the sidelines and watched her glow brighten the faces of those around her on that dark and dirty street. It was like watching a parade of light.
I began to scream from sheer joy, yet I uttered no sound. It was all inside my head. She was giggling like a little school girl – excited to have the adoration of her fans. She devoured the attention. It was then that I heard her infamous “cackle” and my knees went weak. Janis was wearing one of her trademark coats with lots of fur on the collar and cuffs. This one also had trim down the front, which resembled those worn by Russian Royalty. How appropriate that she be regally robed!


On her arm was a small man that seemed to be invisible, compared to her. A young aspiring actor, whose name escapes me as I write this. I remember thinking that he looked like a desperate little leprechaun clutching his pot of gold.  It was his lucky day, too. I guessed. His only claim to fame: to walk in the shadow of a super star. What I saw in his eyes was not what I expected. There was no love, no admiration; in fact, he seemed disturbed that she bathed in the attention she was getting. He actually looked annoyed. He wanted a taste of what she had, but it was as clear to me then as it is to me now – he was nothing… forever to be known to me as “the guy with Janis”.     

So there I was, in disbelief. Stars in my eyes. A grin plastered on my face. My mind screamed silently “Janis is right here in front of me!” And then. It happened. She actually looked over at me. Yes! Right at me! My face flushed and the world stood still for a moment. I could hear my heart beat in my ears, so I knew I was alive – otherwise I would have believed I had dies and gone to heaven.

To my further amazement she smiled at me, her eyes glinted as she nodded her head down and with a slight gesture of her hand beckoned for me to get closer to her. My brain shut down at this point and in disbelief I walked over next to her. To be honest, I almost tripped on myself as I skipped over to her. “Hey chicky” she said, “How the hell are you?” I am sure I must have responded…but not for a million dollars could I tell you what it was I said. “Want a drink?” she asked, as she reached in under her wooly robes and pulled out a bottle of her trademark drink: Southern Comfort. She opened it up and handed it to me saying “here, have some.”









Now, at that point it could have been arsenic or even holy water, it didn’t matter, there was no way I was going to refuse to drink whatever it was she offered. My fingers electrified when I touched the bottle, as they slightly brushed against her hand. I put the bottle to my lips and felt the rim warm my lips. She must have been carrying that bottle for some time under her coat. 

I slowly savored the sweet nectar of the thick swill. My tongue was instantly awake from the burn of the alcohol. I quickly swallowed and the hot glow followed the path to my gut. The burning must have been reflected on my face, because she giggled at my reaction. It was a giggle that only Janis could perform.  I never took my eyes from hers (except for the brief moment I tried to swallow the hot liquid).

She turned to the “shadow man” to offer him a sip of the drink. He too, came alive once she acknowledged his meager existence. Clearly, she was the star that night. Little did I know, little did any of us realize that our precious pearl would soon be lost to the addictions that consumed her body and soul, as is so common for all the great ones. The brighter the light, the faster the candle will burn – so they say.

Within a moment she was gone. She disappeared as quickly as she arrived, all that remained were footprints in the snow. The lingering taste of her “drink” left its impression for a short while.
To this day I smile fondly each time I see a bottle of Southern Comfort. Thank you, Janis – wherever you are, for acknowledging this little girl. It was one small and insignificant gesture on her part: offering a drink of swill to a cute little street urchin – but the experience itself marked my soul forever.







48 comments:

  1. this is a beautiful story. i wept in joy for you.

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  2. so awesome She is my idol . wish i would have been able to meet her or even see her in real life .

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  3. Outstanding, the way you conjure up more meaning to describe the event!!! I can only feel admiration for your brief encounter & wish I could have met her!!
    She is one of the few artists, I make no attempt to resurrect vocally!! I feel I could not give the "justice" to her songs that they deserve! I know mimicking or covering ones tune, is the upmost in flattery, but, I've heard too many drag her music down with their poor renditions!! I idolize her too much to join in with them!!!
    Thanks so much for sharing your story, I truly enjoyed reading & imagining myself, as you!! You will take to your grave, something, most who knew & loved Janis, would give their right arm for!! I would anyway!!
    Take care my friend, I wish you well in all your adventures & seriously wouldn't mind meeting someday!!!!
    Sincerely..... Dee

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  4. That is so cool! A moment that no one would ever forget!

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  5. love the story, it must have been great to meet her she is great

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  6. Just a guess, but could that actor have been Michael J. Pollard, who played C.W. Moss in "Bonnie & Clyde" and was a great friend of Janis?

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  7. very cool. I love Janis and wished I could have had a moment like yours.

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  8. It was beautiful and thank you for sharing Janice has helped through my divorces and my many F bombs I have had in my life Thank you Janice

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  9. thank you for all the kind words.. I will have to research Michael J. Pollard.. thanks.

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  10. :)
    it must be such a wonderful time for you,..
    happy to know and thx for sharing ..

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  11. I really enjoyed reading this story. Its great to see the love everyone still feels for Janis & that her spirit lives so strong in our hearts & minds forever for generations to come. You never know when you give your kindness to others how much it could effect them in a lifetime. Beautiful story thanks for sharing with us all.

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  12. I was living in the East Village at the same time.
    Never got to meet Janis though :(
    That was such a radically different time - hard to believe we made it through!

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  13. AS I'vE cOMMENTED EARLIER,in FB.,JANIS WAS THE QUEEN.,THEN.Ma"am.,YOU ARE THE BARONESS.,U'r THE Bigger STAR THEN,THE"actor''.,WITH THE 2K,initials..HOW WAS THE SOUTHERN COMFORT?BET'CHA
    till this day.,U might have taken more than a hundreds of sipp.,but nothing will ever came close..,to that very SOUTHERN COMFORT.,which THE QUEEN HAD OFFERED U..LUCKY YOU..FLOWER CHILD-FARICK,A

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  14. @ anonymous 4:51 - yes.. it is hard to believe we survived.
    @ Ahad - nothing has ever been as sweet. It was the highlight of my life to meet her.

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  15. You so lucky to have those memories..I love Janis 4ever will..No one has done what she did in such small time..Good luck to you!!!

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  16. Beautiful..I lived in the East Village all my life, until 3 years ago that I moved out of state. Janis has been such an integral part of my life since I was 16...how amazingly lucky you were to meet the beautiful Pearl.

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  17. After reading this, i am speechless !!!!!

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  18. Hey dakini...you were one lucky girl to have met Janis and have this very cool story to share with us...that swig of comfort will always be a magic moment in your life..you will always be like "little girl blue"

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  19. Well I am speechless. I am a 24 year old woman and I love Janis. Her music amazes me. Thank you for sharing this.

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  20. How cool was that?

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  21. what a fantastic story i was 14 at the time would have loved to meet her

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  22. hey dakini,
    wow!!!! I was blown away with ur story... almost felt like I was there too ... I Idolize Janis I relate to all of her songs... and I've been known to be called Pearl every once in a while... ROCK ON SIS !!!! Janis will always be in my heart and her songs live on in my life .... I am sure it was very magical for u ... u were in the right place at the right time in ur life... Be happy and celebrate it always !!!!!!!!

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  23. TALKED WITH SOMEONE WHO WAS THERE, WE BOTH NEW IT HAD TO BE MICHAEL RIGHT AWAY

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  24. I love Janis too.I still listen to her cds frequently.Thanks for a heartfelt story,you've made my day.

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  25. You are really fortunate to have met Pearl pre- October 1970! Do you have accomodations currently? I didn't meet Pearl till 7 years ago;
    I've had more than a few Pearl sightings after gigs; performances; and in West Asheville fairly recently - there is more to the afterlife - she's my Rock and Roll Angel! I just got to talk to and listen to Pearl recently when I went to check on the Mercedes Benz I bought...It's like the ghost whisperer in real life only she isn't a ghost!

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  26. That is a wonderful story thank you for sharing it. I wish there were artists like Janis when I was young and starting life.

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  27. Dakini,

    What happened after that though? I'm in recovery and have 7 months sober, was abused as well. How did you make it and succeed to a productive life?

    Melissa

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  28. Hi Melissa... it was a rough haul. I will be telling more of my story soon. I am now living in Redondo Beach, CA. I no longer use drugs. I no longer deal drugs. I have a great job and family. If you want to contact me off line.. I will be happy to talk to you more.

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  29. Bobina czech republic
    Very nice story. powerful experience.

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  30. Greetings from Malaysia.Your story made a huge impact on me.Janis is one of my idols too,along with Morrison and Hendrix.
    I am also a recovering addict.I would love to hear more of your story.Especially on getting off drugs.
    Regards
    Nazeri

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  31. Superbe histoire. Quelle chance vous avez-eu de la rencontrer. Moi j'étais petite mais j'ai baigné dans sa musique. C'est mon idole et je l'aime. Je souhaite la rencontrer un jour dans l'au-delà.
    Je n'ai qu'un mot à dire. GENIAL

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  32. Paul "The Last Unicorn"September 22, 2010 at 5:35 AM

    It is truly a beautiful story. I just wish the world had realized what a blessing from the Lord she was. She had a way of reaching into a person and touching their Soul. She was a real person and acted like it.

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  33. Amazing...She was a fantastic soul, she's just one of my favourites. I really like your stories about your life, I find them incredibly interesting. Greetings from Spain :)

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  34. wow what an honor....this story is wonderful thanks for sharing it with us who didn't have the chance to see her live

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  35. I have always felt I was born a decade later than I was suppose to be. I was only 10 in 69 but just 5 years younger than you. Like Janis said "It's all the same f#^*ing day man"and "Proof that you love me and buy the next round" My life went in a direction I never planed when I got pregnant at 15, married beaten battered abused 16 year old. Hiding the bruises from his family, neighbors, screaming in silence so the baby stayed alseep. Well 35years later I seldom think of those bad days. My Life has truly been blessed.~ MoonLily

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  36. I come from Poland but I used to live in USA in Texas as a refugge status- as a very yung man and I managed to be at Janis' house and talk to her sister Laura!! I will never forget that atmosphere in Port Arthur and that meeting!!!! Mariusz from Poland

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  37. i totally understand! janis is also part of my! so much a part of my soul that i had to get a tattoo of her on my body!
    michelle

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  38. i love janis music thank you foe this//

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  39. janis is were it is at heart and soul //

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  40. Thank you for sharing this AMAZING story. It was so beautifully written. I could see Janis on the street, with her fur coat. I have photos of Janis around this time and yes she was hangin out with the actor Michael J Pollard of Bonnie and Clyde fame. Its very interesting the way you describe him, as a sort of jealous hanger on. Its very possible he was. I m sure Janis had a lot of people like that around her. It happens today still to the famous. Those people who wish they could be but never will. Janis kept it real and down to earth always. I have met people who knew Janis well and they all say " she was one of us, she was like all the freaks, only famous".
    Id give ANYTHING for just a second to be near her or with her. The greatest whilte woman blues singer EVER!!! There will never be another. Its only days away from her 40th anniversary death and she is still important today as ever. 40 years ago, in an LA recoding studio doing demos for Pearl, 40 years ago today, days away from leaving us- buried alive in the blues- always in my heart. This story brings her back to us- Thank you x

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  41. Faith (Maggie) Mc ClearyOctober 3, 2010 at 6:13 AM

    What an experience and your rendition is so amazing. I feel for you a lost soul so was I
    maybe not there on the street but lost still...
    I would love to read more of your writtings for
    you are an artist writer (me too) so be good to
    yourself as the world is good...peace & Love,Maxine

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  42. wonderful story and you are blessed forever to have had this expierence. i myself in the 70s was in dayton, ohio -hangin with a musician who had taken me to his apt. . his roomate was janis brother , michael . he was studing at the dayton art institute. we all had gone to a party at this great layed back farm- everyone partying. the last thing i remember was michael joplin leaning against a kitchen counter saying , " I'M SO HIGH _ I COULD FLY "

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  43. I loved you story. You are an excellent writer. Are you writing a book? Peace! (Love Janis too).

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  44. Hi John.. yes, I am in the process of writing a book. I hope to be able to tell my story of the time I spent on the streets as a hippie.

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  45. Great memories, Dakini!!!! I love Janis, thanks for sharin'.

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