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Goodbye, Janis Joplin

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Her last appearance with them was at Harvard Stadium on August 12th, before 40,000 people. Both Janis and the band then went into recording sessions in Los Angeles. Her album with the new group had been tentatively scheduled for a November or December release date.

Janis Joplin's last public appearance anywhere was in September. She showed up in Port Arthur, Texas for the 10th annual reunion of her graduating class of 1960, Thomas Jefferson High School. She wore flowing blue and pink feathers in her hair, purple and white satin and velvet with gold embroidery, sandals and painted toenails, and rings and bracelets enough for a Babylonian whore.

Janis and entourage swept into the Goodhue Hotel's drab Petroleum Room and commandeered the bar. When she asked for vodka (she'd switched to gin and vodka from Southern Comfort about a year ago), the bartender said he had nothing but bourbon and scotch. "God," she said. "Somebody go out and get a bottle of vodka."

Port Arthur has never seen the like of her.

Last December Janis had finally escaped her adopted city, where she'd lived in the Haight-Ashbury across from Buena Vista Park and Hippie Hill and, later, on Noe Street near the southern tip of downtown San Francisco. She found a hideaway home in Larkspur, across the Golden Gate Bridge, three or four towns into Marin County.

Larkspur is one of those pleasant little places. The freeway leads comfortably into a small shopping center; the homes are respectable, middle class. Then, somewhere, you make a left turn and several roads take you into the woods. Baltimore Avenue is one of those roads, its width narrowed by huge trees that block its way now and again. Janis' house was at the end of Baltimore.

It's hidden away more by its appearance than by its location. It's right there in front of you, behind the rounded off end of the road. Short, A-framed, shingled, modern, comfortable in a forest of tall trees that keep everything but the wind away. You can't even hear the sound of kids at Larkspur School, just up the road and a few blocks over.

The house is unidentified. A Yuban coffee can is nailed to a front post. "This is a temporary mail box," it is labeled, and someone has added, "Temporary Hell." Near the adjacent garage, two dogs are wandering around. A TV cameraman waves his light meter at the air, then pans his camera from the wooden stairs near the garage that lead into the woods. He pans across the house, to the fence Janis had had constructed to keep burglars away.

This wasn't a very private or a very quiet house for Janis and the girl friends who stayed there. The place was burglarized several times, and Janis and her clothesmaker/friend, Lindall Erb, lost furnishings, jewelry, and other valuables. Several months ago, Janis had a party there that resulted in complaints from the neighbors. Cars clogged the road all the way up Baltimore Avenue, and the music blared out of that shingled megaphone as far as the cars went.

Now the TV cameraman is back in his car – one of three cars parked facing the house. A high school girl is seated 100 feet away, watching. "I came here from Mill Valley to pay my tribute," she said. "I'm just an acquaintance. I came by once and gave her a bottle of tequila and it got her off . . . "

"I don't think well make the 7 o'clock news," the other, named Betsy, says with a laugh.

Inside the house, it's quiet. One man, a member of Janis' second band – the one after Big Brother – steps out to get something from his care. Lindall is in L.A., he says. She left the night before, when she heard the news. The people in the home are friends of Lindall's. And no one wants to talk.

The two old ladies have stopped looking at the TV man, and they're discussing reupholstering an old couch sitting in Betsy's front yard.

This story is from the October 29th, 1970 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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