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Cheap Thrills Were Missing
Posted by Joann Deutch on Apr 27, 2013 - 3:14:00 AM

LAUREL CANYON—My personal heroine ”“ no pun intended - was Janis Joplin. The theatre production of One Night with Janis Joplin at the Pasadena Playhouse was a mélange of a play and live concert ”“ sort of. The house was packed.

Totem in Laurel Canyon


We loved Janis and her bravado, her determination to throw it back in your face. She may be gone, but our generation clings to her. Naturally Janis was part of the music scene in Laurel Canyon. For a long period the homeowner of the Jim Morrison house on Love Street had a hand-carved totem pole featuring Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, & Jimi Hendrix on display in the front window under the campanile. It was the local affirmation that we hadn’t given up or forgotten. Janis was a break through female performer. Until Janis, there was a de facto prohibition of women in the rock music idiom. “There was a place for women ... all right ”“ as Mary Quant dollies”¦autoharp/dulcimer strumming folk madonnas ...” Rolling Stone Magazine.


Midway through the performance I started to wonder - were there two sides to this performance, written by David Manat? The play offered a tame and sympathetic look into the daily life of Janis. Letters to her parents; performance soliloquies offered as reminiscences of the stories underlying her bluesy lyrics and “shine[d] a spotlight on the great African-American blues artists who influenced Janis’ musical style and career, including Bessie Smith, Etta James and Aretha Franklin”. The frenetic effort to engage the audience at times and pretend that the performance was actually a concert fell flat. Having been to a Janis Joplin concert and worn the grooves out on Cheap Thrills, the on stage performance did not reach your core they way Janis did. It’s wasn’t just that 15’ of amplifiers were not belting out music, or that the Tricia Kelly’s whiskey voice fell short of Janis’ power. When you listened to the one and only original Janis your body and mind hummed with energy. You were never a voyeur; you were always on the adventure with Janis.


As teenagers and college students we were in love with anarchy. Joplin was the model for us to develop our unique personas ”“ we could be ballsy, tough-talking girls who were indifferent to social moirés. Call us hippies evolving beatniks and counter culture stalwarts. We went to college or became teachers to avoid the draft and Viet Nam. Now we are helicopter moms or grand parents, we don’t smoke anything, which is in contradiction to our support and patronage of medical marijuana dispensaries. What makes more sense that to have hippies from the 60s and 70s go to a theatre performance of One Night with Janis Joplin? How can Janis Joplin’s life be reduced to a play? She’d be mortified.


And what about the audience? Us? We don’t listen to our kids rap. We think they are talking about candy when they talk about M & M.


Am I being fair, or do I just miss the old me? Am I becoming my mother? Yup Janis did it again. From the grave she totally messed with my head.


Cliffside Malibu




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