This week Rock (or Punk) icon Patti Smith turned 65. Although she spent the past twentyish years in “retirement”, some would say she made a career out of being the last woman Robert Mapplethorpe screwed. The past year has been a banner year for her. Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, presented with an honorary doctorate in fine arts from the Pratt Institute and awarded a National Book Award for her memoir, “Just Kids.” Just Kids was her second book published capitalizing on her time with Mapplethorpe. The first was a release of photos of Smith taken by Mapplethorpe.
I have never been a great fan of Smith although I do love the song she penned with Bruce Springsteen, “Because the Night.” The closest I’ve come to meeting her was when I was a bouncer at the 930 Club in Washington DC and she came into to see a show. We do however share a connection and that is Bobby Mapplethorpe. I met Mapplethorpe several times and in different environments. Two times will forever be etched into my mind. The first was through a friend and former roommate. He was the man in the polyester suit.
We worked together doing catering in Washington DC working both for Glorious Food and Design Cuisine. The first time I stopped by his apartment to pick him up for an event, I saw the print on his living room wall. I commented on it something to the effect that it was an expensive piece on a waiter’s salary. He proudly me told me the story behind it. A really funny side story about this picture is fodder for a post later this week. He spoke about meeting Mapplethorpe (in a rest room) and the shoot. He also invited me to meet Bobby who was in town then doing a shoot. I spent the better part of an afternoon watch him set up a shoots and deal with models and scenes.
The more interesting meeting was the next night when I ran into him at a SM play party in Washington. He did not recognize me at first, mostly because of the blindfold he was wearing. We ended up playing a few times later that week and again in New York. I have several pictures from that period including a picture of Bobby and Sam.
I suppose that I shouldn’t dislike Patti. Maybe I’m just jealous of her relationship with Bobby and with history. I am especially envious of her relationship with those at the center of the Woodstock event. I will say that I toughly enjoyed the book Just Kids. Read it cover to covers in a couple nights. If you get a chance grab it! Also, I am convinced that every person that comes in and out of our life does so with good reason. She help form Bobby who in turned inspired my love and respect for photography. I only regret that I did not become more of a groupie when I had the chance. I missed a great opportunity to learn and be a part of something greater than I could see at the time!