"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mr. Toast's close brush with fame part 2: in which I party with The Pearl

By mid-1969 my stay in St. Thomas, which had started out as a brief vacation to get my head together after college, had turned into a permanent residency. I had moved out of my sister's place near Charlotte Amalie and into a house on the far western end of the island with my good friend, a fellow named Ted. His parents lived and worked on the mainland (exactly where was never really established) and had bought the house for their future retirement. Ted lived there as sort of a caretaker, so again, I was fortunate not to have to pay rent.

Ted and I were some serious party animals back in those days. While our place was not anywhere close to the mansion status of Norm Willock's Lime Tree, we nevertheless made it into the ultimate bachelor pad. Located a little way from the coast and perched on the side of a steep hill, our lack of a private beach was more than compensated for by a spectacularly panoramic view of the Caribbean below. The house was semi-isolated and featured a huge wooden sundeck off the main floor. This deck became our prime party area, along with the home's small-ish finished basement room, which we referred to as "The Pit". The Pit had the most awesome stereo system possible for the day, and also sported dark floor-to-ceiling curtains, thick plush carpet, and abundant huge velvet cushions to lay on while listening to music. Of course, we also put up psychedelic posters and black lights to complete the effect. So much weed was smoked in The Pit over the course of several months that it was almost possible to get high just from walking into the room and inhaling deeply.

Ted did not work, but received an allowance from his folks. However, there were bills to pay ... telephone, electricity, and groceries, for example. Besides this, Ted preferred to spend his money on pot, which he bought a lot of. This also meant he frequently was broke, and I often wound up paying all the bills. At one of our parties Ted and I became friends with a guy named Mike, and when Mike later found himself in need of a place to stay, he jumped at the chance to move in with us and help out financially.

Unlike Ted and I, Mike was an exceedingly handsome man, with strong, chiseled features and long sandy blonde hair. He worked out regularly and was in great shape. We unashamedly used Mike as "chick bait" when we would go to bars in town, as he never failed to attract the attention of beautiful women. The dating scene in St. Thomas was very transient then; most of the women we met were there on a two-week vacation, or perhaps for the summer at most, so it was generally not possible to form any lasting relationships. As you might expect, people on vacation in such a sensuous place as the Virgin Islands tend to throw caution to the wind and be much less inhibited than they are back home, and believe me, the three of us took full advantage of this fact. There was lots of action in The Pit.

However, things were slow on this particular weekday evening. Ted and I were just hanging out at home; I had the night off from the radio station, and was tired and wanted to just relax and watch television. Mike had gone out to party solo. With our backs to the door and facing the TV set, we heard him open the door and come in. He was talking to someone with him, but we figured it was another lady he had met at the club. Neither of us bothered to turn around and look until Mike announced:

"Boys, I'd like you to meet Miss Janis Joplin."

It is hard to convey in writing the exact combination of smarm and ego that dripped from his voice as he spoke these words, but Ted and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes. As I began to turn around, I started to say "Mike, you asshole, you are so full of sh...."

And then I stopped in shock. The Pearl herself was indeed standing in our living room. Janis. Fucking. Joplin.

"HEY GUYS HOW THE FUCK ARE YA!!!" she screamed.

My memory of the next six or eight hours is, frankly, a bit hazy; a lot of dope was smoked that night. I do remember a couple of things quite clearly, however. The first was that while she was funny and very intelligent in conversation, I was stunned at how bad she looked: Janis was not exactly what you would call an attractive woman, and her face bore the marks of some seriously hard living. The second is that she was very hungry. Rooting around our refrigerator, the best I could produce was a package of hot dogs, which Janis proceeded to cook up for us like a mother hen. After we all sat around eating hot dogs and talking for a while, Mike and Janis went off to his bedroom to have sex.

You may have read that this was a habit of hers; she was a sexual adventurer who liked to pick up good-looking guys wherever she went for some hot action, and our lucky friend Mr. Mike was her stud du jour. Being stoned out of our minds, after they retired to the bedroom Ted and I had a great idea: let's turn off the music and vicariously experience the sounds of their carnal activity through the door (Mike's bedroom was just off the main living room). I can recall us both sitting there listening to the moans and groans in amused silence, absurd shit-eating grins on our faces. After one particularly intense outburst, I turned to Ted, gestured at the door, and said with absolute, utter, amazement, "Can you believe it? Mike is in there fucking Janis Joplin!" It sure as hell beat the TV that night for entertainment.

They emerged from the bedroom around midnight or so, and at that point Janis decided she wanted to go to a beach. She called some people who were staying on the island with her; they met us at the house, and we proceeded to pile into Ted's car for a short drive to a secluded beach that I knew of, which was one of my favorite places. This is about the point where my memory of the evening begins to fail completely; hey, it was thirty-seven years ago. I don't recall her friends at all, and Janis and Mike kind of stayed by themselves. We all swam naked, but it was too dark to really make out any anatomical details. Eventually, Janis and her friends left and the three of us guys returned to the house.

From that day on, though, Mike became an insufferable yet amusing asshole. He was fond of constantly reminding us -- like we might possibly forget -- that he boinked Janis Joplin. "Mike, I know man, we were there," I would tell him ... and he would say it again. And again. It became sort of a joke, but one that would always make me shake my head and smile. Later that summer, Mike, Ted and I all went our separate ways and haven't seen each other since. And of course, like everyone else I was very saddened to hear of Janis' death in October 1970 from a heroin overdose. Judging by the amount of drugs that were consumed on the night I met her, I can't say I was surprised at the news.


  • At 5/17/2006 11:29:00 AM, Blogger Max and Me said…

    wow! now that is...some story! let me ask you...if she had chosen you would you have gone to bed with her?

    Of course not. I was saving myself for marriage. :^)

  • At 5/17/2006 02:27:00 PM, Blogger Janelle said…

    She was actually in your house, you ate hot dogs with her, and then you all went swimming!! I can't believe you spent that much time with her. Usually people can only say they saw them for a breif momement while they autographed something or saw them walking by or eating at some place but you got a whole experiance....WOW!

  • At 5/17/2006 02:28:00 PM, Blogger Janelle said…

    BTW...Aprils really going to hate you.

  • At 5/18/2006 02:39:00 AM, Blogger DogMa said…

    I read her bio and from what I read, all you describe is pretty much Pearl.

    I love her.

  • At 5/18/2006 11:03:00 PM, Blogger April said…

    H-O-L-Y S-H-I-T!!! I'm very amused... very very excited, and its not even my freakin' story!!! How could you keep this in for THIS LONG without blogging about it!! SERIOUSLY! That would be the topic of every post I ever wrote. Not only did she make you a hot dog, your friend "boinked" her and you all went skinny dipping! This is by far the best story EVER! Thank you for sharing, that is completely awesome! You tell stories well too because I could picture that whole thing in my head with details.

  • At 5/18/2006 11:05:00 PM, Blogger April said…

    Can you tell I'm a fan?

    Naaaaaaah. I never would have guessed.

  • At 5/20/2006 02:22:00 PM, Blogger bossann said…

    Why am I only hearing this story now? Or did I hear it in the smoke-shrouded 70's and just forget it...ah, how many memories were lost in those long-ago days...no, I would have remembered this. I'm VERY glad this memory stuck with you! I'm also very glad you finally decided to share!


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