An open letter to Patti Smith
Published: June 13, 2012
Andi Ostrowe, your assistant, invited me to accompany the group to San Antonio for your show at Randy's Rodeo. Six months earlier, the Sex Pistols had performed a legendary show at Randy's, so most were eager to hear your take on British punk.
"I love the Sex Pistols. I love Johnny Rotten. I have a crush on him," you told reporters. The Pistols had already disbanded. Your set in SA duplicated the Austin show. The concert's promoters estimated the audience at 1,000.
The rest is now public history: you fell in love with Fred "Sonic" Smith of MC5 fame, disbanded your group, and moved to Michigan to raise a family. Later, your soulmate Mapplethorpe, your husband Fred, and your brother Todd died. You made valiant comebacks in 1996 (Gone Again) and 2004 (Trampin') and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Two years ago, you wrote your award-winning memoir, Just Kids, that focuses on that magical time in NYC with Mapplethorpe. Your prophetic lyrics from "Piss Factory" had come to pass.
I saw you last at the National Book Critics Circle Awards last year, where you had been nominated for Just Kids and I was on that organization's literary awards committee (Just Kids did win the separate National Book Award for Nonfiction). It seemed strange how far we had come some 30 years later. There was a serene quality that you have acquired over the years. Your voice is magnificent — as good as Maria Callas if she sang rock. You smiled when I said that. We posed for a photo.
I was once again in your thrall. •
Gregg Barrios, a long-time Current contributor, is a poet and playwright. His play I-DJ premieres in July at Overtime's Gregg Barrios Theater.
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