Like a lot of other things that rankle feminists (women’s veils, female genital mutilation, just to name a few), insult compounds injury when the participants themselves claim empowerment, satisfaction and gain (not loss). (The feminists are usually the ones insulted.)
None will be surprised to learn that Jimi had groupies. They were, and remain, a well known side show of the popular music scene.
The same claim of empowerment and gain is true for female groupies. But to be sure, their motives are probably as varied as the motives of those whose votes on any single day of an election register the same chosen candidate.
Some groupies are legitimate swooners, perhaps romantics from birth. Others are no doubt hard core opportunists with unstoppable ambition and drive. And certainly the space on the spectrum between these two extremes is filled with a broad array of diverse motives!
Nancy, as this and many subsequent posts aim to make clear, arguably shared with Jimi’s groupies a steadfast admiration of him (though it isn’t clear that all his groupies shared this). It wasn’t the kind of admiration that made her want to surrender her soul, or even her body to him, but rather it was the kind of admiration that inspired her own art and creativity and buoyed her own identity.
As this and later posts show, Nancy saw Jimi as a peer, and as a companion on the path of making transcendental art, breaking rules (especially cultural and artistic ones), coloring the black and white world, spinning magic and wordsmithing. He was, for her, poetry in motion, and sound. And indeed, they were reported to have been seen together at different times in the act of writing poetry.
While groupies needed Jimi to fulfill their dreams, as varied as these were, Nancy needed Jimi to affirm her art, and her identity. As a sketch-artist, and as the creator of his cover portrait for Cry of Love, Nancy looked at Jimi and saw Art, pure and simple. Actually Nancy saw Art everywhere she looked, and it was also the object of some of her more philosophical writing and reflection. But that will be a topic for a much later series of posts.
© Nancy Reiner
It would, never the less, be difficult to find in Nancy’s view of the groupie phenomenon she witnessed, anything one might call “artistic,” unless you believe that tragedy is an inevitable stepchild of the artist. Although Nancy didn’t remain a dispassionate observer for long (more on this in the very next post – so stay tuned), her dispassionate, almost flatline observation of groupies night after night in Jimi’s studio seems to speak volumes that the academic, ideological diatribes of feminists can’t replace:
For about an hour, I sat by myself writing and drawing.
The room [studio] was filled with people, mostly girls who wanted to sleep with Jimi that night.
They were ‘the lucky ones’ who managed to get from where they had been to where he was going. To groupies, that was ‘success’.
This wasn’t the Beatles of legend where girls hid in laundry baskets and room service carts but a more straightforward ‘edging’ one’s way into the scene and sticking close.
I’m sure there were others who would have liked to have been there, but weren’t quick enough, or alert enough, or clever enough to make it happen.
But even though I had been watching this phenomenon re-occur night after night, I sensed the dispensability of these girls.
There were too many of them. Most of them were interchangeable, and it didn’t seem to me, that it mattered to them, that the ‘you’re it’ factor of being picked would be no fuller or deeper or meaningful than a game of ‘tag.’
And in a harmless sense (non-carnivorous) they seemed gathered like prey, waiting to be chosen.
I remember when I first brought this discovery of my half sister’s existence to light for some old childhood friends (you know who you are), they had to answer for themselves: was Nancy in fact just another groupie?
It became clear through numerous sources that her relationship with Jimi had precious little in common with that of a groupie. While this can be found in lots that’s reported here, and elsewhere, perhaps nothing distinguishes Nancy’s own vision (and version) of Jimi Hendrix from that of a typical groupie than the following:
Jimi looked like liquid spilling….
She also wrote:
The lights playing off Jimi’s face seemed to me like they were coming from within him.
There he is, I thought.
Had I imagined him before?
It seemed that I had. Somewhere in my childhood.
It was like water passing through sunlight…..all the colors…
Only this was flesh….passing through theater lights…..and yet, all the colors.
I had always imagined – maybe I always knew – there was someone who would radiate full color, and there he was!
Jimi seemed like a whisper deep inside my head.
When Jimi arrived
it was as if
a dry tan sponge
∇ Nancy makes a note in her journal: “my poem to him”
In a journal entry marked “Buckingham Jimi/89” Nancy writes
He was like fractal light descending a staircase.
I got the same feeling I got when, as a child, Walt Disney made a cartoon so beautiful that all I could do was dream that life could be that way. But of course it never was.
Forever the realist, my half-sister.