“For a while I was the House Photographer at the Fillmore East. I never got paid for that, but I could go backstage, take pictures and get close to the artist. I was an amazing time because B.B. King and Buddy Guy and Albert King were around, and Janis & Big Brother.
These were the days when Jimi Hendrix would walk up to see me at my apartment, and when Jim Morrison and I would go down to Chinatown to eat. I can remember going out to buy peanut butter with Janis Joplin for a late-night fest, and traveling out on the subway with Jackson Browne. People who later became icons were on the brink of their careers wondering whether anybody was ever going to notice them. My first encounter with Big Brother was when Janis was their singer. I did pictures of them near their home in San Fransisco doing crazy things in the street. That’s where the shots of Janis with the cigarette and the fur hat were taken. I really loved them as a group. Janis became the star, and therefore I started taking individual photos of her because I knew that’s what the magazines wanted.
Janis and I became friends but were never close. We were very different people. She was a pretty tough broad and I was a pretty sensitive broad. The chemistry wasn’t there. I was much more friendly with the guys in the band-Sam Andrew, Dave Getz, Peter Albin and Jim Gurley. They had a great social life, whereas I felt Janis had no real friends. You could tell just by being around her that she felt insecure. She didn’t think she was attractive, and after gigs the boys were always going off with girls and she was left alone. I felt sorry for her. She would probably have liked a man to take her out to dinner.
When I was asked by Mademoiselle to take a picture of Big Brother & the Holding Co. together with a model, Janis wouldn’t do it. She didn’t want to be photographed beside a model because she thought it would accentuate her plainness. In order to boost her confidence, she would drink a lot before she went on stage. I took one picture of her brandishing a bottle of Southern Comfort in L.A, and I remember she drank it all before she did the concert.
When she got on stage she became an incredible blues belter. She would stomp all over the place and put a lot of Texas energy into it. She desperately wanted to please the crowd and their approval gave her the confidence that didn’t come to her naturally. It was as if the whole band had suddenly found themselves on the up escalator. Everything was happening for them without fully realizing why. But as soon as Janis was off stage, the energy level dropped. She needed people around her to give her praise. You could see in her face the tension she was experiencing.
But feeling insecure didn’t make her demure. She was a real Texas girl with coarse language who made no attempt at being glamorous. When we first met, she was into L.S.D, but after a while you could tell she was taking heroin because her skin was starting to get terrible. People change when they start taking heroin.”