Janis Joplin had the munchies. I know she did living in an era of free love, drugs and Southern Comfort. We remember her gyrating her signature frizzy mane during her drug fueled performances. More than anything, Janis Joplin exemplifies the 60’s singing her gut wrenching songs with her uniquely raspy voice. During that time a star didn’t have to look like Rihanna or Beyonce who writhe with glistening gams to make an impact. Janis was in your face, numbing you with her voice and emotions but, it was all about the music. No twerking or Gucci attire necessary.
I was convinced that few women could capture her sound, until I heard the voice of Mary Bridget Davis. She portrays Janis in the Broadway hit “A Night with Janis Joplin” at the Lyceum Theater in NYC. I was so impressed that I had to see and hear her live.
I was dazzled by the intimate set design, costumes, psychedelic lights and female blues singers who inspired her music, including Bessie Smith (Taprena Michelle Augustine), Nina Simone (De’Adre Aziza), Aretha Franklin (Allison Blackwell) and Etta James (Nikki Kimbrough.) Mary Bridget resurrected the soulful singer so convincingly, that I wanted to roll on stage to tear at her feather-boa and velvet, bell bottomed seams. Please, Janis/Mary Bridget, do me a fave and put on some lipstick.
Unfortunately, after 2. 5 hrs with intermission, I didn’t feel like I got to know the real Janis Joplin. Writer/Director Randy Johnson produced a sanitized version created for the Broadway audience. There was barely a reference to the reality of Janis’s life as a touring musician. The reality was her inability to sustain fulfilling relationships with men, her insecurities and a lonely life on the road eventually succumbing to heroin and alcohol.
Growing up in the 70’s, I was in love with the fashion and music of the 60’s. Late 60’s and early 70’s fashion was liberating because it was a pastiche of shapes, textures, colors that didn’t subscribe to any rules. It was ok if you looked like a fool, just as long as you were comfortable, smoking your bong and toting a anti-war sign.
I was never a fan of fringe, layers of beaded jewelry, bell bottoms worn with hideous clunky, poop-brown clogs or platform shoes. I loved psychedelic bright colors, mini skirts, chunky heeled patent leather shoes and jumpsuits.
Given how trendy bellbottoms, frizzy hair wrapped with a bandana and layers of beaded necklaces were, I had to experiment whether I could pull off this hippy look and feel comfortable.
My final assessment was that there is something to roomy, shapeless clothing and not having to obsess about makeup or hair. I felt liberated, but very homely. In “Magdalena” terms, this style of clothing makes me feel as miserable as being forced into shopping at Bergdorf Goodman wearing a burqa, dung-brown suede Birkenstocks with a Coach bag strapped around my chest. I did make people smile that day in a parking lot in NJ, though. One guy driving a Verizon company truck, burst out laughing and gave me the thumbs up for my style inspiration.
If Janis were alive today what would she wear? What would she think about today’s laissez-faire, anything goes, hopelessly sloppy and frumpy fashion ‘tude? Would she be belting out tunes today or would she be an environmentalist and drive up with Willy Nelson behind McDonalds to fuel her bio-diesel tour bus with used vegetable oil? Or conversely, drive a gas guzzling tour bus, own 1M shares of Exxon stock while screeching “Drill, baby drill” off the Gulf of Mexico in her yacht lavishly decorated in tie-dye chic?
Either way I will continue listening to her music now and then, but never shall I be caught dead in public wearing fringe, bell bottoms, wrinkled cotton tunics without my red lipstick or John Freida Anti-Frizz Serum.