Janis Joplin’s Psychedelic Porsche Breaks Auction Record
The music legend’s 1964 Porsche brought in a record-breaking amount
December 16, 2015
TEXT BY LINDSEY DESIMONE
We’ve grown accustomed to seeing a sea of white, black, and silver vehicles cruising down the highway. Keep your eyes peeled, however, because soon you might just glimpse a wildly painted Porsche soaring past your window. Part of RM Sotheby’s “Driven by Disruption” sale, the fantastical 1964 Porsche 356 C 1600 SC Cabriolet was purchased for an impressive $1.76 million, earning nearly triple its high estimate of $600,000 and breaking previous records for any Porsche 356 sold at public auction.
The outstanding final bid may have to do with the automobile’s connection to music legend Janis Joplin, who purchased the Porsche in 1968 for a mere $3,500. When she got her hands on the car, it was absolutely ordinary, but Joplin would quickly transform it into a psychedelic wonder. She enlisted her friend and roadie Dave Richards to customize the sporty vehicle, paying him $500 for his work.
When complete, it was covered fender to bumper in a vibrant mural inspired by the history of the universe. The revamped Porsche quickly became a staple on the streets of San Francisco, where Joplin lived, and perfectly embodied her vivacious spirit. Since then, it has become known as not only a collector’s item but one of the first true art cars, with talents such as Keith Haring and Richard Prince following suit to create their own automobile artworks.
Upon Joplin’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995—25 years after her death—the musician’s famous Porsche was lent to the organization’s museum, where it has remained for two decades. Following the record-breaking sale, it seems due time for the colorful masterpiece to get back on the open road.
The 20 Best Documentaries of 2015
December 10, 2015
By Michael Burgin
5. Janis: Little Girl Blue
Capturing the life, career, persona and phenomenon that was Janis Joplin in the space of a less-than-two-hours-long documentary is a daunting task. Amy Berg makes a crucially important decision in Janis: Little Girl Blue, opting to let the performances speak for themselves. There’s not a lot of talking head analysis of Janis’ music; Berg instead gives us a few well-chosen, extended clips of that otherworldly voice in action (as well as a good many selections backgrounded in the mix). Berg also focuses on Janis’ inner life, and boy, does that pay off. With the full cooperation of the estate and interviews with many of Janis’ intimates, including her two siblings, the marvelous Dick Cavett, and the one man with whom, in another universe, she surely found lifelong happiness, Berg is able to dig deep into who Janis actually was behind the raucous stage persona. Most effective of all is Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power), reading from Janis’ diaries and letters with the simple delivery of a born performer. It’s as if Janis is narrating her own life story, and it’s pure magic. —M.D.
Review ‘Janis: Little Girl Blue’ reveals what drove – and haunted – Janis Joplin
By Lorraine Ali
December 3, 2015
It’s hard to imagine in the age of Taylor, Miley and Rihanna, where airbrushed looks are paramount and rebellion is curated, that an artist like Janis Joplin was ever allowed to happen.
Imperfect and messy, she was a white girl who sang the blues, a wily independent figure who predated equal rights, an artist brave enough to lay herself bare in song then pay the ultimate price for that fearlessness.
Joplin’s name alone now serves as shorthand for a countercultural music revolution. But unlike her equally revered peers such as Dylan and Hendrix, whose life stories have been milked incessantly by filmmakers, biographers, rock historians and T-shirt franchises, there’s mystery as to who the woman behind that voice really was.
“Janis: Little Girl Blue,” out in limited release Friday, is the rare documentary that focuses solely on the life of the late singer as opposed to the role she played in making the Summer of Love, the Haight-Ashbury scene or Woodstock a precious memory for boomers.
Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg (“Deliver Us From Evil”) paints an intimate portrait of a woman shaped by her early years as a bullied outcast in Port Arthur, Texas. Though later celebrated for her inability to be like the other girls, Joplin never entirely overcame that early rejection, and her need for acceptance is a central theme throughout “Little Girl Blue.”
As the documentary shows, Joplin fought relentlessly to be herself — a rowdy and adventurous woman who literally belted out her rage, sorrow and happiness on a world stage while simultaneously asking the world to do what her classmates, parents and neighbors never could: love her for who she was.
For a loud-mouthed, opinionated girl with unpolished looks and unbridled sexuality, it was a big ask, especially in the post-1950s America. “A desperate mating call,” was how one reviewer, flummoxed by her like much of mainstream America, described Joplin’s guttural voice.
Joplin’s siblings, former bandmates, lovers (men and women) and personalities such as music mogul Clive Davis and ’60s talk-show host Dick Cavett are interviewed, their memories and insights on the late singer woven together with rarely seen footage, family photos (Janis in a Bluebird uniform, in choir, as an awkward high school senior) and more familiar moments from Woodstock and the Monterey Pop Festival.
From this pastiche Joplin emerges as we’ve never seen her before, articulate, ambitious, torn between her wild self and her desperate need for stability.
But the closest we get to her are in letters she wrote to her family from the time she left Port Arthur for San Francisco in the early ’60s until her death in Los Angeles in 1970 at age 27.
Indie folk singer/songwriter Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power) narrates the letters, which have never before been released to the public. When writing to her parents about why music mattered to her above college, marriage and everything else they’d hoped for their daughter, she mentions Aretha Franklin and Billie Holiday. In just two notes, she said, they could “make you feel like they told you the whole universe.”
Familiar footage of Joplin performing at Monterey and Woodstock feels fresh given all the personal context the film provides leading to those breakthrough moments in her career. The reaction of audiences, who were floored and almost blindsided by the sheer passion of Joplin, illustrates what a true anomaly she was in a rock world populated almost entirely of men. Joplin didn’t wave the flag of feminism, she embodied it.
Unpolished even in terms of the era, Joplin broke ground for every female rock and pop performer in her wake and did it in the course of an absurdly short career. But this was before the age of pop celebrity media training and politically correct responses. When asked by an interviewer why there weren’t more women like her in music, she answered, “You are what you settle for. If they settle for being someone’s dishwasher, that’s her own … problem.”
As “Little Girl Blue” attests, the intensity and raw emotion that made Joplin a great artist also made her life a chaotic, unhappy and lonely affair.
She numbed that pain with short-lived relationships, a drinking habit formed in high school and, later, drugs that were the lifeblood of 1960s San Francisco. Her growing heroin habit is documented in the film via first-hand accounts of those closest to Joplin (her bandmates from Big Brother and the Holding Company, her friend Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead), and their stories of her demise are wrenching.
But the deepest insight as to why Joplin imploded comes from the singer herself.
“I managed to pass my 27th birthday without really feeling it,” she wrote in a letter home months before her death. “It’s such a funny game. Two years ago, I didn’t even want to be ‘it.’ No, that’s not true. I’ve been looking around, and I’ve noticed something. After you reach a certain level of talent … the deciding factor is ambition. Or as I see it, how much you really need to be loved….”
Janis Joplin, with all her contradictions, in ‘Little Girl Blue’
By Mark Jenkins
December 3 at 10:41 AM
There’s more than a little of Janis Joplin in the character Bette Midler played in 1979′s “The Rose,” but Hollywood has never managed to make a feature about the blues-rock singer. Amy Berg’s “Janis: Little Girl Blue” suggests one reason: Although Joplin’s brief life was eventful, its contradictions would stymie a tidy biopic.
Joplin, the documentary reveals, was a bisexual who longed for a heterosexual marriage. She distrusted drug use, yet kept returning to the heroin that finally killed her at age 27 in 1970. And while she thrived in San Francisco’s venturesome psychedelic-rock scene, Joplin emulated traditional blues and soul performers. She didn’t write the songs that became her biggest hits.
Devotees know all this, and may be disappointed that “Janis” emphasizes the “little girl” over the big-voiced woman. But they’re still likely to be impressed by the research done by Berg (whose previous documentary efforts include “Deliver Us From Evil,” a devastating study of a pederast priest). The director interviewed just about everyone relevant to Joplin’s life story who is still alive. She uses archival footage and Joplin’s letters – read by singer-songwriter Chan Marshall, a.k.a. Cat Power – to add voices from beyond the grave.
Joplin was “the absolute child-woman ideal of the Haight,” recalls the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, referring to San Francisco’s 1960s hippie ‘hood. She was more grown-up than that, however, when onstage. That’s a paradox “Janis: Little Girl Blue” can’t resolve, but that Joplin herself might have, if only she’d outlived her addiction.
Janis: Little Girl Blue: EW review
BY LEAH GREENBLATT
Posted December 3 2015 — 10:32 AM EST
Death is excellent at turning artists into icons, but it tends to calcify them, too—recasting messy, complicated humans as the familiar demigods of dorm-room posters and greatest-hits collections. Janis: Little Girl Blue is the latest documentary this year, after memorable takes on Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Nina Simone, to restore some of what gets lost in the process of mythmaking.
Of course, even a life as brief as Joplin’s (like Cobain and Winehouse, she was gone at 27) can’t be fully explored in just over 100 minutes. Instead, writer-director Amy Berg aims to tell the most personal story she can by giving the narrative over to the family, friends, and bandmates who knew her best. (She’s also lucky to have access to a trove of letters, voiced here by singer and kindred spirit Chan Marshall, a.k.a. Cat Power.) The portrait that emerges is one of a brash, talented girl who grew up an outcast in her small Texas town—fraternities at a nearby college cruelly dubbed her Ugliest Man in an annual poll—and developed her gale-force voice and gypsy-queen mien as armor against a world that would have dismissed her otherwise. Her romances, studio sessions, and struggles with addiction are portrayed in a style that can best be described as Behind the Music deluxe, but the true draw here is really just Janis: Sweet and wild and vividly alive, she takes a little piece of your heart when she goes. A–