Gary James' Interview With Janis Joplin's Friend
She's an actress, a photographer, a costume designer, a writer and a friend of Janis Joplin. Her story is unique because she happened to be in San Francisco at a unique time in Rock history where she met and became friends with Janis Joplin. Fayette Hauser is the lady we're talking about, and she brings us back to a time when Rock music really was special.
Q - Fayette, it just happened that you were in Aspen, Colorado, hitch-hiking to San Francisco and along comes Nancy Gurley, wife of James Gurley, the guitarist for Big Brother And The Holding Company, and your adventure begins.
A - Right. I was not planning to go to San Francisco. I went to Aspen for the Summer and I was going to go back to New York (City) and then go off to Paris. I didn't really know how deep the scene was in San Francisco until I met Nancy. When I spent time with her, she's the one who told me everything. She more or less brought me to San Francisco and then I landed right in the middle of The Family Dog and the Big Brother family. It was more or less through that I went to San Francisco at all.
Q - You must've had some money if you were planning to go to Paris.
A - Yeah. I worked for a year after I got out of art school. I graduated from B.U. in '67, that was the Summer Of Love and I lived in The Village for a year and saved up $500. That I remember, which was a tasty sum of money at that point. That's what I was going to do. Air tickets and they would have student tickets, it was really easy to get around then. I went to Aspen for the Summer and I lived in the woods. (laughs) I had my own camp in the woods.
Q - You were a Hippie.
A - Oh, yeah. I became a Hippie immediately, from a New York City gal to a Hippie in one leap.
Q - Before Nancy Gurley picked you up, had you ever heard of Big Brother And The Holding Company?
A - Oh, sure. I'd heard of them. I'd heard the music, but I didn't really know that much about it. The music scene was very East Coast, West Coast then. Big Brother was kind of the main San Francisco band, but there were other bands that were in New York at the time. Irving Penn did a portfolio of San Francisco that either appeared in Look or Life magazine. He had pictures of all of the people there. He had group photos. One was The Grateful Dead and another was The Family Dog. I was really intrigued by those photos because of the way they dressed. They looked so completely different from anyone at the time. I thought those people are really interesting. But still I wasn't aware of how major the scene was until I got at least as far as Colorado. Aspen was a Hippie destination. Hippies were very much on the road in vans and trucks. Aspen was like a Summer Hippie nomad destination point. It wasn't anything the way it is now. It wasn't chic and wealthy. It was a ski resort, but in the Summer it was nothing. It was for outdoor people that were coming in hiking, the Hippies. There was a hotel there like an old west boarding house, a cowboy boarding house and all the Hippies would stay there. Once I really got tight with Nancy, I mean we would walk all around the mountains every day. She would tell me all about the people in San Francisco. So, I moved in from the woods into this big, old hotel. I was there for months. Then in October of '66 is when we went back to San Francisco. That's when I got there. It was really right away, it could've been the very first weekend. It was the first concert I ever went to and was the last concert of Big Brother with Janis at the old Fillmore, and the old Fillmore was closing down too. So, I saw kind of saw the last shows there. Then it moved to Winterland and the Avalon Ballroom, but it was after that, that I met Janis. Nancy took me to this house where these two women lived, this woman named Paula and Patti Cakes. They were part of the Big Brother family. So I moved in with them. Patti Cakes was best friends with Janis, so she would go visit her and then I would go with her and that's how I met Janis.
Q - Weren't you living in a commune with other artists?
A - Oh, that came after. It was very cheap to rent a flat 'cause all the middle class and upper middle class were in the suburbs. They didn't want to live in those old houses. They were all unpainted. They were not interested in those. They were interested in a ranch house in the suburbs. So the Hippies more or less saved the Victorian (houses) because we all occupied them. This was the first place I lived at. It was a small Victorian that was only I think maybe only one level. There were only three of us living there. It was later on that I lived in a larger commune when the theatre group started the following year.
Q - Were there any famous singers or musicians that lived in this commune?
A - Do you mean in the first house that I lived in?
Q - Start at the first house then go on to the commune.
A - The theatre group was called The Cockettes. We were all going to the ballrooms. There were concerts every night and they were fabulous. So we would pick up the musicians and bring them home. I remember Iggy Pop came to the Cockette house. Alice Cooper.
Q - Do you remember Alice Cooper?
A - Alice Cooper was great. I mean, we were really a family of freaks and so it had to be a musician who was really intrigued by the kind of artist that we were and Alice Cooper was definitely one of 'em. He loved it. He saw our show and afterwards he said, "You know, I really have to up my stage game here." (laughs) He said, "You really give people their money's worth." We were very, very lively and had all this stuff going on onstage. This is a broad subject you're talking about. It's a little hard to narrow it down.
Q - Do you remember when you met Janis Joplin and what was your first impression of her?
A - Well, it was in the Fall of '68. I saw her perform first and then afterwards we went over. She was still living in the city at the time. Patti Cakes and I went to see her. She was a big star in San Francisco. She was like the Rock Goddess of San Francisco, so it was a big deal even then to meet her. So, I was very impressed. I don't remember that I said too much 'cause I was sort of intimidated by her. Then she moved to Marin Country. She had a big house in Marin County. It was like a major party house. I remember it was in the un-incorporated section of the town. It was like out in the woods. It was a beautiful house. All of Big Brother was there too. So we would go there for parties. Then I remember being more friendly with her and being able to talk to her more, but she was great. I mean, she was definitely from Texas. She was like a tough Texas gal.
Q - Was she on heroin when you met her?
A - No. There were so many different drugs going around that city at that time that people's personalities were really huge. The whole consciousness of the city was really raised to a level that was so extreme. So, people's personalities were very large and whatever drug they were on didn't really change that. They would still be very much who they were no matter what drug they were on. The scene was so intense.
Q - I'm sure people would like to know why Janis Joplin needed heroin. She had everything. She lived the American Dream.
A - From a distance you could say that. I mean, you're looking at her from a distance.
Q - I am indeed.
A - If you were there at the time it was different than that. It wasn't the same. She had problems just like everyone else did. You have to remember, this was at a turning point in the music scene. This was right at the point where they were starting to treat, it was not even the word Rock Star was used at that point. Big Brother was one of the first bands to really get the big push from the record companies. Chet Holmes used to say that it was the money and the record companies that really changed everything because they swooped down on the San Francisco scene and made it very different. People were artists doing all different things and the musicians were part of it when the record companies came along and took them out of that environment and pushed a lot of money in that direction. So, it changed everything. Janis was very much an artist. She started out as a painter. Most of the people that participated in the scene in San Francisco were artists of one medium or another. So all of that was very much kind of a level playing field at the time among artists of a very intense variety.
Q - You got to know her pretty well. Was she an unhappy person?
A - She was not an unhappy person. She sang the Blues. That was her style. She grew up in Texas. I've been to Louisiana. I've been to New Orleans. That whole scene in Texas is very much part of the New Orleans scene. There's a lot of bands. They go back and forth all the time. She spent a lot of time in New Orleans listening to Blues musicians. So she sang that way because it was her style that she particularly really associated with. But she was not an unhappy person. Oh, no. She enjoyed that life very much. We all did. It was fabulous and she enjoyed it just as much as everybody else did. I saw the film Little Girl Blue on an airplane actually. I just saw it when I came back from Europe. I thought it was a good film, but that also was the point of view of her family and writing letters back home. It didn't really reflect the life in San Francisco. You have to realize it was really like living in a bubble because the entire life in San Francisco was like a parallel world compared to the rest of American society. And she would write letters home almost as if she was away. (laughs)
Q - I interviewed Janis' sister Laura, and she told me Janis would call home and say, "I played Woodstock and there were so many people." Her family didn't know what she was talking about.
A - Exactly. I would call home too. "Hi Mom and Dad." (laughs) A lot of people were totally unconnected with their families. They had completely left. This was really a culture filled with alien creatures. Some people had totally abandoned their families, but I was still calling home every once in awhile. But I didn't tell 'em what was going on. (laughs) Her letters don't really reflect the reality of life in San Francisco, that's all I mean to say, because it was so wild.
Q - If you could've told the truth, what would you have said?
A - You really couldn't because it would scare them. (laughs) You couldn't really tell them what what was going on. It was too intense. It was too different. They really wouldn't understand it. It was completely different. Sometimes I would get a letter from my parents. My mother would say, "Are you living in a truck?" She would see an article in a magazine of something like that. (laughs) People that lived in regular America had no idea what was going on there. Really. It was that different.
Q - When Janis would throw those parties, no doubt other famous singers and musicians would come through the door of her house. Did Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix ever come to one of her parties? Did you ever meet them?
A - No. Unfortunately I never met Jim Morrison and I would have loved to have met Jim Morrison. I never did. I'm friends with Danny Fields and he's the one who really brought Jim Morrison to Elektra. He was the A&R man for Elektra. There's a film out now called Danny Says and it did the indie film festival last year. (2015) It's gonna be in wide release this year at some point. He was connected to so many famous musicians and that's what the film is about. He also was a press agent, a writer for music magazines. So, when The Cockettes took their show to New York City he was our press agent. That's when I met him. He's a fabulous person. Once you're friends with him, you're friends for life. So, we're all in the film. Iggy Pop was in in the film. He talks all about these musicians. He talks about Jim Morrison. He has a really good story about Jim Morrison. He brought him to Hollywood and introduced him to Nico and they had this crazy affair.
Q - In 1975 you were writing for a TV show. Did that have something to do with Manhattan Transfer?
A - At that time they would do like Summer series when network shows would be off the air. They would do these specials for the Summer. So this was a four show series on CBS. When I was in The Cockettes and afterwards a few of us went to New York. The group broke up in 1972 and at the end of that year I went to New York with some of The Cockettes and some of the people from another group called Ze Whiz Kidz and we performed in New York, in lower Manhattan in underground theatres. We performed in CBGB's and knew all those people too, all those band people. Tim (Hauser) was just beginning to form the Manhattan Transfer then. They all wanted the show to be more... network television was very straight. Imagine 1975. He wanted the show to be more exciting and more edgy. So that's why they wanted me to come on as a writer for the show. They were doing '20s Jazz songs, Swing songs. Actually, I was the one who brought in the idea of putting them into these tableaus that were period tableaus and putting them into period clothes, like re-enacting different kinds of scenes to go along with each of the tunes and so that's what the shows were like. CBS loved the show, absolutely loved the show. All these people would come and watch when we started filming. A lot of people like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire came. I met them then. They came to watch the shorts. We thought it was "Here we go," (laughs) but it was too far forward for mainstream America. They didn't understand it at all. That type of vision had yet to be realized in any kind of medium, especially television for quite awhile. So, it didn't get picked up as a show because it was too futuristic.
Q - Your brother (Tim) said Johnny Carson really liked The Manhattan Transfer. Maybe you should've been on NBC rather than CBS.
A - Maybe.
Q - You had your clothing store for awhile, didn't you?
A - That business I had awhile ago. I don't do that anymore. Now my photography is in museums. I just did a gig in London. I show the films The Cockettes made. I do talks about counterculture. So now I'm involved in the history of counterculture. There's two museum shows coming up that I'm in. One is in New York. It's called Counter Culture. It's about the Wearable Art movement. It's all the clothes from that period. It's going to be at the Museum Of Arts And Design in Manhattan in February (2017) and then there's another show that originated at the Walker Arts Center last November (2015). That's coming to the Berkeley Art Museum. It's called Hippie Modernism. So now I've been doing a lot of photography shows.
Q - You must've taken a lot of pictures then of San Francisco in 1968.
A - Yes, I did. I have great pictures.
Q - People are fascinated with that.
A - Yes, absolutely. I was at Altamont. I have pictures of Mick Jagger at Altamont. I had my camera with me at all times. I was interested in photography when I was in art school. So I learned a lot about photography just on my own.