O Janis

She loved her family but she left them. She hated Port Arthur, but she kept coming home. What demons drove Janis Joplin to her death?

JANIS CAME HOME TO PORT ARTHUR one last time in August 1970, seeking satisfaction: revenge, acknowledgment of her superiority, perhaps an apology or two from those who once called her a pig and a whore and threw pennies at her, perhaps simply acceptance at last, at last. It was her tenth high school reunion, and in those ten years the world had gone crazy. In that span of time, Janis had become a star, an icon of the counterculture, a wealthy woman, an alcoholic, and a heroin addict. Her whole world revolved at high speed. For that matter, even the world of Port Arthur had begun to spin. Some of the kids wore long hair. The schools had integrated. And when cars trolled along Procter Avenue with the windows down, you no longer heard the Coasters, Chuck Berry, and the sweet nothings of girl groups bubbling out of the radio speakers. Now you heard Janis Joplin.

But the essence of Port Arthur hadn’t changed anymore than Janis herself had changed. It was still a small town where appearances counted, and she was still a thin-skinned rebel—“needing acceptance,” as one of her close friends put it, “while at the same time rejecting the society from which she needed the acceptance.” Janis was still of Texas, in her music and in her soul. No matter how frayed the bond, no matter how much she slashed away at it, no matter how much it tortured her, there it was. Unlike Janis, her tight circle of high school friends hadn’t bothered to attend this gathering. Reunions weren’t their trip; they didn’t give a damn if Port Arthur accepted them or not. And not one of them had achieved the fame and

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...