When Janis Joplin heard that Francesco Scavullo wanted to photograph her for a fashion layout, she was “incredulous at first, and then vastly amused,” Linda Gravenites recalled.
Myra Friedman, Joplin and Linda came to Scavullo’s East side studio in December 1969. In the dressing room were two stylists making her up and fluffing her hair–”as much as she’d let them.” She “didn’t have too much patience” with the beautification rigmarole. Joplin kept bursting into laughter: “being treated like a cover girl was just not something Janis could take seriously.”
Linda and one of the atylists helped Janis in and out of succession of outfits, some of which Linda had designed and made. Scavullo kept up the fashion photographer’s proverbial stream of patter and encouragement. He put on a record and Janis started to boogie: “Fabulous. . .more of that. . .that’s great, darling.” “Listen to you, man!” she teased him.
Scavullo recalled on a number of subsequent occasions that the session was one of his particular favorites. The pictures, however, didn’t make it into Harper’s Bazaar, where Scavullo was under contract and where Linda thought they were headed. She thought was because of Joplin’s death, but that’d didn’t occur until ten months later. Perhaps, even in 1970, Joplin was too much for HB.
So Linda had never seen the final product until I brought her Scavullo’s anthology when I first interviewed her in San Francisco in 1986. There was Joplin, just as she’d remembered her that day, shimmying away in one picture, and in the second, wagging an admonishing finger at Scavullo’s camera and cackling gaily.
I may write about Linda as a pendant to Benedetta.
Author’s self-query: Joplin’s laughter could have meant so many things — is it even fair/worth it to speculate? Not here, at least.