Vallery Jean | Mark Davis, Getty Images Fat Joe is wearing his heart on his sleeve…
- Posted on Jan 22nd 2010 11:30AM by David Chiu
That is what happened last night at the 92nd Street Y's Poetry Project event in which the two old friends and collaborators read passages from their recently published books: Smith's 'Just Kids,' a memoir about her life with the late artist Robert Mapplethorpe and Shepard's short story anthology 'Day Out of Days.' The two artists first met in the early '70s and later co-wrote the play 'Cowboy Mouth.' Smith wrote a poem after meeting Shepard, 'Ballad of a Bad Boy,' which she later performed with longtime guitarist Lenny Kaye at a poetry reading at St. Mark's Church in 1971.
At the beginning of the event, Shepard read an excerpt of his story about a man trapped in a Cracker Barrel restroom with the music of Shania Twain constantly blasting inside. It prompted Smith to later remark to Shepard, "I'm going to get you the complete boxed set of Shania Twain."The event was very loose and informal as Smith and Shepard took turns briefly reading from their latest works. Shepard's stories conveyed a certain eccentric and quirky nature to them whether it is about an aging actor or a reference to the late jazz saxophonist Eric Dolphy. His delivery brought a charming and wry Midwestern flavor to his stories.
Smith was equally affecting with her reading of excerpts from 'Just Kids,' which included passages about her meeting Mapplethorpe in the late '60s and how he photographed her for the famous album cover of Smith's 'Horses.' Smith also told the story of meeting Shepard back when he was first known as "Slim Shadow," the drummer of the Holy Modal Rounders. When they dined out together at Max's Kansas City in New York, she later learned through a friend that "Slim" was Shepard, a successful Obie Award-winning playwright. "Well, I didn't have my eyes on Broadway and I wasn't going to drag him around like some male trophy," Smith read, "but I figured if nothing else he was sure to have the money to pick up the check."
Afterwards Smith joined Shepard in singing an old sea shanty. Then the two performed the song 'You Are My Sunshine,' written by Jimmie Davis, who later became governor of Louisiana in 1944.
It appeared that the two were having a fun time together and they even engaged in some good natured ribbing. Smith told a story from 'Just Kids' of when, as a young woman, she was struggling and hungry, which forced her to sleep inside the bookstore where she worked. "I would hide in the bathroom while the others left, and after the night watchman locked up I would sleep in my coat," she said, quicking adding a few words to that sentence that were not in the book: "... dreaming of Shania Twain."