Just Kids

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Poet and performer Patti Smith discusses her long friendship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, which began with a chance meeting in Brooklyn in 1967. Her book Just Kids: From Brooklyn to the Chelsea Hotel, a Life of Art and Friendship. is an account life in New York in the late 1960s and 1970s, and a portrait of the passion to create that fueled the rise of two young artists.

Events: Patti Smith will be speaking with journalist Katherine Lanpher and will read from her new memoir
Tuesday, January 19, at 7:00 pm
Barnes & Noble Union Square
33 East 17th Street

Patti Smith will be reading with Sam Shepard
Thursday, January 21, at 8:00 pm
92nd Street Y
Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street
Tickets: $27.00; $10.00 age 35 and under
More information and tickets here.


Patti Smith

Comments [27]


I don't like the way 'baby out of wedlock' was mentioned. What was that? Also, it feels like that he doesn't trust that he recollections in the book that are pretty detailed, I admit. She has a great memory, I think

Dec. 01 2010 02:01 AM
mlk from ny state

I heard patti smith interviewed by Terri Gross on fresh Air recently and there was no diffidence. For some reason in this interview they both, leonard and Patti, became slightly miffed. It seemed to start even before the mention of her early pregnancy, but that didn't help. Nor the one about when did she learn of mapplethorpe's death ("when he died")
yet leonard did get Patti to mention that time in NYC-- brentannos, scribner's, schrafts, the chelsea hotel--- and I know if they had followed that direction it would have been a great interview. As it was, it was interesting bcecause both of these two are such careful and intelligent talkers but it was one of those rare times when they both were off.

Feb. 05 2010 03:45 PM
rita from ny

i read the posts before hearing the interview because i just found it today the 29th, now 30th,,,,,,and I think you are all crazy. i know (of) patti smith very well and could expect anything, but she was perfectly cordial and articulate and patient. words are her livelyhood. as weird as it may seem even to me that she couldn't get her mouth around the word 'homosexual', one must understand that it is because she chose not to define what she wanted to say in those terms. she's not afraid or ignorant or boring.....i am reading the book now and i don't see how she could have turned anyone off in that candid and respectful interview. oh well .....maybe listen again... happy new year, people

Jan. 30 2010 12:51 AM
Lisa Stein from Brooklyn

Also, Patti is a poet first, one reason she is such a great musician.

Jan. 22 2010 02:29 PM
Lisa Stein from Brooklyn

I loved the interview, don't know why many of you thought she was awful. You must have missed the real punk years when any answer besides F you was a lot. She was very open and detailed about her life. I mean the interview was about her and Robert and her book, why shouldn't she talk about herself.

I think the interviewer is suffering from backwards telescopic time compression. He remembers the last years when everyone was famous and has very little awareness of the long slow rise to fame. He keeps asking, where you famous then, where you famous then, and she keeps saying, no, we were broke. Both she and Robert were very well respected when they started getting their work out there, performing, and showing, but not rich and famous by any means, only known in a small circle.

Their collaboration was wonderful, and they supported each other artistically at a time when not many others were supporting them. Even as each of their popularity grew, they both kept moving forward with their work, never settling for pop mass produced art in a time when that was the rise to fame and fortune. They both got well known later in life sticking to what moved each of them.

I agree with other posters that stuck up for her, the interviewer wasn't that knowledgeable about what he was talking about. Mean to put her off guard like that in the beginning, but the good news, is that he did get a lot of good interview out of her. I for one enjoyed it immensely and ordered the book and can't wait to read it. I have always loved both of their work and seen them live multiple times.

Jan. 22 2010 02:11 PM
Blessed Lucy from Nj

What a rare gift, Patti Smith! I enjoyed the interview,and found Ms. Smith very eloquent. I have been a devoted fan for many years; always enjoying her many incarnations, unique gifts and talents, and all these years later I am still inspired and awed by her. A truly beautiful spirit walking among us. I for one am glad she has a voice, and that voice still speaks to us.

Jan. 21 2010 08:37 PM
Howie from Manhattan

The comments here are a testament to the LL audience and many valid points are made on both sides.
The facts, as I see them are this:
1) Lenny doesn't have much love at all for rock and roll and pop or punk culture, so he shouldn't even have bothered interviewing this
wretched "artist".
2) Patti's attitude made it clear that had she not lucked unto her position she'd simply be another boring and matronly suburban NJ
housewife in sweatpants.

Jan. 21 2010 01:23 PM
micki from brooklyn

I think many of the negative posters here may not be familiar enough with Patti Smith to fully appreciate how much she loves and therefore protects Robert Mapplethorp's life and legacy. Her book is a chronicle of that relationship, her life, his and a certain precious moment in time. Lopate did not need to ask about the abortion (which he did it in a sleight of hand way) or about how Patti heard about Robert's death (a stupid question, I thought)It also seemed to me that he did not do a thorough reading of 'Just Kids'. I did not think Patti was defensive. She wanted to tell a story, honor her friend and not have it turn into a gossipy, superficial exercise in narcissim. I think she succeeded

Jan. 21 2010 12:55 PM from john from nyack

I don't think Patti Smith was uncivil. I think she was not comfortable because within the first five minutes of the interview she was asked about having had a baby out of wedlock and giving it up for adoption. That must have been a painful experience for her. I agree with other comments that Lenny could have asked more informed and leading questions of his accomplished guest.

Jan. 20 2010 08:03 PM

This isn't Lenny's best interview by any means. He didn't prepare good questions, and just relied on reviewing her "story"--hoping that she would fill in the time with some insights or anecdotes. But she wouldn't play, and made a point of not playing the game. Ok Lenny is out of his depth on the punk scene but she could have been more generous with her answers. Patti is vastly overrated and should get over herself. She was enormously LUCKY to be in the right place and the right time and achieve fame. TRY to be more HUMBLE patti!

Jan. 20 2010 09:29 AM
Steve from NJ

i feel like i just listened to a different interview than most of the commenters above. i think patti was perfectly cordial but that leonard was trying her patience with all his "just the facts" questions. the kicker was when he asked her when she learned about mapplethorpe's death (how dumb was that?). leonard has a great talent for conversing on many diverse subjects, but when it comes to rock 'n roll/punk culture he is simply out of his element. it seemed like the best he could do to try to relate to smith was to mention that he'd had an acquaintance with janis joplin (he's a name dropper in real life, too.). he also has a terrible habit of interrupting his interviewees in mid-response, which seems to be getting worse with age. all in all, just a bad job by leonard.

Jan. 19 2010 09:14 PM

I agree that Smith sounded defensive throughout this interview, but I also often find that Lopate is obtuse in his interviews, doesn't have an ear for irony or a sense of humor, needs to have everything spelled out. I think she was caught off guard when he opened the interview by talking about how she'd had a child that she, I assume, gave up. He didn't really ask any questions that would have led her to tell us what it like to be an artist starting out. Like: you worked in a bookstore, what were you reading, what inspired you, how were you able to participate in NY arts culture without any money?

Jan. 19 2010 04:05 PM
art525 from park slope

Ho hum. She was boring then and she's boring now. She had the good luck to be mythologized because she was at the right place at the right time and can name drop Mapplethorpe and Max's and the Chelsea Hotel etc etc etc. The great queen of punk's one musical success was a cover of Bruce Springsteen. Very punk.

Jan. 19 2010 03:38 PM
HN from Hell's Kitchen

I don't think Patti Smith was that horrible of an interview, but it certainly felt like Leonard had to pull teeth in order to get an answer out of her. Her non-answer final answer about how she learned of Mapplethorpe's death didn't do her favors. It's a shame the interview wasn't better because I always enjoy hearing anecdotes from those artists who lived through NYC during the 1960s and 1970s.

And perhaps it's just me but I got the impression from the interview that Patti never really got over her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. She couldn't even bring herself to outright say that Robert was gay, she kept dancing around the subject.

Jan. 19 2010 02:31 PM
Nancy Duggan from Morristown, NJ

Why so snarky, Patti? Presumably you went on Mr. Lopate's show to hawk your book, do you not understand that your sarcastic, irritable manner would harm sales?

It would be in your best interest to pretend to be above all that, because after listening to you, your book will be remaindered in no time.

Jan. 19 2010 02:22 PM
Becky from Manhattan

Oops, sorry, typing too fast - I meant to call Patti the "interviewee" not "interviewer" in my post above. Mea culpa!

Jan. 19 2010 02:08 PM
TPS from Manhattan

Good lord,

Many of us have struggled as artists too, and perhaps never found substantial fame or fortune. But often we are able to maintain a civil tone and some optimism within discussions about our travails.

Ms. Smith has been blessed, but sadly is a profound crank. If she cannot graciously correct the record, I say let the rumors and misinformation about her storied career persist.

Jan. 19 2010 02:08 PM
Becky from Manhattan

I logged on to say what an ungracious interviewer Patti Smith was. I thought she was rude to Leonard, who has one of the nicest interviewing manners on either radio or tv.

Well, I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one - the other commenters seem to feel the same way.

I saw her perform at the Met Museum in honor of her mother about 6-7 years ago, and it was uninspiring, but I was ready to give her another chance.

However, after her attitude today, hers is one book I certainly will not be buying.

Jan. 19 2010 02:07 PM
harry t from UES

I felt sorry for you, leonard. Patti Smith was hideously obnoxious and loaded with attitude. With her punim (sp?) I'd be grateful anyone would listen.

Jan. 19 2010 02:06 PM
Sandra from Astoria, Queens

What's up with all the haters? I love Patti Smith! I've been a fan since I was 6 years old--"Easter" had just come out and my older sister had a copy, and I remember playing it over and over....

Jan. 19 2010 02:05 PM
GCO from CT

Would have been more interesting if she'd focused less on being so disgruntled/combative.

Jan. 19 2010 02:02 PM
GCO from CT

Would have been more interesting if she'd focused less on being so disgruntled/combative.

Jan. 19 2010 02:02 PM

she is a terrible interviewee, does she really think people would want to go to her events after that terrible performance. Especially that last answer. I saw her once at MOMA and she wasn't soooo bad, but it was more prepared, i think she is getting big head over her 'moment'.

Jan. 19 2010 01:59 PM
Vic from Chester, NJ

Looking forward to this evening's reading...

Jan. 19 2010 01:55 PM
Nikhil Banerjee from chinatown

Hey Len:

Ask Patti about her movie w. Godard.

Mucho Thanks

Jan. 19 2010 01:53 PM
Annoyed in Brooklyn

I'm cringing, listening to this . . . why is Patti Smith being so defensive? Who, exactly, is she arguing with? Ugh.

Jan. 19 2010 01:53 PM
Don from NJ

Golly, it's not a surprise to find this "punk rock pretendress" as horrid to listen to speak, as she is to hear perform.Fully of herself to the point of nausea; arrogant and just a creep! What an atrocity that the (silly) R&R Hall of Fame inducted her. Sorry,Lenny,I'd have preferred
an archival interview with Totie Fields!!!

Jan. 19 2010 01:48 PM

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