Lunch with Joni in Brentwood, California

by Kakki
JoniMitchell.com
September 29, 2001

Kakki: Lordy, lordy.

JMDL'er Stephen from Vancouver is here in L.A. on business this weekend and I've been showing him around. We were going to have lunch in Topanga Canyon, but then he mentioned a friend he'd like to see who has a business in the mall where the [restaraunt] is located so we decided that would be a good choice and Joni-related, of course. We sat with our food, drinks and smokes in the hot sun having a lazy afternoon when my God, who should appear!!

I have so much to tell, but it is a bit difficult as you can imagine! We left her alone but she has a new little yappy Jack Russell terrier dog she'd brought who was quite the center of attention. (Oh and yes, the cats are all getting along with Coco, and even though they have their skirmishes, she said they sleep together every night ;-) I was telling Stephen about a dog I had like that and Joni heard me and wanted to know about it so we had the opening for conversation. Well, lots of drinks and smokes later turned into our own chat with Joni for about an hour. Phenomenal, phenomenal. I'll give the short version for now with news of what matters probably to most of you. The "war:" has affected her very much and she has done three paintings since 9/11. The paintings are going to be featured in the L.A. Times next week. I don't want to share her views here yet because it seems more proper to see what is said in the L.A. Times. I will tell you that while talking with her about why she doesn't write anymore - she said she has not been able to - but this event is very definitely inspiring her to write again.

I may have more to write later - right now I'm still in a little shock!! ;-)

Stephen: OMG!!!!!!!

Well, this was certainly a dream come true! I called Kakki this morning to see if she wished to have lunch- and of course, she most graciously agreed. After a bit of sightseeing, we decided on a restaurant. Kakki had a tuna melt, I had a shrimp Louie salad- relevance of this to be revealed in a moment!

We were almost finished when all of a sudden I see Kakki's mouth drop to the floor and I'm feeling kicks on my shin!! Sure enough, there was our goddess seated at the table next to us!!! Who cares that Paula Abdul was sitting at the one behind us!!!

Needless to say, I am still in complete shock! I'm thinking how are we going to make this happen, what do I say, do I ask for a picture??? Kakki, being the quintessential LA woman, said to just cool my jets, and we will see what happens. Kakki already mentioned how it happened, and all I can add is that JM was sooooo incredibly gracious, friendly, from the heart and interested. And man, can she talk!!!!

So the food connection! Joni ordered a shrimp Louie to start, and then a tuna melt!!!!!! Signs in the heavens?

perhaps more later, but it was, of course, a life-long dream come true.

After we left, Joni did a little shopping and we met again downstairs- I told how I was so looking forward to seeing her again next month at Harbourfront. "Oh! Are you going to be there?" she says!!!! DUH!!! I said that it was such a nice honour for her, and to be included with such luminaries. She was so gracious.

Enough for now, I have to see if one of Kakki's famous martini's will calm me down now!

Best.
Stephen in LA
Give up smoking??? Never! hee hee

Kakki:

Joni was so great today! She and a friend, both with little dogs came and took a seat on the outside patio (only place to smoke) at the [restaraunt]. I was surprised to see her with a dog! Coco, the little, very lively terrier was barking, yapping and yapping non-stop. Joni felt a little self-conscious and was trying to calm her down and explaining to everyone that Coco liked to bark at the birds. She would say a few times to all of us sitting out there how Jack Russell terriers were bred to be self-starters, independent and that they do not take well to being chained up (Hehehe). At one point, she took the leash off and Coco was very happy wandering around all our tables and NOT barking. Coco reminded me so much of my dog years ago - part terrier and very much the same personality. So I was telling Stephen about Daisy and Joni asked and we laughed about how they rebel at being on the leash to the point of choking themselves and how they can jump 5 feet straight up in the air and are so hyper, yet always sweet! Meanwhile, Paula Abdul was sitting with a friend behind us and had gone up and introduced herself to Joni and had a nice meeting with her. Later Paula brought out pictures of her own dog to show Joni! So anyway, I was very self-conscious and did not want to intrude on Joni. A large group of young women came in and sat down at the patio. Almost immediately, one of them started being VERY rude to Joni about Coco wandering about. Absolutely rude. She went on about it being unsanitary about a dog near diners, etc., blah, blah. Welllllll...., of course, Stephen and I gave Joni the eye that we would be her "back up" and made a few light comments trying to laugh the girl off. Joni was nice but also assertive with her and said "I'm sorry, I just learned I can't bring the dog here, but she will bark if I leash her so you have your choice - she wanders quietly or you can hear her bark non-stop - it's your call!" The young punk, er, girl, told Joni quite snottily to put the leash on. So the leash went on and then I said "Coco - sing for us!!" Tee hee. Oh and yes, the cacophony started once again ;-)

Somehow, a long, natural conversation began with Joni from there. She was so open and honest right from the heart on many matters, including personal, which I feel not right about sharing here but the point is that when you have someone like Joni being so from the heart with basically strangers it says something very profound about one's integrity - she is who she is in all instances. I want to be so proper here about what she said, rather than being just a blabbermouth. The first thing she brought up was what she kept calling the "war." I asked her if she had been painting lately and she immediately said "three since September 11th." She went on to explain to us in great detail the various images she perceived from the WTC coverage - she actually was taking photos of the TV footage with a "paper camera" trying to capture everything. She saw many images and metaphors literally in the smoke and said how difficult it was to capture them so fast. She had much to say about it all. I still think we should wait to hear her words on this - she sees it, of course, on a larger, global scale, prophetess that she is. On related subjects that we spoke about, including the dismal state of music these days, I opined that there hasn't been much good music since the 60s. She disagreed with me and said that the real best music was back in the 30s and 40 like Louis Armstrong. I said that I had also been thinking about that lately - how those times were much worse for people than today and yet they produced that music. She said - to the effect - that yes, they could be so optimistic in the face of what was happening and produce such life-affirming music and that was real integrity, real strength. Yes, yes.

We talked about so much - you know how she is from reading her interviews and this was just one of the most incredible you have ever heard! We talked about painting in general and her painting specifically. I mentioned that Stephen and I were both painters and she wanted to know about Stephen's paintings. I'll let him write more about that when he recovers ;-) We talked about her next project coming up and she told us a lot that we already knew from here - she is using the same crew - Vince Mendoza, and, as she said her "ex-husband" ;-) We talked about Beethoven, Debussy and Mozart. (Our heads were spinning ;-) She mentioned the reworking of her songs but it is hard for me to articulate it now and relate it properly. Ya had ta be there ;-D

So - somehow I brought up about her not writing lately and she said she had not been able to write for awhile. Then she said, "no one is interested anymore in what I have to say." God. We immediately jumped in and said "OH YES, WE ARE." And Stephen added emphatically "your listeners ARE." Then she said that this event, the "war" HAS evoked her writing again. Oh yes!

She talked about Robert Hilburn (our longtime music guru in L.A.) and how he, for awhile, did not quite "get" her. I said that my impression was always that Hilburn (who is so damn picky) adored her. Naw, she said, he always told her that he didn't like her foray into jazz and she would tell him that the folk music was not as creative as what she did with the jazz. I told her that hey, there were albums I didn't "get" at first, either, but I always thought that was my problem, not hers, and I just figured that she was 20 years ahead of her time. She laughed and said she didn't "get" some of the stuff she did, either ;-) I said that the critics who didn't get her years ago certainly have reconsidered and get her now. She said, "well, I never was writing to write "hit music."

So I may think of more that is right to say here later, but for now, the brilliant news is that she is very inspired to write again and we do need to hear from her.

Kakki, heart still beating like a hummingbird

Hey Sharon!

Several questions...dripping with envy as she writes
these questions...Is the [restaraunt] a Joni place? And if
so, could you give me some history about it?

She has hung out there for years now. In the liner notes of Taming the Tiger, she only thanks (as I recall) Fred Walecki and the personnel at the [restaraunt] and the parking attendants for the little mall there. She also mentioned it at the '98 concerts at UCLA.

>This may be a silly question but did you happen to tell
Joni about our most recent Fest and how everyone loves
her music? And about Ganja Joni?

Well, we were so amazed to be seeing her at all, much less having an hour long conversation with her! This is the third time I've been somehow magically blessed to speak with her. The second time was at her art exhibit in L.A. in Dec. 1999. At that time, we talked much about the list and she was raving on about the cookbook that we created for her (coordinated and put together by Marian) - She later in an interview actually mentioned us and that cookbook! I also gave her the 4 CD "box set" of Jonifest 1999 that night and she definitely knows that we get together each year and do our Fest thang ;-)

Did she indicate that her 'writer block' was because she
does not believe that people want to hear from her or
that she was simply blocked for other reasons?

Did not get into specifics, but I was struck when she said "no one wanted to hear me anymore." Geez. Maybe she just means the corporate record companies.

And did she indicate how the 'war' had impacted her
need to write once again?

Oh yes, very much, very much, very deeply. I hope that the upcoming L.A. Times feature of the paintings she has done may also give her comments.

Did she sign anything for you or make plans to see you in Toronto?

No, we did not go there.

I wonder if Stephen had on his red shoes?

Indeed, of course he did!!! ;-) And he's mentioned a few times that he'd wished she would have noticed them - hahaha ;-D

Still pinching myself -

I don't know if Joni recognized me from before. Maybe - she sort of had a slight look of recognition and turned and smiled over to me a few times before we started talking, but I really don't know if that meant anything. No one ever believes this but I am really shy sometimes and especially when it's Joni!! So I didn't say "remember me" or anything about the list because I had that conversation with her before and also when she met a number of us after the "Painting With Words and Music" tapings in '98. Stephen and I were so stunned the whole time and I think we just let her talk and carry the conversation. And from my prior experience that's the best way because if you just let her talk and go with her trains of thought, she has so much to say!

She is in real good shape and very slim. She was dressed very casually in sort of tan/khaki slacks but I was suprised that she was wearing a sort of pullover sweater and a vest in almost 90 degree weather! Her hair was up and she had a little hat on and was wearing lots of beautiful, interesting jewelry.

She was quite outspoken on many topics, but we know that! She was very funny and quippy, too, and had us shaking with laughter a few times. She was very cute and very sweet. We collectively probably smoked about three packs of cigarettes in that hour! She also sang a bit for us!! A few verses from the song "Elijah" which I would love to see the lyrics to if anyone knows them here. Her voice was gorgeous!

I am still processing all she said and will probably think of more. I know Stephen has much to write, too, so you will hear more from him soon!

Thanks to you all for being here to share this with - where else would I have ever had the chance to learn so much about Joni to be able to speak half-way coherently with her, anyway? ;-)

Jenny - here's the drink rundown:

Joni - one cranberry juice and two or three cappucinos

Stephen - Before Joni appeared - one Bloody Mary
After Joni - Bloody Mary and vodka and soda or three

Kakki - Before Joni - one Pinot Grigio After Joni - several rum and diet coke chasers

Susan - believe me I was a total babbling goof the first time I met Joni! In retrospect, I must say that Stephen, for a first timer, handled himself quite impeccably!! It's those red suede shoes, I tell ya ;-) I can't wait to hear more of Stephen's report when he is recovered!

More on Coco - Joni just seems so taken with her. Said she knew exactly what kind of personality she would be getting in this breed of terrier and that is what she wanted for her first dog. When I asked how the cats were getting along with her - she named each one's reaction. Mojo is the closest and almost inseparable with Coco; Nietsche, who she called her "alpha" cat gives Coco a daily batting about the head and Coco just takes it; I can't remember if she said Pansy or El Cafe gave Coco a daily head bathing. Then she said they are all cuddling up and sleeping together every night. She said that Coco is always running around chasing birds and throwing her ball, but is a "person" and that on September 11th as they were all watching the news, she told Coco to go lie down and not bark or jump or move around for the next two days out of solemnity for what had happened. She said that Coco immediately obeyed her and went to a spot where she stayed lying quietly for most of the next two days. Stephen and I were saying later how we sure wished we could be in Coco's place ;-)

Great responses Kakki...but did you tell her you were
with JMDL or say anything about JMDL?

I didn't because I have met her twice before as someone from the JMDL so in case she did recognize me from before I didn't want to be redundant. It was also a situation where we were just so amazed she was having this conversation with us that we just let her talk and didn't want to say anything to change her train of thought. It was just one of those times where it felt right to let what was happening flow.

Stephen:

Well, I am still reeling from the events of Saturday and meeting Joni- wishing I were still there!

Firstly, my sincerest thanks to Kakki and Coyote Rick for making my time SO enjoyable. These SoCal members are too good to be true, and once again, the brother/sister hood that is uniquely understood when meeting a lister for the first time just blows me away. We are a very special "family" and I trust you all cherish it as much as I.

I still haven't responded to the desert island post yet- I don't need 10! For me there are only 4- Joni, Fred Neil, Tim Hardin and Jerry Jeff Walker. This group I have been listening to since the age of 13 is all I need- the rest do not matter. I am 46 now, so it has been many years of influence and comfort.

To meet Joni in person, and in the manner that Kakki and I were able to, is the penultimate dream come true! When Kakki bruised my shins, I thought I was going to have a heart attack! I was hyperventilating! Of course, we were plotting as to how we would make a connection happen. We had all kinds of things planned, what to say and do, if JM got up and left before we had the chance. It was the perfect opportunity to not let go by- there were 2 other times in my life- but it didn't seem appropriate then. I have shared with a few of you, that I just KNOW that when I attend the upcoming Harbourfront Tribute, I would be able to connect with Joni. How incredible that it happened on Saturday.

I just felt that it was correct to follow Kakki's gracious lead! We were SO not the gaga JMDL fans and fawning all over her, and that is the reason I believe she connected with us. Never asked for a pic- FECK! and in the end, that doesn't matter- , didn't tell her our names, didn't fawn and tell her she has had such an influence in our lives....

And as a result, she just opened up her heart to us.

She is absolutely gorgeous! Tanned face, under light blue rimless sunglasses, framed by a chocolate straw hat, hair tucked up underneath. Beautifully, understatedly dressed, but so fashionably so! Pale khaki capri chinos, a knit linen olive long sleeve t, and knit linen vest w/olive, burnt orange and tan stripes. Thin! Glowing and stunning! And beautiful jewelry- again understated but magnificent! (Hey! I'm in the fabric business!!)

Kakki has already so eloquently reported our thoughts and the direction of the conversation. Coco, the dog is cute! Joni adores her! She mentioned more than once, how human Coco is, how willful. Interesting. More human than some humans she knows!

The talk of painting was wonderful. She so truly paints in words, and even told us that she has always thought that way about her music. The events of September 11th have profoundly affected her- I cannot wait to see the Times article- the paintings, and I am sure, the appropriate Joni commentary along with them. She coined a new word for her style of painting- "repitism"- a follow-up to her mentioning that this is how she learns and retains knowledge- talks and thinks in tones of repetition. I think we will see some truly wonderful paintings this week. She says her style is more like Van Gogh, but very influenced by Mattise. "What do you paint? Landscapes? I am a landscape painter!" And much technical chat about painterly style ensued.

Kakki and I were both blown away by her comments when the chat turned to music. "No one wants to hear what I have to say!" Duality here- a comment on her disgust for the music industry machine, or lack of respect from the listening audience/poor record sales? We assured her that her fans are always listening. We talked about the 60's scene- "So much is forgotten from that time" ;-) It was evident, her distaste for what is being produced today. Hence, the lack of inspiration. Kakki has already relayed the 60's vs. 40's thing- her time was Bird (Charlie Parker) Mingus., Miles- that was art- the 60's was not. Of course, I brought up Fred Neil- how there were SOME bright spots from the 60's- she recanted times of playing w/Freddie and Vince Martin in Coconut Grove........ I suggested his was a talent and voice that chose to be silent as a result of his disdain for the Machine- he dropped out- and that the world would be a better place had he not. She agreed, and immediately mentioned Tim Hardin. ACK!!!!!!!

She was happy to chat about the new 2 CD project- same crew, the ex, Vince, the London Philharmonic- she will go in November. An interesting anecdote about Vince and her direction of Ludwig's tune- too difficult to repeat w/out her vocals- but the shrill and power of the flute on that song-she compared it to the Beethoven movie Immortal Beloved and Ludwigs reaction to the orchestra when they didn't get it quite right- just phenomenal! She so needs to direct all involved so it is right and correct to her standard. She mentioned that the remakes of HER songs will be covered as they were written, but the feel of the CD will be much more true to the jazz form than what she has done in the past. WOW!

Of course, I could go on and on......... suffice it to say it was THE most brilliant moment of my life, and equally thrilling to be able to share it with a like-minded lister instead of a friend who just doesn't get it the same way we all do! The personal things will remain so, as I do believe we should respect Joni's sense of privacy.


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