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Hollyweird: Jack Nicholson Inspired This Joni Mitchell Song Print-ready version

by Trey Taylor
January 18, 2019

Ara Gallant, a famous hairdresser, threw a party at her West End Avenue apartment in the early '70s. She had blacked-out windows and black-patent walls. Among the invited guests were Anjelica Huston, Jack Nicholson, Joni Mitchell and Apollonia van Ravenstein - a popular Dutch model whom Nicholson called "Apples only."

Huston and Nicholson were an item at the time, and Huston was good friends with van Ravenstein, having "often modeled together in London and New York."

At some point during the party, a propos of nothing, van Ravenstein broke out in tears. "[Apollonia] had been crying that night - laughing and crying, it was hard to figure out which or why," Huston wrote in her 2014 memoir Watch Me. "She had balanced a lampshade on her head; tears were pouring down her cheeks." Huston couldn't figure it out, until the reason the model was so hysterical was crudely revealed to her days later in London, when van Ravenstein came to visit Huston.

"During dinner, she let slip that she'd slept with Jack at Ara's the night I'd left. She told me they had been in a relationship before he met me," Huston wrote. "Now I understood the reason behind the lampshade hat and the tears. I hadn't understood that she loved him. When I confronted Jack on the telephone, distraught, sad, mad, he said, 'Oh, Toots, it was just a mercy fuck.' ...somehow he thought it was an acceptable answer."

Though Nicholson never apologized, the whole debacle was put down on vinyl.

Joni Mitchell, a longtime friend of Nicholson's, played witness to the fit of tears. The incident inspired the lyrics of "People's Parties" on her 1974 album Court and Spark. In verse two, she refers to Apollonia's meltdown, singing, "Photo beauty gets attention/ Then her eye paint's running down/ She's got a rose in her teeth/ And a lampshade crown/ One minute she's so happy/ Then she's crying on someone's knee/ Saying laughing and crying / You know it's the same release."

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Added to Library on January 19, 2019. (9237)


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