Historical query

In the chunk of her memoirs printed in today’s Observer, Patti Smith talks about how her couple of early meetings with Mapplethorpe led to his saving her from a predator. She was working in a bookstore, was starving and had just discovered that her first week’s pay was withheld:


When I returned to my counter, I noticed a guy lurking around, watching me. He had a beard and was wearing a pinstripe shirt . The supervisor introduced us. He was a science-fiction writer and he wanted to take me out to dinner. Even though I was 20, my mother’s warning not to go anywhere with a stranger reverberated in my consciousness. But the prospect of dinner weakened me, and I accepted.We walked down to a restaurant at the base of the Empire State Building. I had never eaten at a nice place in New York City.But even though I was starving, I could hardly enjoy it. I felt uncomfortable and had no idea how to handle the situation. It seemed like he was spending a lot of money on me and I got to worrying what he would expect in return.

After the meal we walked all the way downtown. He suggested we go up to his apartment for a drink. This was it, I thought, the pivotal moment my mother had warned me about. I was looking around desperately when I saw a young man approaching. It was as if a small portal of future opened, and out stepped the boy from Brooklyn who had chosen the Persian necklace, like an answer to a teenage prayer. I immediately recognised his slightly bowlegged gait and his tousled curls. He was dressed in dungarees and a sheepskin vest. Around his neck hung strands of beaded necklaces, a hippie shepherd boy. I ran up to him and grabbed his arm.

“Hello, do you remember me?”

“Of course,” he smiled.

“I need help.” I blurted, “Will you pretend you’re my boyfriend?”

“Sure,” he said, as if he wasn’t surprised by my sudden appearance.

I dragged him over to the science-fiction guy. “This is my boyfriend,” I said breathlessly. “He’s been looking for me. He’s really mad. He wants me to come home now.” The guy looked at us both quizzically.

“Run,” I cried, and the boy grabbed my hand and we took off, through the park across to the other side.

The thing I want to know is, who was the science fiction writer?

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About rozkaveney

Middleaged, trans, novelist, poet, activist
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6 Responses to Historical query

  1. rab62 says:

    I wondered the same thing, when the same anecdote appeared in New York magazine on this side of the Atlantic a couple of weeks ago. But there’s nothing here to confirm that this was necessarily a published SF author or anyone an SF reader would have any reason to know. He may have been introduced by the supervisor as “a science-fiction writer” or have described himself that way, but you hardly need to own an SFWA card to make that claim.

    (I also wonder, what kind of jerk do you have to be to think that saying you’re an SF writer is any way to impress a 20 year old? Seems more like the kind of thing you’d keep quiet…)

    • redbird says:

      It may be that the schmuck figured he could impress Smith with some combination of “published writer” (whether he was or not) and “has money.” Or, at least, impress her long enough to get her to walk into a restaurant and order dinner, after which he was counting on pressuring her based on his having bought her a meal.

  2. pnh says:

    What year was this? That might help narrow things down.

    There are of course a couple of significant connections between Patti Smith and the SF world. First and foremost, her longtime lead guitarist Lenny Kaye was active in New York City fandom in the early 1960s.

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