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Op-Ed: Janis Joplin film extended at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater (Includes interview and first-hand account)

Among them is former journalist Kathy Ostram. She was not able to attend the film’s opening at the Roxie on December 4. Yet, she was determined to see the film. Karen Larsen of Larsen and Associates who helped promote the opening at The Roxie was able to arrange a private showing for Ostram.

“Are you ready to write a book?” Ostram exclaimed to this reporter afterwards. “Oh my gosh! Some of the movie I saw the memories came flooding back.”

Ostram made reference to the Monterey Pop Festival which was a breakout performance for Joplin. “Oh Monterey! I was there for my birthday,” said Ostram, “and had dinner with Janis and the band Big Brother even wished me a happy birthday.”

The list of performers who appeared at that historic music event reads like a “who’s who” of popular music; especially of that time. Just about everyone who appeared or were scheduled went on to become legendary. Sources at Wikipedia note, Columbia Records signed Big Brother and The Holding Company to a recording contract based upon their performance at the festival.

The festival was significant for many. But for Janis Joplin it was definitive and the launching pad for her career. “The picture on the steps,” said Ostram, “had so many wonderful people like John Chipilino and Gary Dunkin from Quicksilver. I knew Chet Helms. Their manager also handled the (group called) ‘Family Dog and the Avalon'”.

Ostram admitted that while she was very grateful that Larsen Associates arranged a showing for her, Ostram took a break while seeing the film.
“I am having a hard time with the memories of Monterey,” she said, her voice hushed a bit from the emotion of those days. She mentioned at the time her husband, Steve Ostram, was among the many crews and workers who helped out at concerts, setting up and taking down sound equipment and whatever else that was needed. “That is how I met my husband Steve was through my reporting of the music scene at the concerts like at Fillmore West, etc. He’d be there helping out. Everybody used to just hang out with the bands and singers. It was how it was then.”

“I asked Steve for his input (on the memories of that time) like from Woodstock,” she said. “And even the interview with John Lennon,” she added, “when Steve was in the front row.” Berg’s film had an impact on Ostram. That is why it is no surprise to her that all the reviews are raves.


Courtesy of Steve Keyser and Big Brother and The Holding Company

“It’s a well done documentary,” said Steve Keyser. He currently represents Big Brother and The Holding Company. While he too was not able to make it to the opening on Dec. 4, Keyser saw the film the following night. “Only Peter Albin and Dave Getz are still alive from the original Big Brother,” he said. Like Ostram, he too noted the enduring appeal of Joplin and her music. “Janis was real,” said Keyser. “Just a simple person who told it and sang it like it is.”

When this reporter did some research of Joplin looking through old periodicals of the era, like Newsweek magazine, Joplin had said Rhythm and Blues music made an impact on her. Blues singers like Big Mama Thornton meant something to Joplin. For as she had told Newsweek much of the early rock music playing the airwaves of the 1950’s and early ’60’s was as she put it, “Oop boop crap!”

In press releases provided by Larsen Associates, Berg who is both director and writer of the film noted. “Brief as her career may have been, Janis’ impact on not just the music but the culture-at-large was immense.” Berg also noted that “She was real relatable and not without flaws.” In addition to describing Joplin as a ‘maverick’ Berg described her as “a human prism through whom many of the issues of the day can be closely viewed.” Whether it was drugs, the counter-culture of the 1960’s, the sexual revolution, women’s liberation or the anti-war movement, “Janis was seemingly at the vanguard of everything.”

Composing the 105 minute film, Berg wanted to ensure its authenticity, in that she wanted to use only Janis’ perspective. It’s the “right from the source” type of approach that makes the film powerful, even though for Berg it was painstaking work. And for those who lived through the 1960’s like Keyser and Ostram, the documentary has a powerful authenticity to it.

Filmaker  Amy J. Berg s documentary  Janis: Little Girl Blue  has been extended in it s initial show...

Filmaker, Amy J. Berg’s documentary “Janis: Little Girl Blue” has been extended in it’s initial showing at The Roxie Theater in San Francisco’s Mission District until Dec. 30.
Courtesy of Larson Associates and Roxie Theater

“I’m so glad that I didn’t go to the screening (on Dec 4),” said Ostram. “I’m a basket case,” she later confided. As much as she had wanted to attend the opening and be part of the Question and Answer session that followed, Ostram is content she did not. And, that perhaps the private showing she was permitted worked out for the best. As she said, “I couldn’t stop crying.” Berg’s film released a flood of memories that Ostam had difficulty containing.

The memories and the emotions of those times were such that Ostram almost canceled the interview with this reporter. As she had said in previous conversations about Joplin and the ’60’s “I am so happy I was there and so sad it has to live in my memory. Wish I had a time machine then I could to take you to the best time in my life.”

Released through FilmRise, Janis: Little Girl Blue by Amy J. Berg is now showing at The Roxie until Dec. 30.
For more info visit The Roxie web site.

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