“How are you still alive?” That was the recurring question I disbelief had spread during my nearly three years of conversations with the mythical Miss Mercy, aka Mercy Fontenot, as I tried to capture her death-and-odd story in her autobiography, Permanent Damage: Memoirs of an Outrageous Girl.
Mercy was best known as the most outrageous and possibly least together member of the groundbreaking, Frank Zappa-produced girl group GTOs, or Girls Together Outrageously, along with her best friend Pamela Des Barres, author of the famous groupie tell-all I’m with the band; when Rolling stone reported the news of Mercy’s death in July 2020, her GTO employment periods consisted largely of the entire obituary. Mercy actually suggested the title I’m With the Band Too for her own book, but I closed it right away, knowing that her time in the GTOs would just be one of many fascinating chapters. Finally, we decided on a title that was a nod to the group and their one album (as Mercy had called it), the 1969s. Permanent damage, but also acknowledged all the trauma and chaos she had survived.
Mercy signed our book deal just eight days before she died of cancer. The irony was not lost on me that after her many harrowing near-death experiences – including the one extracted below, when she made heroin from the same stash that killed Janis Joplin – she did not get into infamous 27 Club, like Joplin and so many of her peers, and instead underwent natural causes at the age of 71. Mercy once theorized that she had cheated death so many times because she needed to complete her mission, which was “to share some important music history. with the world. ” Hopefully she did just that in the memoirs. Here is just one of the book’s wild stories. —Lyndsey Parker
I was at Janis Joplin’s drug dealer the night she died, even though I had moved down to Los Angeles at the time. Her dealer was named Jean de Breteuil, and he was in the phone book and all. I was not really that fond of heroin, but once in a while I would do it because I wanted to take everything that was offered to me, any drug – it did not matter what it was. I lived on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood, and Jean came to visit me and gave me the same heroin he had just given Janis. You know the saying, “walk calmly in the midst of noise and haste,” from the Max Ehrmann poem? Janis had just recited it to Jean. He said, “I wonder why she told me this.” Then he said, “I have this drug, and I will shoot you up with it, and I will see you.” He wanted to test my taste, use me basically as a guinea pig. Of course, I was ready for the task. But as soon as he shot me, I knew something had gone terribly wrong.
I shouted, “I’m going down too fast. I’m just going down. Help! “So Jean gave me a shot of cocaine to snatch me out of it.
None of us knew at the time that Janis would overdose on the same amount of heroin. Jean left the taste, but it was so strong that I could not handle it, so I gave it to my drug addict Pal Gram Parsons. I did not sell it to Gram or anything; I just did not want it in my possession. But then the guy with the Gram OD, so we had to call our friend Chuck Wein to bring that guy back to life. Later that evening, Janis died around two in the morning. When I heard the news on the radio, I said, “Oh, yikes. Us. ” It was very sad. Janis was only two blocks away from me. She actually went to a hotel where my band GTO lived before, Landmark. But I’ll get into my stories about GTO, Gram and Chuck later.
Jean was seriously freaked out. I know he did not mean it to happen Janis. I do not know how it happened, exactly. I’ve been told that Janis had an amulet around her neck that usually stored cocaine in it in case she had too much heroin, and that one of her friends had changed it to more heroin – so when Janis went to do the cola shot, she overdosed on smack instead. It’s a story. I can not definitely say. I always suspected it was a setup and Jean was caught in the middle, but I can not confirm it either.
After Janis’ death, you would have thought I had some kind of holy-s *** revelation, a thing where-but-for-God’s-grace-I-go. But that did not scare me in the least. Everyone could have fallen dead around me – and many people did in the end, like Jimi and Gram – and it would not fail me. All I thought about was getting tall, tall, tall. When you are addicted to drugs, your brain works or works properly. Yes, I thought maybe there was a possibility I could end up like Janis, but the prospect did not bother me since I believed in the whole pre-written fate.
Mercy Fontenot’s autobiography Permanent Damage: Memoirs of an Outrageous Girl, written by Yahoo Entertainment music editor Lyndsey Parker, is available June 9 via Rare Bird Books.
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