The Rock & Roll Years

Patti and Erica share a moment

One of the most intense experiences of Erica’s life was her association with the Patti Smith Band and its lead guitarist Lenny Kaye.

Smith began as an avant-garde poet, and after Kaye started providing a rock accompaniment to her readings, they formed a band at the New York club CBGB.  Her 1975 debut album “Horses” was a punk rock landmark with its fierce energy and loose primitivist style.  Critics were knocked out, but perhaps no one was more enthralled than Erica.

“That album was so amazing.  Patti was very erotic.  She got her energy from having sex!  She had a lot to work off—she had energy that was extraordinary.  When I met Patti, I was working for Elmer Valentine at The Roxy at night, and at the Rainbow in the afternoon waiting tables.  The Patti Smith Band came in one night, and since I was one of the top waitresses, I had the main section where all the record company people were.  The first time I saw her, I just wanted to be her, to be all of her.  I was just hypnotized.

Erica & Lenny mugging for the Camera

“Somehow, Lenny Kaye found out I was working there, and who I was.  It turns out he was a huge fan of Dolls.  It was so funny.  ‘I’m a fan of yours and your a fan of mine!’ He knew just about every line of the movie.  He said to come back to the hotel afterward.  They were staying at The Tropicana on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the rock stars stayed then.

“I remember going into the room and he was reciting lines to me from Dolls.  Being with Lenny was like being with Patti.  I was really in love with him.  I hung out with Patti too, and sort of watched over her.  When she lost her voice, I gave her honey to drink so her voice would come back… I went on the road with then and the became sort of another family for me.  We spent a lot of time together for a couple of years.

“She just gave me power, she made me feel like I have power.  She’s a true artist.  She’s strong and she’s crazy.  That level of insanity when you know that someone else is there, just acknowledging the struggle, and also the freedom.  I always felt like I was her captive, without saying anything.  Patti showed me how my insanity could work for me, and not against me.  I felt a deep connection with her.  She didn’t really know anything about me, she just knew I was always around.”

–by Steve Sullivan
excerpted with kind permission from Glamour Girls
You can find this rare out-of-print issue right here!

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About Erica Gavin

Erica Gavin is an American film actress best known for playing the title role in Russ Meyer's 1968 film Vixen! Following Vixen, Erica Gavin appeared in one more Russ Meyer film - Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. She also appeared in Roger Corman's women-in-prison film Caged Heat. Erica Gavin currently resides in Beverly Hills, California.