She was in town in the spring to lecture on her photographs that she was donating to New Orleans Museum of Art. Thanks to my friend Grace, I was able to get a seat in the auditorium to hear her and not have to stand out in the lobby with so many other fans, waiting and hoping for the televisions to work (as satellites of her live lecture inside). Every time she put up a slide with a Joan of Arc photograph (there were several of the statue in Paris that ours in the Quarter is triplet to) someone would turn to look at me and grin, as if to say, "Heeyyyyyy!"
(It's no secret, the links between Patti and Joan...she's been called rock's Joan of Arc, and she references Joan in her KIMBERLY lyrics, among other books, poems, and interviews...just Google "Joan of Arc, Patti Smith" and you'll see Joan shows up constantly, most recently in her memoir JUST KIDS)...
After the lecture, I found Patti standing alone as a scarecrow in the gallery, as if everyone was afraid to talk with this goddess genius in her signature black. Her mangled mane made it nearly impossible to make eye contact and it was like there was an invisible force protecting her as she stood among her photo gifts to our city. I approached her, speaking as fast as I could to say "Joan of Arc" in my introductory sentence so she realized I had a specific purpose in chatting...She was calm, steady-eyed, gentle and gracious, looking down at my Joan of Arc Project "business card" with interest. She said she was heading down to the French Market the next day to photograph the statue and go to Cafe du Monde and said that she'd "give me a call". Naturally, I acted like it was the most normal thing in the world for Patti Smith to say she'd give me a call. "Great!! Sure! I'm in the office all day! Right by the statue!" I smiled idiotically and made my exit as her agent approached, eyeing me warily (No, sir! I'm here to talk business...about martyrdom and Mardi Gras with Ms. Smith! This is serious!). It didn't help matters that ten minutes later I was standing a few feet away from Michael Stipe as he admired some of Patti's photographs. Had I died and gone to My Favorite Rock Star heaven?
Maybe...because the next day I walked in the rain to buy Patti some white lilys, and delivered them to the Soniat House where she was staying (thank you Grace for telling me! although at the time I was like, why would I want to know THAT? what am i, some kind of freak??) with a note inviting her to ride in our 2011 parade. I promised her a costume and a horse and included photos from previous parades, press materials, one of our signature matchbooks, and a fleur de lis Mardi Gras necklace for some bling--which was kind of stupid since we don't give out plastic. But I know Patti has a fondness for cool kitch, so it seemed right as a nod to Mardi Gras overall. I left it all at the front desk, where a sweet but clueless clerk had to check the ledger for her name--making it clear that she had absolutely no idea who Patti Smith was. (No wonder so many famous visitors apparently stay at the Soniat House! You can stay there in peace...the worse that may happen is someone may drop off flowers for you and hope that they get to the right person!)
A week or so later, Susan Gisleson (our banner designer and first person I EVER had a conversation with about the Joan parade..she encouraged me to such a degree I consider her one of the parade Voices!!) told me that her friend had lunch w/ Patti and Patti asked her about our parade. Gulp! Patti Smith spoke the words JOAN OF ARC PARADE aloud in New Orleans???!!! That's something, isn't it?
I haven't heard from her of course...(did I really think she was just going to call me and we'd wander in the rain through the Quarter, talking about Joan of Arc, Robert Mapplethorpe, NYC in the seventies and Detroit in the nineties? Not at all, though I considered that maybe the rain cancelled her Cafe du Monde and photography outing...but really..would rain stop Patti Smith from anything?) but I have this fantasy that when we get to the statue this year after the parade, she'll be standing there in a black raincoat, aside from the crowd, with her camera, acting like she stumbled upon our spectacle.
I'll leave her alone..but sometime in the spring, I will mail her a letter asking her to be our Joan of Arc in 2012, for Joan's 600th birthday. "Dear Misplaced Joan of Arc: Find your place with us, the Krewe de Jeanne d'Arc!"
If the world is supposed to end in 2012, I'd gladly go up in flames with Patti Smith in New Orleans. Wouldn't you?