From The Book: An Intimate Biography Of Jimi Hendrix By Curtis Knight
The following 1973 Kathy Etchingham interview appeared in the above book. ..........Kathy Etchingham must have felt especially the loss that Jimi Hendrix's death had brought. She had perhaps known Jimi more closely and intimately than any other girl who had ever come into his life. Yet she managed to talk about the man she had loved with great clarity of insight and with unswerving frankness, at this most difficult time: "I'm sure it wasn't suicide," she told one reporter. "Jimi had lots of troubles but he wasn't the sort of person to take his own life. It must have been an accident."
She went on, in this interview, to talk about the Hendrix so many people didn't know, who could be violent one minute and then placid the next, and who could fill himself up with drugs one minute and be perfectly normal the next. Did he drink? the reporter asked. "He was on fruit juice when he first came here, but that soon changed. He could drink up to a bottle and a half of whisky at a single session," she admitted. What about drugs, the reporter wanted to know. "It was hash that turned him on, from there he went onto cocaine, and eventually, heroin," Kathy confessed. And women? "He'd have intercourse with up to four women in the same bedroom," said Kathy. "He has illegitimate childrenin Sweden, America and Germany."If the reporter was motivated by a professional instinct for scandal, I think it has to be said that Kathy was motivated, simply by a desire to be honest and to communicate what she had experienced and felt in being around Jimi. She wasn't playing the media's games, even though what she told the me was exactly what they had hoped to hear.
"When I met Jimi for the first time," Kathy explained, "he was very quiet and drank only softdrinks. But a few years later he was psychologically hooked on drugs like coke [cocaine] and pills and LSD. Recently his hair was turning grey and he was losing it. All along he was forced into this life, but all he wanted was to be a musician. He didn't want to do anything but play his guitar, but it was such a struggle." "I married someone else, with Jimi's blessing, last November, but I still kept on seeing Jimi. He told my husband that he still loved me, and although it sounds strange, the three of us agreed that Jimi and I could still have a scene together. Jimi had money troubles and desperately needed to confide in someone. He had a different person to confide in for every problem. I was his love and his money confidante.
"On the Friday night, within a few hours of hearing of Jimi's death, Kathy and her husband and the heads of Jimi's record company went out to celebrate his death. "Celebrate", that is, in the sense that Jimi had told people to do this. Kathy explained: "We went out and had a lot to drink, we got blind drunk, which may seem rather strange, but this is what Jimi would have wanted. He often told me that when he, died he wanted everyone to have a good time, he didn't want anyone to mourn his death."
Of Jimi's sexual exploits, Kathy said: "He had an incredible sexual appetite and would often sleep with three or four girls in the same night. He used girls like some people smoke cigarettes. He was the one who invented the name "Band Aids" for the groupies who hung around him constantly. He wouldn't have to go looking for them, they came looking for him. He had a great choice (Many times he told me casually about the times he'd be with four women in one big bed). He would talk of this quite nonchalantly. He wouldn't even recognize the girls the next night." "One night after a concert in Manchester, I even found him in the ladies loo with a chick. She meant nothing to him, it meant nothing to me, apart from the fact that I had tell him to hurry up or we would miss the train back to London." "Jimi did everything to excess. He would drink a bottle and a half of whisky, an American quart bottle, in an evening. He would start when "Coronation Street" came on television, and by midnight he would be ready to go out for a meal, and start drinking wine. With drink as with everything else, he only felt he had enough when he collapsed."
"Before I met him he was working in bands touring America on one-night stands, virtually penniless. He had scars on, his wrists and he told me that one night in a friend's bathroom he was so desperate that he cut his wristswith a razor-blade. He failed to cut the artery in one hand, a friend found him and took him tothe hospital. He cursed his friend because the hospital bill only made his position worse. But that was when he was just a struggling down-and-out musician.'
Ranging further through hermemories of Jimi, Kathy went on: 'You could never predict the next thing he would do. One moment he would be quiet and gentle and the next moment he could become a different person. With out provocation he would smash up a room, no matter whose house he was in and hit anyone who interfered, man or woman. We would have terrible fights over nothing. 'One time he fractured my nose in three places with his foot. I got him back a few weeks later when he was sleeping, by hitting him over the head with a frying pan which was under the bed. When he woke up he didn't know what had happened, and I pretended I was asleep. 'After his bouts of violence, he was always very sorry for what he had done and would take all the blame on himself.'
However, Kathy said, that didn't stop the same kind of thing happening again. In fact, nothing ever really stopped Jimi from spontaneously doing what he wanted. 'Jimi was totally free like the wind. To have tried to possess him would have been like putting a wild bird in a cage. 'He didn't want to die, I know, but he wouldn't be unhappy about it. He went as he would have wanted: stoned in bed with a beautiful girl and without any pain.'
Kathy talked, too, of Jimi's penchant for filming, and even for recording some of his sexual exploits on film. 'He went really crazy about cinefilming,' she said. 'He bought a lovely camera and projector and sometimes he'd just lean out of the window and film people walking across the road. He had a thing about taking films of really fat women, or skinny ugly ones; then he used to show the films and laugh at them. He would also get friends of his to film women running around naked in his room. Often, though, these films were blacked out by the processing people if they got a bit way-out.'
Kathy described the way Jimi would recklessly ravage his body with all the narcotics in the junkie's book. 'He always wanted to experiment. It was the same, with songs, musical instruments and drugs. When I first met Jimi he smoked hash, though not often; but then came LSD. 'I feel that Jimi probably started drinking more because of me, because he was my man and I liked drinking. And Jimi didn't really have it so easy in England as a lot of people think. I can remember many times when he first came over here when he wasn't sure if he could ever get it together. 'You know, I knew Jimi was a genius guitar-player, but I didn't really like his music. And I told him so. He even tried to teach me to play guitar. He would hold his long fingers down on the guitar strings and I would try to strum: but he and I both agreed that I was hopeless.
'Jimi really taught me a lot. I mean, because when we first started living together, I was very young and kind of wild and I didn't really know the meaning of being one man's girl. Even after I moved in with jimi I still got dressedand went out every night just like I had always done. Jimi put up with it for a while, and then one night after he got fed up with me running wild, he locked me in the bedroom and wouldn't let me out. When he did come to let me out, hours later, I'd fallen asleep. But after that, and after many hours of patient explaining on his part, I finally began to realise how I was supposed to act, both as a woman and when I was living with someone that I loved. So for that and for getting my head together and making me more mature, I really have Jimi to thank. 'Then after Jimi had been over here six or seven months and had begun to be popular, things started happening that I didn't like very much, though there was nothing I could do about it.
His managers tried to hide it from the press that we were living together. They didn't think that it was good for his image, to have it known that he had a regular girlfriend. So I used to have to hide in the bedroom when he was being interviewed in our flat. And that made me feel very uncomfortable. 'It took Jimi and me over a year to find a proper flat, and by that time he had really reached success. The place we finally found was really convenient because at that time everybody was going to the Speakeasy and we got this flat right around the corner. So we could just walk around there every time Jimi wanted to go around and jam or if we wanted to just go there and eat or anything.
'Then, you know, the first time that Jimi went back to the States, in 1967, I wanted ta go with him because it was to be the longest period of separation for us since I had known him. But because it was his first trip over there with The Experience, it wasn't possible to take me, and Jimi promised that he would let me come over the next time he went to the States. 'Anyhow, to go back a bit from then, you know Jimi was very jealous in those early days. He had these fits of jealousy, he didn't want me to have anything to do with any other guys. I remember one night specifically, in the Bag O' Nails, Jimi and I were there and I left the table to go upstairs to phone a girl friend, and I was gone a little longer than he thought I should be gone, and he came upstairs raging mad because he thought I was talking to some guy on the phone. He snatched the booth door open, snatched the phone out of my hand and started beating me on the head with it. I thought he was going crazy and I began to scream and at the same time, I was trying to have a go at him. But even though Jimi was very skinny, he was very strong and he was definitely too much for me. And then just in the nick of time, like as if it was in some James Bond movie, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were coming into the club, and they saw what was happening and so they pulled Jimi off of me and took him over to the side and cooled him down. That may have been the first of our many
But one of the most frightening things to happen to me was an incident concerning this chick. Jimi and I were asleep in the bed one morning and the first thing I remember was looking up and seeing this white guitar coming at me. Jimi immediately threw himself on top of me to absorb the blows that were coming at us, I must give him full credit, he did
try to protect me. I don't know how long this continued but the girl finally stormed out of the room with the guitar that she was supposed to have bought for him. 'After that little exhibition was over, Jimi had to figure out some way to get his guitar back because that was the only one he had at that time, and he could hardly afford to buy one. So Jimi got in touch with her and with some smooth-talking managed to persuade her to bring the guitar back, but her conditions were that Jimi had to get rid of me. 'And so Jimi told her he would so that she'd bring it back. Then he told me to wait in the lobby so she wouldn't see me when she came to return the guitar. Now I saw her when she came in the lobby that day, but I was sitting where she couldn't see me. Jimi told me afterwards that he'd had to make love to her to quiet her down and pacify her, and that she'd got into the room that day she attacked us with the guitar by giving some money to the maid. 'But
then as she was leaving, when she'd given the guitar back, she saw me. I'd got tired of sitting in that one spot and I was kind of walking around and before I knew it, there she was and she'd spotted me. Man, she really freaked out. There was nothing dull about life as long as I was with Jimi.
'In fact, things got heavier. Specially when I did get to America. Things were getting kind of heavy between me and Jimi then. I don't know why, but it seemed like every time I came to America, after a while Jimi would start feeling that he didn't have as much freedom as he wanted, and he would start making plans to ship me back to London. 'But this one time I wasn't ready to go, so I just moved out of this hotel I was staying in with Jimi, and moved into another. I had this girl friend who was living with this guy in a real plush hotel. He had a suite and the whole bit, and also they were really into cocaine, and I quite liked that. And if I was gonna split for a while, I knew Jimi would find out about it and when he found me, I wanted him to find me in a situation where I was living as good as I had been with him. Seems funny, doesn't it? But that
was the way I was thinking. Anyway, my girl friend came over one day, and I was really down that day. I probably would never have split on my own but when she arrived and saw how down I was she suggested I move in with her and her boyfriend, so we just gathered all of my things together and we split over to her hotel. 'But I still knew that what Jimi would do, when he found me, come in and say what the hell, and then he'd most likely slap me around a little bit and then try to ship me back to England anyway.
'Yet there again, you know, I had gone to New York at Jimi's invitation and at his expense, and Jimi had made all the necessary arrangements for my comfort. He even saw to it that I had a car to drive me around when I needed it. He even had one of the guys he trusted to take me out when he was out of the city. He would really have been uptight if he'd known that the guy he told to take me out was really digging me!
'I was very curious about Harlem, and that was a heavy scene too. One night I got this same guy to take me to Smalls Paradise in Harlem. Man, those black chicks in that club didn't dig me being there; but I could tell by the way that all the black guys were looking at me that they didn't mind. But suddenly I looked around in that club and saw that I was the only white chick in there, and I got a little nervous. And then I had to go to the ladies loo, and I never really expected any hassles, but this is what happened: just as I came out of the toilet, and was standing in the mirror combing my hair, four black chicks came in, and I kind of figured they came into start something because none of them used the loo and they were just looking at me, so I decided it was time for me to split. I started to go out the door and one chick stuck her leg
out to trip me. But then I just quickly stepped over her foot and man, I was out of there before they could do anything else. We got out of that club in a hurry: I'd seen enough of Smalls Paradise.
'That stuff happened a lot. I had another bad experience like that in New York. Jimi had been recording all day in some studio, I believe it was the Record Plant, and Jimi called the hotel and told me to come down there. It was about nine p.m. when I arrived, and just before I got to the door to go in the studio where Jimi was actually recording, I had to go up some steps,and there were these four white chicks waiting for me. I guess they were American groupies and they'd probably been in the studio, and as near as I can figure it out, they'd heard that I was coming down there and they didn't dig it because I was Jimi's chick; so they must have decided to wait outside and do me. 'Well, before I knew what was
happening they had knocked me down the steps and started kicking me every where. I don't exactly remember everything, but the next thing I knew, I was in an ambulance-and I remember thinking how strange their ambulances are over there because they have glass everywhere and everybody could
see right in, and I felt really funny.
'In some ways Jimi was very naive, like for instance, he was always being ripped off with bad dope by this guy by the name of Rock, and in some ways I was very naive myself. I remember this one incident when instead of following my own mind, I was completely dominated by someone else, this supergroupie, Devon. Devon almost brainwashed me into suicide. Devon was a very hip black chick, a real supergroupie who knew everyone, and she must have sussed out right away that I would be influenced by what she said. At this point I hadn't seen Jimi for a while, and even though I wasn't really a jealous person and I knew Jimi was seeing a lot of other chicks, I knew also that Devon still wanted Jimi, and for some reason when she started telling me all these things that Jimi had been doing with all these other chicks, I got really uptight.
I remember Jimi was doing a recording session that night and I was in the hotel room on my own. I felt really down, so after Devon split I just grabbed a bottle of sleeping pills. 'I don't know how many I took; all I know is that it was a lot, but anyway Jerry Stickles was sent back to the hotel room to pick up a bass or something that they had forgotten, and if it wasn't for the fact that he was sent there to pick up this musical instrument that they'd forgotten and needed at the
recording session, I probably wouldn't be alive today. Because when he came in the hotel room, I was lying on the floor, and, they said I wouldn't have lived much longer. Anyway, Jerry rushed me to the hospital and they pumped my stomach out. And Jimi was really mad when he heard about what had happened, and when he came and saw me he just called me a stupid bitch and a lot of other nasty things. 'He was a strange guy. You know, he could be like that and yet he could be so protective.
Like one of the worst times I remember was when we went over to this black power leader's pad. Jimi was invited over there to this guy's house because they said they had some really nice dope, and so naturally Jimi took me along. And then it was really weird when we got there. I could tell right away that they didn't like white people and the way they looked at me when I walked in there with Jimi, it was obvious they didn't dig me being there with him. Jimi sensed it too, but
he didn't want to just turn around and walk back out. Jimi was like that, he didn't want to hurt their feelings. So we stayed long enough to have a few smokes and then Jimi thanked them politely and we got the hell out of there. Jimi said "Phew, those were some heavy bad vibes," and we both breathed a sigh of relief when we got out of there. I'd been scared stiff, yet I knew without a doubt that Jimi would never have let anything happen to me.'
Finally, Kathy told me about the last time she saw Jimi alive. 'The last time I saw Jimi was the day of the night he died. It was in Kensington Market. He was with that blonde chick, so I didn't say anything to him. He didn't even see me. I had planned to see him later that night. Maybe if I had spoken to him and he'd seen me, he wouldn't now be dead.'