Sally Mann, ‘Groupie’ San Francisco, 1968
The lead story in Rolling Stone issue #27 was entitled ‘Groupies and Other Girls’. Sally Mann always considered herself one of the ‘Other Girls’, and I agree. There was a certain elegance and style about her, as there were with most of the women I photographed for that issue. But there was something else, too – Sally certainly didn’t behave like a groupie, she was reserved and confident and quiet. And when she married Spencer Dryden of the Jefferson Airplane she was a blushing, self-assured bride; I know because I photographed the wedding.
Other groupies had drug problems… some never recovered from them. Drugs were so much a part of the scene back then. During the groupie interviews we learned how they would chase after a rock star and get into his bed in his hotel room or wherever he was staying when he was on tour. For the groupies that was, of course, a central step in the chase, but the most important element – and they almost all admitted this to us – was when they would pick up the phone in the hotel room, call their friends and say, “You’ll never guess where I am.”
I lost track of Sally, heard stories about her various ‘problems’ and didn’t really try to make contact again. In the new book, my recounting of her life between my Rolling Stone days and hers was based upon snippets of information from the ‘Groupie hot line’ and an occasional email from her. Of course, I should have asked her about her journey before we went to press. The other day I finally did, and this is her tale.
“Here’s the scoop: After I was arrested in 1980 or so for failing to return or pay the bill on a rental car (Hey – what can I say?! I learned everything I know on the road!), my father and the inaptly-named Judge Love decided that I would benefit from a brief stint at the State Hospitality Suite. I did learn some eye-opening lessons there, just not the ones they had in mind. I was incarcerated for less than a year, was a Trustee, and did take college courses to keep from going starkers. It wasn’t until 1985, though, well after my release, when the real miracle happened – I finally got sober in AA, to the eternal gratitude of my family, the constabulary, the general population, and the Universe at large.
In 1986, I married a local musician and eventually became seriously interested in practicing law. I returned to college while working as a paralegal, and was graduated summa cum laude from the University of Saint Thomas. In my junior year there, through a stunning combination of good fortune and skull-numbing hard work, I was nominated by the University for, and was eventually named, a Truman Scholar, which is a fairly prestigious deal to people who care about such things. At any rate, this was a real watershed turn of events – it led to my receiving a full-boat free ride to law school and my nomination for a Woodruff Fellowship, not to mention a serious chunk of change. But all this has to do with scholarship and public service, not resurrecting the morally-impaired.
And, of course, I never would have been admitted to the Bar with a felony conviction so I had been simultaneously pursuing a pardon while trying to keep my eyes on the prize: admission to the State Bar. Thanks chiefly to the incredible fellowship of AA, my pardon application received hundreds of letters of support, and in 1993, one day before law school apps were due, I received a full gubernatorial pardon from the luminous Ann Richards. Of course, it didn’t hurt that she was a sober alcoholic herself, as was the Lieutenant Governor at the time, but I am not fretting over details – the pardon negated my conviction, and I was eligible to practice law. In 1996, I graduated with honors from Emory, was admitted to the Order of the Coif, and passed the Bar exam.
While my pardon meant that I did not have to reveal the conviction to employers, etc., because it no longer exists, I have never really worked very hard at hiding it and don’t really care too much anymore who knows about it; it’s kind of a cautionary morality tale for anyone who cares to take heed. The p-word just looks kind of jarring on the page these thirty years later, but God and everyone else knows that I can always use a dose of humility. At any rate, I owe my life to AA and the Democrats, and I don’t intend to abandon either one any time soon. Or you.
So do with this what you will – if you want to put this letter on the website, please do, or shorten it if you need to. I am just crazy about you and so honored to be in ANY book of yours. GROUPIE-SCHMOOPIE!
Keep clicking, dude, you RULE.
Love always, Sally”