Litho-Faye Pridgon was the foxy Harlem lady who knew him way back when and who stuck with him to the end. She tells what it was like to be Jimi Hendrix's main woman. By Litho-Fayne Pridgon.
It was the early '60s. The Apollo Theater ... 125th Street ... Harlem!
I remember I was wearing a pegged skirt at the time, the real tight kind that you could barelywalk in...and high heels. It was not cold, maybe it was fall .... And then there was Jimi. Iforget who started talking first, but sure put myself, in a position to get to know him. Hedidn't cut much of a figure, though. He had processed hair and shiny black pants that showed where the knees bent-but he had something about him, a warmth, that none of the other fast-rapping dudes had. He thanked me for getting him backstage to see Sam Cooke. He referred to Sam as what's-his-face, and he thanked me for getting him in to see what's-his-face.
We started to walk, me in that tight skirt... way down to my mother's place on Central Park West. We didn't plan it. We just did it and talked all the way... a long way. My mother cooks continuously. Life is one big meal for her. You wouldn't believe she weighs 106 pounds. She cooks around the clock. You're subject to always walking in on a meal, except maybe at four in the morning. So, as usual, she was fixing food. I went on in with Jimi and he got all excited about her blues records. She had, you know, the low-down stuff... Ruth Brown, and beyond that. She had Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, Judy King, Junior Parker, and folks like that and Jimi loved those people.
He got out his guitar and played along with some of the records, and then we got him to have some food. It didn't take too much coaxing, because at that time he wasn't used to having meals any too regularly... and he ate and he ate. It was a long meal. Afterwards, we just lay around and talked music. It was a small place and my mother must have got sick of us because she finally eased us out. We went to the Hotel Seifer where I was staying with a girl friend. All the up-and-coming entertainers stay there. It's the next stop before downtown for blacks. And we went there and found nobody home so we hopped in the sack. That was about the size of it; that's how it started. I met him in the afternoon, and here it was dark and we were in bed....
He was shy. He was extremely shy. He was really shame faced then. I was, too, to a point. Jimi was about 19, I think. After that first night, I never left. He never left. He just moved in with me. It wasn't hard because he was carrying all his possessions around in his guitar case. He didn't have under-wear. He wasn't into jeans. He had those shiny black pants, a very thin little jacket, and high-topped boots.
A lot of doors became closed to me when I took up with Jimi. My dad wouldn't let me in his house if I had Jimi with me. A lot of other doors were closed, too. Nobody could accept Jimi. It was hard for me because I had always been so footloose.. . .I like to flirt; I like to talk. And if some cute guy wanted to dance with me at a club I sure didn't mind. Jimi didn't want me to dance with cute guys period. He okayed swing numbers, sometimes, where I didn't have to make body contact, but he wouldn't let somebody hold me close .... He was insanely jealous ... He knew I liked little, skinny raw boned guys, and one night this cutic pie at a club in Harlem where Jimi was playing kept leaping around tables to get me on the dance floor. Jimi saw this and jumped off stage with his electric guitar, dragging the cord and amplifier with him. He rapped the guy over the noggin with the guitar and told him to leave his old lady alone. The cord got wrapped around people's legs and they were falling all over the place. It was wild and terrible... but that's what life with Jimi was like.
The average day consisted of us waking up at noon or there abouts, but not actually getting up for at least a couple of hours. Jimi loved fooling around with his guitar in bed, and he always slept with it. I used to think of my competition not as a woman, but as a guitar. Many times he fell back asleep with it on his chest. Any time I tried to remove it, he woke up and said, "No,no, no! Leave my guitar alone." Funny thing was he couldn't read a note of music, and was terribly afraid someone would find out. .... After his success roadies and valets lightened the load, but in those first lean years we only had one chair to sit in and all activity took place in bed. Our pleasure there came at regular intervals, mostly at my expense, since Jimi was relentless in the sack. He was well endowed, you see. And he came to the bed with the same grace a Mississippi pulpwood driver attacks a plate of collard greens and corn bread after ten hours in the hot sun. He was creative in bed, too. There would be encore after encore after encore. It was hard-driving and steamy... like his music. There were times when he almost busted me in two the way he did a guitar on stage. But he could never get over his jealousy. He automatically got suspicious any time I got out of bed, unless he noticed I was only going to the bathroom. If I started to put on any clothes, he'd jump up and grab me. "What're you doing? Where're you going?" I had to lie there unconditionally, available as his private audience.
Pretty soon the old familiar faces began falling by the wayside in Harlem. A few moved off to greener pastures, but neither the grass nor the grazing was of the same caliber. Jimi lost his interest in the blues that had captured his attention at my mom's---no more B.B. King, Lil' Walter, and Howlin' Wolf that he used to be mad about ....I felt betrayed when he brought a Bob Dylan album home. Not Only did his music change color, but the color of his friends did too. I remember when he brought me to meet John Hammond and his parents, who were white. I found out John Hammond sang the blues, and I guess I showed a little too much interest. Every time I looked twice at John, I felt Jimi digging his long bony fingers into my thigh under the table. John Hammond and his parents were the first of a new order of social acquaintances I met through Jimi, but far from the last.
Jimi came back from England withvhis first album. He was raving about all the money he was getting, and I must have looked unconvinced. He peeled off two hundred dollars and handed it to me. "You can have it. It's yours." He was just like a little kid, as usual.... He had grown a wild hair-do, wild and nappy. He said Bob Dylan had convinced him to do it be cause nobody could disregard a man with hair like that. I had been trying to get him to do it myself for a long time. That wild hair was more him than that plastered down plastic black look.
But Harlemites didn't know anything about his new success, only the white world did. I never even guessed it myself till the first time I went to one of his new concerts. I took a taxi, and the taxi couldn't get within a block of it because of the crowd. There were barricades and cops holding people back .... I said to this cop, "I want to get through there, is it okay? I know somebody in the show." The cop wanted to know who that somebody was. "Jimi Hendrix," I said, impatient like. He looked at me to see if I was serious. Was I kidding him? He got on a walkie-talkie and said there was a lady who says she knows Jimi Hendrix. There was all sorts of hassling.... I was afraid to say he was my old man. But finally the cop takes me to this little opening and says Jimi Hendrix will come through there. Pretty soon I hear a big roar from the crowd and here comes Jimi. Flashbulbs are flashing and reporters are scribbling away. Jimi spots me and begins hugging and kissing me. People see this and begin asking me questions. I'm the mystery lady to them because they know nothing of Jimi beyond what was happening right then. They know nothing of his Harlem days, nothing of his background .... It was flabbergasting, and he was clearly taken by it all. It came to me that that skinny kid in shiny black pants I'd met way back when was now a media shooting-star.
He went back to Harlem and tried to see as many people as possible who had given him a chance as a kid. But he wasn't very successful .... The summer before his death we were driving through Harlem and some little kids were shooting water out of fire hydrants and filling any car that passed. I told jimi to stop and turn around, but he said, "No, they won't do it to me." I said, "They will; they don't know you. "Well, they wet us all up and filled his little Corvette with water. It came as a big shock to him that kids in Harlem didn't know who Jimi Hendrix was.
With Jimi, it was like a speeding A train heading for a wall. He felt it; we all felt it. Something was leading to a big boom, some big bang. He often said he didn't know if he would make it to 30. We used drugs, but it was no big thing. We smoked pot and had access to speed and cocaine, but the media has made more to it than there was. There was more to Jimi than that. He wasn't gut bucket. He had class. He was soft and easy like feminine like. He wasn't harsh. I'm talking about his demeanor now, his manner. He loved acting, he loved assuming roles. I saw him go through so many disappointments. He liked to say things that would prompt me to indicate that he was the greatest lover that I'd ever had ... and well, there were times when I didn't want to say it. When I felt really devilish, I said, no, he wasn't the greatest thing since sliced bread. And he just stopped in the middle of a stroke and the wham-banging was over.... Something like that just devastated him. I don't know why. I don't know why I did what I did. I don't know why he did what he did.
Once I remember waking, and Jimi was sitting at the foot of the bed, wearing nothing but an attitude, in the process of tying my right foot to the bed rail. The left hand and foot had already been secured. "Jimi, what're you doing?" "lm not going to hurt you. Just relax." I begged him to please not do this, but he wouldn't listen. Suddenly he was like a total stranger to me. His nappy, wooly hair rose, monster-like, and those thick crazy-looking eye-brows were making my blood run cold Now and then I thought I recognized sympathy in his voice as he advised me not to fight, but he threatened to tie my mouth if I didn't keep quiet. He did tie a white shirt around my mouth, saying that he would take it off when I calmed down .... My tongue felt thick and swollen but I was unable to ask for water. Pretty soon I relaxed a tiny bit, I became less frantic, and noticed he was rubbing me, starting to make love. He wasn't in his funky mood at all. Aside from a "Got you now!" and a smirk, he was normal (for Jimi). Compared to the terrible things I thought he might do to me, his sexual number was light stuff. It was a pleasure, actually, to lie there like a bump on a log and let him have his way.
Afterwards, I became terribly angry when it became clear he had no intention of letting me loose. He pulled the covers up around my neck, kissed me on the bridge of my nose, and said he was going to a rehearsal.... At some point I cried myself to sleep and had no idea how long he was gone. I was so happy, though, to we him step through that door. He came directly to the bed, kissed my nose again, and said he'd undo my mouth if I promised not to get loud. When he released me, I refused to talk. He chattered away (like nothing had happened) about the rehearsal and a tune he'd get to sing....
The night Jimi died in London I was home in Brooklyn on Pulaski Street. I heard the news from some cops. I was looking out the window when this squad car cut around the corner and stopped in front of my door. I had alot of cop friends. You know, they'd bust people and bring dope over to my house, and we'd all get loaded and what have you. So this time they came in and threw a package on the bed and told me I was going to need it. They told me about Jimi. It took a long time for it to sink in. They were on duty. They had just heard it on the radio .... I remember a kind of numbness, I didn't want to believe it I guess, but I don't remember being surprised. Jimi had always thought that maybe on day, yeah, he was just going to lay down and die.
Jimi chain-smoked and never dressed adequately for the weather..., and was always eating badly. His resistance was so low that it took him a long time to recover from a cold or fever. I can still see him as he used to open the door in his favorite outfit naked, except for a greasy do-rag, which held his process so tight in place his eyes slanted. I loved the way Jimi looked.