Most of us will never have a movie made about our lives. But if we did, would we be hyper concerned about who plays us and more importantly how accurately our character is portrayed?
That’s what Kathy Etchingham is dealing with right now. The woman who dated Jimi Hendrix for three years in the late 60’s, is now featured in a new biopic called, “Jimi: All is By My Side” written and directed by Oscar winner John Ridley. In the film, Hendrix physically abuses Kathy twice, once with a telephone until she is black and blue and bleeding. Kathy has yet to see the film, since it hasn’t reached her part of the world, but friends have filled her in. I chatted with her over Skype.
“It’s not true. It came as a shock to me,” Kathy said. “I had to ask people, ‘Under what circumstances did this happen. Where was I? What were we doing?’ Because I didn’t know. This is just absolutely ridiculous and made up. Completely and utterly made up. Why did [Ridley] do that? Why would you show gratuitous domestic violence for entertainment? Domestic violence is a very serious thing and to show it for entertainment is just so shocking. If Jimi’d have done that to me I would have left him straight away. I would have reported him to the police. He would have been arrested and probably deported.”
Kathy says she wasn’t consulted for the film.
“I saw interviews with the actress playing my character where she was describing me in the most derogatory manner. So I had my lawyers write to them asking if we could see the script to make sure that it wasn’t defamatory and I got a nasty threatening letter back saying that I’d been thoroughly researched and that they would sue me for interfering with their film because they have rights under the First Amendment. We wrote back to them saying, ‘Well, If you’ve thoroughly researched Miss Etchingham, it didn’t include speaking to her.”
I find Kathy’s story fascinating because after her three year relationship with Hendrix, she went on to lead a fairly normal life.
“I met my husband, I’ve been married for nearly 38 years. Then I had children. That was it. then I went back to work as a real estate agent. Then I retired.”
But those three years in London, more than 40 years ago, have strongly influenced her life, and kept her in the public eye in the form of biographies, this film and one very famous song. Kathy, who was called Mary in those days, was the subject of one of Hendrix’s most famous songs.
“‘Wind Cries Mary.’ That was after a row we had about my cooking, my mashed potatoes,” she says, laughing. “I went over to my friend Angie’s place in a huff, I stayed the night there. I went home in the morning and he’d written it. He said, ‘It’s about a boy and a girl breaking up.’ Because I said, ‘I’m leaving!’ My mashed potatoes were lumpy.”
Kathy says her and Hendrix did argue, but it never went beyond harsh words.
“Jimi was great fun. He had an amazing sense of humor, he was just so funny. He wasn’t like the way he was portrayed in this film at all. The only thing that Ridley had to go on were interviews with Jimi. Jimi was notorious. He hated giving interviews. But of course he had to give interviews because it’s all part of the game, isn’t it? So what you see in interviews is a completely different Jimi to what he was at home or socially. Totally different person.”
“Jimi: All is By My Side” was the opening night film at the Seattle International Film Festival. A request to interview writer and director John Ridley about his film has still not been answered.