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How Did Jennifer Chiba Meet Elliott Smith: Did We Get The Truth?

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In his book ‘Torment Saint’, W. T. Shultz wrote about the first meeting between Jennifer Chiba and Elliott Smith (page 260):

‘At Spaceland, he first met Jennifer Chiba. He had wandered in just as she’d finished a gig – Chiba played bass in a band called The Warlocks. Mutual friend Steve Hanft was there too, and Elliott asked for an introduction. He and Jennifer talked some, about compassion and Russian literature, about the Ferdinand story, one of Chiba’s favorites from childhood too, both staring at their shoes, both smiling shyly. To Chiba Elliott seemed ‘really uncomfortable,’ his usual transient awkwardness showing. He had just moved to LA – he didn’t even know his phone number – so he asked for hers, then gave her the number of Mittleman’s assistant.’

Schultz obviously got all this from Chiba herself. Elliott moved to LA in 1999, and the date is very important for the rest of the story.

The French Magazine VoxPop published an article about Elliott in 2010, and it was also question of the first meeting between the two, again narrated by Chiba:

‘We briefly met at Rockfest festival, but later, when he had moved to Los Angeles, I asked my friend Steve [Hanft] to introduce me to him. We were both shy and were smiling while looking at our feet. He offered me a drink and we talked about Russian literature. We were both fans, especially Dostoevsky. This led us to a discussion about compassion, depression and hospitalization. A rather deep conversation to have with someone you’ve just met! But it was natural. He said he would come to see my band, The Warlocks, later in the week. And he came!’

May be it just me, but I love details, and when it comes to the first meeting with the guy, the guy you are gonna fall in love with, I would expect more consistency? So did Elliott ask for an introduction or did Chiba ask? Was the first meeting at Rockfest or Spaceland? Okay details, details you’re gonna say, as long as they are talking about Dostoevsky in both versions, this is consistent!

Yeah, may be… but the problem is that I got a totally different version coming from other sources. I talked to a few people, including someone who worked closely with Elliott, and he had a completely different story:

‘Chiba got Elliott drugs early on, then stopped as I understand it. That was her way into his life. But being with him probably meant you were scoring for him/with him anyways.’ This person didn’t want to publicly share his/her identity but he/she was very direct and honest.

Jerry Schoenkopf, Elliott’s drug counselor told me basically the same thing: Chiba entered Elliott’s life by providing him drugs. He said she started things as Elliott’s drug dealer, she was one of his connections, and this is how their relationship started. Elliott went up living with her and she became his girlfriend. ‘Usually it is the women who move in with their drug dealers’, he said, ‘but in his case he was a man moving in with his female heroin dealer’.

A few years ago, I also met someone who knew Chiba very well when she was briefly part of the band the Warlocks, and this person told me that Chiba was trying to sit on Elliott’s lap at a party around 2001 (or early 2002). This person was very clear, they were not together then, although Chiba was trying very hard to get Elliott’s attention. So what about the romantic meeting which had supposedly happened in 1999 at Spaceland? Around this time (2001), Elliott was going to the Telesis Foundation, a rehab facility in Van Nuys, and this person told me she never saw Chiba driving him to the center once, which would have been logically the case if they had been together. But, the most important part is that this person (who had been involved with drugs for a long time) told me that Chiba asked her to score heroin for Elliott several times.

So why are these very reliable sources totally contradict Chiba’s romantic story? Even Liam Gowing in his ‘Mr. Misery’ article published by Spin in 2004, wrote:

‘But is she in some way responsible for his death? Possibly, according to Smith’s friends who lost touch with him after he began using heroin and crack heavily in Los Angeles, and to those who knew Chiba from her bleakest days, when she played bass with the notoriously drugged-out psychedelic rockers the Warlocks. These people blame her for enabling Smith’s romance with heroin.’

He then explained she rather helped Elliott in his rehabilitation, but when I talked to him on the phone a few years ago, he basically admitted they probably were drug buddies… And this totally fits with the statement made by Sean Organ, the label owner who was about to release Chiba’s debut recording with her band Happy Ending:

‘Smith wasn’t the easiest persona to work with because of his problems. The worst thing ever to happen to Happy Ending was Elliott getting involved. The production of the single became the focus of all of Smith and Chiba’s relationship problems: people began to speak of their relationship as furiously difficult, similar to the infamous and ultimately disastrous liaison between Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen’

There is no doubt that drugs were a big component in Elliott Smith and Jennifer Chiba’s relationship. Valerie Deerin, Elliott’s Scottish girlfriend, also blamed Elliott’s drug use on Chiba. No matter how their relationship evolved later on, this is how she came into his life and Dostoevsky or Ferdinand the Bull have little to do with it.

11 Comments

  1. Rae S on September 10, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    I’m surprised how much more you know than Schultz. After reading this, I checked with someone who knew Elliott very well. Elliott actually told him that Jennifer is the one who introduced him to heroin. Apparently Schultz didn’t do much actual research on Elliott. There were family members that he didn’t even attempt to contact. Poor scholarship indeed.

    • Alyson on September 11, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      Hi Rae,
      Thanks for your comment which confirms what I already know. Effectively, I wonder why Schultz decided to team up with Chiba the way he did without doing much more research about her. I guess listening to her was a dead sentence, he could not communicate with the family anymore for obvious reasons. Any other information you have, would be very valuable! Do not hesitate to communicate with me if you feel like it (alycamus@gmail.com). I also would be interested to talk to the person you talked to. Thanks again.

    • Amy on February 18, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      I don’t see how you could think jennifer chiba introduced him to heroin when they met in 1999/2000. He had written Needle in the Hay in 1994 which was very clearly about his heroin dependence. I’m not a chiba supporter, I side eye the shit out of her, but she clearly wasn’t the person who introduced him to heroin. Also, even if she was, every makes their own choices in life.

      • Alyson on February 19, 2016 at 12:08 am

        With all your respect Amy, you don’t know much about Elliott’s story. It is well documented he was not a drug addict when he wrote Needle in the Hay, and all these early songs. He became a heavy drug user after his move in LA.

        • Patrick on December 27, 2019 at 6:51 pm

          Well-documented? As in you followed him around during that time to be sure? As an addict myself, I don’t believe Elliott’s “the drug songs are just a metaphor for dependence” one bit. First of all, how does someone write songs about drugs so tortured and introspective as his earlier indie works, to the extent that probably millions of addicts have found comfort in them, without personal experience? Secondly, as I said, I am an addict, and let me tell you, an addict’s situation experience is ALWAYS worse than they are letting on.

          • Alyson on December 28, 2019 at 7:14 pm

            No I was not following around but I talked to many people. Elliott had problems with alcohol, he may have had tried different drugs but his drug problem became really serious when he was in LA. Of course you don’t believe in metaphors, nobody of this new generation does anymore, everything is taken at the first level, always… and that’s the problem



  2. Ricky on July 6, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    all respect to Elliott Smith…..another Omaha native like myself, and a true genius!
    Jen Chiba was a good friend of mine in ’98/’99, when i was living up on Lemoyne w/ her bandmate Bobby Hecksher of the Warlocks, and she was a real sweetheart! she did have troubles of her own, but was always an extremely friendly, good hearted & kind person to me and pretty much everyone else on the scene at that time…..that’s what attracted Elliott to her i’m quite sure.
    People need to realize that Elliott had suicidal thoughts for many years before meeting Ms. Chiba, and being in a relationship with another troubled soul is usually not a good idea.
    God bless Elliott Smith for all the beautiful songs that will be with us forever, and god bless Jen Chiba for trying to be his friend and help him in his lonely world…….hope you are well, wherever you are.

    XO
    Ricky

  3. NotoriousBIC on November 5, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    You’re completely fucking mental chick. Im a huge fan also and have seen your sordid posts from the fringes of the web. I find your whole MO pathetic frankly. These are people you write about. Real people with real lives and famlies. Not just names on CD inserts and obscure music mags.

    Have you ever considered that? The damage, pain and bullshit your little game causes others?

    Did you ever consider Chiba could be innocent? I have my own opinion personally, but what if she did nothing but love and support Elliott? Even if she enabled his drug use, so what? There are millions of moms and dads and spouces who enable addicts to continue using. Nearly every addict has an enabler.

    But it’s coming from place of love. Unhealthy love yes, but love none the less. Who are you to judge? Perhaps someone should doxx you and compare every snippet of your bullshit against eachother and air your entire existence to the public. Look for the smallest discrepancies and rip you apart over them all.

    Fuck I’d love to see that actually. Why?

    Because you make the cult of Elliott look completely batshit insane and completely pathetic.

    Yes you are absolutely shining examples of both these things, but please stop making the rest of us appear so. You’ve got that part on lockdown to be sure.

    Besides what the fuck does it really matter? He’s gone. HE. IS. GONE. Yes…really.

    Let the man, his friends and family, let them heal and fuck off already. Enjoy the music he left us, get a life of your own.

    And some serious professional help. Seriously.

  4. LoneWolfRising on January 26, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    It’s not like Alyson hunted you down and forced you to read her articles. How does her investigation interfere with anyone’s healing? Do you bitch out radio stations for playing his music? No one really knows what happened except Chiba, yet we are all entitled to opinions. Why don’t you take your own vitriolic-coated advice and not care yourself if it doesn’t matter. At least Alyson reveals her identity. You could investigate her yourself if she was suspect to a crime and you weren’t busy bitching and policing.

  5. James on March 17, 2018 at 11:49 pm

    Chiba will never speak the truth. But she will have to forever live with her conscience, and the reality of what happened leading up to and including the night of his death in their apartment.

    The truth can been masked, hidden, denied and lied about. But it never leaves those whim we’re present.

    • Frank on February 11, 2019 at 2:12 pm

      James,

      NotoriousBIC is right. All of the people fighting for “Justice for Elliott Smith” aren’t doing anything for his legacy. You’re just dragging his story through the mud like some tabloid. Let his music live on, and drop all this “you killed my idol, Jenn” B.S. It’s NO help to the people who were close to him. I say that because I was one of those people. You weren’t.
      First of all, Elliott didn’t die at night; it was in the early afternoon. I remember getting the call about it around 4, I think. Worst day of my life. Also, they lived in a small bungalow – not an apartment. Everyone in Elliott’s circle has varying opinions about what happened. Most of us don’t want to think about it or be reminded of it. Nobody but Jen knows. And I know a lot of people didn’t like Jen, and others did. She’s troubled. Elliott was troubled. I’M troubled. But you’re clueless to think that drug addiction, mental illness, and a history of abuse didn’t come into play here. Elliott knew all about drugs before coming to L.A.. Also, as someone who has been repeatedly hospitalized for trying to hurt myself during extreme manic (it doesn’t have to be psychotic) fits, I can tell you that anything is possible when you’re in that state. I’ve seen other people do things you wouldn’t believe, out of the blue, when I’ve been locked away. IT HAPPENS. I’m not gonna try to make an argument about how Elliott DIED. It hurts too bad to even ponder. I stumbled on this site, and wished I hadn’t. I want to remember Elliott how I knew him: as a loving, generous, brilliant guy. Yeah, he struggled with drugs. The whole country does. Yes, he suffered from mental illness. A huge part is the population does. But he was as good of a pure songwriter that America has produced in the last 30 years. He was a beautiful person. He was generous. I miss him dearly. I left L.A. shortly after his death, devastated. I don’t say this as some journalist trying to capitalize on Elliott. I don’t say this as some blogger trying to sensationalize something so awful. But for people, even those closest to him, to say that he would never take his own life, I can only say that there are a million other families that said the same thing. Mania and drugs, at the right time, in the right proportions, can lead anyone to suicide, if that’s what it was. I don’t know. I just know that Elliott is dead. And you armchair Kojaks can knock yourself out with your cyber-sleuthing. Can’t say I blame you. But for me, who was half a mile away that day, who will never forget that telephone call, he’s gone. I haven’t listened to his music since that Tuesday in 2003. So while I understand people wanting closure as to why their favorite singer is dead, let me say, that as a friend, there will never be closure.
      After he died, the most disgusting circus of media attention descended like vultures onto the whole Echo Park/Silverlake camp that knew him. All the attention he should have been receiving for his music when he was alive, was suddenly afforded him the moment he died. And let me tell you, not one of those “journalists” had any questions about Elliott’s music, or what he was really like. And so, in closing, I’d just like to say that I loved Elliott. He is deeply missed. Many, many people close to him, across the country, were destroyed that day. And many will never recover. I’m not writing this in defense of Jen, nor am I pandering for her guilt. I will only say that Elliott is gone, and this continuing media circus serves only itself. Thank you for indulging me, and that’s all I have to say about it. I won’t be back to this site to reply to anything, and I do not wish to be quoted. I’m sure I would get along with anyone who loves Elliott. I don’t mean to sow divisions. I just happened on this site, and a little catharsis was demanded, I guess. Best to anyone reading this. Loss is not a questioned to be answered, for even when it’s answered, loss remains. Here’s to Elliott.❤️

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