Cass and Denny not as Close as Jimi and His Guitar

This past Tuesday I went to a screening of Monterey Pop, a documentary film chronicling the Monterey Pop Music Festival—which celebrates its 40th anniversary this month. The festival was produced by the Mamas and the Papas founder, John Phillips. As I watched the footage of The Mamas and The Papas perform I couldn’t help thinking about Cass Elliot, and how she died pining after her band mate, Denny Doherty.

According rockin’ roll lore Cass loved her some Denny. Unfortunately, for Cass, Denny never ever reciprocated her feelings and to throw salt on the wound, at one point Denny had an affair with the other female member of the group, Michelle Gilliam, who was married to the fourth member, John Phillips. (It was all very Guiding Light meets On the Road meets Altered States.) As I am someone who has suffered my whole life from seemingly the same pining disorder Mamma Cass had, I have always found her life and death troubling. I know that her last thought was probably, “Maybe in heaven he’ll finally see the light—I’m a catch!!!”

As I watched the quartet sing in magnificent harmony I wondered if Cass Elliot’s friends tried to help her get over her feelings for Denny Doherty by making fun of him.. Were her friends like, “Dude, he wears a Nauru jacket. I know it’s the 60s and all, but come-on. No one is that high. You can do so much better. Really, Cass, he’s a man who sings folk songs. Sure, it’s a fine genre for women, but a man should at least play guitar. It’d be one thing if he wrote the songs. Cass, he doesn’t even write the songs! And what’s with that beard? If he’s going to be a hippie he shouldn’t have that thing so nicely groomed. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be part of the counterculture have a non-gnarly beard. If you’re going to have a beard it’s got to have birds living in it or a least a country mouse. We’re hippies we are one with the Earth, but Denny is not. He obviously doesn’t know if he’s coming or going. Girl, you could do so much better.”

And Cass would respond, “I know. You’re right. But I love him. Now-pardon me while I smoke a joint and have casual sex with some dude who’s name I don’t know.”