This post is gonna sound like a complete character assassination and it is one, but I have heard so many bad opinions about Jennifer Chiba since I have been trying to investigate what happened to Elliott, that I have a hard time to buy the princess treatment she received in Liam Gowing’s Spin article, Gil Reyes’ documentary and Schultz’s book. I know it is difficult to please everybody, you are necessarily going to piss off a few people in your life, but this goes beyond this: Chiba is truly despised, hated by a lot of people. Some people have publicly told their experience, others have talked to me in private and I wish I could reveal all the names but it is impossible without their permission. Still I have decided to add them to this list because it builds up a not-very-pretty portrait through these different testimonies.
I am going to start with Elliott’s ex-girlfriend Joanna Bolme, who was courageous (and I use this term because so many people seem to be afraid to speak up) to narrate a bad encounter she had with Jennifer Chiba. She told Q Magazine in 2011: ‘The year he died, Elliott came to see me play. He was excited about his studio and he hadn’t been doing drugs. He wanted to show me his studio. I was going to go after the show, but [then girlfriend] Jennifer Chiba threw a fit and made him leave. That was a bummer – we hadn’t hung out in years and been civil, and we were making some amends. It was the last time I saw him.’ (‘The Lost Boy’, Q magazine, January 2011).
This totally echoes two other women’s similar experiences. Nelly Reifler posted a three-part story call ‘Blue Spark’ on the website the Weeklings, and a few passages were about her friendship with Elliott. In part III, she tells us about a night at the Knitting factory, when she tried to visit her friend Elliott backstage:
‘Then the door opened again, and a young woman was standing there. She was one of the singers who had been onstage with him. Pretty in an unremarkable way, wearing a T-shirt and jeans. She was smiling at me, reaching out her hand. She apologized. “I’m so sorry!” she said, “I’m Jennifer. Come in. I didn’t realize you were that author.” At first I didn’t know what she was talking about. And then—oh, yes—I was an author, sort of, almost. But what did that matter? If I hadn’t written a book, I wouldn’t have been allowed to see Elliott? And she was a gatekeeper, deciding who could greet Elliott? This was worse than if he’d simply not wanted to see me himself. Right then, I didn’t like her. She still refused to allow Noah entry. Noah was Nelly’s husband, and Jennifer Chiba was clearly in control of whom could see Elliott or not after a show.
I exchanged a few emails with Serena Williams, who attended Hampshire College with Elliott, after she read one of my posts. She told me about the last time she saw Elliott after his show in Brooklyn, in 2003. That night, she was with Valerie Deerin, unaware at the time she was Elliott’s ex-girlfriend, I will let her talk:
‘She [Chiba] basically yanked him away from me in the middle of a conversation and brought him into another room next to the one we were hanging out in backstage (or downstairs in this case). We could actually hear her screaming she was so loud, and she was insisting that Valerie had assaulted her. It was crazy. And if that were really the case, then why is it not in the new book that is out? Being assaulted is far worse than being called “a whore”. ….but she won’t say it now because it never happened. She made us all leave, breaking up the party because she was so angry and she seemed to think I was responsible for having brought Valerie knowingly. She told my friend “if he sees her he’ll kill himself” which also seemed psychotic of her. And yes…Elliott was happy to see Valerie, but Jennifer wouldn’t let them near each other. That’s why he gave me his phone number– so she could get in touch with him later.’
‘These memories [of childhood abuse] did not drive him to kill himself and seem to be exaggerated for effect. Basically, I think that ANYTHING that Jennifer Chiba has to say is not to be trusted. Unfortunately it seems as though she has been able to leak a lot of inaccurate information to the press to make Elliott look worse off than he was, so she will look better. As I mentioned before, she did not seem to be able to totally control him. He was going to do what he was going to do regardless of what she wanted.’
This seems to be some very consistent behavior, and these three women were brave enough to speak up with their full names. Another brave woman is Caroline, who used to own the studio next to Elliott’s in the valley. Just after his death, she posted long comments on the message board of Sweet Adeline, Elliott’s fan website at the time. Strangely, she never named Jennifer Chiba by her real name, but used the term ‘dark force’ or ‘force’ instead, and here are a few short excerpts of her very long, very dramatic and emotional posts, regarding her encounter with Chiba. The two were apparently fighting for a parking space in front of the studio:
‘When I finally did meet the force, I got not a gut response but an extreme emotional response of fear. I tried to explain in the most gentle way that I could that Elliot’s space was there and our space was right next to it and each of us had one space. The force smiled wanly and looked right through me. I was intimidated, I felt stupid, like I couldn’t stand up for myself, like I was in high school and I just apologized, explained and left.’
‘The force was around a lot more often after that and I would smile, but I always had that uncomfortable, little girl fear inside. The force had black hair and dark squinting eyes and the whitest of skin, beautiful in a haunting scary, kind of way. The force seemed arrogant and entitled and that made me uncomfortable.’
‘As our business got progressively more busy, the un thinkable happened. Someone parked in Elliott’s space. This time the force called and informed my partner to get the person to move out of the space.’ […] And the next morning I got the call, it was Elliott’s lawyer, hi, how are you, nice to meet you, and could you please not park in Elliott’s space anymore. First I felt ashamed and then I felt bad and then I got a bit irritated, that didn’t seem like Elliott, it was kind of passive aggressive, it seemed like he could of just come and yelled at me or told me gently to try and not let anybody park there before he had his lawyer call me. I felt kind of stupid getting a call from his lawyer, maybe it was the forces work.’
There was a lot more in her long rants (Caroline gives many details) but to sum it up, she had a few really bad encounters with Chiba regarding this parking space, and Caroline described a few times Chiba as ‘a crazy, angry, controlling, arrogant force who scared the hell out of her’. But the worst part (may be) happened after Elliott’s death when Caroline saw Jennifer Chiba taking stuff out of Elliott’s studio, in the middle of the night:
‘I knew the force would come before the family, I just knew it and the second night after Elliott’s death at about 12:00 am in the morning the force came, in a jeep with two guys. My partner saw them come and I had gone outside to say goodbye to him and he told me, as soon as I spoke to him, he said he had seen the force coming out of the gate but hearing my voice the force went back inside and didn’t come out for twenty minutes. I sat in the car with my partner, directly facing their car and finally the force came out and put many boxes into the car with the help of the guys. I felt like protecting Elliott, what if it’s his music or writings, what if it’s something that people need to see. We stared at them as they filled the back of the car. I wanted them to know that I was watching, I wanted to scream you did it, you killed him, I knew you were a dark force, and I wasn’t afraid of the force anymore, but I didn’t say anything because I really didn’t know what the truth was, as I don’t know today.’
In any case, instead of packing stuff in the middle of the night, wouldn’t you have thought she may have been a bit more distressed, just two nights after such drama?
I also talked to two persons who have closely worked with Elliott, and they want to stay anonymous, but this is what they had to say when I asked them about Elliott’s girlfriend: ‘Honestly both she [Valerie Deerin] and Chiba were total bitches to me and anyone Elliott was friends with. She [Chiba] could be a borderline witch, hyper calculating bitch and almost whore-like in her sexual way. Yeah he was gonna bail and they fought on a regular basis .’
The other one was not very positive either: ‘I think it’s understood that Jennifer is not kept in the company of everyone close to Elliott. […] 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. And I take everything she says with a grain of salt.’ He also called her a ‘manipulator’… ‘Valerie was just an idiot, whereas Jennifer was manipulative. So in comparison Valerie was nice ’.
At the top of this, several sources told me that some of her band members at the time didn’t want to be associated with her anymore because she was such a ‘knife freak’… whatever this means exactly, it has to give you the chills considering what happened.
A few years ago, I met Abigail Russell and she bravely gave me the authorization to use her name. Sadly, Abigail passed away since but she told me at the time that she had known Chiba since 1999 when she was associated with the Warlocks. Chiba told Abigail many lies, for example she said she was with Elliott when he was still with Valerie and according to Abigail, it was clear that Chiba was ready to do anything to get him. Abigail also told me that Chiba was hospitalized twice after trying to commit suicide, and Chiba allegedly did threaten Elliott several times with things like ‘if you leave me I try to kill myself again’. At the top of this, Abigail saw Chiba getting heroin for Elliott several times.
Then, a few days ago, I talked to another musician who was around the Silverlake scene at the time of Elliott’s death. He told me that two relatively famous musicians (I have to protect their names) had witnessed disturbing scenes:
‘It wasn’t too long after Elliott died and he said “That bitch was getting physical with him in fights.” And somebody else said something about it and he said “Seriously! She was like a domestic abuser!’
He also said that a second famous musician had ‘witnessed some kind of violence from Jennifer towards Elliott’, and had said he thought ‘she was up to something more than we know’.
And this sadly echoes what was posted on Org Records website, which was supposed to release the first record of Chiba’s band (Happy Ending). At the time they compared her relationship with Elliott to another violent and infamous one:
‘That was said beforehand,’ says Organ. ‘People described them as a Sid and Nancy couple, constantly arguing, splitting up and getting back together again. I can’t really comment on it because I’m in London, they were over there in LA and I’ve never met them. The stories that were coming back were yes, that it was a crazed, druggy Sid and Nancy situation.’
All these testimonies are really disturbing to say the least, and of course I can provide evidence for each of them. You now have to judge by yourself if Chiba was really this person who ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’ as she is described in the 2004 Spin article. Of course, the fact that she sued the family/estate for $1 million in 2004 doesn’t help to rehabilitate her image. ‘She tried to turn his death into her chance at fame’, told me the same musician, and this time, I am not the one doing the character assassination.
Originally published on Rock NYC (January 4 2015)