The Only Girl: My Life and Times on the Masthead of Rolling Stone By Robin Green
Published Aug 14, 2018Robin Green wasn't on the masthead at Rolling Stone for a long time, but she certainly seems to have had a good time while there. Her memoir, The Only Girl: My Life and Times on the Masthead of Rolling Stone, details many aspects of her life story, but emphasizes the impact that her stint at the titular magazine had on her other experiences.
Nearly 50 years on, it's strange to read about her initial job offer at the magazine, which she got by walking into the office in a mini-skirt and a cool jacket with a dog in tow.
From there, she landed cover stories and profiles of controversial pop culture heroes from Dennis Hopper to David Cassidy. Working at the dawn of the era of "New Journalism," Green shares fascinating anecdotes from behind-the-scenes of interviews, though they often expose her "I have no idea what I'm doing" approach to reporting.
That method eventually catches up with her, and proves to be her downfall, when Jann Wenner himself kicks her off the masthead after refusing to turn in a piece on Robert F. Kennedy's kids. Green uncomfortably flexes moral superiority in her telling of the story, claiming that it would have been wrong for her to write the piece because she slept with Bobby Kennedy, Jr. while on assignment — not that it was wrong for her to sleep with an interview subject (who, by the way, was a college freshman at the time).
There are far more accounts of less troubling sexual dalliances — including old boyfriends, other people's husbands, an ongoing affair with her Rolling Stone editor David Felton and a night in New York with a still-closeted Wenner — that Green describes as empowering and believes were indicative of her genuinely liberated generation.
Yet she romanticizes the free love of the '60s and early '70s in a totally cliché way, glorifying it as an era fighting for the worthiest causes, listening to the greatest music of all time and experimenting with the coolest drugs. Anyone from any other era would likely argue the same about their coming-of-age years.
There are genuinely exciting tales of getting twisted with Hunter S. Thompson and Annie Leibowitz (some of the magazine's all-time greats), though she details a few too many meandering mescaline trips. (Getting stoned in California nature is awesome — we get it.)
The strongest moments in the book come when Green writes of her best friend Ronnie, who died by suicide, and her husband Mitch, whom she met while he was a student in her teaching fellowship class.
The occasional credit is also given to others for expanding the role of women in journalism and music, like when Marianne Partridge was brought on as a copyeditor in 1974, and carved out a female-run space by creating a copyediting and fact-checking department, but Green downplays accusations that there was any glaring imbalance or sexism in the Rolling Stone offices.
It's seems a feeble argument, given that there is still a fight for more female and minority representation at magazines, in music and in TV writing rooms (Green went on to write for The Sopranos) in 2018.
"If there was sexism, it was in the novelty of having me there, a chick writer," she writes at one point, rather bafflingly. FYI, being treated as a novelty because you're a woman in a predominantly male workplace is totally sexist.
At one point, she also claims that she'd "heard about the rapaciousness of Hollywood types," but plays her friend's TV-director dad pushing her against a wall at a party and trying to stick his tongue down her throat as merely a close call of experiencing wrongdoing by Hollywood bigwigs.
Her rose-tinted views of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll at Rolling Stone and beyond simply ring tone-deaf these days — especially given the past year in the film and music industries. (Little, Brown and Company)