Patti Smith Reunited With Stolen Items After 36 Years

It was an unexpectedly emotional night for Smith.

Patti Smith Photo: Vittorio Zunino Celotto.

Renaissance woman Patti Smith became emotional during an appearance in Illinois when a fan broke in to return two prized items, a shirt Smith wore during a 1978 Rolling Stone shoot, and a bandanna that was given to her by her later brother Todd, who passed away in 1994.

Smith was giving a reading at Dominican University in River Forest from her newly released memoir M Train, the follow-up to Just Kidswhich detailed her exploits in gritty ’70s-era New York City with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe.

Photo: Courtesy of Knopf.

Photo: Courtesy of Knopf.

The woman who returned the items is a longtime fan, according to the Chicago Tribune. Noreen Bender said that returning Smith’s property was “the highlight of my life.”

The items went missing in June 1979, when a rental truck was stolen from outside a Chicago hotel following Smith’s gig at the Aragon Ballroom. The items reportedly came to Bender years ago though the friend of a roommate. She said upon receiving the items she was in shock that they belonged to Smith and how “they still have her sweat on them.” Bender said she had long wanted to return the items to Smith but was unsure of how to go about doing so.

A fan who has attended numerous Smith readings and was present at this one, recounted on his blog:

“So Patti pulls out these items of clothing and talks about them (the shirt she wore on the Rolling Stone cover, the Keith Richards T-Shirt you’ve seen her wear in a hundred photos) and then gets to the bottom of the bag. Here was a bandanna that her beloved late brother had worn and then given to her, and she starts to weep. Before long, half the audience was crying with her.

Naturally, people in the audience were asking where/why/how?? but Patti just put her hands out and said she doesn’t care how, she’s just so grateful to have these priceless items back. Amazing. The rest of the program, after she piled everything on the podium, she couldn’t stop touching them, eventually slowly slipping the bandanna into her pocket . . and proceeded to do a ripping version of “Because the Night” with her son on acoustic guitar.
What a night.”

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