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"Intellectual and cultural achievement didn't give you any advantage," recalls Moriaty."Nobody cared that we were smart and talented." Harry Britt, a gay activist who grew up in Port Arthur, says it's pretty clear why Janis and her hometown weren't a match. Port Arthur would see country western star Tex Bitter, who was born in nearby Nederland, as its own, not Janis Joplin." The dissonance Britt identifies was real.Port Arthur may have been in the technology forefront, but in every other respect it was as barren as its landscape was flat -- "all drive-in movies and Coke stands," groused Janis. The place offered so little in the way of diversion that Janis's father would take the kids on outings to the post office to look at the latest Most Wanted posters."There was simply nowhere to go," sighs Janis's high school friend Dave Moriaty.And if Port Arthur's solid citizens seemed overly concerned with piety and propriety, it may well have been because their downtown was funkier than just about any other in the South, outside of New Orleans.Port Arthur was a real-life Sin City, a "wide-open town with whorehouses, casinos, slot machines -- the whole thing." Its thirty-two brothels offered a cornucopia of red-light-district delights.There were tensions, for sure, between the educated "Yankee" professionals and the backwoods east Texan and Louisianan laborers, but their kids attended the same high school.Class distinctions were also muted because Port Arthur was a union town -- the only one in all of Texas.

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After a day on campus, "you'd end up feeling like you'd eaten a book of matches." To Janis and her friends, the Golden Triangle was a smelly, stultifying, mosquito-ridden swamp -- "a foot fungus" growing along the Texas-Louisiana border, wrote Molly Ivins.Blue-collar refinery workers, like autoworkers of that period, were fairly well paid."Lots of working-class boys' dads bought them new cars," says Moriaty.(None of this was lost on Janis and her teenage pals, who kept count of the town's brothels.) The whole show was run by a New Orleans mob family who made a fortune off transient sailors stuck in Port Arthur for a night or two.The police looked the other way until the late fifties, when an investigating committee from the Texas legislature came to town and shut it all down.

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