Until the other night.
"She died in that corner over there, by the side of the bed." Don Hoyt motioned with one hand but kept staring straight ahead, as if he wanted to avoid looking.
But that's understandable, given that he's in the room where a good friend of his died almost 40 years ago to the day.
On Oct. 4, 1970, blues and rock singer Janis Joplin was discovered here in Room 105 of what was then called the Landmark Hotel (today it's the Highland Gardens) in Hollywood, Calif. The room is actually more like an apartment, with a small kitchen and changing area adjacent to the bedroom.
She died from a heroin overdose. Just two weeks earlier, Jimi Hendrix had died, and Jim Morrison would be gone within a year.
"I'd spoken to her about a week or so before," Hoyt told AOL News during an interview in Room 105, "after hearing that she'd started shooting up again. I was concerned, but you couldn't talk to Janis about drugs at that point. She wouldn't hear it."
Hoyt pointed out a park across the street, visible from the first-floor room.
"That's where she bought her drugs while living here during the time she was recording 'Pearl,' her last album. Supposedly her regular dealer was out of town on this night, and so the stuff she bought was untested. And it was just too strong for her."
Hoyt first met Joplin in San Francisco back in 1966. The fellow Texan remembers the moment they hit it off. "I told her I was from Houston, and she said, 'I'm sorry.' She told me she was from Port Arthur, and I said, 'I'm sorrier.'"
Laughing at the memory at what became the start of a close kinship, today Hoyt speaks in a gentle, plaintive manner about how much she meant, and still means, to him.
"My wife Mary and I became very close with Janis. She'd call Mary the way you'd call a therapist, to talk and figure out what was going on with your life. We watched her grow from a club singer to the force she became, but no matter what, her friends always meant a lot to her."
A late-night phone call from a friend is how Don and Mary learned of their friend's death, and while he wasn't shocked, he was deeply saddened.
"She was one of the sweetest, gentlest souls I ever met. I read things about her today that only talk about how intense she was or that she was just some wild child. But to know her was to appreciate a very real human being who looked out for her friends and never forgot anyone."
For four years, Hoyt has come here to Room 105 to spend up to a month in this room. He drives out each year from Atlanta, using the road trip here and back as a therapeutic journey, a chance to meditate and reflect.
"It's been so hard," he said wistfully. "My wife Mary died four years ago. I lost a son recently in an accident. Mary and I always talked about staying here, and I just decided to do it four years ago. But once I did, I realized I'd have to come back and be here each year on Oct. 4. It's hard to describe, but I feel a strong presence and sense of peace in here."
Hoyt also described many examples of unexplainable events in the room.
"I have no doubt Janis is here," he said. "Things happen. Lights go on and off, things move, the thermostat pops off the wall, the phone rings unexplainably. Those who knew her and have stayed here all share the same things. We have no doubt. But it reminds us of her. I don't come here to be morbid. I come here to celebrate Janis and all of the other things in my life that I miss, but that I am thankful for."
"She was a great reader of the classics," he said, "extremely well rounded and wonderful company. The drugs were her demon, I know, but that's not the only Janis. I haven't spoken out about this before, but I think it's important that someone finally speak on behalf of her positive qualities."
He displayed a wrist tattoo he had done years ago. It's identical to the one Janis had on her wrist -- after all, she designed it. He talked about how cruel the locals in Port Arthur were to her when she was teenager, and how she channeled that pain into some of the most gut-wrenching blues ever recorded.
"B.B. King said the greatest blues singer ever was either Janis or Bessie Smith. How can you beat that?" he asked with a smile.
On the exact anniversary of Joplin's last day and night, Hoyt will retrace her steps, starting off with a drink or two at Barney's Beanery in West Hollywood, where she carved her name into a table, an autograph that's still visible today.
"The thought of her lying there on the floor for 17 hours breaks my heart," he said. "Such a terrible end for such a beautiful woman."
Janis was cremated, and her ashes were scattered along the Marin County coastline of California. The album she was recording at the time, "Pearl," was released after her death and included the hits "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Mercedes Benz."
Hoyt said that his favorite song by Joplin is "Piece of My Heart."
"That's her at her purest," he said gently. "That's her defining who she was."