Monday, February 7, 2011
Faces: Warhol's Superstars
Warhol called this painter and burgeoning film director, who was moonlighting as a clerk at FAO Schwarz when she met him in 1963, his "first female superstar." But her tenure was brief, all but vanishing after appearing in a handful of his mid-sixties films—most famously the black-and-white Kiss series. Some accounts place her on Vermont community television in the early 2000's, "rambling" about her years with Warhol, as well as hosting a live show in which she read dictionary definitions aloud.
Original It girl Edie Sedgwick turned up at the Factory in 1965 and became the best-known Warhol Superstar. Blame that on a super set of thick brows, gamine good looks, and patrician roots that made her a shoo-in for the starring role in Warhol's Poor Little Rich Girl. After a falling out with Warhol, Sedgwick had a failed relationship with Bob Dylan and bounced in and out of mental institutions through the late sixties and early seventies. She died of a drug overdose at 28.
Baby Jane Holzer
Jane Holzer sported a signature Bardot-style mane of thick blond hair parted on the side and plenty of liquid eyeliner, which earned the model and socialite a "most contemporary girl I know" accolade from legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. Holzer allegedly stayed away from the Factory because of all the drugs, but did appear in one of Warhol's most substance-addled films, Ciao Manhattan, in 1972, before becoming an art collector and a real estate mogul like her father.
Christa Päffgen, a.k.a. Nico, had appeared as herself in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita, recorded music with Brian Jones, and studied acting with Lee Strasberg by the time she met Warhol. The Pop artist found her irresistible, and put the 5' 10" chisel-cheeked blonde in Chelsea Girls, The Closet, Sunset, and Imitation of Christ before introducing her to the Velvet Underground.
Big-eyed and long-lashed, Queens-born transsexual Candy Darling (a.k.a. James Lawrence Slattery) met Warhol in 1967 and was swiftly cast in his film Flesh the following year. In 1971, she starred in his poorly received Women in Revolt, but her fame had already been secured via steady gigs in drag shows at clubs like Max's Kansas City. Before she passed away of leukemia in 1974, Candy had a scene with Jane Fonda in Klute to her credit, as well as three hit songs penned in her honor: the Rolling Stones' "Citadel," the Velvet Underground's "Candy Says," and Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side."
Brigid Berlin was also known as Brigid "Polk" for her habit of "poking" herself and others with the popular socialite-slimming cocktail of amphetamine, diuretic, and B12. "My mother wanted me to be a slim respectable socialite…instead I became an overweight troublemaker," the daughter of "Honey" Berlin and former Hearst media chairman Richard Berlin once said. Berlin appeared in a number of Warhol films, and unlike many of her cohorts, her acting career actually had legs. Berlin scored roles in John Waters' films Serial Mom and Pecker.
Viva, a.k.a. Janet Susan Mary Hoffman, appeared in five of Warhol's late-sixties films, including The Nude Restaurant, Lonesome Cowboys, and Blue Movie, in which she was often shot in the buff. She also landed a speaking role in John Schlesinger's 1969 hit Midnight Cowboy. The lanky, curly-haired Syracuse native married filmmaker Michel Auder; Viva's daughter, Gaby Hoffmann, is also an actress, of Freaky Friday fame.
Speaking of famous spawn, Warhol Superstar Bibbe Hansen is also known as "Mom" to recording artist Beck. As the story goes, a 13-year-old Hansen met Warhol at Stark's coffee shop in1965, directly after her father, artist Al Hansen, had picked her up from a stint in juvenile detention. Fascinated, Warhol based his film Prison on her story and cast her in subsequent film projects, including Restaurant.
A Factory staple in the mid-sixties, Mary Woronov appeared in several of Warhol's films, including Chelsea Girls. "My fierce demeanor and gender flipping fascinated Warhol. I was very strong, young, gorgeous, and acted like Nero," she has said of her rise to Factory fame. "I was also so full of amphetamines." The actress continued to work post-Warhol, appearing in everything from Dick Tracy to an episode of My So-Called Life.
Ultra Violet, a.k.a. the French-born Isabelle Collin Dufresne, was more patron than muse. A former studio assistant to Salvatore Dalí and associate of Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso, she is said to have walked into the Factory in 1965 in a pink Chanel suit and purchased a still-wet painting for $500. "She was past a certain age, but she was still beautiful; she looked a lot like Vivien Leigh," Warhol said.
Ford model and New England boarding school reject Susan Bottomly met Warhol at a party in Boston in 1966 after scoring a Mademoiselle cover at age 16. Glamorous, with meticulously applied makeup, Bottomly was put up in the Chelsea Hotel by her wealthy parents, who provided her with an allowance and connections that some of Warhol's previous muses faulted her for. After appearing in Chelsea Girls, the never publicly screened Superboy, and Four Stars (****), Bottomly also made a cameo in Midnight Cowboy, then retired from the spotlight.
Almost every detail about the woman known as Ingrid Superstar is sketchy, from her real name to the circumstances around which she arrived at the factory. Sources generally agree she was from New Jersey and working as an office temp when she was brought in to show an increasingly disagreeable Edie Sedgwick that she was replaceable. According to poet and artist René Ricard, she was picked up at a bar on 42nd Street and given an "ugly Edie" makeover. She would score film credits in Warhol's Chelsea Girls and The Nude Restaurant before she went missing in the late eighties.
"Everything has its beauty," Andy Warhol once said. "But not everyone sees it." At the height of the sixties, the artist made hundreds of films starring a coterie of socialites, models, teenage ex-cons, transvestites, and street urchins. He called them his Superstars, and while they didn't always conform to Hollywood's definition of pretty, all of them were fabulous—a virtual requirement for making it through the door at the Factory. There were the mascara-loving It girls Nico and Edie Sedgwick, the glamorously aristocratic and voluminously blonde "Baby" Jane Holzer, and the tragic Ingrid Superstar, whose real name, life pre-Warhol, and unexplained disappearance are still shrouded in mystery. And don't forget Ultra Violet and Viva, the latter of whom was on the phone with Warhol when he was shot by Valerie Solanas.
A curated selection of Warhol's movies, including some of his animated photo booth Screen Tests, is now on view at MoMA's Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures exhibition. But you don't have to hit the museum to watch the artist's legacy in motion. The makeup teams at Diane von Furstenberg and Victoria Beckham's Spring shows paid homage to Warhol and his movie muses, via electric pink lips and, yes, ultraviolet eye shadow.