NOT LONG after she appeared in Andy Warhol's film, "Heat," Andrea Feldman left a note saying she was "heading for th Big Time" and then jumped to her death from a 14th-story window clutching a Bible.
In the '60s, when Warhol was making icons of Baby Ruth bars and Campbell's soup cans and shooting an eight-hour film of the Empire State Building, he worked in a studio loft on E. 47th Street known as The Factory. He let anyone come by. Addicts mingled with debutantes. Transvestites danced with the stars of the New York art world. It was the ultimate Happening and it happened every day. The Factory scene was both a fond imitation and ascerbic parody of Hollywood, and as with Hollywood, The Factory had its casualties. Andrea Feldman was not alone.
Eric Emerson, dead of an overdose.
Candy Darling, the transvestite who died of cancer and had a Hollywood funeral.
Tiger Morse, Freddy Herko, Edie Sedgwick.
"Edie: An American Biography," edited by Jean Stein and George Plimpton, uses the voices of old Factory hands and hangers-on to tell the story of Edie Sedgwick, a Boston debutante who became a Warhol "superstar" and died of a barbiturate overdose at age 28.
Bobby Andersen, who worked as Sedgwick's nurse after she nearly died in a fire she started in her hotel room, remembers a world of "art, fun and decadence." "I was down to about 97 pounds when my speed habit was the worst," he says in his chic East Side apartment appointed with smoked glass, Chinese coromandel screens and a gold leaf Japanese painting. "I guess Andy may still be working in the same vein, he's almost a petrified fixture that way, but the old Factory people have really changed."
Although Warhol has refused to comment on the book and declined to be interviewed, ex-Factory regulars like Gerard Malanga and Viva report he is unhappy with "Edie" and the attention it focuses on the casualties of the era.
"I'd rather talk about survivors," says Malanga, Warhol's principal aide during the '60s. "And the survivors are the ones who are still living. After that it's just explanation." Now, more than 15 years after the heyday of The Factory, a glimmer of limelight has fallen on faces nearly forgotten.
Girl of the Year? Listen, they will never forget.
Tom Wolfe on Baby Jane Holzer, 1964
Before Edie, before Ingrid Superstar, International Velvet, Cherry Vanilla, Viva, Nico and Ultra Violet, at the beginning of it all, was Baby Jane Holzer.
1964. A time when the Rolling Stones seemed in sympathy with the devil, when joints were not yet the Marlboros of the masses, when Tom Wolfe's Kandy-Koated Hysteria-Bloated prose style was--"Whhhooooooooo
oooooooooooosh!"--on the money. And it was a time for a different kind of Girl of the Year, time not for the Brenda Frazier-cover-of-Life sort of debutante, but for a young Park Avenue woman (she still had to have the goods) who could hang like a blond bauble on the arm of Mick Jagger, appear in Warhol's "Kiss," and still charm the dowagers. At 24, Baby Jane, who flunked out of Finch Junior College on purpose, was it: in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Life. Girl of the Year, Warhol's first superstar. Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue at the time, called Baby Jane "the most contemporary girl I know."
1982. A gray muggy Sunday morning at Mortimer's on the Upper East Side. Once in a while a taxi hunkers down Lexington Avenue. Otherwise the hour is as quiet as New York ever is.
Jane Holzer is Baby no more. In Wolfe's celebrated profile of her in the old New York Herald Tribune, she was "gorgeous in the most outrageous way," a corona-headed, zebra-coated scene unto herself who spoke in hysterical gushes and spurts of ooohs and aaaahs. Dressed now in jeans and a faded equestrian contest T-shirt, hiding behind a pair of smoky aviator sunglasses on this sunless day, she speaks in listless eddies.
"It seems so long ago," she says after a sip of iced tea. "Real long."
She balks at breakfast.
"I'm on this brown rice diet."
She looks a little sad or bored, and maybe it's the diet or the morning but you can't help thinking it's a little hard to talk about lost celebrity, especially when it lasted about 18 months.
"I guess I left when I felt I couldn't take it anymore," says Holzer. "A lot of people, the ones who took a lot of drugs, are very fragile today, living from day to day trying to make it. One of the reasons I survived is that I didn't take drugs, not much anyway. I always felt like a straight jerk . . . I really had a good time then, basically because I didn't try to kill myself. And when I saw that happening to other people, I got out.
"I remember once I gave a lunch party on the beach in Southampton at that time. A lot of people, maybe 30 or so, from The Factory were coming. I had four drag queen butlers, the whole bit, a huge spread. Well, they showed up late and just came and left and couldn't have cared less. I just couldn't stand it. I like real people."
During the '60s, Holzer was married to real estate heir Leonard Holzer. Today, at 42, she is divorced, living with her teen-age son.
"I'm into running some family businesses," says Holzer. Fifteen minutes after arriving she is anxious about the work she's left behind, about the secretary waiting for her at the apartment.
"I just don't think about those days much anymore," she says. "I mean it's all about what are you doing today. I think anybody who really does their job does it seven days a week."
And then she leaves, walking away, evenly, elegantly, but without that electric glide. She passes a young couple, and then a cop, but nobody looks twice at the Girl of the Year.
Edie died in 1971. The news came to The Factory, and Paul Morrissey director of numerous Warhol-produced films in the '70s just said, "Oh. I thought she died two years ago."
We all loved Viva . . . She even wrote reviews of our movies for a local publication called "Downtown" using the byline of Susan Hoffman (her real name), giving herself, naturally, total raves: "Viva! is a hilarious combo of Greta Garbo, Myrna Loy and Carole Lombard . . . she combines the elegance of the '30s . . . with the catty candor of the '60s."
Andy Warhol in "POPism"
In her high-ceilinged apartment at the Chelsea Hotel--former home to Dylan Thomas, Brendan Behan, Thomas Wolfe, Sid Vicious and Edie Sedgwick--Viva sits at the edge of her bed watching the end of the Richard Simmons show on a Toshiba portable.
"Jean Stein will be on in a minute, as soon as this clown finishes his sit-ups," Viva says. Her 6-month-old baby Gabrielle is doing her best to pull the phone wire out of the wall and 11-year-old Alexandra is in the kitchen rummaging through the fridge.
"When you have a kid, you tend to watch a lot of TV," says Viva.
The baby is rolling on its back, playing with the receiver.
"Hey Mom!" yells Alexandra. "Look at her!"
"Hon-ey," Viva says in a patently parental tone, "it's hard to do two things at once."
Viva--successor to Edie Sedgwick, actress in "Bike Boy" and "Blue Movie," author of "Superstar," and, according to Jean Stein, the "most gorgeous" Warhol star ever--is 40.
In the old movie stills, Viva is a high-cheekboned Botticelli beauty. She is still thin, still attractive, but now Alexandra looks closer to those stills than Viva herself. Her face is lined, a little drawn, and when a photographer arrives she spends 15 minutes with the blusher, the shadow, the lipstick, the lip liner, the eye liner. But she is immediately on to the joke, and her show of vanity is playful and ironic.
Viva can be frenetic at times, pacing the floor, launching into endless diatribes about "worthless" men, capitalism, how she thinks an idea of hers was used by the producers of "Barnaby Jones," but she is never dull and, unlike Jane Holzer, still a self-assured star presence.
She is also a terrific noodge.
"C'mon Alexandra, do your imitations for everybody."
"Oh Mom, pleeease."
But it's a standoff and Viva lets it pass. "We just finished a movie with Wim Wenders in Portugal," she says, smiling a stage mother's smile. "Alexandra played my daughter."
Viva is divorced from Alexandra's father, French filmmaker Michel Auder, and Gabrielle's father, a soap opera actor, refuses to acknowledge paternity. Viva recently held a christening for the baby on the roof of the Chelsea Hotel. An Episcopal priest and a radical feminist rabbi performed the ceremony.
The family sits posing on the bed, and with the baby at Viva's breast, with the sunlight pouring from the high windows into Alexandra's long burnished hair, they look a bit like Leonardo's "Virgin With St. Anne."
Viva would rather talk about her current projects--a novel about Argentina and a script for a soap opera--than her days at The Factory.
"It gets kind of boring after all these years to still be 'Viva, Andy Warhol Superstar,' " she says. "I never went to a single party at The Factory. The only one was when Ravi Shankar came to see a film. My wild days were before I ever came to Andy Warhol. By the time I met him, it was like meeting a bunch of Quakers. All I ever did was work. We did those films, and those goddamn lecture tours, staying in motels in every city in America.
"I was brought up by nuns and then went to Marymount College. I took an ethics course, but they never told the truth . . . I want my daughters to go out and make their own money and be part of the American Dream. I don't want them to have to take any garbage from anyone so . . . "
"So they don't have to marry some poor French idiot!" interrupts Alexandra.
Viva smiles. "It's my fault that I've spent my life on artistic and intellectual tangents," she says. "I believed my education. I believed my parents when they said I should be an artist. I believed it, but now what?"
All the girl superstars complained that Ultra would somehow find out about every interview or photo session they had scheduled and turn up there before they did. It was uncanny the way she always managed to be right on the spot the second the flash went off. She'd tell journalists, "I collect art and love." But what she really collected were press clippings.
Andy Warhol in "POPism"
Ultra Violet, born Isabelle Collin Du Fresne, might have been, after Warhol himself, the best known Factory figure. She drove a Lincoln limo and was nationally known for her purple hair and her quasi-avant-garde raps on the "Merv Griffin Show." Last year she wrote a mini-update for the now-defunct SoHo Weekly News:
"I never took any drugs.
"I did not mind other people under the influence of drugs but I realized it was an evil. Many people died, many people burned their brains.
"I left that world and went into a world of straight businessmen. That was good for a while because it offered something else. But then, of course, I suffered from their lack of fantasy.
"If I had married before, I'd be divorced by now. I have reached the stage where I want marriage. I want a relationship for time and eternity.
"As you age, as you go around full circle, you change. Now my attitude is quite conservative. I think man is meant to be with woman. Homosexuality is something that one must overcome, for one's own benefit and happiness.
"I went through a lot of inner changes. Jesus was my savior, my salvation.
"I think the light of the world is coming from America."
Andy and Gerard would have their fights because Gerard hadn't painted the silk screen or because he was being lazy. Andy'd say: "Gerard! I'm sick of you laying in bed. I'm not paying you a dollar and 20 cents an hour for nothing!"
Ondine in "Edie"
If Andy Warhol was the Professor of Pop, Gerard Malanga was his faithful research assistant.
"1964. I was 20, studying at Wagner College and I was looking for a summer job. I had had previous experience in silk screening. Somebody heard that Andy needed someone for that so they took me to him," says Malanga. "My summer job spilled into fall semester and I never went back. It was all over."
For an artsy kid who grew up in the Bronx, the chance to be Warhol's premier aide--silk-screening, painting, filming, acting, finding beautiful women for the films--was an ideal, high-profile apprenticeship. In the '60s, Malanga was a fixture at The Factory and Max's Kansas City, a pugnacious poet-painter who often kept a bullwhip slung over his shoulder. He is short (shorter than Warhol), but was celebrated for escorting the most beautiful Factory women and managing to attract a string of attentive patronesses.
"It was a very freewheeling situation," says Malanga in his Grand Concourse accent. "It was something different. The idea of going to parties all the time, museum openings, was exciting, a lot more exciting than school.
"Andy had something that was both endearing and manipulative. He was the ultimate groupie. He made you feel like you were the star, not him. People wonder how he worked. Andy didn't have the intelligence of a cynic. His intelligence was purely intuitive. Everything he said would be simplistic but every once in a while something prophetic would come out . . . In seven years of working for him, I don't think we ever had a really deep conversation.
"Finally Andy became rich because he had people who were loyal to him. He needed the sycophants to make him rich . . . Andy just goes the way the wind blows. The thing he likes most is money."
In recent years, Malanga has made a career as a photographer and poet, and though he may forever be the Young Turk at Warhol's side, he feels he has gained a measure of independence.
"What separated us, the reason I left was that I could no longer surrender my freedom. It was an esthetic decision, but also political. But for me to regret something like my years with Warhol would be to deny half my artistic existence."
For weeks I couldn't stop thinking about this new nonpersonality of Ondine's. Talking to him now was like talking to your Aunt Tillie. Sure, it was good he was off drugs (I supposed), and I was glad for him (I supposed), but he was so boring: there was no getting around that. The brilliance was all gone.
Andy Warhol in "POPism" on attending Judy Garland's funeral in 1969 with Ondine.
Ondine. He was one of The Factory's street people. Warhol was fascinated by Ondine, giving him his name (from a play by Giradoux), following him around with a tape recorder for 24 hours to "make a book," casting him in the role of Pope for "Chelsea Girls," perhaps the best of the early avant-garde films.
In "Edie," Ondine remembers working as Sedgwick's "French maid," waking her in the morning from a barbiturate stupor and keeping her high enough on speed to rocket through the day. Sometimes he slept by the banks of the reservoir in Central Park, sometimes he stayed in a plush East Side apartment with "probably the most original and fabulous prostitute in New York City."
"I never thought about money," he says. "I just got by, one way or another."
Now Ondine is 45, living for the summer in eastern Long Island. "The doctor told me I have pleurisy and I need the sun to dry up," he says. "I was into drugs to learn things. Drugs didn't destroy my mind. They destroy the body. But from the drugs and the booze the liver goes, the teeth go, the kidneys go. But you know you can't learn anything without experience.
"They're using this Edie book as an illusion about drug taking. There's a lot of people out there who took drugs and are leading normal lives. Listen, would there be all this fuss about Edie if she's been Ingrid Superstar, not fabulously chic and rich? Do you think there would have been all this hoopla?
"I stopped the drugs in 1968. They were no longer fun. It was bad. But boring? Do I think I'm boring now? Do I sound as boring as your Aunt Tillie? Andy's got that in the book but I bet he himself never even wrote that part. I bet you. Pat Hackett, coauthor of "POPism" is one of the new Factory people.
"The new Factory people don't want to have anything to do with the old, fabulous days of the Factory. They don't like us and we're still as fabulous as we ever were. They're trolls. They're just a big business. They're so chi-chi. I'm not impressed with them. They're terribly impressed with how many times you can get into Studio 54, who your family is and all that.
"One of the reasons I didn't go down the tubes was that I went to Pittsburgh in 1972--at the end of the rainbow--and did drama workshops," he says. Now he works in the New York City school system with the Children's Theater Ensemble directing and adapting plays.
"All right, it's not art," says Ondine, "but it's good work. Is that as boring as your Aunt Tillie? I'm telling you. We're still as fabulous as we ever were."
. . . Millions dream of celebrity, celebrity for anything. The scramble for it is like the fight for a life raft among a throng drowning in the sea of inexistence. But Warhol doesn't fight. He floats
Stephen Koch in "Stargazer"
Andy Warhol floats.
He floats in time. He dyed his hair gray as a young man so he would look the same as he aged. He has always understood that to be a celebrity was to stave off time somehow, to become a kind of publicity photograph that fades less quickly than the body itself.
As one superstar succeeded another, as the hangers-on drifted in and out, Warhol was The Factory's constant. But even if Warhol had mastered the art of celebrity, he could not control everything. In 1968, a minor figure on the Factory scene, Valerie Solanis, shot and critically wounded Warhol as he stepped off the elevator. Solanis was the founder of SCUM (The Society for the Cutting Up of Men) and the author of anti-male manifestos. She exploded in anger and Warhol almost died.
"After the shooting everything changed. He was an emptied shell," says Viva. Malanga agrees: "Andy's never been the same. He's a businessman now, a lot more cautious. There's a painting he did recently that seems to be the summation of Andy. It's a painting of a dollar sign."
In recent years, The Factory has been stationed on Union Square, and George Plimpton, coeditor of "Edie," says the new place is "run like a Wall Street institution."
Walter Hopps, one of the first gallery owners to show Warhol's work and the curator the National Museum of American Art's 20th century collection, has been a visitor to all of the Factory incarnations.
"It's a very sleek place now," says Hopps. "It feels like money instead of being grungy and threadbare. It's very security conscious. Where you could have just walked in during the old days, there's a TV monitor now.
"Inside the studio reception area there are polished wood floors. His furniture is eclectic. It changes. Maybe you'll see a beautiful oak conference table, maybe some 1910 severe chairs around it, maybe a chrome smoking stand, or spun aluminum lamp stands. It's all very chic and expensive . . . The new people are different, too. Bob Colacello executive editor of Interview is basically a gossip columnist while Malanga was an artist. Fred Hughes president of Interview is concerned with appointments and balance sheets while Malanga took it as it came."
In recent years Warhol has declared himself a political conservative, and he is no longer breaking new ground in the art world, according to many critics. His photo still shows up in the gossip sheets--next to Bianca in the backseat of a limousine, chatting with Halston at The Factory--and he even appears more outgoing than he was before the shooting.
"One night I was at Xenon. Some modeling agencies were giving a party and I saw Andy there," says Malanga. "To give you an idea of how different he is now, he was dancing, doing the pogo, with a girl! I couldn't believe my eyes!"
Warhol may have forsaken, or been incapable of continuing, his position as a leader of the avant-garde in the art world, yet his success as an industry, the Andy Warhol Industry that yields high profits from Interview magazine and numerous portrait commissions, provides him a continuing, if more comfortable, conventional, celebrity.
Warhol's past as both an artist and as the focal point of The Factory have become a serviceable myth. He is now more trendy than avant-garde, but he is famous all the same. Warhol is the survivor, and if some readers of "Edie" now see him in a bleaker light, he will survive that, too.
Andy Warhol doesn't fight.