I Used To Be Charming Part Three

Posted in GSU photo archive, History, Music, Undogegorized by chamblee54 on May 4, 2022

This is the latest edition of the chamblee54 book report on I Used to Be Charming, by Eve Babitz. This feature is a bit different. Instead of focusing on IUTBC, we will look at some of the key players in the story. A catalyst for today is a 2019 episode of the Bret Easton Ellis Podcast. The guest is Lili Anolik, promoting a book, Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A.

One important name is Earl McGrath. Bret had never heard of him. A friend of many influential people, McGrath had many careers. Apparently, his main skill was a talent for being fabulous. As David Bowie said, “It’s not really work, it’s just the power to charm.”

“McGrath’s story began in Superior WI. The son of an itinerant short-order cook, it wasn’t long before the teenage Earl began to display a wanderlust of his own, dropping out of high school and leaving home, ‘hanging out with Aldous Huxley in Los Angeles and going to see Henry Miller in Big Sur’, according to Vanity Fair. In the late 1950s he served with the Merchant Marine in Africa and the Middle East, and in Italy, in 1958, he met the woman he would later marry, Camilla Pecci-Blunt — a glamorous countess, and a descendant of Pope Leo XIII … McGrath was working for 20th Century Fox in the early 1960s when he met perhaps the other most influential person in his life, the legendary co-founder and president of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun.”

“Maybe that’s why Eve fell in “friend love” with a gay man, the cattiest breed of all, if we want to be cuntily honest as well. Specifically, Earl McGrath … As any gay man not fully out would be, McGrath was married to an Italian countess. He never had an official title, per se, though, in death, he would be credited as a “writer, music executive, art collector, and gallery owner.” In short, a jack-of-no-trades. Other than knowing how to be at the right place at the right time, and network with the right people. This is how he came into Eve’s orbit in the late 60s. The two grew Siamese twin close until McGrath’s venom reared its ugly head with the line … “Is that the blue you’re using?” As Anolik interprets the phrase, it’s an easy way to make an artist (of any kind) doubt themselves and their vision.”

Eve met Earl McGrath when Eve, and possibly McGrath, was dating Peter Pilafian, the electric violin player with The Mamas and The Papas. Peter Pilafian is one of those players that is unknown today. He does not have a wikipedia page, and we do not know if he is alive. Apparently, Eve would spend the night with Pilafian, and McGrath would show up at 7am the next day.

Somehow, Eve and McGrath connected. McGrath makes a spectacle of himself in Slow Days Fast Company. McGrath also gets credit/blame for the line you always seem to hear about Eve. “In every young man’s life, there is an Eve Babitz. It is usually Eve Babitz.”

lilianolikwriter has a tasteful picture, with this caption: “Eve Babitz with frenemy, Earl McGrath, at the opening of the Black Rabbit restaurant on Melrose, at the tail-end of the 60s. Earl is in the cowboy mustache, Eve in the glasses, which she was normally too vain to wear in photographs. The brunette with the pixie hair is Diane Gardiner, Doors publicist and long-time squeeze of Chuck Berry. (Says Eve, “Diane was a mean monster but everything she said was funny so I forgave her.”) … The woman in the floppy hat and sunglasses, says Eve, doesn’t ring a bell, not even a faint one.”

Allegedly, the Eve-McGrath falling out came when Eve was dating Harrison Ford, who also caught McGrath’s eye. A posthumous article about McGrath mentions “His great friend Harrison Ford — three of whose children were among McGrath’s two-dozen godchildren — saluted him as, ‘The last of a breed, one of the last great gentlemen and bohemians.’”

Lili Anolik tells an amusing story about Mr. Ford. “I remember one of our first conversations Eve told me about Harrison Ford dealing dope out of a bass fiddle at Barney’s Beanery”…. Michelle Phillips talks about seeing Star Wars when it first came out. When Harrison Ford appeared on the screen, Michelle said “whats he doing there, that’s my dope dealer.” A less reliable source chimes in: “Harrison Ford was her weed dealer, and, briefly, her lover: “The thing about Harrison was, Harrison could fuck. Nine people a day. It’s a talent, loving nine different people in one day. Warren [Beatty] could only do six.”

Part of the Eve legend is the photograph of Eve playing chess with Marcel Duchamp. “What happened was, my boyfriend at the time, Walter Hopps [director of the Pasadena Art Museum, 31, married], had scored this great coup. He’d convinced Duchamp, who’d given up art for chess back in the 1920s, to do a retrospective with him. He threw a party for the private opening, and L.A. had never seen anything like it. Everyone, everyone, was there—Duchamp, naturally, and Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg and Dennis Hopper and, oh, just everyone. I wasn’t, though, because I wasn’t invited. I guess Walter was afraid I’d make a scene in front of his wife. I was mad, which is why when Julian asked me at the public opening to take off my clothes and pose for him, I said sure. I mean, my breasts were normally something to behold, but birth control had made them even bigger, so they were really something to behold at that particular moment. …”

The photographer, Julian Wasser, was dating Eve’s sister Mirandi. Wasser had an exhibit in 2019, so apparently he was alive 3 years ago. Wasser took his most famous picture a few years later.“One August day in 1969, I was listening to a police radio when I heard all this strange talk about something going on in this residential area next to Beverly Hills. It was the kind of neighbourhood where people would … put pillows over their heads if murders were going on.”

“That was how I first heard that Roman Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, had been killed, along with four others. When I went up there shortly afterwards for Life magazine, Roman asked me to take Polaroid shots of the scene as well – and give them to a psychic who could study them and find out who the killers were. You can see my Polaroid on the chair beside Roman. …”

“When I was 14, I used to steal my dad’s car and drive all over Washington listening to police radio. There was segregation then and all the best murders, robberies and bloody events were in the black part of town. I’d photograph them and give the shots to the Washington Post. I was so naïve. Of course they wouldn’t run them – it was black people. … It’s a rough world now. I think Manson started it and 9/11 finished it. Reality has fallen on us like a ton of bricks.”

Ed Ruscha and brother Paul Ruscha were longtime *friends* of Eve. After Eve died, they had a paywall protected chat. Ed Ruscha: “Oh, it was the early ’60s, but she was a great part of my growing up. I know I was with her when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. I was in bed with Eve and we were watching this on live TV, a little black-and-white set. … she lived in this house behind her parents’ house. She kept a sloppy quarters because she had a lot of cats who had their way. Her parents lived up at the front house on Bronson near Franklin. And I knew her parents well. Mae was a beautiful, sweet Texan who was an artist, and she drew pictures of the gingerbread houses on Bunker Hill. And Sol was the musician, violinist. They were very sweet people.”

Paul Ruscha: “I came to L.A. in 1973. We met at Jack’s Catch All; it was this great thrift store. I was a veteran thrift shopper and so was Danna [Ed Ruscha’s wife]. She introduced me to Eve, who said, “I’d like to have you over for dinner.” Danna said, “I think she likes you.” Eve knew that Ed and I were friends with [fashion model] Leon Bing. So she called Leon, who told Eve, “Well, no matter what you make for him, be sure that it’s loaded with cilantro because he’s just crazy about cilantro.” Eve put it in the salad and the soup, and I hate cilantro and I couldn’t eat it. All I could do is laugh. … If I spent the night with her, she’d wake up before I did and then want me to leave. So she’d throw coffee into a pot of boiling water and bang on it to make the grounds go down and to wake me up and say, “OK, here’s your coffee. Now get out of here.” And I’d laugh and then she’d say, “I think I’ve got something I’d like you to read.” Then I’d read whatever she’d written the day before. I gave her my critique, and if she liked it, she let me stay, and if she didn’t, she’d throw me out. … She just couldn’t go anywhere without ruining something. She’d knock something over or break something, and the same thing at her house. I remember a couple of fur coats I gave her, and one of them she threw over this little space heater that she had. It caught on fire and it burned up her garage.”

Since this is Hollywood, a certain amount of skepticism is appropriate. Lili says in the BEE appearance “the modern way of being objective is a kind of hyper objectivity, it’s a reconstituted objectivity, is objectivity that acknowledges the inevitability of subjectivity.” Pictures today are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.” More episodes of this series are available. one two four five

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