I Used To Be Charming Part Four

Posted in Book Reports, GSU photo archive by chamblee54 on May 11, 2022

What follows is the fourth installment of the chamblee54 deconstruction of I Used to Be Charming, by Eve Babitz. Pictures today are by “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.” Other features in this cycle are available. one two three five

Sober Virgins of the Eighties (Smart Fall 1988) was published in late 1988, at about the time I quit drinking. IUTBC is in chronological order. The pieces covered today are from Eve’s overboogie recovery days. Many are written for Esquire. “Every product was carefully curated by an Esquire editor. We may earn a commission from these links.” Eve may be counterculture, but by 1990 she was writing for the emperors tailor.

By 1988, aids was hitting like a ton of bricks. While some still partied, many started to clean up their act. SVOTE is about this. “Of course, now that it’s the eighties, most desirable members of the opposite sex give rise to dark wanderings like “If they’re so cute, why aren’t they dead?”—which for me really put a damper on sex and made me actually take up chastity for almost two years. … The great thing about the eighties is that if you’re still alive, there’s hope. That, anyway, has changed.”

SVOTE was in the first edition of Smart, in the “Love and Science” column. “One smart reader is worth a thousand boneheads” HL Mencken “Terry McDonell, the now legendary magazine editor, was starting his own magazine, Smart, in 1989. When he said he wanted to evoke The Smart Set, the stylish, literary monthly edited by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan in the Roaring Twenties, I thought of Lucian Bernhard’s Bauer typeface from 1929, Lucian. That resulted in another early Font Bureau digitzation of a vintage foundry type, Belucian. At that point David Berlow was thinking of a adding a “Be-” to the names of all his revivals (cf. Belizio), but we talked him out of that later.”

Ronstadt For President (Smart May-June 1989) returns to Eve’s friendship with Linda Ronstadt. Eve is sometimes credited with designing the album ocver for “Heart Like a Wheel.” Other sources say that Eve was the photographer on the inner sleeve. Very little is said about Eve as a photographer. Mostly, artist Eve paints, and assembles collages.

RFP is about Linda’s struggles to make it as a singer. Her looks got in the way. “… men like Hugh Hefner would be propositioning her with “Let’s just shoot you with no clothes on, why don’t we?” and casting directors were trying to interest her in movies. “That’s not what I am, Eve,” she said, laughing and laughing. “Me with no clothes, imagine!” …

“I mean, Linda is just your normal good-time overeater type of person, whereas Jane Fonda, as she mentions in her book, was a bulimic—one of those sneaky people who eat and eat and then throw up. And bulimia is not what I want in a politician at all. I want things to stay down. And I want Linda to sing a slow, sexy double-entendre version of “You’re Just Too Marvelous” to Gorbachev.”

Rapture of the Shallows (Smart July-August 1989) was about Walter Hopps. He created an art gallery called Ferus, despite the NY notion that LA was a wasteland for art. Mr. Hopps was also Eve’s extramarital bf, and the motivation for the chess photograph with Marcel Duchamp.

“Ephemera mattered at Ferus. Founded by curator Walter Hopps and artist Ed Kienholz in March 1957, the “Ferus” honorific was designed to commemorate an unknown artist named James Farris who shot himself; the peculiar variant spelling of the gallery’s name got transposed, however, when Robert Alexander (a.k.a. “Baza”), the collage artist and poet who executed the gallery’s earliest typography, proposed “F-e-r-u-s” instead. Why? “Because it has more strength typographically,” Hopps remembers. Hopps’ response? “Let’s do it.” And thus, the gallery’s founding identity was composed with an ephemeral sensibility and by a typographic twist of fate.”

Eve: “I’m going to write a piece about John Goode and maybe Ed Ruscha and Laddie Dill and …” I told my friend Aaron, a New York collector who lives here but hates it. “Those phony-baloney bulshit artists … they all suck. They’re just for restaurant openings, tea at Trumps.”

In the Bret-Lili podcast, Trumps came up. It seems to have been quite the trendy place. In The Shards, Bret meets at Trumps with this semi-closeted producer, (and father of Bret’s gf.) He pretends to be interested in Bret’s script, but is really after Bret. If you like, you can buy a matchbook, and a small plate, from Trumps.

The Sexual Politics of Fashion (The Washington Post Book World July 30, 1989) is about books, (one two) that people wrote about fashion. Eve was not impressed with either. “But the Luscious photographs and illustrations are given a continuous cold shower by the prose: Every time you get a romance or fantasy going in your head … you are smacked into rectitude by phrases like “gender-specific” or just the very word “gender” itself which is enough to keep me from wanting to hear more, no matter how cute the people in the pictures are.” Eve had an eye, however badly focused, on the future. In 1989, gender meant boy and girl. Today, gender is the new civils rights movement, more third-railish than even race or football.

Gotta Dance (Playboy October 1989) was written for Playboy magazine. It’s mind blowing to think of Eve working in concert with Hugh Hefner. Apparently, when sex/drugs/rock/roll not longer did it, Eve started to dance.

“My only recommendation to a man who is even remotely thinking about ballroom dancing is to be careful. Unless you have a very large trust fund or a very strong character, don’t begin at Arthur Murray. Once they hook you, they have you for life. … “Me?” you say. “Hooked? On ballroom dancing? Come on!” … “I know. The only reason you’d take ballroom dancing at all would be as a joke. So that’s why I’m telling you: Don’t. Like a newborn duck, you’ll get imprinted on your teacher and your classmates, and then they’ll sign you up for lifetime lessons. Later, when you ask around, you’ll discover that you could get the same lessons for less from someone who used to teach at Arthur Murray and now gives lessons himself.”

I got a email before writing this. A young lady we knew, back in the day, passed away. For purposes of this story, we are going to call her Aspen. She drank the kool aid, and signed a mega-bucks contract with Fred Astaire dance studio. One time Aspen got me to go to a party, with “champagne ladies” trying to sell you dance lessons. I declined the kool aid.

The Soup Can as Big as the Ritz (Movieline November 1989) is about Andy Warhol. Walter Hopps brought the soup can paintings to California in 1962. Andy made it to the infamous Duchamp opening in 1963, which promted the photo of a naked Eve playing chess with Mr. Duchamp.

Walter Hopps: “… we may have also seen, in Warhol’s studio, work in progress that included one of his first Campbell’s Soup cans. … I said to Warhol, ‘Absolutely, I want to take some of this work for a show in Los Angeles.’ Warhol, who had never been to California, answered with some excitement, ‘Oh, that’s where Hollywood is!’ In the sea of magazines and fanzines scattered on the floor, so deep it was hard to walk around, were all those Photoplay and old-fashioned glamour magazines out of the Hollywood publicity mill. So a show in L.A. sounded great to Warhol. He agreed, and thus the multiple-image soup can show came to Ferus in 1962. Warhol missed that first exhibition of his Pop images, but he finally made it to California in September 1963 for the opening of the Marcel Duchamp retrospective at the Pasadena Art Museum and his own second Ferus show.”

Andy Warhol: “Marcel Duchamp was having a retrospective at the Pasadena Museum and we were invited to that opening … They served pink champagne at the party, which tasted so good that I made the mistake of drinking a lot of it, and on the way home we had to pull over to the side of the road so I could throw up on the flora and fauna. In California, in the cool night air, you even felt healthy when you puked – it was so different from New York.”

Eve gets talking about Edie Sedgwick here. “The next time I saw Edie she was sitting at the bar at Max’s Kansas City with Bob Neuwirth, the famous hippest coolest art type guy of his generation, and again she was crying this time into a gin and tonic. … Suddenly my ambition was to look gorgeous and miserable, but I’m always so thrilled to be anything and do anything in those days. … If you weren’t on speed you weren’t in New York City in the sixties. I was certainly on it. In fact, if you took the speed out of New York in the sixties, it would have been Des Moines. …”

“The world’s most fabulous people were dancing everywhere, and on stage was Nico, the girl lead singer of the Velvets looking down at the audience with eyes that’s all nothing but apolcalyptic collapse and the voice that did nothing but omit a bagpipe like drone.”

“On October 23, 1967, in New York, singer Nico sang with The Velvet Underground. … Nico’s delivery of her material was very flat, deadpan, and expressionless, and she played as though all of her songs were dirges. She seemed as though she was trying to resurrect the ennui and decadence of Weimar, pre-Hitler Germany. Her icy, Nordic image also added to the detachment of her delivery. … In between sets, Frank Zappa got up from his seat and walked up on the stage and sat behind the keyboard of Nico’s B-3 organ. He proceeded to place his hands indiscriminately on the keyboard in a total, atonal fashion and screamed at the top of his lungs, doing a caricature of Nico’s set, the one he had just seen. The words to his impromptu song were the names of vegetables like broccolli, cabbage, asparagus… This “song” kept going for about a minute or so and then suddenly stopped. He walked off the stage and the show moved on.”

Blame it on the VCRs (Smart June 1990) “In the meantime, the gay men and the feminists were in the background, girding their loins against the Farrah Fawcett spun-gold hair of the seventies, trying to ruin everything. And they succeeded. Yes, men were pigs, women were exploited—yet gay men were, well, out of the closet and staying out and up till three in the morning, having more fun than anyone else ever did in the history of mankind. They made straight people jealous.”

Jim Morrison is Dead and Living in Hollywood (Esquire March 1991) Part of the Eve Legend was that she was Jim Morrison’s girlfriend for a while. Nobody is sure how much of that is real. Eve doesn’t really seem to be too terribly impressed with Mr Morrison, who she calls the Bing Crosby from hell. Jimbo was basically a fat drunken asshole. Pamela, the heroin Juliet to Jimbo’s whiskey Romeo, does not seem to be a very nice person.

No matter how chummy Eve was to Jimbo, she did not design any of the Door’s album covers. Eve did do the cover for the Elektra reissue, The Best of Lord Buckley, who may have been the strangest neo-celebrity that ever lived.

I was a Naked Pawn for Art (Esquire September 1991) returns to the infamous picture of naked Eve playing chess with Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp. “The trouble was, I had been taking birth control pills for the first and only time in my life, and not only had I puffed up like a blimp but my breasts had swollen to look like two pink footballs. Plus they hurt. On the other hand it would be a great contrast — this large too-LA surfer girl with an extremely tiny old man in a French suit. Playing chess.”

On page 243, there is a typo. This is something that you see in hard copy. I treasure the moments when I catch a typo. and there he was it was just that they were changing suddenly the had eyes to see.

Life at Chateau Marmont (Esquire January 1992) Then she has a story about Chateau Marmont. of which many stories could be told and hopefully they spray Down the Walls of that hotel and they were doing a renovation of it. “In L.A., the impulse to tear down anything good but old and rebuild it crummy and different is so rampant that the only things anyone tries to restore are women’s faces.”

They Might be Giants Esquire May 1992 (Esquire May 1992) features a photo shoot of four hot, photogenic young actors. Thirty years later, none is a superstar. Being called the next James Dean is somewhat of a curse.

“James Dean was rock and roll before anyone knew it wasn’t a fad, and he was rock and roll before it was Disneyized and turned into role-model material. He was the role model for people who hated role models, and what we still want is more James Dean’s and no one will ever be James Dean enough.”

The trouble with James Byron Dean was that he lived the image, and it f****** killed him. When I was a kid, the one person that “they” held up as a bad example was Joe Namath. When you’re a kid growing up in Georgia, you need bad examples. Today, Broadway Joe is on cable tv, on commercials for medicare insurance. The kids he was a bad example to are buying medicare insurance.

One Response

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  1. rockdoc999 said, on May 11, 2022 at 8:40 am

    Hi and thanks for sending me the quote about Eve’s involvement in Ronstadt’s Heart Like a Wheel album design. I have a picture of that cover among the other Babitz designs.
    Nice article, by the way!

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