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Warhol Superstars: A Who's Who of the Factory Scene
Andy Warhol had his muses just like the next art bro...
Art Stuff 23 Aug 2018

Andy Warhol, the pop icon who gave us soup cans and Superstars, might have been shy and reclusive by nature, but he had his muses just like the next art bro. His most publicized influences might have been the Marilyns and Maos of the world, but the shy illustrator-turned-painter kept company with the most dazzling young women of his day at his favorite New York City haunts like Max’s Kansas City and, of course, the Factory.

Many of these stunners appeared not just on Andy’s arm but also in his underground films, the most famous being Chelsea Girls, giving them the nickname “Andy’s Superstars.” Though best known for their time in Warhol’s inner circle, some becoming icons by association, these women had lives and careers before and after the heyday of the Factory scene, so to shine a light them, we’ve put together a roster of the Factory’s who’s-who.

Baby Jane Holzer
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Before there was Edie, there was Baby Jane, “Girl of the Year” and Andy’s first Superstar. Jane Holzer was a self-proclaimed bored Park Avenue housewife and socialite when she ran into Warhol on Lexington Avenue. “Do you want to be in movies?”, he asked, and sure enough, she did. Two days later, they began shooting Soap Opera.

Jane didn’t run with the Factory social scene as much as the later superstars, put off by their eccentricity and drug use. But in spite of this (or maybe because of it), her friendship with Warhol was one of most stable and long lasting of all the women in his life, lasting well into old age.

Her acting career beyond Andy was short-lived; in 1979, Jane made an appearance in a musical called Got Tu Go Disco, which ran for only five days. But that’s not to say that her work in film began and ended with Warhol—she went on to produce several films, most recently Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers.

As a tribute to her Factory days, in 1984 Jane opened an ice cream shop called Sweet Baby Jane’s in Palm Beach, Florida, and Andy himself graced the opening. Alas, the ice cream business wasn’t for her, and today, Jane Holzer spends her days in her lavish Upper East Side apartment, stuffed with Warhols, of course.

Edie Sedgwick
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Perhaps the most iconic of the Superstars, and by far the most famous in the mainstream, Edie Sedgwick became the 60s It Girl partly through her relationship with Warhol. But don’t be fooled: Andy didn’t make her who she was; he just opened up for her a new world—and a new stage.

A wild child from a family of American patricians, Edie grew up on the West Coast before trading the Cambridge collegiate scene for downtown, determined to become the biggest star in New York. Her strained relationship with her family had a profound impact on her short but brilliant life.

When she arrived on the scene, Edie was charming, with magnetic good looks that floored everyone she came across, hungry for fame and affection. Soon, she met a man at a party who promised her both: Andy Warhol. It was March 1965, and Andy was just beginning to get into underground filmmaking, searching for the perfect new face to make into his next star. When he offered Edie a role in one of his films, she saw her chance to become what she had always wanted: a bohemian icon, the opposite of everything her background stood for. She took him up on the offer, appearing in a number of his films over the next several years, including Vinyl, Horse, Poor Little Rich Girl, a film written around her life, Kitchen, Beauty No. 2, Outer and Inner Space, Prison, Lupe and Chelsea Girls. Before long, everyone in New York was breathless over the mod Marilyn.

Edie and Andy were a legendary duo, not least because each had what the other wanted: she beauty, money and high-society ties, he art-world clout, downtown world and avant-garde ideas. But as good things so often do, their relationship burned fast and bright and then began to crumble just as quickly, partly under the strain of her drug use, which was spiraling out of control. After she finally broke with the Factory, Edie moved into the Chelsea Hotel, the city’s bohemian roost, where she fell under the spell of Bob Dylan. No one may ever know what really went on between them—Dylan secretly married his girlfriend while they knew each other, but Just Like a Woman and Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat are almost certainly about Edie—but what’s certain is that Dylan later denied the affair that ravaged her heart.

Even without Andy, she continued to work on her acting career, the goal always being mainstream fame, but despite talk of filming a movie with Dylan, Ciao! Manhattan turned out to be her only non-Factory film. As her health and drug use went from bad to worse, Edie did, in fact, leave Manhattan to convalesce at her family ranch in California. After a considerable stretch of sobriety, during which she married marriage to Michael Post, a fellow patient at Cottage Hospital, in 1970, Edie began using drugs and alcohol again when she was prescribed painkillers for a physical illness. She died from an unexpected overdose one night after drinking at a party in Santa Barbara. She was 28. By then, Edie had achieved such cult fame that she continues to inspire pop culture and art references, most notably George Hickenlooper 2006 film, Factory Girl, an embellished account of her short and tumultuous life.

Nico
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Nico, née Christa Paggen in Cologne, Germany, first crossed paths with Andy Warhol at the start of 1966, when she arrived in New York to pursue a modeling and singing career. In the ‘50s, she made a name for herself in Paris (literally, she adopted the alias Nico after a friend’s French lover) by modeling and appearing in several acting roles, the most famous in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. She had a son by a man who was either Alain Delon or an Alain Delon look-alike, a boy named Ari who would later appear alongside his mother in Warhol’s Chelsea Girls.

More so than for her roles in Andy’s films, Nico is best known for her time with the Velvet Underground. Stunningly beautiful, she looked every bit the frontwoman they were searching for; Lou Reed wouldn’t do for the face of the band, both his singing and personality being somewhat lacking. Even though her voice was deemed too harsh and “German” at the outset, Nico went on to appear on many of the Velvets’ most famous tracks on their album The Velvet Underground and Nico (Warhol produced the album and designed the cover, inspiring many a t-shirt and college dorm poster).

Nico always wanted to be known as a serious artist in her own right, so she soon left the Velvets and to make her own music, touring extensively around Europe and even Japan. Still, she remains best known for tracks like “Sunday Morning” and “Heroin,” which, incidentally, she used and abused for much of her later life. Even her drug habit destroying her looks didn’t faze her—being called beautiful had always rubbed her the wrong way, and she embraced her heroin-ravaged face as part of her artistic persona.

Over the 70s and 80s, Nico recorded six solo albums, Chelsea Girl, The Marble Index, Desertshore, The End…, Drama of Exile and Camera Obscura, collaborating with the most illustrious names of rock n’ roll of the day, like John Cale of The Velvet Underground and Brian Eno of Roxy Music. Though her focus stayed on her solo act, she played several reunion concerts with the Velvets. Continuing to dabble in acting, she also appeared in several films by the French director Philippe Garrel, with whom she had a relationship in the 70s.

The last year of Nico’s life is dramatized in the biopic Nico, 1988. Nearing 50, she hit the road one last time for a comeback tour around Europe, ending with a vacation with her son in Ibiza to rest and recuperate. Biking into town to buy some weed, she suffered a heart attack and hit her head on the fall, dying in a hospital that evening. In a sad and ironic twist of fate, by that point, she had kicked her heroin addiction and was making an effort to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Ingrid Superstar
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Warhol and co. found Ingrid Von Scheflin in a downtown bar to teach Edie a lesson. An office temp from Jersey, Ingrid came from a humble, working-class background, an off-brand Edie made up, styled and christened “Ingrid Superstar,” “just an invention to make Edie feel horrible,” in the words of Factory scene poet and artist Rene Ricard.

And though feel horrible Edie did, being known as “the ugly Edie” couldn’t have been nice for Ingrid either. Still, she went on to have a long career in Warhol’s movies, appearing in Chelsea Girls, I, Man, Hedy, Since, The Nude Restaurant, Four Stars, the twenty-four hour film, San Diego Surf and The Mind Blowers.

Two decades after the peak of the Factory scene found Ingrid living in Kingston, New York where, according to Ultra Violet, had “ballooned up to nearly two hundred pounds, floated in and out of prostitution and drug dealing, and was at one point judged mentally disabled.” One morning in 1987, she went out to buy cigarettes, leaving her false teeth and fur coat at home, and never came home. Her disappearance remains a mystery to this day.

Brigid Berlin
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Another daughter of a wealthy New York family, Brigid was the black sheep of the Berlin clan, a self-proclaimed “overweight troublemaker” when all her mother wanted was for her to be a “slim respectable socialite.” Known for her pugs and, in true Factory fashion, her copious drug use (a doctor gave Brigid her first speed pills when she was only 11), she fell in with Andy and the Factory crowd while she was living at the Chelsea Hotel. The two would talk on the phone for hours, and Bridig appeared in an impressive number of his films: Chelsea Girls, Bike Boy, Imitation of Christ, Four Stars, The Loves of Ondine, The Nude Restaurant, Tub Girls, Phoney, Fight and Andy Warhol’s Bad, as well as Ciao! Manhattan with Edie Sedgwick.

But Berlin had some avant-garde art projects of her own, her signature double-exposed Polaroids (she claims she invented the selfie) nearly as iconic as her cock book and her tit paintings. Inspired by the “trip books” that were all the rage in the heyday of acid, Brigid made one of her own—but with one twist. The resulting cock book became a collective effort; she would bring it to Max’s Kansas City or the Factory, where some of the most illustrious contributors included Leonard Cohen, Richard Avedon, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Her tit paintings were also quite the sensation. The technique was simple: Brigid simply and unceremoniously took off her top, dipped her breasts in paint and pressed them down onto the canvas.

Today, Berlin still lives in New York City with her two pugs, India and Africa. Her collection of Polaroids was published in 2015 by Reel Art Press, and the Strand bookstore in New York held a talk in honor of the publication.

Viva
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Susan Hoffman grew up in New York in a conservative family—she even considered becoming a nun, but instead went on to become the first non-anonymous actress to have sex on camera. Viva, as Warhol christened her, launched her acting career with Ciao! Manhattan, and later approached Andy about being in one of his movies. He obliged, as long as she agreed to take of her blouse. Viva appeared in several of Andy’s movies, including Tub Girls, Bike Boy, The Nude Restaurant, Lonesome Cowboys and Blue Movie, the film that ushered in “porno chic.” Between improvised dialogue between Viva and Louis Waldon about Nixon and the Vietnam War, the two performed sexual acts on camera, causing much scandal and attracting obscenity charges.

After her relationship with Warhol fizzled (she kept in close contact with his mother while he was hospitalized from Valerie Solanas’ gun wound, leading him to accuse her of trying to spy on her), Viva went on to act in films by the likes of Agnès Varda and Woody Allen. She also wrote two books, Superstar, an insider’s account of life in the Factory, and The Baby, and contributed writing to publications like The Village Voice and New York Woman. Her video work puts her in the ranks with video art pioneers of the day (Viva studied art in college and was a painter before she was an actress). Eventually, she left New York to settle in California with her husband, and she lives in Palm Springs today, painting landscapes.

Ultra Violet
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Like Viva, Ultra Violet grew up in a highly conservative environment, but across the pond in France. Born Isabelle Collin Dufresne, she went to Catholic school before studying art and ending up in New York. Before meeting Andy and the Factory scene, Dufresne was the muse, confidante and lover of none other than surrealist giant Salvador Dalí. In the 1960s, she began to gravitate towards the emerging pop art scene and was introduced to Warhol by Dalí himself. Like the other superstars, Ultra Violet, named so by Warhol after the shade of her signature purple hairstyle, appeared in her fair share of underground films (I, Man and Four Stars, among others), but like Baby Jane, she kept a safe distance from the hard-partying lifestyle of the core Factory crowd. In fact, a near-death experience sent her down a quest for spiritual growth that culminated in her being baptized into the Church of Latter-Day Saints. She continued her own art practice over the course of her life and died in 2014 from cancer at the ripe old age of 78. Her memoir, Famous for Fifteen Minutes, chronicles her time with the Warhol scene.

Candy Darling

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Candy was born in Queens as James Lawrence Slattery, but her early attraction to movie stars, women’s clothing and gay bars soon made it clear to her and everyone around her that being a man just wasn’t her thing. Bullied mercilessly at school, she found refuge with the downtown Manhattan scene centered around Greenwich Village, where she soon became a trans icon. She began taking hormone injections and, after cycling through several new names, landed on Candy Darling, a tribute to her love for sweets and a nod to a friend that always called her “darling.” She met Warhol while starring in a play by Jackie Curtis, and went on to act in Flesh and Women in Revolt. Though she appeared in many more independent films, she never successfully went mainstream, although she did manage to captivate the Velvet Underground, who wrote a song, “Candy Says,” about her. She died when she was only 29 from lymphoma, claiming she was “bored to death” of life.

Text by Katya Lopatko
Images via AnOther Mag, Morrison Hotel Gallery, YouTube, Pinterest, The Cut, Revolver Gallery and Maureen Paley

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