Ivy Nicholson: Warhol 's Superstar
Recorded from the Whore Church Program SF Liberation Radio 93.7 FM 9/19 2003. In attendance were Tallulah Bankheist, Ivy Nicholson, Shawn Russo (Ivy's agent), Daniel (a musician, Michael and Joe Donohoe. Ivy Nicholson was a celebrated fashion model in the 50's and 60's before she joined up with the Factory in New York in 1964 to become one of Andy Warhol's starlets. She is currently a mother, a performer and a musician.
Tallulah Bankheist: We're with Ivy Nicholson, Andy Warhol's super starlet, model and actress. How many Warhol movies did you do?
Ivy Nicholson: Don't forget to mention that I'm writing a book.
TB: Oh yes a very good book.
IN: Yes things that happen in my life are funnier than most stories. Things that are unbelievable but true. A bit later on we'll do a song -- Daniel and I -- which is in my book. The song I wrote in the 70's involving Baronet Rothchilds. Are there any snobs listening? You'll love this one.
TB: Call us at 415/648-9222 if you want to raise your hand as a snob listening to Liberation Radio.
S: So who is Ondine?
IN: Ondine was involved in Warhol's movies. You know how they say "cold" this and "cold" that? Ondine was a specialist in "cold" comedy. His sense of comedy was brilliant but he'd do it in his own way. He wasn't an obvious comic. In one movie he played Lyndon Johnson but he appeared sitting on a toilet every time he was seen. The movie was about the Kennedys and me and Susan Bottomly traded off playing Jackie.
TB: Oh I'm so jealous.
IN: Andy told us to run around and just say anything. So we would run around and just say whatever came to the top of our heads. We did not go by a script. Ondine would be Lyndon Johnson sitting on a toilet and we'd go over and insult him. It was from working with Ondine in this movie that I based my song "Ondine Said." Would you like to hear it?
IN: [singing] Ondine said / Love is like a knife in the back / So baby come on / And take me back / Whatever love is / I want it / I like it / I need it / I wanna take a sauna bath with you / I want to walk with you / Under the sky / I don't want to say / Bye bye.
That was about something Ondine said to me. When we were making this film Andy was about six hours late and all of the actors were going to leave so I invented a script and just started rehearsing them. The script I invented was about the different kinds of love. René Ricard played solitary love. Ondine played the judge who would judge the different forms of love. At this time I was living with Ted O'Neill -- the grandson of Eugene O'Neill -- and he was involved as well. Ted wore boxer shorts and I wore a slip and Ondine was our judge. I said to Ondine that love was sweet, like a rose and he said to me "Love is like a knife in the back." I let the actors say whatever even if it wasn't what I told them to say. This song came out of that. Ondine was a brilliant actor.
TB: And you had a husband who was a famous director?
IN: Yes. I was madly in love with Andy during those years but he never fully reciprocated. His attitude was like "I might marry you but it would be a bit odd." I didn't go for that. So despite the fact that I was madly in love with him I ended up marrying John Palmer, the director of Ciao Manhattan.
TB: Which was not an Andy Warhol film?
IN: No. I met John Palmer in the street actually. I couldn't carry all of my luggage and I couldn't pay my taxi bill. He was a very young boy who came to help me. We were married in two weeks.
TB: Oh wow.
IN: He was eighteen and I was 33. No I was 30. We had to go to North Carolina for the ceremony but it was wacky. His ex-lover had to pay for the wedding and was in the wedding photograph wearing a crown of flowers along with me. It wasn't exactly what I was hoping for at the moment. Keep your ex-lover! I don't care.
IN: I'm nuts about gay men. Gay men just do it for me. They can even keep their lovers as long as they come to me once in a while.
TB: That's fine.
IN: Really. I'd rather be with a gay man than a straight man. There's something about me and straight men.
TB: They're uptight. They don't like their nipples played with much.
IN: Who knows? I'm not going to spend the rest of my life trying to find out why.
TB: It's something anal I think.
IN: No! Anal is disgusting.
IN: It's just the effeminacy of gay men. I don't want to see them do it. If they like it they can do it but I just think love, if you have a strong love, you have to let people be happy with themselves.
TB: Right. I agree.
IN: There're all sorts of rumors. There was a famous man -- I won't say who -- who almost became a king of his country. He liked to be spanked and wore baby outfits. There are some very famous prominent people who are very kinky. If you want a love that lasts you have to tolerate what people are into.
TB: That's not surprising to me.
IN: You like this and that and whatever -- okay. Me I like gay men but I like a gay man who can also do it with a woman -- a woman who is a bit masculine. Andy said to me once that the reason he loved me is that I was more masculine than all his boyfriends. I think that's so cute.
TB: That is a sexy trait. A lot of men like more masculine women or women that can think like a man.
IN: Even straight men?
TB: Even straight men.
IN: Oh you're right. I never thought of that.
TB: Ivy tell us about your son's work and your daughter.
IN: Yes I have one son who is with a production company called Iconoclast. He sings. I have another son impersonating John Lennon in a Beatles orchestra in Paris.
IN: He was doing that when he was 16. Now he's 42. He wouldn't stop playing when he first started even though he couldn't hit the right notes. We would put cotton in our ears. Now he's great. I think that someone should do a record of him.
TB: What's his name?
IN: His name is Darius du Poleon. His full name is Runo St. Georges du Poleon. My first husband, Darius' father, is a French count and Darius is a vicomt. The French really aren't that bad. I'm going to talk about politics. Paris is full of Arabs. Do you want to know how many Arab lovers I had while I lived in Paris?
TB: How many?
IN: Quite a few. I lived for years with a Tunisian. He was a really good lover. On September 11th I was in an Arab bar in Paris with no non-Arabs besides myself. I thought "My God I'm going to be murdered." So I went to the bar and I said "I'll have a whiskey, a Gin and Tonic, a glass of red wine, a beer" and then it's all blank. I woke up the next morning in bed with Kahil and he said "I agree with you. It's the Algerians who are murdering each other over women's fashions."
TB: "Oh God I can't stand that dress! Stab!
IN: Kahil told me he had run away from Algeria. He said that he liked women, he liked alcohol, he liked enjoying himself. And we did it. We made love. We were two frightened people thinking of the terrorism in New York. An Arab and an American did it -- made love. He told me -- after I had blacked out -- that I sang another song which was really good -- a peace song. Kahil further went on to say that everyone in the bar loved me. This is when I thought that I would surely be shot. When I speak French my accent is very American and there was a lot of anti-American sentiment in Paris then. The American Embassy was surrounded by police and people had been fighting in front of it. Anyway I sang this peace song by a French guy who will get credit when he sends me a copy: [singing] "I'm going to hide myself / In a stack of hay / In a granier / I'm going to make love / thinking of peace / Le Pays / My momma taught me magique."
And that saved my life. Why doesn't it save the f'ing world's life? Right now the world is an f'ing mess.
TB: You can say "fucking" on my radio show. It's allright. Go ahead and say "fucking." Say anything you want.
IN: No I'd rather say "f'ing."
IN: They've got to build a wall in Israel. They've just been killing each other for centuries. Why don't they cut it out? Just stop it. Build a wall and stick with your own kind. Why try to make peace when you never will? That's just for idiots to believe.
S: They need to have Hindus or Sikhs guarding Jerusalem. People who have no religious investment in the place.
IN: No I think Arabs locked up should be given thirteen wives or whatever they want in jail -- make a funny jail. I have made passionate love with Jews and I have made passionate love with Arabs and I just think war is obnoxious. If you can't get along then just separate right? Just like with battered women. They tell battered women: "Leave him or he's going to kill you." The Jews and the Arabs are the same way. Just separate.
S: Just have Hindu guards around Jerusalem and only allow one Jew, one Christian and one Moslem in at a time so they can visit their particular shrines.
IN: Well that's a completely different idea from mine but whatever works.
TB: I have a question for you Shawn Russo.
TB: You were talking about Jackie Curtis before we went on air and you were talking about meeting her before she died.
SR: Yeah eleven days before. He/she's mentioned in the Lou Reed song "Take a Walk on the Wild Side." I think the lyric goes "Jackie thought she was James Dean for a Day."
TB: Uh huh.
SR: When I met him at a party in New York eleven days before he died. He was doing his final play Champagne. He did this really great play one time called Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit. He was really a prolific playwrite and he was part of the Warhol crowd in the late sixties with Candy Darling. Lou Reed apparently had a fondness for people like Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis. So I met Jackie. I was going through a relationship break-up. I was wearing these dark glasses because my eyes were swollen and a friend came in and said "You have to get out. You should come to my party." So I went to this party and Jackie came in and he -- well it's kind of embarassing -- but he did that thumbs together Hollywood framing a person's face thing and he said "You're Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's." Eleven days later he died and a huge obituary was written about him in the New York Times which said Audrey Hepburn was his favorite actress and Breakfast at Tiffany's was his favorite movie. He was buried in glitter. I thought that was very cool.
TB: That's amazing. I love that. Now spotlight back to Ivy Nicholson. I'd like to hear something about your book.
IN Oh yes. There is a part of a book I did with Daniel. In this book there are disillusioned loves and real loves. As a matter-of-fact my biggest love was Andy Warhol. I met someone who resembles him and guess what? I'm nuts about him. He's one of the owners of Asia SF -- he reminds me of Andy and I go there to dance because I feel there's the same kind of life there. Andy used to be the chief of a certain group.
TB: You know what's going to happen? He's going to get all these groupies that think he's like Andy.
IN: They'll be jam packed every night. But no he reminds me of Andy. If Andy is in hell I'll say to God -- if I ever get to heaven who knows -- but if Andy's in hell I'll say to God "send me to hell. I want to be with Andy." I still love him.
TB: Can you rattle off a list of movies you were in from the Warhol days?
IN: The movies let's see: Thirteen Most Beautiful Women, The Wives of Dracula, Nymphomania -- which I wasn't.
TB: Ha ha ha.
IN: No. Andy always tried to break me up with anyone I would go out with yet he wouldn't do it to me all the way. We had passionate flirtation but nothing more.
TB: He got a woody when you wore a mini-skirt is that true?
IN: Oh yes. He got really excited and everyone would kid him about it. He didn't have time to stick a banana down his pants so there it was. This happened every time I wore a mini-skirt. Look at my legs!
TB: Oh yes fabulous legs. You look great by the way.
IN: I might as well show them. The way to turn a gay guy straight is wear a mini-skirt and see what happens. Oh well that's what happened for me.
The other movies were Couch, Other Women, 24-Hour Movie.
S: What were you doing before you did films with Warhol?
IN: I was doing films in Italy. Casanova with a white wig. It was ridiculous. There was a film called Liz Bandati with Jean Pierre Mocqui and I think Lucia Bozet.
S: Did you ever meet Fellinni?
IN: I did. He considered me for 8 1/2. He wanted me. He came to Paris to meet me. We took a taxi cab ride together and he liked me a lot and then I went and slashed my wrists over Tony Perkins so he was kind of afraid that I might jump off a building or something. You don't book an actress who is suicidal.
IN: But I stopped being suicidal in the sixties. I haven't attempted since then anyway. I want to mention Sean Bolger -- another son of mine. He works in LA and he's too shy. As his mamma I'm always yelling at him saying "Push yourself. You're the son of Larry Shore who is the son of Sam Shore -- one of the most famous film photographers in the world." My son did the first photos of Cameron Diaz that got for her roles and he won't say it on the Internet. Well I'll say it. Mamma said it on the radio. He's a brilliant photographer: Sean Bolger.
TB: He did Cameron Diaz?
IN: Yes the photographs that got her roles but he's just too shy to admit it.
TB: You have a son who has a band called Stage Fright.
IN: Yes he's John Palmer's son. We had twins. One has olive skin and those Asian looks and she's 5'8''. He's about 6' 2'' -- very handsome. Very white skin, very pale blue eyes and blonde hair. He sings and filmed his twin sister the other day. He came over and filmed us doing all kinds of things -- singing.
TB: You used to perform with his band as well.
IN: No just once in a while I do but we fight too much. Once in a while I perform with them but not too often.
TB: Let's hear your Italian song.
IN: Okay. This is in Neapolitan slang, it's not like Roman Italian. [singing] Cuando mamma te ta fatta / cuando mamma te ta fatta / le voy sa vray como facheta / voy sa vray como facheta / ni pa nada ge na gena / ni pa nada ga na gena / ah como ta fa tu mamma / oh suh omalio vay. Neapolitan slang. I can do it in Portuguese too even though I don't speak Portuguese.
S: One thing that comes across about Andy Warhol in interviews and in the way that David Bowie presents him as being in the fictional film about Basquiat is that he seemed very innocent and childlike. Was he really like that or was that a front?
IN: He wasn't acting. He was afraid of everything. He would have people show up for an interview and for a whole hour he would say things like "What are you wearing under your coat?" to me and I'd say I was wearing a slip. Everybody else would have to do the talking. He'd have his ideas but he wasn't very open with them. It was not an act. He was just kind of shy or afraid. He would just do things like that. He'd let everyone else talk and they'd talk. He didn't care. He was one of the most interesting people I ever met. He wasn't a nine to five person. He would arrive at the Factory at 12 and stay up all night long -- go out with people and have fun. He'd flirt with me and soul kiss with me for an hour in a car. He'd walk with me in front of his stupid boyfriends risking both of our lives because the stupid boyfriend would be saying "I'll kill you. I'll kill you." He was courageous but at the same time he was kind of shy. I'm not imagining it. I knew him well enough. He wasn't putting on an act.
S: Did you observe any of the conversations between him, Lou Reed, Victor Bockris and William S. Burroughs in the 80's?
IN: No. I left in '69. I was there from '62 to '69. I said you marry me or I'm leaving. I had a custody lawsuit with my first husband the count over my son Darius and I wanted my son and I won. In the book wait until you see the stuff I did. Pretty daring but I did quite a few things to get back the custody of my son -- not all of them were legal.
S: How many countries have you lived in?
IN: I've traveled in 17 countries. The most fascinating was Persia/Iran. I met the royal family of Iran and I have a very high opinion of them, much higher than that guy with the turban who thinks he's God and all the monstrosities that happened under his regime. I think he's a piece of whatever. I liked the Shah and his family. Whenever I say this people go: "Oh no he did this, he did that." Sorry I was there. They were not materialists. They were beautiful people and I got to know them and guess what? The Shah's twin sister just adored Americans and she had the right idea. Now it's all hatred, hatred, hatred. Everybody hates everybody. It's all absurd. Everybody hates Bush. Not me. I voted for him. I'll vote for him again. Mrs. Bush is against women getting acid thrown in their face. Those men are a bunch of fucking -- I said it -- pigs. They beat their women up, they stone them to death, even when they only suspect them of being unfaithful. They have no freedom and those jerks are saying we don't want Americans. Wake up! Americans are freeing your women, they're helping them! How stupid can you get? They're giving you a county without all those monstrosities.
Michael: All we want is the oil.
IN: And somebody is going to say it's for money. Well say anything you want. I believe they had to do what they considered good. You can believe anything. You can believe it's for oil if you want to.
TB: You don't have to defend your beliefs.
IN: I don't care! That's what I believe. I believe that they sincerely wanted to help those people. Why blow up innocent people in the towers? That's pretty obnoxious. It's not like declaring war and then some innocent people die by accident that nobody wanted to kill. This was killing innocent people on purpose. War is stupid anyway. Somebody should forbid wars, all wars, somehow. This was a different thing. They were killing their own people. Look what they've done to their own women.
TB: It's pretty fucked up.
IN: I think Laura Bush is a really brilliant woman to have helped with this situation.
S: On another subject did you ever hang out with Edie Sedgwick?
IN: No we were definitely not on the same plane. I admired her beauty. She might have admired my beauty. I was filmed in her apartment once but we were never close. Nico was a friend of mine. I adored Nico. She made a whole fantasy out of every apartment that she lived in. She'd have different colored veils all over the walls. She could play the harpsichord and she'd dress like an ancient Greek woman in long flowing dresses with either bright red hair or as a blonde. She was totally intriguing like a goddess and I absolutely adored her.
TB: She was a really good artist too.
IN: Of course. She was a wonderful artist absolutely. I think the drugs kind of did her in because she took the wrong ones.
S: She died in a bicycle accident.
IN: Well that's another one. Methadone is a drug to get off heroin and she died on methadone.
TB: But it wasn't the methadone that did it. I think she had a brain hemorrhage.
IN: She fell off the bike and hit her head.
TB: But it wasn't the hitting of the head. She had a brain hemorrhage while riding her bike.
Can you tell us about any of the others around like Jackie Curtis or Candy Darling?
IN: Well see I was so madly in love with Andy that I didn't hardly see or care about any of them. There they were and I thought well isn't he good looking or isn't she pretty but I was starry-eyed looking at Andy. That's it. I'm often asked did I know any of them. I didn't care. I didn't want to. I wasn't interested. They might all be interesting but I wasn't interested. He was the only one I saw.
I think Billy Linnick is an interesting photographer. Even though he wasn't a fashion photographer there are photos he took of me that he exhibited that are very good.
TB: There are some very fabulous photos of you on the Internet as well.
TB: A cover of Harper's Bizarre. If you do a search on Ivy Nicholson on the Internet you'll come up with these pictures. There's one where you are in a ball gown running down a small road.
IN: That's one taken in Italy. They sell these photos in Germany and Italy. I can't believe it. My fame just goes on and on. Hey some producer do a record because I'm an icon! Even when I am no longer on this planet I will still be very famous and that record will sell. Do it! Earn some money. You'll be able to make some money. You'll be able to sell it forever.
TB: Tell me about some of the magazines you were in. You did modeling for a while?
IN: We had seasons where we were up at six and went to bed at three. I'm not joking -- just working all day long. The funniest thing that happened -- this was during the off season -- I showed up to work in a sheet since I had nothing to wear. Everything was at the cleaners. I had a booking for Vogue so I thought "What will I do?" So I took a sheet, draped it around myself, put a black plastic belt on with black high heels, called a cab and went to Vogue and they said: "Well you look good even in just a sheet." That was really funny.
I had a lot of portraits done of me as well. The best one hangs in the Somme Castle. I commissioned Ernst Fuchs. I keep trying to get a hold of him. Well he's definitely in Heaven. He was such a brilliant painter. He did my portrait and it took a year. That's how long it took me to do Andy's portrait: one entire year. Once I was taking it from Paris to Rome and they said: "You can't go in with that. That's either a Botticelli or a Van Eyke. I said "Look I'm not going to strip and prove it's me. Then I held my hair out as I had it in the painting and they said "Oh yeah," and let me through with my portrait. I had it hanging at my place in the Village when they were stealing everything and I had to sell it to Count Peter Somme -- who is now also in heaven -- but the portrait is now hanging in his castle in Austria.
Salvador Dali also did my portrait.
TB: I was going to ask about him earlier.
IN: I'd heard a lot of naughty things about him. He was a voyeur. He used to look at people and touch himself.
TB: In public?
IN: Well under a napkin or something. That was his thing. He told me he had only penetrated his wife but that was part of his genius of communicating with other people.
TB: [laughs] That's genius huh? That's what it's called?
IN: I tricked him. I heard that he used to tell people that he was going to paint their portrait so he would get a canvas and have them strip and do it to himself and then, after the pose, they'd expect to see the painting and they'd see nothing. This would be totally humiliating. So I tricked him. I called Milton Gunne to photograph me being painted which forced him to do my portrait because he was nuts about publicity. He actually did do a beautiful portrait in charcoal.
TB: Where is it?
IN: Well I called Joshua who sold all of Dali's paintings and if someone finds out who bought it I'd like to know because I don't know.
S: I heard that Dali and Lorca were boyfriends when they were young and that Gala took him away from Lorca and converted him to Fascism and while Dali got rich and famous Lorca got shot in the butt by Franco's boys.
IN: I never heard that story but there's a lot of things I never heard of. I never heard much about Dali's political opinions. He was like a baby. He had a secretary that woke him up at a certain hour and put him in front of the easel. He was paid to put Dali in front of the easel and not let him leave the room until he had painted.
Can I talk about politics again?
TB: Oh please!
IN: I talked about how I voted for Bush and I adore him. I really do but, however, in one of my songs I get angry with him and I tell him: Why go to war? Why not just hire the mob like they did in the thirties? They let Lucky Luciano out of jail and he shot the villain. Terrorists are villains. The American public are all criticizing him anyway. Every talk show host is criticizing the president so why doesn't he just go: "Hey I'm going to listen to Ivy Nicholson and hire the mob." Now you won't have wars anymore you'll just hire the mob and let's see if they can do it or else I wouldn't even tell the American public. I would just do it and take care of business.
TB: You said this at a party?
IN: No I was saying it at a very big, posh hotel which I won't say the name of. I sang this because I believe it. If Lucky Luciano saved America why not do it again? Just tell the American public: "Oh you're all yelling at me but who the hell are you? I'm the one standing here risking my life for you so give me a little bit of respect. If you must know everything, which I don't think you should know everything since all you do is criticize -- or else tell them, or don’t tell them. There are two guys you want: Ben Laden and Saddam Hussein. Try the mob. Don't tell the American public. They will condemn you no matter what you do. You're sitting there and you're trying to be nice and explain to everybody and all you get is criticism. Everybody makes fun of you. So why don't you listen to Ivy Nicholson. I'll be President Bush's political advisor.
TB: "Hire the mob."
IN: I turned it into a song: [singing] Who are you trying to kid? / Everyone hates war / War no more / Why don’t you just hire the mob? / Don't you stupid assholes remember / When Lucky Luciano saved America? / So why don't you do the same thing? / And win and win and win? / Get it, get it, get it?
I actually worked for the mob as a dancer. I was a virgin and they kept me a virgin so I have some respect for them. They were fine They gave me a job as a dancer in Florida.
Right now I have something that I've been thinking about and I've never had the courage to say it but I am going to say it. Some people will agree and some people won't but… Elizabeth Taylor's cause is AIDS right? That's her big charity cause and she works hard to raise money to find medicines. I have met two guys on the Metro and I was talking about the subject and they said they had I for 15 years -- one of them -- and the other for 18. But when I see the photos of Barbara Streisand looking like a total wreck because her son got it you know what? Everyone should be forced to be tested at a certain age and get a tattoo. You know so if you're madly attracted to someone, even if you open the crack in their butt you've got a sign there. They should be tattooed with a real tattoo that won't wash off because some people are innocent victims.
I have met people in San Francisco, one young gay guy who went to a bar and guess what? The other guy didn't tell him and now he's dying at a very young age. So Elizabeth instead of only collecting the money -- which I worship you for -- try that. You have more pull than I do. Try coming up with a way that people can tell or think of something else. Just some way that you can tell because people are so afraid they've given up having sex altogether. It used to be fun to have freedom and now it's turned into well does he? Does she? It's not as romantic as it used to be.
TB: So tattoo your ass.
IN: Something. Some way you can tell before you go trolloping off with someone.
S: Former presidential hopeful Lyndon LaRuche wanted ass tattoos on people with AIDS. He thought that should be the law.
IN: It should be! Some place. There are other ways of having sex or else you get a partner with it if you have AIDS. Instead of "I don't want to know." I think that that's disgusting. They don't want to know so in other words they go out and they kill someone. I don't think that's a solution. So Elizabeth we're calling on you. You hear me?
TB: You're the poster girl for butt tattoos on AIDS carriers.
IN: No I don't have it but I gave up sex.
TB: And you love gay men.
IN: As a matter of fact I'm going to get married soon because I think that might be one way of avoiding it.
S: What about all the Arabs you mentioned though?
IN: I don't think it existed at that moment. Well I didn't have that many Arab lovers. I had Mustafa and Barak of Tunisia for a few years and Kahil. That was during a month's stay in Paris and we were only together for two weeks and it was very political. He was an Arab who didn't agree with the terrorists at all. He liked the modern way of life and there were many of them who were that way. So if you hate somebody don't hate their whole world.
S: Only hate aspects.
IN: Yeah. Some are good and some are bad in every race. If we could all just hate war and try to figure out ways to make peace. But terrorists blowing up innocent people.
S: You could say minarets cool/female circumcision not cool.
S: You can take what you like from someone's culture and leave out what you don't like. That art is cool, the literal interpretation of the Koran has its problems. Chopping someone's hand off for masturbating is not cool.
IN: They do that?
S: I'm not sure they do that but fundamentalist Islamic law is pretty heavy.
IN: Well I don't believe in masturbation. I believe masturbation is self-abuse.
IN: I do. I read it in a magic book. I've met multi-millionaires and they have very important rare books and in one of these books I've read that masturbation is self-abuse. I'm getting pushed toward marriage. I hope it's soon. I'm anticipating it. Even the sexual part of it. Of course we'll be tested first -- or look at each other's butt tattoos.
Can't we all be happy in the world?
Ivy Nicholson currently can be reached at PO Box 493 / Circle, MT 59215back