Ben and Rags were part of the 70’s Polk Street/Chicken Little’s/Matinee social scene until they moved to New York around 1977. Ben went to work for Andy Warhol. Rags did something too, though I can’t remember exactly what other than laughing a lot and having a good time.
Rags and Ben were close with Halston and his partner Victor Hugo. They partied with them at their Lenox Hill home and vacationed with them out in Montauk. When Victor gave him the Jackie note, Rags immediately thought of my collection. The next time he was in San Francisco he presented it to me.
Jackie’s note writing was mentioned by Senator Kennedy when he eulogized her. “At the end, she worried more about us than herself. She let her family and friends know she was thinking of them. How cherished were those wonderful notes in her distinctive hand on her powder blue stationary.”
We’ll find out just how cherished when the hammer comes down at Bonhams.
The wedding invitation, 1953
The place setting menu for the State Dinner where Pablo Casals played. He’d previously performed at the White House in 1904 but vowed never again after the US recognized the Franco regime. Jackie coaxed him back. There’s a coffee stain on the back which leads me to believe this was Ethel’s.
In his diaries, Warhol mentions being at one of Jackie’s annual Christmas parties and how Warren Beatty cornered her to whisper raunchy nothings into her ear. Jackie dismissed him with a cool, “Oh Warren.”
The Sexiest Man Alive of 1988’s birth announcement
Reading between the lines one can almost hear her huge sigh of relief
Herb Caen ran a piece on Mrs. O being unhappy with her manicurist selling her Christmas note to a Manhattan book shop. The next time I was in New York I visited the store and, amazingly, it was still available.
I walked to North Beach to check the address where Vince Young asked us to mail our rent checks. One neighbor thought it might just be a mailbox and he was right, it was a UPS store. Seemed a little fishy.
After doing my detective work, I walked up Columbus and stumbled across Bimbo’s. I was somewhat surprised it was still there given most neighborhood icons of its era were gone. I remembered Harry Fireside’s birthday party there, Brian Fedorow’s fashion show, and the book signing for Ming Vase’s Warhol book. And the music through the years: Wanda Jackson, James Brown, and my favorite, Iggy Pop.
In 1974 Iggy was touring to promote his Raw Power album. It had met with almost universal disdain and he was completely underappreciated at the time. The spiritual status he would attain with the punks was still a few years away. He was operating on the periphery of pop but I loved the album and the stories of his performances.
The tale that burned deepest was of him at Max’s, belly sliding across a stage that was covered with shards of glass. He then jumped up and did the whole set with blood streaming down his torso. To me it was ultimate show business, suffering for your audience. He spit it up and chewed it out and did it his way.
The night I saw him we were loaded on qualudes. Plus whatever the trendy cocktail of the month was. The opening act was the Tubes whose simulated outrageousness included fake blood that got all over everything. Including my thin white duke, double pleated, cream-colored linen pants. After their staged theatrics, the real outrage took the stage. 60 minutes of non-stop three chord pounding.
Iggy was mercurial and provocatively dressed in army boots and tiny gold lame briefs. Tiny. Amply filled lame briefs. At one point he came to the side of the stage I was clinging to and started his pelvic thrusts right in front of me. I thought, “this is Iggy Pop, anything goes” so I reached up to grab his briefs and pull them down. In an instant I felt a fist in my cheek. Iggy bent down and yelled in my face, “DON’T DO THAT!”
I was a little disappointed that I’d discovered he had limits but medicated enough that I didn’t really suffer. Afterwards someone told me that he was probably afraid of the whole Jim Morrison indecent exposure thing. The cops would love nothing more than to bust him on some trumped-up charge. So I let it go, it didn’t really matter. He hit me and it felt like a kiss.
A year or so later we were at the Haven on Polk and California where everyone went for breakfast after the bars. We found a place close to the back and as we were seated I noticed the table behind us. It was this business student preppy guy with mousey brown hair and a very straight looking couple (as in bourgeois, not sexuality. But probably that too.)
The guy looked so familiar, I kept mulling it over until I realized it was Iggy. Obsessed, I wouldn’t shut up about it at our table. He was a far cry from his bleached blonde, naked street fighter stage persona but I was positive it was him in disguise. Finally my friend asked me, “what’s his real name?”
He got up, walked over and asked “Excuse me, are you James Osterberg? “ Iggy smiled and said yes. They motioned for me to come over and I told him the Bimbo’s story. He was immediately apologetic and very gracious. He pulled out a napkin from the dispenser to write on. Instead of an autograph he did a drawing. It was a heart/face with the words “I love you,” and at the bottom “don’t ever forget me.”