Remembering Hollywood icon Eve Babitz, in her own words

The writer, who chronicled ’60s and’ 70s California in novels such as Slow Days, Fast Company, has died at age from 78

Eve Babitz, the cult writer who chronicled the ups and downs of Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s, has died aged 78. In a statement shared with the Associated press Earlier today, Babitz biographer Lili Anolik confirmed that she passed away on Friday, December 17, following a resurgence in the popularity of her work in recent years.

Babitz was born in Hollywood, California in 1943 to classical violinist Sol Babitz and artist Mae Babitz, and was immediately surrounded by personalities working in and around the film industry. After befriending her parents, famous composer Igor Stravinsky became her godfather, and she also attended Hollywood high school alongside several movie stars.

His writings – including collections of essays, memoirs and novels such as Eve’s Hollywood and Sex and rage – often revolved around this scene during its development in the 60s and 70s, tapping into its larger themes and celebrating the minutiae of its decadent culture. Babitz herself was, literally, the center of it all, rubbing shoulders with figures like Joan Didion, Jack Nicholson, and Andy Warhol, but also injecting her sharp wit into every line.

Below we are reminded of Babitz’s life, writing, and relationships through his own words.

“I had thrown my body into art”

After high school, Eve Babitz arrived in the public eye in style: naked and playing chess against Marcel Duchamp on a gallery floor. Then 20, she was pictured playing chess naked against pioneer Dada (fully dressed) in 1963, during her retrospective at the Pasadena Museum of Art.

“I had thrown my body into art. I entered this game for the sake of art, ”she said later, thinking back to the now famous photography. “You know, I was not a very good artist. But it was, like, one thing I could do.

Elsewhere, she would remember thinking, “Everything seemed possible – for art that night… Especially after all that red wine.”

This feeling of possibility and comfort in his own body will run through Babitz’s writing career. Despite the fact that she was often compared to her more cynical Californian counterpart, Joan Didion, she differed – as noted in the news of her death – in that she “often found magic where Didion saw ruin. “.

“I didn’t get famous but got close enough to smell the stench of success”

In the decade since photographing with Duchamp, Babitz herself has found some success in the visual arts. Art design work for artists at Atlantic Records led her to create album covers for The Byrds, Linda Ronstadt, and possibly most notably the second album covered in Buffalo Springfield collages. , from 1967.

Elsewhere, she would appear as an extra in The Godfather II, which premiered in 1974, the same year as the publication of her first novel, Eve’s Hollywood. On Didion’s recommendation, she also had writings published in Rolling stone magazine, and later in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Squire.

From 1977 to 1993, she published several other novels and short stories, including Slow days, fast business (which included the above reflection on fame), Sex and rage, Wife, and Black swans. Her books sold modestly, receiving mixed reviews, and she rarely published after the 90s.

His most recent publication, however, is the Non-Fiction Collection I was lovely, which was released in 2019. The titular essay looks back at a 1997 crash that severely burned her after ashes from a cigar fell on her clothes while driving, resulting in severe scarring and removal from public life .

“I’m an eighteen year old blonde on Sunset Boulevard. I am also a writer”

“Dear Joseph Heller,” Babitz wrote to the author of Catch-22. “I’m an eighteen year old blonde on Sunset Boulevard. I am also a writer. Of course, this statement showcases his self-referential and ironic humor, but it also underscores his outspoken attitude towards sex, body, and shameless promiscuity.

Of course, Babitz got a response from Heller. More famous, however, she dated Doors frontman Jim Morrison in his twenties, saying, “I met Jim and made him an offer in three minutes.” Among others, she also had adventures with LA-based artist Ed Ruscha, Steve Martin, and Harrison Ford. “The thing with Harrison is that Harrison could fuck,” she told Lili Anolik in a rare interview for Vanity Fair, in 2014.

Outside of romantic relationships, Babitz has also used his seemingly magnetic presence on the LA party scene to bond between outsized figures like Salvador Dalí and Frank Zappa. His thoughts on marriage, however, remain quite ambiguous, the narrator of Eve’s Hollywood stating: “My secret ambition has always been to be an old maid.”

“LA has always been a wet jungle with bubbling LA projects that I guess people in other places can’t see”

Although she lived in New York for a year and brief stays in Paris and Rome, it is undeniable that Babitz felt a strong connection to her home state, California. “With the exception of Rome, I thought Europe was nowhere compared to Los Angeles,” she wrote in a 1991 article for Squire. “Everywhere I went, everyone I met was in awe of California and dying to go to Hollywood. Not a single one wanted to go to New York.

The high-profile Los Angeles milieu, to which she was introduced by her parents and later by her incredible roster of knowledge, populates her writing, and insight into a bygone social scene is a big part of her appeal. However, Babitz is never entirely swept away by glamor, also dipping into the belly of Hollywood, characterized by quintessentially Californian misadventures and three-day binge eating at Chateau Marmont (echoing her own struggles with drug addiction) .

Even so, the backdrop never fails to tempt you to return, urging the reader to drop everything and buy a plane ticket to LA. “‘Wasteland’ is a word I don’t understand anyway because physically, surely, they couldn’t have thought it was a wasteland – there’s all these citrus fruits and flowers growing everywhere,” she wrote of California in the autobiographical essay Daughters of the Wasteland.

“Culturally, LA has always been a humid jungle full of bubbling LA projects that I guess people in other places can’t see. It takes a certain innocence to love LA, anyway. It takes a certain inner happiness to be happy in LA, to choose it, and to be happy here.

“Before, there were only men who loved me, now it’s just girls”

Although she was missing from the public eye for more than a decade after her near-fatal accident, Babitz reappeared for Anolik’s 2014 article in Vanity Fair, who considered her to be an unsung genius. A reissue of Slow days, fast business and other books followed, leading to its discovery by a new generation of readers – especially young women.

Joking that “it’s only the girls” who loved his writing in the 2010s, Babitz acknowledged the contemporary re-evaluation of his work, with writers such as Jia Tolentino praising his portrayal of “pure pleasure” in the pages of the New Yorker.

In 2017, the rebirth of Eve Babitz even led Hulu to announce a coming-of-age comedy project titled Wife, on the basis of his memories (which were optioned in 2015). In 2019, Anolik also published a critically acclaimed biography of Babitz titled Hollywood Eve, cementing his popularity in the last years of his life.

At 76, however, Babitz didn’t seem enthused by the idea of ​​returning to the limelight. “Any publicity is excellent,” she told her sister, Mirandi Babitz (as reported by New York Times in 2019). “But not really in your 70s.”

Eve Babitz is survived by Mirandi.

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