Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Of Peripheral Celebrity and Collateral Damage: The ballad of Suki Potier

Suki Potier: Collateral
Damage
You’ve read the news, oh boy: December 18, 1966, Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, plows his Lotus into a van on Redcliffe Gardens, South Kensington. Dead. He is 21. John Lennon hears about it and writes A Day in the Life…something about a lucky man who made the grade but blew his mind out in a car.

Browne’s passenger that day? Model and all-around It Girl Suki Potier.

If ever someone walked under a rain cloud through the rarefied world of 1960s popism, it was poor Suki.

What to make of peripheral celebrities who suffer collateral damage? They appear as secondary characters, necessary to turn the pages of history.

Brian Jones. Suki. Tara Browne.
Bad karma
It wasn’t long after Browne’s death that Potier surfaced in the arms of Rolling Stone Brian Jones. Given what we know now about Brian Jones and women, this wasn’t going to turn out well.

July 3, 1969: Potier leaves Jones’ country house just thirty minutes before he drowns. Not quite in the passenger seat this time, but close.


Jones/Potier: Blonde on Blonde
Then, after Jones’ death, she marries wealthy Hong Kong business man Robert Ho.

And it’s now that the rain cloud bursts. June 23, 1981: Suki and husband die in a car crash while on holiday in Portugal.

Fate can be cruel but rarely so personal.









Monday, October 15, 2018

Talitha Getty: Beautiful and Damned


 “Things are sweeter when they're lost. I know--because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly… and when I got it, it turned to dust in my hand.” 
-          F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned

Talitha: Through a grate darkly
I knew the youthfulness of the '60s: Talitha and Paul Getty lying on a starlit terrace in Marrakesh, beautiful and damned, and a whole generation assembled as if for eternity where the curtain of the past seemed to lift before an extraordinary future.

-         
Yves Saint Laurent

Last night Paul and Talitha Getty threw a New Year's Eve party at their palace in the medina. Paul McCartney and John Lennon were there, flat on their backs. They couldn't get off the floor let alone talk. I've never seen so many people out of control.
-          John Hopkins, 1968

[Talitha] arrived like a gust of wind, bringing a tornado with her when she married John Paul Getty Jr. She brought something new to that family and that whole world. She was a very beautiful woman who had never even thought about being dressed by a haute couture house, despite having the means to do so; she dressed a bit like a hippie. She was very touching, and she was very pretty. Yes, she was all of that. But, above all, she was a completely free character, and that, that was very important.
Party on...
-          Pierre Bergé, L’Officiel, 2016.

A ‘free character’? It didn’t work out that way…

In the late 1960s, the term ‘beautiful people’ came to be applied to a wealthy, indolent crowd of perpetual party-goers, most often found in exotic locations, who enjoyed a robust pursuit of alcohol, drugs and sexual liaisons. They differed from the ‘jet set’ in that they gravitated more toward counter-culture trends and fashions. And no one was more beautiful than Talitha Getty (1940-1971).

The photo on the Edge of Forever
Her wealth, her fame, her money, her films…all conspired to evoke a lifestyle that belonged more in celebrity fanzines than in a world of real-life consequences.

And why shouldn’t her boyfriend at one point be French aristocrat Count Jean De Breteuil, a dreadful man who seemed adept at using heroin to kill rock stars and other celebrities.

She held court in Morocco where a thin line etched in the cool sand of a midnight dune holds death at bay, but somehow the wind always breathes the lovely sweet-tang perfume of decay.

We leave Talitha Getty on that Marrakesh rooftop in blue moon aspic, her forever face both curious and fearful, with that thousand-yard stare that looks so intently at absolutely nothing.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Pierre Trudeau: We just watched him

“[Pierre Trudeau] has certain animal leadership properties — as a zoologist, I’m tremendously impressed with Trudeau. He has an intellectual virility which is exceedingly important . . . His anatomy, his gestures, his facial expressions are animal qualities that set him apart and bring him to the top of the heap.” - Desmond Morris


Trudeau-mania kicks in
A handsome millionaire, bachelor, law professor. Pierre Trudeau was a godsend to Canada’s version of the Swingin’ 60s. He even had a sports car.

The electorate tend not to trust intellectual candidates, but somehow Trudeau, empowered by the cultural zeitgeist, slalomed through the sluice gates.
Pierre with Barbara Streisand

It was the first time any Canadian politician had inspired mania. Jolted by the success of Expo 67, the conservative people of this northern country voted him in as their 15th prime minister. He was Canada’s John F. Kennedy.

His shining moment came on October 13, 1970 (during the October Crisis) when a reporter asked how far he would go to shut down a terrorist group. “Just watch me,” he replied, and Canadians sat up in their seats. The arrogance. The confidence. Who was this guy?... And they certainly watched him.
Canada's JFK

They watched him date glamorous celebrities. They watched his marriage to a beautiful, younger woman... then watched her party with the Rolling Stones.

Trudeau was a wonderful anomaly - to paraphrase one of his adversaries – representing ‘not what we are, but who we could become.’

In the end, who wouldn’t mind that said about them.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Hunter S. Thompson: The Pain of Being a Man


No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun—for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax—This won’t hurt.

-       Hunter S. Thompson’s suicide note to himself, 2005

He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.

-        Dr. Johnson in the preface to Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, 1971

The buffoon
His buffoonery just barely contained a violent rage. That’s the key to Hunter S.Thompson. The guns, the drugs, the explosives, the destruction, were necessary to hold back despair.

And it’s the despair that makes his writing completely unique. There are no Tom Wolfe pyrotechnics; no Gay Talese in-depth profiles; no Ken Kesey hippy-dippy West Coast Zen trips. Not required.

Picture of the Artist as a Young Man
Thompson was overwhelmed by the absurdity of Life – for whatever reasons. The drugs dulled the pain and transmogrified fear and loathing into raucous phantasmagoria of politicians/police/ land developers and whomever else drifted by.

And when he could no longer move away from the absurdity – well, then he swung to face what he called The Big Fear. He decided to relax, act his age, and check out.

Relax—This won’t hurt
Hunter Thompson once told a friend, “I would feel trapped in this life if I didn't know I could commit suicide at any time.” That’s a serious existential commitment.

When the pain of being a man had made him ‘too bitchy’ and slow, he followed the warrior’s code and exploded the brilliant brain that always seemed so untethered.

His ashes were dynamited into the heavens, his spirit finally free to follow the dictum of his favorite song:

To dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Mamas & the Papas: It’s square to be hip


Harmony begins with dissonance
They were limousine hippies with wistful tunes about dreaming and having a bad (Mon) day.  It was hard to get them in focus.

The tall guy, John, tried damn hard to be cool, more like an aging beatnik fresh from a beer & bongo party than a tie-dyed, Haight-Asbury minstrel. The other Papa, Denny, was always bemused, pleasant-faced, perhaps recruited from a rural, Baptist choir. He sure wasn’t rebelling against anything or missing meals.

Cool was for the fool
Then the Mamas. Michelle: everything you ever wanted in a counter-culture chick. Slinky. Drop-dead-straight-part-in the-middle blonde hair. Slim as a stick. Beautiful face with wide-spaced eyes. Lolita pout. Cass, Mama # 2, was the polar opposite – a fact that, strangely, emphasized their unity. Read more.

Obviously, it couldn’t work. It should never, ever have worked.  No way… So they became international superstars. It didn’t last long – but it should never have lasted at all. The millisecond that producer Lou Adler heard them, he knew he had struck the Mother Lode.

The group didn’t make sense. There was something Monkee-ish about them. A pre-fab four feel. Yet they were the real thing.

Years later, someone realized it’s in fact square to be hip. Cool was for the fool. It was their very awkward alchemy that blended such glorious harmonies. Who knew? It's chic to be geek.

Anyway, nothing succeeds like surprise.