In case you missed it, here’s what was on the blog this week.
- Monday: The Vegas Gems at JCK.
- Tuesday: A lost and found ring.
- Wednesday: RIP, Garry Marshall and Pondering media descriptions of Meredith McIver.
- Thursday: One dress, three cities.
- Saturday: My ninth blogversary.
Elsewhere in the news, three obituaries were particularly noteworthy, and I got sucked into Poodle for hours because of them. Billy Name, who created the famous silver interior of Andy Warhol’s Factory, died on Monday of heart failure, aged 76. Billy served as the Factory’s photographer, capturing images of Warhol Superstars including Edie Sedgwick and Candy Darling. Billy abruptly left Warhol’s orbit in 1970, leaving behind a note that said, “Andy — I am not here anymore but I am fine. Love Billy.”
Many of the Billy Name obits used this well-known 1966 photo, which shows a group of Factory people, clustered on and around a ladder, including Lou Reed, who is making rabbit ears over the head of Velvet Underground singer Nico. In the photo, Warhol is holding Ari, Nico’s three- or four-year-old child, who was kind of a Factory pet for a while, surviving on junk food. Nico said Ari’s father was French actor Alain Delon, but Delon denied paternity. According to the 1996 documentary Nico Icon, Delon’s parents saw so much of their son in Ari that they took the child in and raised him, though it meant Delon would never talk to them again. Their attempt to give Ari a normal upbringing couldn’t counter the destructive lure of Nico, however. She introduced her son to heroin when he was 22 and, as one review of Nico Icon notes, “When Ari was in hospital on life support from a heroin overdose, all Nico wanted to do was to record the sound of the machines for her next record.”
I was led into other sordid stories by the news that haute couture collector (and Nancy Reagan’s best friend) Betsy Bloomingdale died at the age of 93 on Tuesday. She was a regular on the International Best Dressed List and a glamorous hostess. She was also the widow of Alfred S. Bloomingdale — the heir to the department store fortune, the founder of the Diners Club credit card, and a member of the group of Ronald Reagan’s advisors known as the “Kitchen Cabinet.” Alfred triggered a huge scandal when he died of cancer in 1982. During her husband’s terminal illness, Betsy cut off his generous financial support of his mistress Vicki Morgan, whom Alfred saw for 12 years, starting when Vicki was only 18. Morgan hired Marvin Mitchelson, the famous “palimony” lawyer, to get funds that, she argued, Alfred had promised to her. In the resulting legal battle, information about Alfred’s S&M habits came out, along with rumors about sex tapes involving people associated with the Reagan White House. (Those tapes — if they existed — were never found.) Basically, Vicki was the 1980s predecessor of Anna Nicole Smith. And, just like Smith would almost a quarter of a century later, Vicki came to a tragic end — in Morgan’s case, beaten to death with a baseball bat in 1983. Her male roommate confessed, but, due to the Reagan connection to the scandal, there was all kind of wild gossip about it being a political hit. I remembered these stories from back in the day. Here are a few interesting links:
- People’s 1983 story on Morgan.
- LA Weekly’s extensive 1983 story, covering Morgan’s upbringing, the affair, and Morgan’s downward spiral before her death.
- In 1984, Morgan’s estate actually won $200,000 from Bloomingdale’s estate. The money went to her 15-year-old son, Todd.
- Morgan’s confessed killer died in 1991.
- Entertainment Weekly interviewed writer Dominick Dunne in 1990; his book, An Inconvenient Woman, was inspired by the case.
Interestingly, for all the news about her, I’ve only seen three photos of Morgan, including the one on the cover of a biography called Beautiful Bad Girl. Things were so different when we used cameras that required real film and no one took a hundred photos in a day! There are so few images of even the most beautiful bad girls from that era, whereas today’s beautiful bad girls can provide us with uncountable Instagram selfies, YouTube videos, and Snapchat stories.
One of the modern-day girls who made the most of today’s technology was Qandeel Baloch, a sexy social-media star in Pakistan who was drugged and strangled by her own brother in an “honor killing” this month.
Qandeel’s images and behavior were nothing compared with a Kardashian’s, but for Pakistan, she was immensely controversial. In June, her selfies with a major religious figure got him fired. She followed up that in early July by appearing in a music video called “Ban,” in which she attempted a little twerking.
Just before her murder, it was revealed that she had been married and had a child. In an interview, she said that the marriage had been forced on her and that she had realized she craved independence. “Being a girl, think yourself, how difficult it is to move around as a woman in this society. How many men do you encounter who bother you? The same way, I have struggled through difficulties to make a place for myself in showbiz,” she said.
Qandeel had been supporting her family financially (her father says he wants revenge for her death). Using, as a Daily Beast writer put it, “the only weapon she had at her disposal: her body,” Qandeel became the independent, successful woman she said she always dreamed of being … not just standing on her own two feet but caring for her family as well. She broke the rules and encouraged other women to do likewise, and she paid for that with her life. She was 26.