Dean & Britta’s ’13 Most Beautiful’

<img src="" alt=" " />Dean & Britta took on Andy Warhol... films of his <i>13 Most Beautiful</i> friends. ...

Dean & Britta's '13 Most Beautiful...' 

Andy Warhol has always been something of an elusive touchstone, hidden behind shades & a mop-top of white hair.  While everyone knows the name, and can picture the face, what he’s acclaimed for is itself less well-known: your average American would probably cite his quote, “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes” – the line that spawned the concept of ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ – or maybe his paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans.  However, the former is famous-for-being-famous (if the original famous-for-being-famous…), and the latter a representation of something else, outside of him.  Even his famed Factory circle has receded with time in the popular consciousness.

Dean & Britta

Yet a touchstone Warhol still is, thanks to critical adoration, not to mention being early on the counter-culture wave – only the beat poets of the fifties beat him out, and then only just.  He and the world that surrounded him in the sixties at ‘The Factory’, his New York studio that was, in its heyday, the center of the city’s hip culture, are somewhat untouchable – witness the scorn heaped upon Factory Girl, the 2007 movie about Warhol and the most famous resident of The Factory, Edie Sedgwick (though most of the scorn was focused on Sienna Miller, for her portrayal of Sedgwick, and issues surviving Factory residents like Bob Dylan & Lou Reed had with the script).  For artists, if you’re not David Bowie (QRO album review – who wrote the song “Andy Warhol”, and played a later version of him in 1988’s bio-pic Basquiat), how can you interpret Warhol?  Dean & Britta accompanied the icon as he turned the camera on Factory regulars for 13 Most Beautiful…, first on DVD, and then live, at Prospect Park Bandshell on August 1st for Celebrate Brooklyn! (QRO Festival Guide).

Britta & Edie

The ’13 Most Beautiful’ are thirteen screen tests Warhol made of individuals at The Factory, just a close up on their face, without dialogue, without even sound.  The Andy Warhol Museum commissioned alt-pop duo Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips to put songs to the thirteen screenings, for 13 Most Beautiful… Songs For Andy Warhol Screen Tests DVD.  Wareham & Phillips’ work, currently as duo Dean & Britta (QRO album review), before that in Luna and (for Wareham) Galaxie 500, has always had an artistic air, as well as the soft, restrained wash of such Factory musicians as The Velvet Underground and Nico.  They approached Warhol with reverence, but not tentatively or over-revering, and nor did they attempt to outshine his screen tests.  Of course, it was made easier by the fact that a) Warhol was in none of the screen tests himself, and b) the tests were so limited, just a face on-screen for a few minutes.  There was lots of room there, which gave Dean & Britta some space to play with, but they never got lost.

At Prospect Park Bandshell (QRO venue review), the tests were displayed above the band, on a large screen.  This did limit the lighting upon the band itself (and when Phillips played keyboards, she seemed to be leaning out of what light there was on her), and the seated audience was naturally rather subdued (and older – especially since it was up against day two of All Points West).  Since only a few of the faces were recognizable today (and they’d aged a lot in the past forty-plus years), Dean & Britta would usually either introduce or postscript a test/piece, by telling a little something about the subject:

[just background sounds – “Richard Rheem Theme”; no introduction – the band was still off-stage]

 Richard Rheem

“That was Ann Buchanan on the big screen.  She was from San Francisco, and lived briefly with Allen Ginsburg, was in some of his poems.”

“Singer Sing” by Dean & Britta, without lyrics

 Ann Buchanan

Paul America – born Paul Johnson, but Warhol liked his actors to take on assumed names.  Paul America said he didn’t like that name too much, as the Vietnam War dragged on, as it felt like America’s problems were his problems – and also ‘cause it was difficult to check into a hotel.

He stars in Ciao, Manhattan with Edie Sedgwick & Jane Holzer [see below].  He drives Jane Holzer to the helicopter pad at the Pan-Am building.  They filmed him doing this, and after that, he kept driving.  He drove all the way to Michigan, and the next the film’s producers heard from him, he was in jail, busted for drugs.  And they had to rewrite his role…”

“Teenage Lightning (and Lonely Highways)” by Luna (re-worked)

 Paul America (born Paul Johnson)

“Paul America [see above] lived for a while in the Chelsea Hotel with Edie Sedgwick.  And they would drive up to Brooklyn to buy speed.  And here we are…” [audience laughs]

“That was a long time ago.

Anyway, she lived at the Hotel Chelsea, and Paul America stayed with her there.  He used to throw people out of her room that he thought were bothering her.  And then one day, she called the concierge and had him thrown out. [audience laughs] And that was the end of that…”

“It Don’t Rain In Beverly Hills” by Dean & Britta

 Edie Sedgwick

“These films were all lit by a guy named Billy Name, who graduated from high school in 1958 in Poughkeepsie.  His uncle was a hairdresser, and gave him a hair-cutting set.  Five years later he was living on East 7th Street.  He used to give hair cut parties.  He also started taking a lot of speed, and painted the inside of his apartment silver, with Krylon and aluminum foil.  Andy Warhol came to one of the hair cut parties and said, ‘Oh, I love what you’ve done with the silver.  Can you do that in The Factory?”’ And so Billy Name moved up to The Factory, moved in, lived there for the next four years.”

Original instrumental

 Billy Name

“Boston debutante Susan Bottomly was seventeen years old when she appeared on the cover of Mademoiselle Magazine and arrived at the Factory.  And became known as ‘International Velvet’.”

“Of Alice In Wonderland” put to music

 no photo – too dark

[no introduction or postscript for Dennis Hopper]

Original instrumental

 Dennis Hopper

“If any of you have seen Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, the principal, Ms. Togar, was played by Mary Woronov, who was a whip dancer with The Velvet Underground.  She was also in Eating Raoul, Chelsea Girls… and an episode of Charlie’s Angels.”

“I Found It No So” by Cheval Sombre

 Mary Woronov (a.k.a. Ms. Togar)

“Bob Dylan came to The Factory and filmed a screen test – a couple of them.  And on his way out, he took an Elvis painting, which he later traded to his manager, Al Grossman, for a sofa, a used sofa.  Which I guess seemed like a good idea at the time…

He wrote this next song for Nico, reportedly – although he also told Joan Baez he wrote it for her…” [audience laughs]

“I’ll Keep It With Mine” by Bob Dylan


Freddy Herko was a dancer and a choreographer who appeared in some early Warhol films.  He was a friend of Billy Name’s [see above]; he’s in a Haircut film.  He was one of the Mole People – an A-man; ‘A’ stands for amphetamine.  In 1964, he started taking way too much speed, and acting very strangely, walking around town in a black cape.  The Puerto Rican kids called him ‘Zorro’.  His roommate kicked him out.

In October of 1964, he ran into Johnny Dodd, who invited him to his place on Cornelius Street, a fifth floor walk-up.  And Freddy Herko went in to take a bath, poured some perfume in the tub.  When he came out, a few people were gathered, and they put Mozart’s “Coronation Mass” on the stereo, which was Herko’s favorite piece of music, and he started dancing around, naked.  And when it reached the ‘Sanctus’ movement, he dived straight out of the window, onto the sidewalk on the other side.”

Original instrumental

 Freddy Herko

Ingrid Superstar – her real [last] name, Von Scheven – she was from New Jersey, and she was discovered in the Hotel St. James.  By 1984 she was living with her mother upstate, working in a sweater factory and reportedly battling a heroin addiction.  And one day, she went out for cigarettes, and left her false teeth in the sink, and was never seen again.”

“Eyes In Your Smoke” by Luna (rewritten lyrics)

 Ingrid Superstar (Von Scheven) giving the bird

“That song was written by Lou Reed in 1966, the same year the screen test was filmed.  He was 22.”

“I’m Not a Young Man Anymore” by Lou Reed

 Lou Reed & Coca-Cola

“This is number 13 – Jane Holzer, Baby Jane Holzer, the ‘it girl’ of the year 1964.”

“Knives From Bavaria” by Dean & Britta

 Baby Jane Holzer's good hygiene

Some of the screen tests naturally played better than others.  Lou Reed stood up very well, sucking on a Coca-Cola, almost like he was mocking the then-only-beginning industry of product placement (he was a little hard to make out at first, behind the Coke, shades, and forty-five years of youth…).  However, the guys you hadn’t heard of could seem a little smug, ‘Oh, aren’t I beautiful, aren’t I special’ – a complaint that actually could be directed at any of the subjects, or even Warhol himself.  Edie Sedgwick did convey what Sienna Miller couldn’t, but the really nice surprise was lesser-known Ingrid Superstar, sort of the anti-Edie, looking similar, but having fun (even giving the subliminal finger to the camera), whereas Sedgwick was doing her damnedest to emote.

Britta & Dean

The musical choices did go well with the screen tests, though Richard Rheem got a little short-shifted – no introduction, no one even at the center of the stage during his part.  They also could have done more for a pre-Easy Rider Dennis Hopper.  Covering the recently-discovered “I’m Not a Young Man Anymore” by/for Lou Reed obviously went down nicely, but it was maybe Dean & Britta’s own “Knives From Bavaria” that was the best fit, for following, final test subject Jane Holzer (who also didn’t just sit there, looking pretty & smug, but treated the camera like the bathroom mirror and brushed her teeth).

Dean & Britta did return for an encore all their own (sort of), “Fourth of July” by Galaxie 500 (Wareham’s band before Luna/Phillips) – and it was Wareham’s birthday.  However, the night belonged to Andy Warhol’s 13 Most Beautiful friends – leaving Warhol himself the elusive touchstone, once again.

Dean & Paul

Concert Reviews
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