Eve Babitz, the Hollywood bard, muse and party girl who, with warmth and candor, chronicled her city’s excesses in the 1960s and 1970s and became a cult figure for generations of readers, has passed away. She was 78 years old.
Babitz’s biographer Lili Anolik confirmed she died of complications from Huntington’s disease on Friday afternoon at a Los Angeles hospital.
Few writers have captured a time and place as clearly as Babitz. His dispatches from the Troubadour nightclub and the Chateau Marmont hotel, the Sunset Strip and Venice Beach, have become as much a testament to his time as a Jack Nicholson film or an Eagles or Fleetwood Mac album. She has sometimes been compared to fellow Californian Joan Didion – although Babitz often found magic where Didion saw ruin – and French author-wise-confessor Colette.
Babitz knew everyone from Jim Morrison to Steve Martin, but her biggest topic was herself. She was often witty, sometimes astonished and sometimes could only shrug her shoulders.
Babitz spoke about her sex life (“I got deflowered on two cans of Rainier Ale when I was 17”), her awareness (“Dear Joseph Heller,” she wrote to the author of Catch-22, “I’m a stacked 18- year-old blonde on Sunset Boulevard”), her thoughts on marriage (“My secret ambition has always been to be single”) and her affinity for bad guys.
“I hadn’t really liked Elizabeth Taylor until she took Debbie Reynolds’ husband away from her, and then I started loving Elizabeth Taylor,” she once wrote.
Like the movie stars who fascinated her since childhood, she was a mistress of the entrances. Her first big public appearance was in 1963, at the age of 20, in one of the most famous photographs in the art world: Babitz, naked, playing chess with Marcel Duchamp fully dressed.
“Everything seemed possible – for art that night,” she would recall. “Especially after all that red wine.”
Over the next decade, she designed the cover for the classic rock album Buffalo Springfield Again and Byrds and Linda Ronstadt records, hung out with Nicholson and Michelle Phillips, and dated everyone from Harrison Ford to Morrison. (“I met Jim and proposed him in three minutes”) to Music Director Ahmet Ertegun. She was an extra in The Godfather II, introduced Salvador Dali to Frank Zappa, and helped convince Martin to wear a white suit.
She was published in Rolling Stone and Vogue among other magazines and her books included Eve’s Hollywood, Slow Days, Fast Company, and Sex and Rage. Some were called fiction, others non-fiction, but virtually all of them drew directly from his life – only the names have changed.
It undermined the most unusual and everyday moments – ice skating, shopping, screening of the surf movie Five Summer Stories, Los Angeles Dodgers game. In The Answer, she drops acid with a local hippie-bohemian who decides he needs to go to the bank.
“He took off his clothes, his blue jeans and his t-shirt, and I watch him shower in nice hot water,” she wrote. “I sat on the bed as he put on different clothes that I had never seen before. He put on socks first, then underpants. When he was done, he was wearing a gray three-piece suit and a watch chain with a gold watch. He looked like a nice Wall Street Journal ad in the New Yorker and he was my big blue eyed friend.
Babitz’s life was romance, farce, melodrama and, almost, precocious tragedy. She became so addicted to cocaine that in the early 1980s a friend remembered her apartment floor being covered in blood and Kleenex. In 1997, she nearly died of burns when she tried to smoke a cigar while driving. She’s healed enough to describe it in the essay, I Was Lovely, the title of a joke she told one of her keepers.
“For many people, the idea of prolonged bed rest sounds like heaven. But the truth is, lying in bed gets no respect and being a burnt patient is a visit to the land of torture, ”she wrote. “Everyone keeps telling you to relax, which you have absolutely no way of doing anyway. “
She would argue that she never made it, only close enough to “smell the stench.” Her books sold modestly, early reviews were mixed, and she rarely published after the 1990s. But the world caught up with her.
After most of her work sold out, she was hailed in a 2014 Vanity Fair article by Anolik as a neglected and unyielding genius. Eve’s Hollywood, Slow Days, Fast Company and other books have been reissued, a much-loved biography of Anolik was published in 2019, and Babitz was discovered by a generation of younger women, leading him to joke: “Before , there were only men who loved me, now there are only girls.
Hollywood was in his blood. His father was a violinist with the Twentieth Century Fox Orchestra, his mother an artist and his godfather Igor Stravinsky. She didn’t have to work hard to drop names because the names seemed to be falling from the sky. In high school in Hollywood, her classmates included Linda Evans, Tuesday Weld and Yvette Mimieux, a “movie star, even when she banged in front of you in the cafeteria line.”
She wrote that she was taken home as a teenager and kissed by an older man, Johnny Stompanato, who in one of Hollywood’s most sensational scandals was later murdered by Lana’s daughter Turner in what was found to be justifiable homicide.
Babitz lived a year in New York and a few months in Rome, but Los Angeles was his home and his inspiration, a playground for self-invention, a “gigantic and sprawling studio in progress”. In her essay Daughters of the Wasteland, she recalled her disbelief that others could find Los Angeles empty and unlivable.
“‘Wasteland’ is a word I don’t understand anyway because physically, surely, they couldn’t have thought it was a wasteland – there are all those citrus fruits and flowers growing everywhere. She wrote. “Culturally, LA has always been a wet jungle full of bubbling LA projects that I guess people in other places can’t see. It takes a certain innocence to love LA, from Anyway, it takes some inner happiness to be happy in LA, to choose it, and to be happy here.