Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pie in the Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story

Interesting documentary about Andy Warhol Superstar Brigid "Polk" Berlin (b. 9/6/1939). Until she was twenty-five, Brigid romped around but remained close to the bosom of her ultra-wealthy family. Dick Berlin, her father, was chairman of the Hearst Corporation for over fifty years. Honey Berlin, her mother, was a proper socialite. Enter conflict. Even in early family films, it’s evident that Brigid was a budding rebel. Already as a child, she struggled with weight problems. Her mother put her on an amphetamine diet. At sixty, Brigid observes: "My whole life has been spent getting thin and getting fat."

It's obvious that Brigid Berlin did not receive unconditional love from her parents. After a dud starter marriage, in 1964 she found Andy Warhol, who embraced her, accepted her, and encouraged her. According to filmmaker Paul Morrissey, another of Warhol's crew, "She was always on some mission." She became Brigid Polk, a nod to her "poking" herself and others with Vitamin B/amphetamine cocktails. She liked to talk endlessly, take photos, and tape people's ramblings and performances. "Silence is just something I never knew about," she says at sixty (as of this post, she is nearly sixty-seven). After teaming up with Andy, she soon became a Superstar and appears in several films, including Chelsea Girls (1966), Ciao! Manhattan (1972), and John Waters' Serial Mom (1994). Her taping came in handy and included prized sessions with Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. She also became a visual artist and special Warhol confidante, eventually joining the Interview staff.

John Waters loves Brigid Berlin (he used to follow her around in Manhattan to see what she'd do next) and, in the early 1990s, brought her together with Patricia Hearst during the filming of Serial Mom. Patty's father, of course, had handed over corporate power to Brigid's father Dick decades before, but it was Waters who realized the close connection by association, and he adored them both. You can see them getting along well on film.

But Warhol's death in 1987 had left Brigid Berlin mostly to herself. She soldiered on, continuing to deal with weight issues and her family's dismissal. As of 1999, her sisters and brother refused to speak to her. Her response: "Actually, it's kind of okay." But it isn't.

At one point, Berlin walks into the lobby of the Hotel Chelsea. "I like to go back," she says, "but I don't really like to go there. It's kind of scary." She recalls Edie Sedgwick in her room, facing Twenty-third Street, mixing whiskey sours. She remembers herself staying in Room 907, then flees back out to the street.

While dealing with her obsessive-addictive need for key lime pie and other edibles, Brigid often despairs but then snaps into action with her little dog Honey. After an annual physical, she lights up a cigarette and notes, "It's gonna be this time again next year in like five minutes." Missing Andy, she muses, "That's where I'm going -- the Pie in the Sky -- a cake with no candles."

(Pie in the Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story, produced and directed by Vincent Freemont and Shelly Dunn Freemont, 2000).

Today's Rune: Breakthrough.

Ciao! Mondo!


Michelle's Spell said...

Love the cake with no candles quote. Great post!

JR's Thumbprints said...

Very interesting post. Always been intrigued by Andy Warhol. Perhaps its the movie, "Eating Raoul." Sounds like Brigid Berlin finally came to terms with her weight and dealt with the rest as best as she could.

Luma Rosa said...

Erik, the little that I know of Brigid Berlin, I learned here today (laughs) merci! Beijus

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks all, for the comments! Jim, I'm aiming to watch Eating Raoul again sometime this fall, along with Mail Order Bride. I finally caught about half of Prozac Nation, which was never formally released at theaters. It's interesting, so far. The dude from Match Point is in it for a while.

Cheri said...

Erik, I learn so much from your posts. Good work and keep it up!!