Strange life of a doomed groupie

NICO’S STORY TOLD IN NEW BOOK

A German model known as Nico who was nearly six feet tall and had the baritone voice of a man bedded some of the biggest rock and movie stars of the 1960s.

“She acquired the reputation of a gothic Garbo or punk Dietrich, by turns mysterious and aloof,” writes Ian Thompson in The Guardian.

Nico had affairs and serious relationships with Lou Reed, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Andy Warhol, and French film star Alain Delon. She also is said to have had lesbian affairs with French actress Jeanne Moreau and fashion icon Coco Chanel.

After a glamorous, weird, heroin-addicted life, Nico died relatively unknown in 1988 after falling off a bicycle and hitting her head. She was 49.Nico bedded rock stars

Her story has been told in a new book ‘You Are Beautiful And You Are Alone: The Biography Of Nico’ by Jennifer Otter Bickerdike.

She was born Christa Päffgen in Cologne in 1938. Her father was killed in the war when she was four. The little girl and her mother struggled to survive in a small flat in Berlin as bombs exploded all around them.

In 1954 at the age of 16 she changed her name to Nico and moved to Paris to become a fashion model, appearing in such glossy mags as Vogue.

When she was 21 she met the Italian film director Federico Fellini who gave her a cameo role in his film ‘La Dolce Vita.’ Other small roles followed, during which Nico had affairs with Alain Delon, and a relationship with Jeanne Moreau.

In New York she hung out with Andy Warhol, who produced the debut album of Lou Reed’s band The Velvet Underground and worked her into the album as the lead vocalists on three tracks.

Nico bedded rock stars
Nico and Lou Reed

The album, ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico,’ was panned by critics because of its lurid lyrics on sadomasochism and drug abuse, but in later years it was regarded as one of the most influential rock albums ever.

Nico’s 1968 solo album ‘The Marble Index’ was praised for its “doom-laden, Germanic atmospherics and dirge-like harmonium playing.”

Nico spent the last years of her life in squalid flats in London and Manchester, venturing outside in a long black cape and biker boots.

“Her days were often spent in bed, shooting up, or trying to score drugs,” writes the book’s author, as reported by Tom Leonard in the Daily Mail.

Her death was as offbeat as her life. While on vacation on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, she fell off her bike and hit her head, and died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Her life was characterized by doom and gloom. A friend once described living in Nico’s house as like “living in a funeral parlour.”

Nico bedded rock stars


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Screaming in the desert

FLASHBACKS AND SHOCK CUTS

The brain is besieged with memories. They never stop. Day and night, even in sleep where they are called dreams. Good and bad. The good glorify, the bad bedevil. You can’t concentrate to read a book. When you watch movies on TV you turn the sound down and just let the scenes roll by. It’s just company to have someone else in the room. Actors never die. Marilyn Monroe will never die. She can be summoned into the room at anytime. Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach, the entire cast of ‘The Misfits.’ In the room with you, riding buckin’ horses and getting drunk and roping mustangs and Marilyn screaming in the desert and Gable practically having a heart attack ropin’ horses and two days after shooting ended actually having a heart attack, but he didn’t die and Marilyn wasn’t murdered and the others and so on and so forth, they are all listed as dead but they are alive and they are in your living room keeping you company, not that you’re really listening to them and only half watching them because your brain is under siege. The memories of S. never stop, the great and the grisly. Not that you want them to stop, you just want them to calm down. Alcohol and weed and pills cannot slow them and when you finally sleep the memories become frenzied dreams. The life you lived together is an endless movie of flashbacks and shock cuts, reality contorted into horror scenes that never happened or maybe they happened in a subconscious other-world, an undiscovered state of wave-being. Someone tells you to see a psychiatrist but why would you do that? Let a shrink mess with your head and put you on a bunch of brain buckers that turn you into a zombie? Hell no! You want to be relatively conscious, drunk and stoned maybe, but at least aware if and when this endless movie ever ends.


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The birds have gone

THE BIRDS ARE GONE

Every morning I counted on the birds.

There was always a profusion of color and flurry around the bird feeder in my backyard and in the trees around the house.

But in the last week or so, the birds have disappeared. The bird feeder is still full from the last refill.

The mornings now have an eerie emptiness.

The birds — so many and of such a variety of colors and personalities — were among my last companions, along with the squirrels and the chipmunks and the deer that come down from the thick woods beyond the backyard.

The squirrels and the chipmunks have gone too, come to think of it. Two young deer came down this morning when I looked out the window around 3 a.m.  They eat the bird seed (a mixture of nuts and fruit) that spills onto the ground.

I am by no means an ornithologist but I know some birds fly to summer breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska, but not many. Most of the birds that frequent my feeder — sparrows, finches, doves, blue jays — are year-round residents that don’t migrate.

So where are they?

I read there’s a mysterious disease that’s killing songbirds in the mid-Atlantic and neighboring states. The states mentioned (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky) did not include New York, but I was left to wonder if that’s why they have vanished from my backyard.

When I mentioned this to a friend who lives in the Niagara Frontier he suggested it could be the presence of hawks in my piece of the sky.

“The times I’ve seen a total absence of birds around my feeder — I mean totally GONE! — was because a red-tailed hawk had cruised noiselessly over the area,” he said. “The birds eventually return, but if the hawk remains in the vicinity, it may take some time.”

“I have seen a hawk or two swooping around,” I told him. “They cast a fleeting shadow as they fly over.”

“That fleeting shadow fly-over sums it up,” he said. “Imagine it was twenty-five times YOUR size — you’d flee and hide as quickly as possible, too!”

Whether the bird exodus is due to summer migration or illness or menacing black hawks, it’s a distressing situation. For the birds and for me.

I relied on their “company.” In my solitary life in this country hovel I would stand at the kitchen window and watch their comings and goings, admiring all the colors and enjoying their different personalities — the macho blue jay versus the meek mourning dove, for example.

The cat would watch them too, harboring different thoughts than mine. They filled a gap in our lives. Now I turn away from the window and say to the cat: “Now what?”


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