Lou Reed: Caught Between the Twisted Stars extensive and carefully curated exhibition runs through March 4, 2023 Photo: Ed Bahlman
On the morning of Tuesday, June 7, >music producer and 99 Records founder Ed Bahlman joined me for the press preview of Lou Reed: Caught Between The Twisted Stars at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Curators Don Fleming and Jason Stern along with Laurie Anderson acted as the media’s intimate tour guides through the extensive exhibition, which includes photos by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Mick Rock, Billy Name, and Julian Schnabel (Lou Reed’s Berlin) and connections to Reed with Andy Warhol, Robert Wilson, David Bowie, John Cale, Garland Jeffreys, Metallica, Sterling Morrison, Robert Quine, Mike Rathke, Fernando Saunders, Václav Havel, Jim Carroll, Allen Ginsberg, Delmore Schwartz, Anne Waldman, Doc Pomus, Hal Willner, and Laurie, plus some greetings cards by Moe (Maureen Tucker) to Lou, whom she affectionally calls Honey Bun.
Laurie Anderson introducing Lou Reed: Caught Between The Twisted Stars Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
In September 2021, the week before the New York Film Festival opened (where Todd Haynes’s The Velvet Underground and Ed Lachman’s Songs For Drella screened), Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (director of Lou Reed: Rock And Roll Heart and Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am) met with me on Zoom from Upstate New York and we were joined by Ed Bahlman. This is the second instalment of the conversation with Timothy from that time.
Anne-Katrin Titze: Back to Lou - for his 80th birthday [in 2022] the Library for the Performing Arts is planning something and you will be a part of that?
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders: Yes. I have a lot of my pictures that I gave to Lou that are part of his archive now. So I’m always available to do what I can with them. I think it’s wonderful what they did, that they gathered it that way. They could have just sold it and made money, but Laurie didn’t do that. I think Lou didn’t want that either. The Lou film was my first film. That’s the exciting thing for me, it was a challenge in a way. I knew everything about making a film but I hadn’t done it, a feature film like that.
AKT: I have someone here who wants to say hi. Ed Bahlman of 99 Records.
TGS: Hi there!
Laurie Anderson with the curators Jason Stern and Don Fleming Photo: Ed Bahlman
Ed Bahlman: Hi Timothy. I had run into Lou when your film [Lou Reed: Rock And Roll Heart] was just about to be ready to be done. And I called you, believe it or not, and you set me up with WNET for a VHS copy of the film.
TGS: Wow. You still have it?
EB: Yeah. No VHS player though. I showed it to Anne-Katrin way back when.
TGS: That’s fabulous. Lou wasn’t going to go to Sundance and we were together the night before I was leaving at a photo opening. I think it was maybe Mick Rock or something. And Bowie was there and I turned to Bowie and he asked “How’s the film?” And I said we’re going to Sundance tomorrow and Lou won’t go. And he said “What?” He turned to Lou and said “You have to go! It’s about you! You need to be there! It’s important.” And Lou was like “Hmm whatever.” Two hours later Lou called me and said “Okay, get me a ticket. I’ll go.”
TGS: It was so marvelous to have him there. The audience having just seen the film and then Lou stood up. I get chills from it.
EB: I’m getting chills from it now.
Laurie Anderson catching up with Ed Bahlman on the Lincoln Center Plaza before the press preview Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
TGS: It was wild.
EB: I had 99 Records, did you know it?
TGS: Of course!
EB: The band ESG from the South Bronx, the four sisters, were invited to do a Radio France broadcast with a performance, and who turns up as the other guest? Lou Reed. With an entourage of 15 people.
EB: Even his own people were intimidated by him. I was the only one allowed to watch from the control room. He wouldn’t allow any of his people to watch him.
TGS: I’m sure.
EB: And when they were wrapping up the interview, live, in French, I came out and said to them “Okay, everybody get ready, Lou’s coming out.” They were all laughing.
TGS: What year was this?
EB: Early 80s.
TGS: I know that period.
Moe (Maureen Tucker) greeting cards to Honey Bun (Lou Reed) Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
EB: Also I had an Andy Warhol Index Book with me, from the St. Mark’s Church footage you have.
TGS: Right, that must have been later, though. No, you’re right.
EB: I showed this book to Lou and he says “I’ve never seen this before” like really paranoid about seeing something he’s never seen before. It was a flexi disc, I don’t know if you have that image in your film.
TGS: I know this book, wow! Did he sign it for you?
EB: Yes, of course, he signed the back. As you said, he was very tight-lipped.
TGS: You had to approach him very carefully, because he’d react to things and misunderstand. Everybody wanted something from him. He had to be so sensitive to that because everybody was meeting him with such baggage about him. It was always very difficult.
AKT: I have one more question. In your film there is beautiful archival footage that is also in Todd Haynes’s film, of New York and a shadow is moving over the skyscrapers. Do you remember where that was from?
Lou Reed's Berlin at St. Ann’s Warehouse Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
TGS: It’s stock footage of the period that we wanted and he must have used it as well. There’s not as much material out there as you’d think, especially for the Velvets. I’m curious to see the film because it’s very limited what there is. It’s different today, when we made that film on Lou we were paying like $ 500 for a 15 MB hard drive. Today it’s not even a file practically. Everything was so expensive and different on an Avid.
There was no Internet so you couldn’t google pictures of Lou Reed, you had to call agencies and they would send you stuff to look at. That’s how we’d get material. There’s so much material out there now that I wish I had known about. YouTube, interviews in Australia. There’s one incredible one that’s just Lou at his quickest. There are so many things we didn’t know about.
EB: And Songs for Drella, is that Lachman footage or did you get it from BAM [Brooklyn Academy of Music]?
TGS: That’s the footage that was shot at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. They had permission to shoot footage and we were able to access it. I was there for both concerts.
EB: I was there too, I couldn’t believe it.
TGS: It was mind-blowing I remember. I remember when he sang - Nobody Like You is the song. In the end it says “nobody like you” and he twists it into something so brilliant. “Nobody’s like you.” And he twists it into “my life is full of nobodies like you.” The whole audience was like [big face of surprise].
AKT: The poetry of it. There are so many lines with tiny changes that make all the difference.
TGS: I saw the Rock ’n’ Roll Animal concert at the Palladium and my wife was there, we didn’t know each other yet. Both concerts that night.
Ed Bahlman with the Andy Warhol Index Book flexi disc signed by Lou Reed Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
EB: Meant to be.
TGS: I actually saw the Velvets perform at Max’s Kansas City in that last August before Lou quit the band. As Jim Carroll says, there weren’t even 50 people in the room. I was in New York, I was 18 and I saw an ad in the Village Voice that said Velvet Underground. I went and that was it. It was like $8 to go in.
EB: What a small space too.
TGS: Upstairs, yes, it was incredible.
AKT: In the film you mention who was there: John Schlesinger, Veruschka, Twiggy, and Sylvia Miles. Sylvia Miles died while I was in your home to do the Toni Morrison interview.
TGS: During our interview?
AKT: Yes, in the middle of it you got a text that said she died.
TGS: Oh no.
AKT: We shouldn’t laugh.
Andy Warhol Index Book flexi disc signed by Lou Reed, collection Ed Bahlman Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
TGS: She lived pretty long, she did pretty well.
EB: Did you know Peter Crowley at Max’s who booked the bands?
TGS: A little bit, not really very well, I remember the name.
EB: Because he came into 99 and said “Hey Ed, give me a copy of that Too Many Creeps, Bush Tetras for the jukebox, because I have a hole puncher.” He came back the next week. You know what the most requested song was at Max’s? Too Many Creeps!
TGS: Wow, amazing. It was a tiny world and quite different. People don’t understand it, the Velvet fans was a small group. As Jim Carroll says “everybody who bought an album started a band.” It was not untrue.
EB: They’d also go see each other perform.
TGS: It was important to be apart of the scene to be there. I enjoyed this, it’s always kind of fun to think about the film.
Anne-Katrin Titze showing Ed Bahlman’s Andy Warhol Index Book to Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
AKT: You should be very proud of it, I think you are.
TGS: I am. We’re trying to get it reupped, as they say. So we’re working on that.
TGS: Of course! I was so happy to be able to shoot him when I did. I noticed he was a little out of it, in and out of it, I think. When he was in it, he was riveting. What a life, what a career, what an extraordinary man!
AKT: Yes, I mean the 7 Up series, it’s an unbelievable treasure to have. Apropos documentaries, Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation made me think of you because I remembered you telling me about meeting Tennessee as a child.
TGS: It’s so fascinating, I was reading his short story called The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone. I haven’t read it in 40 years or something and I picked it up the other night in my library and I read it.
Lou Reed: Caught Between The Twisted Stars gallery Photo: Ed Bahlman
AKT: That’s the one that has been filmed with Vivien Leigh, isn’t it?
TGS: Yes, it’s based on that. It’s very good [the story] but it’s not what he really does, which is being a playwright. Then I started reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s last week because I wanted to kind of see. And Truman is such a better writer of short stories and prose that way. And Tennessee was really a playwright, that’s where his ear was, I think.
AKT: His language is incredible. In the documentary you hear his lisp that he also has.
TGS: I think he is fabulous in interviews because the voice is so beautiful and he has that laugh and he’s very self-deprecating. It’s very sophisticated in many ways.
AKT: Lovely to see you!
TGS: Lovely to see you again, bye!
On view is Hal Willner's Studio through March 4, 2023; Lou Reed Listening Room in the Vincent Astor Gallery through January 9, 2023; Materials from the Lou Reed Archive are available onsite at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Lou Reed: Caught Between The Twisted Stars runs from June 9 through March 4, 2023.