Face Addict

Face Addict


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

What happens to the beautiful people when age, drugs and fashion kick the wheels off their mojos? Do they carry on regardless, older, sadder and proud of survival? Or are they yet another name on a HIV Aids statistic?

When Edo Bertoglio was taking photographs in The Mudd Club and at Andy Warhol’s Factory for chic publications, such as Interview and Rolling Stone, in the Seventies, he was a fully paid up member of the all-nighters' rave brigade. He was beautiful; he was French; he would live forever.

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He stayed in New York for 14 years. Now returning as a sober-suited, conventional-looking fiftysomething, he doesn’t recognise the place. So many of his friends are dead; others have embraced artistic acceptability, written books, edited magazines, left the city. Debby Harry has dogs and says the revival of Blondie was not her idea. Jean-Michel Basquiat (“An inspiration to me”) overdosed and is remembered fondly. Glenn O’Brien, poet and one-time editor of Interview, says, “In those days it was about the work, not about being famous.” John Lurie of The Lounge Lizards would seek out gallery openings in order to eat. “There was all that promise and it sure was exciting.” Now he suffers a rare brain disease, paints every day, draws the blinds in his apartment.

Bertoglio once took pictures of moody guys and sexy girls, using the roof as his studio. “We were all ego maniacs and drug addicts,” he says. “That’s a bit of a problem.” Eventually expectation drowned in the effluence of indulgence and John tells Edo that he's writing a book called What Do You Know About Music, You Are Not A Lawyer.

Bertoglio was 26 in 1977. On one wall of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment are photographs of their friends. “Before I was addicted to drugs, I was addicted to faces,” he says. “I would fall in love every five minutes.”

O’Brien has done well and retains a sense of irony about the past. James Nares paints massive canvases while strapped to a contraption that might have originated in Mission Impossible. Wendy Whitelaw, make up artist and beauty, fled to Detroit to recover. Viktor Bocris wrote a biography of his friend William Burroughs and is wonderfully articulate about the experience of taking heroin. Walter Steding, the casualty resurrected, shows off his medical check up chart – no sign of drug use, alcohol or toxic substances. He smiles his broken smile. He played his violin first as a fresh faced youth at The Factory (“Andy would sell art and hang out with rich ladies”). He plays it now at a SoHo gallery, showing his paintings of large, disturbing heads. He hasn’t changed, despite giving up on the killer pleasures. The difference is that he is no longer an insider. The city and the madness have changed. Once, there was the aura of romanticism. “Andy was the last of the libertarians,” Walter says. “Everything is so uptight now.”

Reviewed on: 25 Aug 2008
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Face Addict packshot
Photographer who worked during the legendary Warhol years returns to New York to interview the survivors.

Director: Edo Bertoglio

Writer: Edo Bertoglio, Gaia Guasti

Starring: Walter Steding, Glenn O'Brien, John Lurie, Maripol, Deborah Harry, Wendy Whitelaw, James Nares, Victor Bockris, Edo Bertoglio

Year: 2005

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: US/Italy/Switzerland


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