In Hollywood’s Eve (Scribner, Jan.), Vanity Fair contributing editor Anolik looks at the life of author and artist Eve Babitz.
What attracted you to Eve Babitz’s story?
I heard about Eve about eight years ago. I saw a quote of hers, something about Los Angeles and sex, and I was captivated. I hunted down her books—they were all out-of-print at that point—and found Slow Days, Fast Company, which I think is her masterpiece. I was just besotted, totally lovestruck. I thought she had a totally idiosyncratic sensibility, and I loved the elegance of her prose, the apparent effortlessness of her style. And then there was her passion for L.A.
She was Zelig-like. How did you organize her story?
You think about that old F. Scott Fitzgerald chestnut—there are no second acts in American lives—but there were for Eve. The first act was as a muse and a groupie, seducing all these famous guys and some famous girls, too. In the second act, she’s a visual artist, doing collages and album covers. By 28, she’s in her third act, as a writer, and she’s discovered by Joseph Heller and Joan Didion. Then you go into her fourth act, which was in 1997 when she dropped a cigar on her lap while driving, which was grotesque and traumatic [after which she became reclusive]. Now, at this late date, in her middle 70s, she’s attained this attenuated celebrity. So her fifth act is being this woman of letters.
How did you convince her to work with you?
I pursued her for years. She didn’t respond to any of my phone calls or any of my letters—she totally cold-shouldered me. So I turned my focus on those close to her and became friendly with [Eve’s sister] Mirandi; Julian Wasser, who had taken that famous picture of her naked, playing chess; a bunch of her old lovers. I guess she finally got curious and called me and told me I could take her to lunch.
What would you like people to know about Eve?
It’s a point of fascination to me that Eve is resonating with millennial women. She seems antithetical to these times. I remember having this conversation with a boyfriend of hers from the 1970s, and I told him how big she was with the book-reading 20-something females. He was completely perplexed. He said, “the #metoo girls? The only time Eve said ‘me too’ was when she wanted what you had—the drink, the drugs, the dude, whatever.” We’re in this strident historical moment, and people are angry and upset, justifiably so. It’s not what you’d call a fun-loving era. But Eve’s all about fun.