Brigid Berlin is an American legend. Deranged and beautiful, her life is a head on collision between high society decadence, urine soaked carpet fibers and methamphetamine filled veins, forming a beautiful bouquet of rebelliousness. On view now at Invisible Exports, an exhibition explores the life and ephemera of this strange specimen, from her polaroid’s of Andy Warhol’s factory and the New York avant garde to her obsessive audio recordings to her wonderful tit paintings that make for fine framed prints on any discernable gentleman or gentlewoman’s desk. Just who is Brigid Berlin? – She is a rebel in the purest form. She is an artist and a documentarian. She was once a part of Andy Warhol’s circle and entourage. Today, Berlin is alive and well and, no doubt, as weird as ever. Here are ten things you need to know about Brigid Berlin.
1. Her Parents Were Socialites and She Grew Up In A World Of Manhattan Privilege
Her mother was Muriel Johnson "Honey" Berlin – on her deathbed she was still ordering outfits from Saks. Her father was Richard E. Berlin – chairman of the Hearst Media empire for 32 years. Sometimes she would pick up the phone and Richard Nixon would be on the line. On one occasion, Lyndon B. Johnson accompanied the young Berlin to a rehab in Mexico.
2. She Rebelled Against High Society By Over Eating
Her mother tried to give her a dollar for every pound she lost. Honey Berlin would also take her young daughter to get shots of amphetamines and dexedrine from various doctors around New York city to speed up her metabolism. Brigid was also sent to a school in Switzerland to lose weight, but she would steal other girls’ money and go on pastry binges.
3. Brigid Meets Andy Warhol and Becomes A Central Figure of His Entourage
In 1964, curator Henry Geldzahler tok Brigid to meet Andy Warhol at his silver factory. Berlin would wind up collaborating with Warhol on multiple projects. She starred in Andy’s films Chelsea Girls and Ciao! Manhattan. Brigid also worked at the front desk of the factory well into the 80s taking phone calls and transcribing interviews for Interview Magazine.
3. Brigid Berlin Becomes Brigid Poke After Giving Out Doses of Meth and B12
Around the time that Berlin met Warhol, she was living in various rooms of the Chelsea Hotel. It is there that she earned the name Brigid Poke because of her habit of doling out “pokes,” which are simply injections of B12 and methamphetamine. In the quasi documentary film Ciao! Manhattan, directed by Warhol, Berlin can be seen shooting up whilst giving an interview.
4. Brigid Found A Blank Diary Notebook and Turned It Into The "Cock Book"
Berlin’s “cock book” is one of the most famous pieces of ephemera from the sixties. After finding a blank notebook, she would go around to places like Max’s Kansas City and Andy Warhol’s factory and had some of the most famous artists and figures of the time draw phalluses. Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Peter Beard, Basquiat, Leonard Cohen and more contributed. Artist Richard Prince bought the cock book at auction for $175, 000.
5. Andy Warhol Once Told Everyone That His Works Were Actually Made By Brigid
In one of Andy Warhol’s famous practical jokes, he tells Time magazine in an interview that his paintings were actually made by Brigid. People took it very seriously and the value of Warhol’s work decreased significantly. Both Warhol and Brigid were forced to retract their statements.
7. She Would Obsessively Document Her Life and The People In It
From the sound of her own peeing in hotel rooms to polaroid portraits of some of the biggest names in art and the social scene, Berlin would capture everything. She also used reams of tape to record audio from the goings on inside Warhol’s factory. Some of those recordings were used in the Velvet Underground’s album Live At Max’s Kansas City.
8. Brigid Became Known For Her Tit Paintings
While Andy Warhol was using silkscreens to interpret pop culture, Berlin was dipping her breasts into ink and paint, and then transferring them to canvas and paper to create a unique series of “tit paintings.” Many of these tit paintings can be seen at Invisible Exports as part of the exhibition, It’s All About Me.
9. Needlepoint Became A Medium That Brigid Would Use Later In Life
Taken from the salacious and trashy covers of the NY Post and Daily News, with headlines like “I Snorted My Dad” and “Bad Heir Day,” Berlin would create amazing needlepoint pillows. They were the kind of thing you’d find in cheap craft shops and are typical of the time passing handiwork that members of the upper crust turn to during the twilight years. Ten years worth of Berlin’s needlework pillows were shown last year at Glenn Horowitz Bookseller.
10. You Will Soon Be Able to Purchase A Book of Her Polaroids
Currently available for preorder, Brigid Berlin Polaroids captures a large selection of her personal collection of Polaroids for the very time. From the introduction by director John Waters, “Brigid was always my favorite underground movie star; big, often naked, and ornery as hell...The Polaroids here show just how wide Brigid's world was; her access was amazing. She was never a groupie, always an insider."