By the time Warhol met her, Christa Paggen was already using the name that she would become famous by. It was:
Nico with Brian Jones
Gerard Malanga had first met Nico when he had accompanied Warhol to London in the Spring of 1965.
Warhol and his entourage (Gerard Malanga, Edie Sedgwick and Chuck Wein) had gone to Paris in May, 1965 for Warhol's exhibition of his flower paintings at Ileana Sonnabend's Paris gallery. In Paris, Andy announced that he was retiring from painting in order to concentrate on filmmaking. After leaving Paris, Warhol and his entourage went to London where they visited the art dealer Robert Fraser, attended an Allen Ginsberg poetry reading and posed for photographs taken by David Bailey and Michael Cooper.
When Malanga met Nico in London, he gave her the Factory phone number and told her to ring them the next time she was in New York - she had previously been to New York in 1959 to study acting. When she went back to New York at the beginning of 1966, she signed up with the Ford Modeling Agency, and also contacted the Factory.
"She [Nico] called us from a Mexican restaurant and we went right over to meet her. She was sitting at a table with a pitcher in front of her, dipping her long beautiful fingers into the sangria, lifting out slices of wine-soaked oranges. When she saw us, she tilted her head to the side and brushed her hair back with her other hand and said very slowly, 'I only like the fooood that flooooats in the wiiine.'
During dinner, Nico told us that she'd been on TV in England in a rock show called Ready, Steady, Go! and right there she pulled a demo 45 rpm out of her bag of a song called I'll Keep It with Mine that had been written for her, she said, by Bob Dylan, who'd been over there touring. (It was one of a few pressings that had Dylan playing the piano on it, and eventually Judy Collins recorded it.) Nico said that Al Grossman [Dylan's manager] had heard it and told her that if she came to the United States, he'd manage her. When she said that, it didn't sound too promising, because we'd heard Edie telling us so much that she was 'under contract' to Grossman and nothing much seem to be happening for her... We were still seeing Edie, but we weren't showing her films anymore...
Nico had cut a record called I'm Not Sayin' in London (Andrew Oldham, the Stones' producer had produced it), and she'd also been in La Dolce Vita. She had a young son - we'd heard rumours that the father was Alain Delon and Paul [Morrissey] asked her about that immediately because Delon was one of his favourite actors, and Nico said yes, that it was true and that the boy was in Europe with Alain's mother. The minute we left the restaurant Paul said that we should use Nico in the movies and find a rock group to play for her. He was raving that she was 'the most beautiful creature that ever lived'." (POP145-6)
Nico was born in Cologne on October 16, 1938. In 1940, she moved to Berlin with her mother. Her father had already been drafted into Hitler's army and had instructed her mother to take her to her grandparent's house in Lowenau in order to evacuate them from Berlin. Nico really never knew her father - he was reported killed in action by the Nazi government but the family believed that he had only been wounded and then executed by the Nazis. Her aunt, Helma Wolff was like a second mother to her and remembers Nico's childhood as a loner:
"She took walks on the Kurfustendamn. She went window shopping. She had no friends, she went by herself. That's were Tobias discovered her. He was Oestergaard's photographer. That was the beginning. Then Paris Vogue saw her and gave her a job right away. Oestergaard lost her. When she went to Paris, she was only 16. She could move her body and act. That's all she wanted to do. Her hands were like milk and glass. She never worked. Beautiful hands..." (NI)
It was the photographer Tobias who suggested she change her name to Nico - after a man that Tobias had once loved in Paris. (NI) In addition to fashion modeling in the fifties, she also appeared in the film La Tempesta (1958) and For The First Time (1959) (in a short scene filmed in 1958) before landing a role in Fellini's film La Dolce Vita in Rome.
When she first went to New York in 1959 she studied acting at Lee Strasberg's Method School, attending the same class as Marilyn Monroe. In 1962 she landed a substantial role in the French film Strip-Tease and recorded the title song with Serge Gainsborough. However, Juliette Greco's version was released instead. Also in 1962, she gave birth to a child - Christian Aaron Boulogne and claimed that the father was Alain Delon, although Delon denied he was the father. Nico's son Ari, as he was nicknamed, would later appear with his mother in The Chelsea Girls.
At the time of Ari's birth, Delon denied paternity. A French civil servant, Jean-Marc Billancourt, maintains that he is the real father of Ari and has issued an appeal to Ari on the internet (translated from the French):
"... Nature made me the almost perfect double of Alain Delon which came in handy with women... At one time, I benefited from it. It's thus that I met the singer Nico, with whom I had an affair. She was convinced that I was the real Delon and when she told me she was pregnant, I told her my true identity. But she never wanted to believe me. One day she disappeared without leaving an address - which suited me given that I was already married and had a family. When I saw a certain Ari Boulogne at the home of Mireille Dumas, something clicked, and my last doubts disappeared when I saw a photo of his mother in the press. It was, indeed, her! When I tell this story nobody wants to believe me and my friends, mocking me, call me Boulogne-Billancourt.
Ari, if you are reading these lines, I am not annoyed if you do not believe me either. The heritage of Alain Delon is, without doubt, more interesting than that of the simple civil servant that I am. As for you, Mr. Delon, something tells me that you will not doubt for an instant the truth of my claim."
However, when Delon's own mother, Edith Boulogne, saw Ari's photograph in a French newspaper, she was convinced it was her son's child.
Edith Boulogne [Alain Delon's mother]:
"I said to myself, that's my son's child. We went to see her [Nico], her and the baby. The kid was about two years old. He came running into my husband's arms. We were so moved. I saw my own son in him. And I truly believed that my son would accept him... When he heard about it two years after we had taken the baby, he had his agent tell me that I had to choose between the baby and my son. My husband said, 'Your son can feed himself, but Ari can't raise himself.' So we kept him.
Think about it, he was so little. Before we took him, she [Nico] dragged him around everywhere. He ate nothing but french fries, in train stations, hotels, airports. They lived like bohemians. She came to see him once in three years. She brought him something from America. Guess what? An orange. My husband and I looked at each other, speechless. We took the orange and thought, she's really not like other people... but I still liked her. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. (NI)
Alain Delon's mother ended up adopting Ari, giving him the last name of Boulogne.
Ari became Warhol's youngest star when he later appeared with his Nico in The Chelsea Girls in 1966. When he grew up he became a heroin addict - turned on to the drug by Nico who was also addicted to it - and spent his life in and out of clinics and psychiatric hospitals. In 2001 while living in Paris, he published a book about himself and Nico called L'Amour N'Oublie Jamais. His decision to write the book coincided with the birth of his own son.
When Warhol first met Nico in the sixties, he was captivated by her. In 1965 he had been contacted by impresario Michael Myerberg to host a nightclub and was looking for a rock group to perform at the venue. In December 1965, He had gone to see The Velvet Underground at the Cafe Bizarre at the recommendation of Gerard Malanga and Paul Morrissey.
"The singing was done by Lou Reed and he just seemed, um, not a very good singer and not a good personality - uh, something too seedy about him... and he was not a natural performer, he was sort of a shy type onstage." (NI)
Warhol liked the band and put them together with Nico. The only problem was that although Nico looked the part, her voice wasn't quite what the Velvets were looking for.
"She [Nico] was actually reduced to tears in the studio because we wanted her to sing in a soft voice rather than, you know, a German voice, so we succeeded finally.... (NI)
Warhol filmed the band in January 1966 rehearsing at the Factory for his film The Velvet Underground And Nico: A Symphony Of Sound. The Velvets would also record soundtracks for two other Warhol films that were made in 1966 - Hedy and More Milk Yvette.
When Warhol was invited to speak at a banquet for the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry on January 13, 1966, he brought The Velvet Underground with Nico to perform, as well as Edie Sedgwick who danced and attempted to sing.
The second the main course was served, the Velvets started to blast and Nico started to wail. Gerard and Edie jumped up on the stage and started dancing, and the doors flew open and Jonas Mekas and Barbara Rubin with her crew of people with camera and bright lights came storming into the room and rushing over to all the psychiatrists asking them things like:
What does her vagina feel like?
Is his penis big enough? Do you eat her out?
Why are you getting embarrassed? Youre a psychiatrist; youre not supposed to get embarrassed....
While the crews filmed and Nico sang her Dylan song, Gerard noticed ... that Edie was trying to sing, too, but ... it was obvious she didnt have a voice.
Gerard always looked back on that night as the last time she ever went out with us in public, except for a party here and there. He thought that shed felt upstaged that night, that shed realized Nico was the new girl in town. (POP147)
When Michael Myerberg later saw The Velvet Underground perform in February, he decided they wouldn't be appropriate for his club - replacing them with the Young Rascals. In April Warhol started his own club, The Dom and featured the Velvet Underground there as part of his Exploding Plastic Inevitable show, which would later tour college campuses. Warhol would also produce an album featuring The Velvet Underground and Nico - but he never received any royalties from it during his lifetime, due to a contractual problem.
Nico, who had always been seen as an outsider by the other Velvets, soon left the band to pursue her own musical career. She wanted to be known as a serious artist in her own right.
"She started at some point, um, having a real resentment over her good looks. She hated the fact that people thought she was beautiful. She thought this was some sort of disgrace to be beautiful... But in those days modeling was not artistic... you know, artistic was to be like Janis Joplin screaming your lungs out before you die of drug addiction... She [Nico] was so happy to be called ugly..." (NI)
James Young, a musician in Nico's touring band in the eighties, recalled how she had changed by the eighties.
"She was almost proud of the fact that her teeth were rotten and her hair was grey and, you know, her skin was bad and she had needle tracks all over. She liked that. That was her aesthetic...
She was the queen of the bad girls, you know. Terrifying. She was terrifying. And with her manager, you know, the fights, I mean they would have knife fights... The one time we got off the ferry there's this guy - they'd just hired him to do the sound - he was very kind of nervous and anxious - you know he didn't like the smells in the van, you know, of people cooking heroin...
Anyway, we just got off the ferry in Calais and Nico's manager was sitting in the front. There was the sound guy who was driving and Nico was just sitting there. And [we] just got past the customs and Nico suddenly pulls this knife out - 'I'm gonna kill you. I'm gonna kill you.' - She grabbed Alan by the jacket -'I'm gonna kill you, I'm gonna kill you.' - the guys going crazy and the van's flying off the road, you know and, uh, I mean, he's never seen anything like this in his life before. Suddenly there's this crazy woman throwing knives around. And that's just an ordinary morning." (NI)
Nico's career in Warhol films was short-lived. In addition to the film of her singing with the Velvet Underground at the Factory, she also went on to appear in The Chelsea Girls and Imitation of Christ which was originally part of **** (Four Stars) or the twenty-five hour movie. Warhol also used her voice as the soundtrack for Sunset - which he shot in 1967.
Around the same time that Nico started hanging out at the Factory, another woman who was hanging out at the Factory became the "final blow" to Warhol's "vengeance" against Edie Sedgwick, according to Gerard Malanga. It was:
Edie Sedgwick and Ingrid Superstar
(photo: Stephen Shore)
"Andy loved to manipulate and control people, and his vengeance against Edie, who was becoming more distant before the final blow, was Ingrid Superstar. The picture of Ingrid and Edie together is telling. This was Ingrid's entry into the Warhol scene, brought in by Chuck Wein, who was also getting even with Edie. I came up with the name Ingrid Superstar, because you can't top that. Ingrid tried her hardest, not to demean her at all, because Ingrid was a sweetheart, but Ingrid just totally lacked class... She was this girl from a working-class background in Jersey with a Jersey accent. (VY137)
Poet/artist Rene Ricard (who had previously appeared with Edie Sedgwick in Kitchen) thought that Warhol's people found Ingrid at a 42nd Street bar in an effort to teach Edie Sedgwick a lesson because of her uncooperative behaviour. Gerard Malanga said it was Chuck Wein who introduced Ingrid to the Factory. Ingrid lived in New Jersey and had been working as an office temp in Manhattan.
"The Warhol people felt Edie was giving them trouble... They were furious with her because she wasn't cooperating. So they went to a 42nd Street bar and found Ingrid Von Scheflin. They had noticed: 'Doesn't this girl look like an ugly Edie? Let's teach Edie a lesson. Let's make a movie with her and tell Edie she's the big new star.' They cut her hair like Edie's. They made her up like Edie. Her name became Ingrid Superstar... just an invention to make Edie feel horrible." (LD235)
Ingrid became a comedic replacement to Edie Sedgwick. After Edie died in 1971, her New York Times obituary noted "In 1966, she [Edie Sedgwick] was replaced as the leading star of Warhol films by a young woman named Ingrid Superstar." (ES45) Although Ingrid did not make as many films with Warhol as Edie did, her film career with Warhol lasted for a longer period. Her final appearance in a Warhol film was in San Diego Surf in 1968. Much later, in the 1980s, Ingrid disappeared completely.
"Ingrid Superstar... retired to Kingston, New York, ballooned up to nearly two hundred pounds, floated in and out of prostitution and drug dealing, and was at one point judged mentally disabled... she went out to buy a pack of cigarettes and a newspaper, leaving her fur coat in the closet and her false teeth in the sink. She was never seen again." (UV250)
Although Warhol had not had any contact with Ingrid for some time, he found her disappearance upsetting - particularly because nobody had told him about it.
Andy Warhol [February 4, 1987]:
"... the Post had a picture of Ingrid Superstar with a big story: 'Warhol Star Vanishes.' I thought she was going to be at the reunion Billy Name is setting up. I wonder if Gerard gave this to the papers just to get his name in. Brigid never even told me they called about her. I would've cared that Ingrid was missing. People magazine had been calling because they're doing a story on Ivy Nicholson and they wanted me to give a quote and for her I did tell Brigid to tell People we'd 'never heard of her', but that was only because it was Ivy - Ingrid I would've cared about. But I bet something did happen to her. It said she went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came back. This is in upstate New York. And People said Ivy was doing a 'comeback,' but I mean, what would it be as? (AWD800)
Ingrid's most famous role during her Warhol days was as a character in a film that would bring underground cinema over ground - and also starred Nico. It was The Chelsea Girls...