David Weisman on Ciao! Manhattan

David Weisman:

"In the spring of 1967 a Factory splinter group that included Genevieve Charbin, Chuck Wein, Gino Piserchio, John Palmer and myself gathered at Bob Margouleff's studio at 20 West 47th Street. Genevieve & Chuck were trying to rewrite Stripped & Strapped, a $200 B-movie treatment Margouleff had bought and planned to produce for $10,000. Instead, on Easter Sunday - with a half-baked script - we all ran out to the first Central Park Be-In and began filming what The New York Times dubbed the first "aboveground underground film."

Ciao Manhattan was conceived as a 35mm black-and-white feature that would essentially chronicle our own lifestyle as fabulously hip young midtown scenesters. Edie Sedgwick and Paul America would play lead roles along with Factory and Max's Kansas City regulars Baby Jane Holzer, Viva and Brigid "Polk" Berlin and more spiritual New York luminaries such as Allen Ginsberg and Nena Thurman in the supporting cast...

Fueled by amphetamines we filmed and filmed, at the Be-In, at Max's Kansas City and Betsey Johnson's store Paraphernalia, at Al Roon's Health Club in the Ansonia, from Times Square to Beekman Place to my Tudor City duplex to the World's Fairgrounds. The money came and went, and so did our cast. Paul America disappeared halfway through production...

The speed-dispensing quack with the sauna was actually one of those vitamin doctors whose influence on showbiz and politics eventually became common knowledge. The voyeuristic tycoon Mr. Verdecchio, who appears as a paranoid fantasy of Edie's drug-manipulated past, was in real life a top-notch Seventh Avenue mink wholesaler and the staunch Republican mayor of a wealthy New York suburb, in addition to being Bob Margouleff's dad.

Over a year later, in late 1968, we found Paul America in an upstate Michigan prison, facing twenty years to life on an obscure marijuana charge. We shot a sequence in his actual jail cell, which we naively thought would finish the film. Instead, we had inadvertently created a new dimension of reality...

We shot the color footage from December 1970 through January 1971... Then one morning in November 1971, shortly after Edie had married fellow Cottage Hospital patient Michael Post in a lovely ceremony at her family's rustic ranch (where for a brief, sunny instant a so-called 'normal life' seemed possible), John and I sat in our editing room stunned from a phone call informing us that Edie was dead. She just didn't wake up that day, her body ravaged by a decade of nonstop excess." (CNB)