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Wonderboy: The life, loves and death of Eric Emerson

Gary Comenas (2016)

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Krysteen met Eric on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in 1968, not far from the Whiskey à Go Go (SDS). According to Krysteen it was "right after the filming of Lonesome Cowboys."(Email September 3, 2002) Lonesome Cowboys was filmed at the end of January.

Krysteen (August 9, 2002 06:42):

I was born in Los Angeles, 1950, March 4. I grew up out here [L.A. area] and was in Catholic schools for 9 yrs. Eric also went to Catholic School but in Hoboken, New Jersey. His full name was Alfred William Emerson. His father was a worker or builder... I am only telling you what Eric told me. His family was large, maybe 8 kids. He said one was a nun, one a priest, one had a hairdresser's place, I can't remember all of them. I spoke to his mother once when I was in New York over the telephone. He called to tell her I was pregnant and we were going to be married...

Anyway, like I said before I was a hippie and growing up in LA in the 60s so I went out all the time... I hung with a clique of friends that were regulars on the [Sunset] Strip... So one night in 1968 we were partying on the street on the Strip, smokin' dope, taking LSD, that kind of thing... up by the Whisky, maybe around the side against the building, and this bunch of out-of-town freaks show up.

Whiskey à Go Go, 1968 (Photographer unknown)

Krys continued her story in a second email:

Krysteen (August 9, 2002, 06:57):

Anyway that's when Eric comes walking up the strip with about 5 people hang[ing] around him. He's wearing tan heavy leather shorts. Green nylon stockings. Cow[boy] boots. A kind of pirate shirt open in the front with a scarf around his neck. He's tan. Very blonde. Very loud and friendly. I think, but I am not sure if Rodney Bingenheimer was there that night or not, but our friends were smokin' dope against the building and he smells it. Now this guys' older than us but he walks up, asks for a hit. Pow. Just like that. Well, Jingles [Krysteen's friend] gives him a little bit of bullshit, than about 5 min later turns him on to a joint. Now Eric sees these 3 guys with 5 girls and gets real friendly and wants to know if after the show at the Whisky we would like to go back to his place to party. "The Castle." So that's how I ended up there...

The Castle was a house in Hollywood that resembled a castle. Krys recalled what life was like with Eric while they were living there.

Krysteen (August 17, 2002 04:20):

When Eric and I still lived in Hollywood we went to lots of parties, some people were famous, Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton... lots of music people i can't remember all of them three dog night, groupie stuff is what i called it. I told Eric that's how I felt. He told me I was tripping, that he was just as famous as most of these people, and for the most part he was right because at all the parties he seemed to be the big attraction. I guess word had gotten out that Andy had just finished shooting Lonesome Cowboys and was going to have a new movie out that Eric had stared in.

Also at that time I know that Andy did not pay the rent on The Castle because we lived with the guy that did. Mike [Boosin] was his name and he was a race car driver....

Our days went mostly like this: If we were not already awake we woke up and did some speed. We would shoot up, than we would spend a long time figuring out what we were going to wear that night on the Strip. Believe me, dressing was a big part of getting ready to step out the door.

Anyway, Eric used to supply all the dope, food and smiles. I used to make some of our clothes but I was to young and naive to think about actually paying bills or where the money came from.

The "Castle"

About five years after I started my correspondence with Krysteen, I was contacted independently by the owner of The Castle when Eric and Krysteen stayed there - Michael Boosin - who also went under the names of "Michael Saint" and "Flash 5." Michael appears in the film Andy Makes a Movie (directed by Robert Emmet Smith who is credited as "Bob Smith" in the film). Andy Makes a Movie is a short film showing Warhol and Morrissey shooting San Diego Surf and interviewing some of the cast members of Surf. It includes interviews with Warhol, Viva, Ingrid Superstar and, of course, Eric Emerson. The interviewer in the film, Aaron Sloan, mistakes Boosin for a Warhol star and has a relatively lengthy conversation with him, considering the film is less than thirty minutes long.

Boosin's castle was not the same "rock 'n roll" castle that Warhol and his entourage stayed at when they visited L.A. for the opening of The Chelsea Girls at the Presidio Theater which is mentioned in Popism: "When Chelsea Girls opened at the Presidio Theatre in L.A. in late August '67, [we] flew to California for personal appearances. Nico was already out there; she'd been at The Castle all summer with Jim Morrison, but she'd gone off with Brian Jones to the Monterey Festival. (Edie stayed at The Castle a little while that summer, too. She had come cross-country in a Volkswagen station wagon - somebody else drove - after being very out of it, taking lots of drugs those last days in New York.)." (POP233)

Danny Fields remembered staying with Edie Sedgwick at The Castle that was mentioned in Popism:

Danny Fields:

We drove up to The Castle. Edie had left Sepp and was going with Dino Valente then - he wrote this one song, 'Come on, children, lets all get together, smile on your brother.' It became a classic, but it was a one-shotter. Edie was with him up at the Castle. As soon as I got up there, she was after me: 'Oh, do you have any downs?' I said, 'Nope'. 'Aw, come on, I just need a Tuinal to get through till tomorrow. I need three Tuinals a day and I've only had two. Last night I took six and they didn't work.'

In fact, I did have some pills with me, but I wasn't going to let her get near them. Relationships were built entirely on drugs... the only thing going. 'Do we have any junk for tonight?'

I hid my suitcase under my bed that night. I took the pills out and hid them somewhere in the room. A few hours later, and don't you know, Edie found them? They were all goone. She must have had a nose for them, because she didn't even have to rip the room apart to find them. (EDIE349)

The Castle mentioned in Popism and by Danny Fields was at 2630 Glendower Avenue. Boosin's castle was at 4857 Melrose Avenue. The realtor who rented the property to Boosin told him that the Melrose castle had originally been built by an ex-LA County Sheriff for his wife (see San Diego Surf). Boosin explains:

The Castle, 1968 - the year that Eric and Krysteen stayed there (Photo: Michael Saint aka Michael Boosin aka Flash5)

Michael Boosin (Email January 11, 2007 00:43):

The Castle was at 4857 Melrose Ave. in Hollywood (2 blocks of East of Western)... lots of freaks & musicians hung out, or played music. Lots of killer parties! I had rented [it] for 1 year. At the end the owners were not too happy about me renewing. Eric lived with me, downstairs. I was called "The King" by visitors and friends from the Strip, so naturally Eric was referred to as "The Prince." A few of [Frank] Zappa's girls (GTOs) stayed there from time to time.

When Boosin is asked if The Castle is "open to the public" in Andy Makes a Movie, he replies "It's open to our public... if they're good people, you know, if we dig them and see if they're cool and everything, they can stay there for... limited engagements only [laughs]."

When asked if any acts appear at The Castle, Boosin answers, "we have, um, a few of the local bands who need places to rehearse, practice, they come there and they play and its a symbiotic thing - they do for us, we do for them, I love having live music at my place, I think its great..."

When he's asked if its a cooperative enterprise, Boosin answers "It's a cooperative enterprise where people are sharing my assets [laughs]. I stick out the bread for The Castle and, uh, a few other things... It's just me and Eric who are always there, we're the ones who are contributing who... hold together the whole place... or else we get busted... you know, we keep the things together."

When Boosin is asked if he's been in a Warhol film before, he answers in the negative and the interviewer asks him how he got involved in the film [San Diego Surf]. Boosin answers, "If you really want to put it where its at, um, possibly in on Eric's ticket. Eric and I are the Prince and King respectively of The Castle in Hollywood..."

Asked if he describes himself as an artist or performer Mike answers, "Eclectic... my main interest lies in a degree in psychology which I have, I build and drive race cars, I like to get in and out of music, and I paint and do art."

When Eric is interviewed in the same film he tries to distance himself from Warhol:

Eric Emerson (Andy Makes a Movie, 1968):

I was only in two films which were the best films - The Chelsea Girls... I was also in the cowboy movie... I don't even know the name of it.. but anyway I was offered to star in that... I'm not a male superstar, I'm a, I feel more like a wonderboy because I don't want to be a superstar like everyone else. I don't consider myself part of the Warhol crowd, I don't hang around with them... I don't associate with them... I just come to do my thing... I have my own things going... I have my musical group and I wanna, you know, work on that rather than become a Warhol superstar."

I asked Krys why Eric considered himself a "wonderboy." In her response she also revealed that in addition to Eric she had also had sex with Boosin at The Castle.

Krysteen (June 12, 2003 06:08):

Eric was well endowed but I think his secret with people, not just women, was his sense of humor. You know he was very funny. He made me laugh all the time, He was great looking and very experienced in bed. He tried everything and was always so passionate that I think he could have made a dog happy. You know that when I got together with him I was not yet 18 yrs. old. It was just before my birthday. He told me he was going to make me everything he wanted in a woman... He used to tell me all the time that sex and love were two different things, that sex was just for pleasure and love was forever.  So it really did hurt him when... once when we were in Hollywood living in The Castle I had sex with Mike... and he also cried that time and than started to lock me up at night... our bed was 5 feet off the ground and surrounded with iron gates that locked.

It was while Krysteen was staying with Eric at The Castle that she was "arrested for the first time."

Krysteen (August 21, 2002 19:06):

You know, when Eric and I lived at The Castle, he got me arrested for the first time. We needed money so he gave me some of the left-over iron gates to sell, and after Kathy and I put them in the car to sell, we were driving to a store in Hollywood when a cop pulled us over. He said someone, a neighbor that was keeping an eye on what was going on at The Castle had reported a burglary. The neighbor said we had stolen the gates. After trying to explain that Eric gave them to us, the cop said they were not his to give and arrested us.

We were held in the Hollywood jail for hours then transferred to the Van Nuys jail. We went to court and were arraigned on an O.R. [own recognizance]. We were to come back at a later date for [the] court hearing. Needless to say we never went back. I was 18 at the time and had given my parents' address. After a month had passed the cops put out warrants for our arrest. I guess my father, who was always friendly with cops my whole life, found out where The Castle was. Well, Dada showed up at The Castle with a shotgun looking for me. By this time he had found out I was living with Eric and he wanted him dead or alive.

When my dad knocked at the door, Eric answered. After asking a few questions like who was Eric and where was I, Eric closed the front door and ran into our bedroom and jumped out the window. As he was jumping he said your crazy father is at the door with a gun looking for you. Then he was gone on the run from my dad. I went to the door and my dad grabbed me by my hair and dragged me all the to his truck. Dad took me home and locked me in my bedroom all the time, saying he hoped that when I went to court they would put me in jail and throw away the key... After we went to court the case was dismissed because Eric had already contacted the courthouse and told them it was a misunderstanding...

Of course I went back to Eric. Well that was the first time I got arrested. I was arrested many times after that for several different things. Selling dope mostly.

According to Krysteen, Eric "got off" on pain. She recalled one incident at The Castle when Eric had his tooth knocked out - and also mentioned Eric's heroin habit.

Krysteen (August 9, 2002, 16:10):

He liked to be the one giving the pain He got off on it. He never tried too much with me because I made sure of that the first time.

One night I am sleeping at The Castle in our bed and he gets up. I don't know what he was thinking but I am sound asleep and he hits me with a bullwhip across my naked body. I jumped out of bed and grabbed a champagne bottle and hit him with it, then got dressed, went into the living room where there were people crashed everywhere and I woke up my friend Frank. He used to be a race car driver before he got into a bad wreck.

Anyway I wake him up and tell him what Eric did so he goes into the bedroom and beats the shit out of Eric while I am getting my stuff to get away. And then Eric's front tooth comes flying out. Well, I am not stupid and I just [knew] Eric would be really pissed so I split. And it took him a week to find me and bring me back.

You know I knew Eric well enough to feel that his death was no accident. We did drugs together and he taught me how to be a good little junkie and not O.D. In all the years I did dope [heroin]. I only OD'd one time because of things Eric taught me. But Eric could be mean enough for someone to kill him or "hotshot" him, but he was not careless when it came do doing dope." [A "hotshot" is a lethal dose of heroin intended to cause an overdose.]

Krys wrote about how possessive Eric was and that he "made all the $ anyway he could, even selling his ass if necessary." While Eric was with Krysteen he also mentioned Elda Gentile in New York, but told Krys that he felt differently about her than he felt about Krys.

Krysteen (June 10, 2003 03:20 AM):

Eric never wanted me to see other men he was very possessive of me and even kept me locked up some times. He also never asked me to work. He made all the $ anyway he could even selling his ass if necessary. So the way I saw him and he treated me was one thing and the way he treated other people including Elda was very different. When we were still in LA before Eric flew back to NY he had told me about Elda. He had said she was some girl that had a big thing for him but he did not like her like that. He said he could use her for a place to stay and she would send him $ if he asked.

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