Eve Babitz’s Hollywood Ending

The Eve Babitz revival was in full swing when she died just days before the passing of fellow West Coast literary legend Joan Didion. In this Los Angeles exclusive, Babitz’s family and friends recall the swaggering prose and lust for life that defined ”L.A.’s Colette.”
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Eve Babitz’s love for Los Angeles was pathological. She’d seen other great cities of the world but rarely strayed long from the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll version of cafe society she invented during her nightly sojourns to the Troubadour and Dan Tana’s in the 1970s. Along the way, she’d been an “It” girl, a visual artist, and a rock photographer but found her most lasting groove as an essential L.A.-centric author and memoirist, exploring the myths and realities of her complicated hometown. In the years before her death at 78 last December, she enjoyed a popular rediscovery—her books back in print and a new generation entranced by her stories of pleasure without apology, many based on her own frenetic life. As her longtime paramour, Paul Ruscha, notes,“God knows we’ll be talking about her until our own deaths.”

Mirandi Babitz, Sister and Designer 
Eve set me on fire in my crib when I was a baby.

Joie Davidow, L.A. Weekly co-founder
When Mirandi was born, Eve was so jealous that she set Mirandi’s crib on fire. Mirandi still has scars on her fingers.

Mirandi Babitz
I was eight months old, and she was three. I had to have plastic surgery on my hand.

Joie Davidow
 She forgave her.

Eve Babitz in 1967. (Photo: Laurie Pepper)

Mirandi Babitz
My mother’s name was Mae, and she was an artist. She was obsessed with the beautiful old buildings of Los Angeles that were being torn down. So she was always going around town to draw these great old Victorian houses that were on their way to destruction. She came from Southeast Texas. She was Cajun French. She had escaped from the Bayou region and had made her way to Hollywood. She got rid of her Southern accent and just became a local. She really loved L.A. And she married my father, Sol, who was a Russian Jew. He was born in New York City and was a violinist. By the time he was 15, he had gotten the Carnegie Hall medal for violin playing. But then his parents moved to California. Eventually, he was in the 20th Century Fox orchestra. So that kept money coming in when he was raising our family. He was very close with Igor Stravinsky. He jammed with Jelly Roll Morton on Central Avenue, so even as a classical violinist, he could play all kinds of violin. The Stravinskys were our godparents, so they were over pretty regularly. The poets Kenneth Rexroth and Kenneth Patchen would be there. It was kind of a salon for really interesting artists and musicians.

Mirandi and Eve Babitz in 2014. (Mirandi and Eve Babitz in 2014)

Dickie Davis, Manager of Buffalo Springfield
The art world flowed through the Babitz’s living room.

Julian Wasser, Photograher
Eve’s sister, Miriam—Mirandi, whatever she calls herself now—was a very, very nice girl. She was the stable part of Eve. She was a common-sense girl who saved her older sister a million times.

Mirandi Babitz
I was a more normal, go-to-school kind of kid. Eve hated school. She started to read very early—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Oscar Wilde. She just went very, very deep pretty fast. She was always reading much more advanced books that were not necessarily for kids. She also did things no other kid did, like take belly-dancing lessons when she was reading the ‘Arabian Nights.’ She listened to the radio a lot. “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” by Chuck Berry—she had to drag me into her room to listen to that. So I was getting a wonderful education. Eve and I would walk down to Hollywood Boulevard together, go to the movies together, go to the Rexall and get Cokes and french fries. The Hollywood area was kind of a small town. We saw Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell together, putting their prints in the [forecourt of] Grauman’s Chinese.

We left L.A. kind of suddenly when she was 18 and I was 15, when our father lost his contract at 20th. Stravinsky wrote a letter of introduction, and dad got a Fulbright to study Bach in Germany. All of a sudden, we’re going to Europe. And I don’t want to leave because I’m just starting Hollywood High, and Evie had just finished and had her first real boyfriend, Brian Hutton—he directed Where Eagles Dare—who was married. 

That’s where Evie and I really bonded because we wound up living in Paris together while our parents went to Germany to figure out where dad was going to study Bach. Evie could never manage money. So at 15, I was given the wallet, and she was supposed to be in charge of me. She was praying there was going to be a scene in Paris in 1961, but there was no scene. The most fun we could find was at the American Express office, meeting other Americans traveling in Europe. I never went to school the whole time we were there. 

Dickie Davis
When I met Eve, she wasn’t a writer yet. She came from the L.A. art scene, deep in it. When we first met, she started dropping all these names of famous modern artists. I didn’t have the slightest idea who any of them were. She was at that point, working in collages, and that’s when Stephen [Stills] decided that she should be doing the album cover for the Buffalo Springfield’s second album.

Mirandi Babitz
Eve wanted to be where the action was. She was always right at the very cutting edge of whatever was happening and looking for the most interesting people. She got really deep into the art scene. I went with her to many, many art openings, like at Ferus Gallery. She was very serious about it for a number of years. And during this time, she was also moving between her collage work and photography. She was involved with [Atlantic Records cofounder] Ahmet Ertegun. He told her, “Photograph the scene. I know this is the scene, and I know you’re in it. And if somebody is not in it, they’re not going to get any pictures.” That’s why her pictures of, you know, JD Souther and Jackson [Browne] and everybody were happening.

Eve with godfather and family friend composer Igor Stravinsky. (Courtesy Paul Ruscha)

JD Souther, Singer-Songwriter 
Eve was the first person in L.A. to take my picture. We went to a liquor store and bought a pint of whatever Sinatra was drinking—Wild Turkey or Jim Beam—and went to her little apartment, which was quite near where [Charles] Bukowski lived. So she took my picture, then made a big poster of it and gave it to me. I had just moved to Hollywood, and she was the most Hollywood person I’d ever met who wasn’t a movie star. She had some very serious things to say, which she embraced wholeheartedly but were said as if they were in a movie—in the kind of embrace where you have to stick pins in them too. 

Mirandi Babitz
Ed [Ruscha] was one of the first guys that she dated in the art world. He was like the most gorgeous thing anybody’d ever seen. He gave her a beautiful drawing that said “Eve.”

Hunter Drohojowska-Philip, Art Critic
[The artists in the 1960s L.A. art scene] were bonded by their discovery of the fact that these cool people lived in Los Angeles because New York was still the center. One thing about Eve and Ed [Ruscha] and some of those people is how uncritical they were of the fact that they were in Hollywood and how much they were able to realize that Hollywood was an asset, not a liability. You’re also talking about the moment when the line between fine art and popular culture dissolved, and that dissolution happened in Los Angeles in 1963, not in New York. That was the year the Pasadena Art Museum hosted the Marcel Duchamp exhibit. And at the time, Eve was having an affair with Walter Hopps, the curator of the Duchamp show, and his wife, Shirley, may or may not have known about it. This was a torrid affair. She, like many people, was completely besotted with Walter, who was brilliant and charming.

Mirandi Babitz
I think Eve met Walter at Barney’s Beanery because there was starting to be a scene there. She really fell hard for him. He was married at the time, but I think that she felt, with Walter, that it could be something really important—a long-term kind of relationship for her. But it wasn’t. 

The Babitz sisters, with father Sol and mother Mae. (Photo: Paul Ruscha)

Hunter Drohojowska-Philp
So the Duchamp show is about to open, and all of Eve’s friends are going—Ed’s going, all the L.A. scene are going, and they’re dressing up. And Walter does not invite her because his wife is going to be there with him.

Mirandi Babitz
He didn’t take her to the opening of the wonderful Duchamp exhibit. I wound up going, and she didn’t. She was very mad at him.

Hunter Drohojowska-Philip
She had this huge resentment over that. So she staged what happened next with Julian Wasser at the Pasadena museum.

Julian Wasser
I had an assignment from Time to photograph Duchamp. [Eve] was just there for tits and ass—that was it. He was into chess, and he did Nude Descending a Staircase. So you get a nude, chess, a girl with giant tits. Why not?  

Mirandi Babitz
Julian was very much on the scene. That picture was his idea. He took photos of me and was trying to get my clothes off. He was always doing that. That tells you something.

Hunter Drohojowska-Philp
Eve said she did it because she knew she’d be photographed and memorialized and that Walter would always remember her that way. It’s the classic revenge of the mistress. It’s not a feminist statement—she wasn’t declaring her equality with Marcel Duchamp by sitting across from him nude while [they] played chess. It’s all about revenge against Walter for not inviting her to the black-tie opening.

Mirandi Babitz
Eve discussed it with the family at the dinner table, whether she should do the Duchamp picture. Dad said, “Well, it’s art. It’s Duchamp. So I guess it’s OK.” And then he said to her, “Take his queen.” A little paternal advice. He was also a chess player, our father. Eve said to Julian, “The only way I’m going to do this is if you let me pick the picture.” And he agreed to that. And she picked a picture where her face is not revealed.

Julian Wasser
[Time] never ran it. Nobody ran it because of the nudity. But that picture made her. It’s in every museum in the world.

Carl Gottlieb, Screenwriter and Member of Improve Group the Committee
I met Eve when I came down from San Francisco with the Committee in ’66. She was part of the L.A. scene and then we were part of the L.A. scene, so our paths would cross. With the advent of psychedelics and the San Francisco sound and the West Coast rock-and-roll scene, for the first time in America’s cultural history, trends were starting in L.A. and moving east instead of the other way around. So when I got here, it was a very vibrant scene, and there was a great sense of community. 

Dickie Davis
It was a scene pretty much centered around the Troubadour. The Troubadour on Monday nights (it was actually a friend of mine and I that started it) was an open-mic night. The Byrds and the Buffalo Springfield and God knows how many rock groups formed up out of that venue.

Carl Gottlieb
You didn’t have to see the show. You’d just hang out at the Troubadour bar and, sooner or later during the evening, somebody you knew would come in, and you’d hang out and have drinks and go outside and smoke a joint. There used to be train tracks that ran right down the center of Santa Monica Boulevard. And the street car ran all the way out to Santa Monica. 

Babitz with artist Paul Ruscha shortly before her 1997 accident. “Paul was going to dances with her, she’d gotten sober, her hair was bright blond.” (Courtesy: Paul Ruscha)

Mirandi Babitz
It was an amazing scene. It was just blooming. And meeting Jim Morrison . . . I actually met his old lady, Pam [Courson], first. She and I went to school together at LACC [Los Angeles City College]. Two months before I met her, she had fallen in love with Jim. The Doors were forming. As soon as anybody saw him onstage, like I did at the London Fog, you knew he had to be onstage. I was raving about how adorable he was. Eve went to see him, and she couldn’t believe it. So then she had to have him. She invited him to go with her to something that our father was performing at, and they went home together. (I made his leather pants. He wore them half to death. They were very fine French cowhide. I had a shop on the Sunset Strip called Mirandi.) I know he was really attached to Eve. So when he announced he was going to Paris toward the end of his life, she tried to talk him out of it because she hated Paris when we’d been there.

Dickie Davis
The Eagles and Jackson Browne and JD Souther and Linda Rondstadt—that was sort of the high-water mark of life at the Troubadour bar. Eve photographed the Eagles in the park behind the Troubadour. We used to go to Dan Tana’s and they would be there with her. 

Ronee Blakley, Singer-Songwriter
Eve and I would go out together to Tana’s or the Troubadour. And then there was a period when she worked at Ports. Ports was a restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard, right across the street from Goldwyn studios. Jock and Michaela [Livingston] owned it and ran it. It was a place to be—a happening place—and Eve was [an unofficial] hostess there. 

Mirandi Babitz
I never was at Ports every single night like Eve. I remember hanging around there with Quintana [Dunne] when she was doing her homework. Joan [Didion] or John [Gregory Dunne] were there, and they knew she’d be OK to sit in the booth and do her homework. I had a couple of birthday parties there.

Hunter Drohojowska-Philp
Eve created her own cafe society in Los Angeles at Ports and at Musso and Frank’s. And she always slightly carried that within her and that ability to have a good conversation, to have a witness, to have a good line, which is a talent unto itself. She was sort of the Colette of Los Angeles. She very much identified with that idea of being in a cafe society, where you have lovers and you live a luxurious life and your lovers pay for everything and you write great novels and you’re part of the avant-garde. 

Ronee Blakley
She had a monstrous, huge affair with Paul Ruscha. He was the love of her life as far as I knew. 

Paul Ruscha, Photographer and Artist
[My brother] Ed’s wife, Danna, took me to [L.A. thrift store] Jack’s Catch All, and while we were there, she was talking to some girl.  She introduced me—“This is Eve Babitz”—and I said, “Oh, nice to meet you.” I thought Eve kind of looked me up and down. And then Danna and I left. She said, “I think she likes you.” And I said, “Why? We barely even spoke.” And she said, “Well, she wants to have us over for dinner.” And so I said, “That’s great.” So I went to her place and ended up staying with her. And then we were off and on with one another for the next 30-plus years.

Mirandi Babitz
Eve didn’t start writing until she was about 27. The first piece that she got published was for Rolling Stone, and Joan Didion helped her out.

Paul Ruscha
She and Joan Didion were close for a while. She was like the [older] daughter that Joan and John never had.

Mirandi Babitz
Evie had just given Joan the piece she wrote called “The Sheik.” [Joan said] “I’m going to talk to Rolling Stone.” That was a really huge breakthrough. It’s about three years later that she gets her first book published, which is Eve’s Hollywood.

Erica Spellman Silverman, Literary Agent
I said to her, “You have to write. You have to keep writing.” And she said, “Oh, I’m not really a writer. I want to be an artist.” And I said, “Well, you are a writer. Whether you want to be one or not, you’re a writer.”

Mirandi Babitz
She was now at Knopf. So she’s getting very high regard for her writing—to be able to work with a really great editor. That was a really good period, when she writes Slow Days, Fast Company and Sex and Rage

Victoria Wilson, V.P. & Executive Editor, Knopf 
Eve presented a view of Hollywood that hadn’t been written about before. It was a combination of a sort of Thomas Mann/émigré/intellectual Hollywood and a portrait of a totally contemporary of-that-moment rock-and-roll Los Angeles.

Erica Spellman Silverman
I said to Eve, “You have to write a novel.” And she said, “I can’t write a novel. What am I gonna write a novel about?” I said, “I don’t know. I don’t care. You just have to write a novel. Write a novel about not wanting to write a novel.” So that led to a year of me calling Eve every Monday morning at 10 o’clock, New York time—7 o’clock her time—saying, “Get up and write.” We would laugh about it, but she did it.

Ronee Blakley
She wrote in the mornings like Hemingway and Mozart. I have no idea how she could pull that out, but she did. She had a big social life and would stay out late. And these were the days before anybody got sober, and there were big parties and big times. I would see her in the nighttime, and I would say, “How can that girl get up and write?”

 

Colman Andrews, Author and Former Editor-In-Chief of Saveur
One afternoon, Eve called me sounding mildly despairing to say that she’d just finished her new book but didn’t know whether or not it really was a book and would I come over and read it. There were two signs on her door: “Don’t knock if you haven’t called—Really” and “I used to be a piece of ass but now I’m an artist.” She handed me her manuscript and a bottle of Mumm’s Cordon Rouge and said, “Sit there and don’t bother me until you’re finished.” The manuscript was Sex and Rage, which she told me she’d written in response to pleas from her agent that she produce a regular novel with regular characters and plot development instead of just a collection of stories. I read and drank for about an hour and a half, then put the manuscript down and told her what I thought: That it was, well, a collection of stories. I added that she shouldn’t write novels if she didn’t want to since she was so good at what she did write. “Huh,” she said. “OK, you can go now.” She called one day to tell me she’d sold it to Knopf. It was published as a novel and has been considered a novel (her only one) ever since—which shows how much I know.  

Michael Elias, TV and Film Writer 
Nathanael West, Fitzgerald, William Goldman, all these people who were outsiders came to Hollywood and wrote about it. She was here. She could tell you what it was really like to go to Hollywood fucking High. And nobody did that. In a funny way, I don’t even think Joan Didion did.

Hunter Drohojowska-Philp
Eve was a social satirist in the best way. I do think what separates her from Didion is that she never has a judgmental quality to her work. I really feel that she’s closer to Christopher Isherwood and The Berlin Stories and his way of writing, where he says, “I am a camera”—where he is literally reporting on what he is seeing in all of its absurdity. And L.A. in the ’70s was nothing if not absurd. She really did catch that in her writing.

Erica Spellman Silverman
Eve was writing about the ’60s and ’70s in L.A. That was a very different time. Sixties and ’70s L.A. seems like Oz for people nowadays. Women can’t imagine what that life was like, and the whole idea of being politically correct or even #MeToo . . . Eve was not that person. Eve owned her sexuality. She never thought of anybody taking advantage of her. She did what she wanted; she got what she wanted.

Ronee Blakley
I never was a part of that sex thing—I still don’t have the ability to be as frank as Eve was. So I can’t tell you everything we did. I don’t have the nerve.

Paul Ruscha
We were all always so free with one another because I slept with a lot of different people and so did Eve—but probably not nearly as many people of her own sex. Maybe two or three different women. 

Bret Easton Ellis, Novelist
There was that famous Earl McGrath quote: “In every young man’s life there is an Eve Babitz. It’s usually Eve Babitz.” 

Ronee Blakley
She had that incredible figure. I think it took me a while to realize she was beautiful—it was her mind that was interesting.

Carl Gottlieb
You’ve got to remember, it was a different era. It was before woke. It was before any widespread acceptance of women as cocreative forces. They were always chicks. But Eve was more than that. There were chicks, groupies, people who you could depend on for casual sex. There was kind of a bachelor’s golden age after the pill and before women’s lib, when women’s highest function was to make tea and roll joints and give good head. Everybody was happy with those roles, except for Eve, who knew there was more. She had been brought up to expect more. She was witty and wise and articulate, a second-generation Hollywood artiste. The creative community was smaller and more insular in those days, and Eve was a very important part of it. She was aware that her chest would get her into places that her brain wouldn’t. And that was one of the truths of that era. But once she was there, you’d look past the breasts to the brain and the artistic sensibility and to the language that she was using. She was an intellectual trapped in a voluptuary’s body. And that’s a very attractive mix. So despite the cliches and having Little Annie Fanny’s body, she had Gloria Steinem’s brain.

Hunter Drohojowska-Philp
She was like the perfect combination of Jayne Mansfield and Jane Austen.

JD Souther
She was the first woman that I ever saw smoking a cigarillo. And she looked perfectly natural doing it.

Bret Easton Ellis
She was, in her own way, her own kind of feminist. She was never anyone’s victim. She went after guys. She was very unapologetically sexual, to the point where she wrote to Joseph Heller and said, “I’m a big fan of yours, I’m a stacked 18-year-old blonde going to Hell. Would you like to meet?” The list of her paramours is quite stunning. I mean, it’s Warren Zevon and Harrison Ford, Steve Martin . . . 

Mirandi Babitz
Steve Martin was performing at the Troubadour. Evie just absolutely knew he was great, and Steve didn’t. He was trying to figure out what he should look like. Every time we’d see him on stage, his hair was a different color. Evie took him home one day. She had a book of Lartigue, the French photographer, and it had all these very elegant-looking men in white suits parading around on the beaches of Normandy in the early 1900s. And she said, “Steve, this is you. This is how you need to look. You’re very handsome.” They had an affair that went on and off for a very long time. They were both very funny people who were also very serious. They read a lot of the same stuff—Eve was always passing books to him and vice versa.

Julian Wasser
Eve was the kind of girl who, she’d find some guy and he was married or living with a girl. She would screw his brains out, and he’d say, “Oh my God, what a girl,” and he’d leave his wife or girlfriend. And then Eve would leave. She was a home-wrecker.

Michael Elias
I had this girlfriend who was living with me, and she dumped me. She just announced, “It’s over.” And Eve and I were in my house because we wrote a couple of screenplays together.  And this woman and Eve and I all had civilized coffee. She was an artist, so Eve started questioning her: “Who do you know?” And then this woman would say, “Oh, I know Ed Moses.” And Eve just said, “Oh, I slept with him. Who else do you know?” And she would mention another one. And Eve would say, “Yeah, I had an affair with him.” And by the time they had exhausted the male art world of L.A., this woman was trembling and practically in tears. Eve did it all for me. “That’ll take care of her,” she said. 

Bret Easton Ellis
Right now, in this culture where we are so unbelievably uptight, there is something about Eve Babitz that is extremely attractive. There is a freedom; there is something uninhibited. She said and did what she wanted. I think a lot of people don’t feel that way now, but they feel an attraction toward that kind of spirit. And it is certainly there throughout her books.

Ajay Sahgal, Restaurateur and Novelist 
I grew up in L.A. I went to Buckley School with Bret [Easton Ellis] in the Valley. We had a teacher at Buckley who would feed us books that he knew we would be interested in. We kind of had this fetish for Joan Didion but really responded a lot better to Eve. I know that Eve was, in retrospect, the sort of warmer, more approachable writer. Joan Didion was very icy and precise, and Eve was the opposite of those things.

Mirandi Babitz
I think Eve was often frustrated with her book sales because things were never selling as well as we hoped that they would. She always had to keep the magazine career going, you know, just to support herself. 

Terry McDonell, Former Editor-In-Chief of Esquire and Smart
I’m from California, and it seemed like I knew about Eve from the very beginning, when [Eve’s Hollywood] came out. I was just crazy in love with her because of the way she wrote.

And she wasn’t getting much attention. Some years later, when I was able to raise the money to start Smart, I found her and convinced her to write a column, “Love and Science,” in which she would dissect whatever she wanted. And she was perfect—hilarious on every level. What was very profound to me was that there was a subtext of sadness in many of the stories she told, not necessarily about herself, but some of the people. When I moved to Esquire, I sort of dragged her along. And it was at Esquire that she did the famous playing-chess-naked piece. I ran into Graydon Carter when he was doing Spy, and he said, “God, Eve Babitz, how the fuck did that happen?” I said, “I tracked her down.” And he said, “Yeah? She should be with me.” Maybe she should have been.

Paul Ruscha
I was going to meet Eve to have dinner at [her mother] Mae’s house. On this particular Sunday in April of 1997, there was a new housekeeper who was with her, because Mae had Alzheimer’s. I said, “Where’s Eve?” and she smiled and pointed, and I thought she meant across the street. And I said, “OK, I’ll just sit here and watch TV with you, and we’ll wait for Eve.” And she smiled. And then about 30 minutes later, I said, “Eve’s still gone. Maybe I should go get her,” and she said, “Yeah, she’s in the hospital.” And I said, “What?” And then the maid said, “Si.” And so I started speaking Spanish with her, and she gave me Mirandi’s phone number. And I called Mirandi, who was at the hospital with Eve.

Pleasant Gehman, Journalist 
We would talk on the phone every so often. I heard that she was driving and smoking, and her skirt caught on fire. 

Michael Elias
I drove down to L.A. County General Hospital, and she was just wrapped from waist to toes in this bed. Oh, it was awful.

Paul Ruscha
I remember thinking when I got there that she looked beautiful, but she was all wrapped up like a mummy from her neck down. But she was also in a strange state of peace. And mostly Eve was edgy. 

Mirandi Babitz
She was in the ICU for six weeks. In the ICU, they wake you up every 25 seconds to do something to you, so you never sleep. She experienced ICU psychosis and was miserable. And she was six weeks in the recovery hospital, so, altogether, three months in the hospital. It really took it out of her. She was not prepared for how major the injury was. She’d always just bounced back from anything. She’d gotten sober in AA. Her hair was bright blond, she’s 55, and then . . . nothing. It was very, very hard. What she always wrote about was what was happening in her life. That was just kind of crushing.

Joie Davidow
There was a party at the Chateau Marmont around the pool, and a lot of artists contributed works for it. Eve was there in her sweats, barely able to stand up, but she was holding court. 

Paul Ruscha
There was kind of a call to arms for friends of hers to help pay for her recovery. I know that Harrison Ford gave her $100,000. When Eve found out that he’d given her that much money, she said, “Golly, I only fucked him twice.”

Michael Elias
I was part of the committee to raise money for her. A friend of mine, Larry Feldman, was the guy who sued Michael Jackson and won. He was a personal-injury lawyer, and he took the case and he got her a lot of money, and that’s what really made her life secure after that.

Larry Feldman, Attorney
This accident where she caught on fire from a cigarette in a Volkswagen was just horrible. It wasn’t an easy case because she’s the one that lit the cigarette, and this [skirt] went up and she was just horribly burned. I don’t think anybody reasonably expects their skirt to be like an incendiary bomb, but that’s what it was. So the material that the skirt was made of was flammable, with no warning about how flammable it was. She bought it at a thrift store. We were successful in discovering who we thought made it. We filed a lawsuit based on that, and they settled.

Paul Ruscha
She came to my house at one point when she was able to walk again. She said, “OK, it’s time that you saw this. I want you to look at my body because this is the way it looks now.” And this was after all of her surgeries and everything. And I said, “OK.” So she took her clothes off, and she said, “Ta-da! Well, what do you think?” I ended up being deposed when she sued that dressmaker. And when I was deposed, one of the things asked was why are we doing this? And part of it was that it was difficult for me to want to touch her because of her burns and that her body was scary. So we didn’t have much to do with one another that way after that. 

Erica Spellman Silverman
Eve and I did several books together, and then the business changed. Everyone realized we were not going to be in our twenties forever. The business really became a business. It probably always was, but we were too young to notice. And the days of just kind of hanging out saying, “Isn’t this all fabulous?” went away for us. Eve and I split in terms of our work—I left the agency business-—but always stayed in touch. When I came back to agenting in 2009, one of my colleagues came into my office and said, “Do you realize that a lot of young women writers have taken up Eve Babitz, and people are fascinated by her?” I got in touch with Eve and said, “I’d like to get permission from you to get the rights back to all your books and see if I can get them republished.” And she said, “Great, go ahead.” I was able to get the rights to everything except two books that Simon & Schuster published. That was in 2010. In 2014, Lili Anolik wrote that piece in Vanity Fair, which was a huge boost for the books. 

Lili Anolik, Journalist
I’d pitched an Eve Babitz profile all over town, and nobody had ever heard of her. Then [Vanity Fair editor] Graydon Carter told me I could do the piece. By then, I’d been chasing Eve for years. Finally, Eve got curious. She called Paul Ruscha and told him to tell me that I could take her to lunch. The reaction to the piece was thrilling. All of a sudden, people were flat-out obsessed with Eve.

Elizabeth Cantillon, TV and Film Producer
Eve was always going to be rediscovered. She was just too great to go into obscurity. When I shared [her books] with the young people in my office, they were like, “Where has this been all my life? This is like an instruction manual for being a young woman in Los Angeles. Like how to live a bold, adventurous, but optimistic and free, life.” 

Terry McDonell
It’s rooted completely in feminism. Plus, men loved when she made fun of them because she might turn around and write, “Now all I want to do is iron his towels—in high heels and a chemise.”

Ajay Sahgal
I gave her work to my daughter, who’s 21, and she just immediately locked into it. She loved it. It certainly speaks to people still. 

Victoria Wilson
It sometimes takes time for the culture to catch up. It took 12 years from the first time I first published Interview with the Vampire to when Anne Rice became a huge best-selling writer. You can’t explain why something works at the time that it does.

Bill Tonelli, Former editor, Esquire
Not that she really needed revenge, but if she needed it, she got it.

Dickie Davis 
Occasionally Eve would say, “Why is this happening so late?” It wasn’t exactly a complaint. It was just a form of astonishment.

Mirandi Babitz
[After Eve’s recovery], we’d talk as long as she was able to almost every day. She got an annuity after her skirt caught on fire, so she had a little bit of money, and I tried to help her figure out how to make it in Hollywood on that. As the years have gone on, sometimes she’d be OK, and then she’d be like deep in psychosis: she’s gotten on a train in her muumuu with her credit card heading for Dallas because the grid is going to break down here. She absolutely refused to have anything to do with doctors, so that made it hard. Finally, a year ago, she got diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. It’s a very strange form of Huntington’s because it comes very late—most people die of it by the time they’re 40. But once she got on medication, she was herself completely, which was kind of great this last year. But her bones were deteriorating. About five weeks before she died, she fell and broke her left arm. I walked her into Cedars, and they did their best, did a surgery, but it didn’t work. And then she got sepsis and lung failure, and she passed away. 

Michael Elias
I was in Vroman’s [Bookstore] after she died and overheard a clerk saying to a customer, “I’m sorry, we’re all out of Joan Didion and Eve Babitz.” 

Paul Ruscha
God knows we’ll be talking about her until our own deaths. 

Ethlie Ann Vare
Eve Babitz introduced Frank Zappa to Salvador Dalí. I introduced Kathy Valentine to David Lee Roth. I was never going to be Eve Babitz. It didn’t matter how many musicians I fucked or how much cocaine I did. I would never be that beautiful, and I would never write that fearlessly. Her sentences split trees. She scared powerful people, and it kept her work from getting the recognition it deserved in its time. I think if she had it to do over again, she would have been less ferocious. I think if I had it to do over again, I would be more like Eve Babitz.

Additional interviews by Heidi Siegmund Cuda.


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