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Wonderboy: The life, loves and death of Eric Emerson

Gary Comenas (2016)

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By the time Eric left to go back to New York, Krysteen had become involved with the Living Theater who were doing a U.S. tour after having returned from Europe.

Krysteen (August 23, 2002, 21:34):

When Eric and I were still in L.A. we went to see the Living Theater... After the show I went and asked Julian [Beck] if I could join his theater group. He said yes and the next show was up in San Francisco, so if I wanted to join I had to be there for the next show. Eric got mad because he wanted to go back to New York and was going to fly, he said. If I did not go with him, then I would have to get a ride there myself...

Which is what Krysteen did. According to Krysteen, "... I did not fly back with him because I was acting with the Living Theater and we had shows to do. I stayed here [in Los Angeles] even though I was preg. and did my own thing with the theater group. We were working our way back to NY and had a show date in Brooklyn about a month after Eric left L.A." (Email September 3, 2002, 22:41) In New York Eric planned on staying with Elda Gentile.

Krysteen (September 3, 2002 22.41):

I know he wanted me to go with him and Elda had already told Eric he could stay at her place. I am sure he never told her that he wanted me there also. I alone joined the Living Theater. Eric thought that those people thought too much about the state of our government and he did not gave a damn either way. He was on his own trip.

The Living Theater had returned from a European tour by boat (the Aurelia) to New York in August 1968. (JT237) It began its U.S tour with a two week stint at Yale University in New Haven at the end of September. (JT238/240) In October, they had a three week engagement in Brooklyn. (JT242) They then played Chicago, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oregon, Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston (20 March), and on March 21st started a week long engagement at the Brooklyn Academy.

According to Krysteen, "I first left to go to San Francisco, than a few days after, he [Eric] flew to New York." That would correspond to the part of the tour in early 1969, with Krys first seeing the performance in L.A. and then committing herself to the San Francisco and Brooklyn performances that were due to take place in March.

Krys (without Eric) drove to San Francisco for the Living Theatre's performance in early March 1969 (with her friends Carlos and Bernardo) and ended up in a hippie commune in New Mexico.

Krysteen (August 23, 2002 21:45):

Carlos, Bernardo [and] some other guy and myself drove cross-country. One big problem we had is that none of us knew the way. So we started on Colorado Drive in South Pasadena and tried to stay on Route 66. Everything was O.K. for awhile until we got lost. We were all high on mescaline and must have gone through the Grand Canyon at least three times. We wrecked in the snow at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but managed to dig the car out of the snow.

We were in a convertible and it was freezing, so we wanted to head some place warm. We ended up in Tahos [Taos], New Mexico at some hippie compound and stayed there to thaw out. When it came time to leave the guy that owned the car wanted to stay so he gave Carlos, myself and Bernardo the car with all the paperwork that goes with it. By this time we were running short on time if we were to be in Brooklyn in time to do the next show with the Living Theater. I won't go into the rest of that ride too much - just to tell you it was a trip hauling ass across country in that car.

When we went to stay at a friends house - someone from the theater group - I was preg. and dog-tired so Bernardo and Carlos went out that same night to party and bumped into Eric who they brought back with them. Boy did he cause a scene until I agreed to to go stay with him at Elda's apartment. I think it was on 4th or 2nd. Anyway, it was a dump.

Elda wasn't very please with the arrangement.

Krysteen (August 23, 2002 21:54):

When Eric brought me home there was all hell broke out. Elda liked Eric and had been coming on to him but he paid her no mind, Then I showed up and he was making all over me and the baby. I was still preg. Eric used to go to work everyday and leave me at Elda's apt. Not a good thing. She must have really hated me. And she was practicing witchcraft. Holly [Woodlawn] was there a lot and was very nice to me. Jackie [Curtis] stopped by also. Eric started trying to talk me out of going to South America with the Living Theater. He wanted me to stay in NY with him. We visited many people. Taylor Mead for one. I met Joe D. and we went to visit artists. Good ones. I can't remember the names but I do remember the work. There was one artist who painted billiard balls. And any kind of balls. He was famous for his balls.

Elda apparently attacked her one night while she was staying there and Holly Woodlawn came to her rescue. She sent me an email, addressed to Holly, in which she thanked Holly for helping her out.

Krysteen (August 3, 2002 22:02:45)

Hello Holly, You might not remember me but you saved mine and my baby's life one night in N.Y., lower east side apt at Elda's place. Eric and I were staying there and she went off trying to cut my baby from my belly. You picked me up and took me to Pepper's apt. My name is Krysteen and my daughter Monique... is also Eric's daughter... I left N.Y in Nov.. 69 to raise her somewhat normal, and around family. Anyway i never did get to thank you for carrying me downstairs to Ron and Peppers' to keep Elda away from me, so I am now doing that. I wish you only the best things in this life. You gave me a chance to keep my baby safe and she has been all my happiness.

Krysteen and Eric stayed with Pepper and Ron until Eric found them another place. (Email 10 June 2003 18:20) "Pepper" was Angelina "Pepper" Davis who appeared in The Chelsea Girls.

Angelina "Pepper" Davis (L) in The Chelsea Girls with Mary Woronov, International Velvet and Ingrid Superstar (kneeling)

In addition to being in Warhol's film, she is also mentioned in Lou Reed's song Chelsea Girls: "Pepper she's having fun, she thinks she's some man's son, Her perfect loves don't last, her future died, in someone's past." According to Krysteen "she got me in lots of trouble with Eric. We made 2 movies together and did a photo shoot for Larry Flynt. In the October issue of Screw newspaper she and I had about 3 pages of bondage shots done by Larry." (Email Tuesday, June 10, 2003, at 04:40 PM) I asked her for more information about Pepper, given that she had appeared in The Chelsea Girls.

Krysteen (June 12, 2003 15:25):

Now I did like the times I spent with Pepper she was fun she was older than me but we got on just fine. I think of all those people I met with Eric and I did like her the best. She was looking out after me like a big sister and wiseing me up real quick about everyone. The fact that we slept together is what bothered Eric the most and he was afraid she would drag me into more sleaze stuff for her own gain. When we did those movies she had to find another girl to do them with, and at that time in history the pay was good. I know I got $500 for each one I did and I think she also made as much, if not more. Her old man Ron was in one with us but only briefly, he had a problem getting it up. Pepper had told me this ahead of time and when it came time for him to do his part she took him aside and sucked his dick for at least a half hr. before any shot. I think it was due to the amount of h[eroin] he was doing at the time. Pepper was from the South and had that southern hospitality. My staying there was great because she was concerned about the baby and took good care of me, we made the movies after Monique was born.

Monique was born on July 17, 1969. So the issue of Screw magazine must have been published in October 1969. In another email about Pepper, Krysteen told me more about the drugs that Pepper did and Eric's reaction when he found out they did "girl-girl" movies together.

Close-up of Angelina "Pepper" Davis in The Chelsea Girls

Krysteen (June 12, 2003 06:08)

Pepper did speed and heroin. We did girl-girl movies and after we finished the first one she took me out to eat snails for the first time, she took me to some fancy restaurant in Manhattan and ordered the food. A French place downtown. When Eric found out that she had done the films, he cried.

Apparently Eric found out about Krysteen's work for Larry Flynt when Flynt used her picture on a Halloween party invitation. Krysteen thought that Eric "was going to beat me but he just cried and told off Pepper." (10 June 2003 18:20)

On July 21, 1969, Eric was supposed to "marry" Warhol star Jackie Curtis (who performed in drag in Flesh and Women in Revolt) of the roof of the Albert Hotel on East 11th Street in New York. Warhol and Paul Morrissey were both there, along with about a hundred guests, but Eric never showed up. Jackie ended up marrying someone else from Max's named "Stewart Eaglespeed" but the ceremony still made the front page of the July 31, 1969 issue of the Village Voice.

Krysteen (June 10, 2003 03.20)

... you know the story that Holly tells about [Jackie] going to marry him and have the wedding on a roof top? Well, Eric had also asked me the exact same thing to marry him and have the wedding on a root top but he wanted Louis Abboliffy [Abolafia] to do the wedding ceremony. At that time I think Louis A. had a license from the church of the Universal Light, you know the kind you could get in the mail. When we were staying with Elda, I think she found out we were going to get married and that might have sent her over the edge to come at me with that knife.

Louis Abolafia was the "reverend" who peformed Jackie Curtis' "marriage" ceremony. He was a well-known hippie who ran for president against Nixon in 1968 as the "naked Hippie 'love candidate'." His campaign featured a naked photo of him holding a strategically placed hat, with the slogan "What have I got to hide?" in 1969 he ran for New York Mayor. He died on October 30, 1995 of a drug overdose. (Boston Globe, 3rd ed., November 3, 1995, p. 65 and Washington Post, November 7, 1995, Final ed., p. B5)

Campaign material for the "reverend" Louis Abolafia who performed Jackie Curtis' "marriage" ceremony

Although Krysteen met some interesting people in New York she generally preferred the "free-loving and friendly" atmosphere of Hollywood. She thought most New Yorkers were "cold" and "full of themselves." There were exceptions. She recalled that Brigid Berlin was "one of the nicest people I had the pleasure to meet..."

Krysteen (August 29, 2002 17:51)

In Hollywood, people were free-loving and friendly. In N.Y. not many people were like that and they were kind of cold, if you get my drift, that is unless you could do something for them. They seemed to be very full of themselves... I met almost everyone that was up at the Factory or Max's... Brigid B. was one of the nicest people I had the pleasure to meet and seemed very real. She would come sit with us at Max's and ask me questions about myself, and she would tell me things about Eric.

There was Holly, of course. She was staying at Elda's house on the Lower East Side when I met her and she was also very nice to me. Elda, on the other hand, was not. She was madly in love with Eric and he only used her for money and a place to stay. I think that is what brought on the intense hatred for me.

There was Joe D., Viva, Jackie, Taylor Mead, Paul M. He was not very sociable. Lou Reed, Antonio Vargas, Pepper, Ron, and many others...

Night life in New York was often spent at Max's.

Krysteen (August 29, 2002 17:51):

Night-time was a big event in those days. Only the beautiful people would be let in some places, but Andy's people 'owned' Max's, and they were all let in on the dance floor upstairs. The regular people mixed with the rock stars. Everyone just had fun, getting high and drunk and having sex wherever they could. You know, there was a laser light from the Factory to the front of Max's. It was red and could be seen only at night...

Eric and I danced with each other and anyone else that wanted to join us, Sometimes for hours. Girls and boys would come around offering Eric or myself sex, anywhere we felt like having it. Sometimes Eric would take them to the men's bathroom or over by the telephone and just get head. He would ask me if I cared or not and I didn't care but I noticed he only liked the cute ones. After it was over, if the person tried to sit with us he would tell them to beat it and what a slut they were. He was never one to keep these cocksuckers around for very long unless they had money that he felt he could part them from.

I remember one night Eric did not want to get up so this girl crawled under the table to give him a blow job, than when she finished [he] kicked her and told her to leave.

Krysteen noted in a later email, "You know Eric fucked anything that moved, male or female, and there were so many of them... he gave me clap five times." (Email February 2, 2003 05:49)

One of the people Eric had sex with at Max's was Debbie Harry who worked there before her Blondie days.

Debbie Harry:

I loved Warhol and that whole crowd... they were very frustrating people to wait on. The only one I got friendly with was Eric Emerson and he was friendly with everybody, especially girls. I made it with Eric in a phone booth upstairs. One time only." (PL619/6102)

Debbie "guessed" that the year she worked at Max's was 1969 - the same year that Krys was with Eric in New York.

Debbie Harry:

I worked at Max's for about seven or eight months as a waitress. I guess it was 1969. Everyone went there... Andy and his entourage were there every night... I met Tony Ingrassia in the back room and started working with him all the time... He helped me put my first group together - the Stilettos. (HRK2754/5078)

The Stilettos would come later - they were formed in 1973.

Like Eric, Debbie was a heroin user and so was the owner of Max's, Mickey Ruskin, although Harry didn't know that at the time she worked for him.

Debbie Harry:

I didn't know that Mickey was a junkie at the time. My boss was a junkie, I was a junkie, everyone was a junkie. (PL601/6102)

At one point Eric also worked at Max's as the maitre d':

Krysteen (August 12, 2002, 22:22):

Andy [Warhol], I did not like because he made Eric beg for his money. And when we needed it so bad I thought Andy owed more than he ever gave. Eric went to work at Max's as the maitre d' to earn money. He also sleep [sic] around like a gigolo. To get money. Eric had a mean side to him and... I watched him verbally abuse different people when he did not get his way... He did that to the wrong person. And that's why I don't think the death was accidental.

After Max's, Eric and Krysteen would hang out at Washington Square in Greenwich Village.

Krysteen (Sep 1, 2002 02:51):

At night, after Max's would close or get boring, we would walk to the West Village and sit by the fountain at Washington Square Park and wait for the clubs to close for after-hours. Eric liked watching all the drag queens dressed to kill and ask them where the parties were going to be tonight. He knew many of them and they all accepted me like family. That may be the reason that I do love to have them as friends. Lots of them were performers and very interesting people. Afterwards, we would go back to Elda's place. Until she freaked out on us because Eric treated her bad, just using her for a place to stay.

After Elda's attack on Krys, Eric and Krys stayed with Ron and Pepper before moving to the Bowery to stay with other friends of Eric. At one point Eric brought home some LSD for Krys to cap so they could sell it and she ended up in Bellevue Hospital.

Krysteen (June 10, 2003 03:20):

Everything was going fine there and we were happy but one day Eric brought home about a 1/4 lb of LSD and asked me to spend the day capping the stuff so we could sell it. Everyone went to work and I stayed home capping acid (without gloves)... I was dumb not to know the stuff would go through my skin, so when he came home that night after a good 8 hr. of me handling that stuff I was so high I could hardly stand. In my foggy memory I remember fighting with him and biting him so hard he used a fork to pry my mouth off his arm. Eric tried to bring me down but nothing worked so he took me to Bellevue Hospital. Of course they kept me there and gave me lots of Thorazine to come down. What I can remember of all that was a big nightmare.

Elda asked me if I remembered going to her house after I got released but I do not. She says I stayed 3 days with her waiting for Eric to show up but I do not recall this. I do remember getting my own place on 13 and Ave B and Eric coming to stay with me for awhile. I eventually asked him to leave because of all the heroin he was using and I did not want it around me because Monique was almost due.

Eric and Krysteen lived together until their baby was born and then Eric moved "down the street" but would "come by everyday."

Krysteen (September 3, 2002, 22:41)

... I felt too much dope for a baby was bad. So Eric stayed down the street. And he would come by everyday. And when I had someone to watch Monique we would go out. Eric started to do a lot of heroin and was not doing so well just before I left. He got to the point where he would come by and stand down in the street yelling up to my apartment begging for five bucks for a nickel bag [a $5 bag of heroin].

When I would let him come up to be with Monique he was always so fucked up. He wanted me to move from where I was to stay with him. I think he was staying at some guy's house. I could not stand the pressure. I loved him and wanted to go with him but I loved our daughter more. So one day, after Eric came by in very bad shape, because he was drinking a lot also, we got into an argument about Monique and he said she should be with both of us. I got scared that he might come over and do something crazy so in the end of November [1969] I called my mother and asked for a plane ticket out of there fast. I told her what was going on and she not only got the plane ticket right away but had a cab sent to pick me up...

Well when I got to LA it was not far enough away from Eric for me so I went to Hawaii and stayed until Monique had her first birthday [July 1970]. And you know what, one of my friends went and told Eric where I was, so he called and started with the come back thing, and he wrote all the time.

After Krys returned from Hawaii, she lived in the Los Angeles area with her daughter and enrolled in a college of fashion and design. Then Eric returned.

Krysteen (September 3, 2002 22:41)

... Eric came back to LA. He knew where my mom lived and found me right away. He got an apartment in Silverlake and started a band. I can't remember the name of it. It was really bad. But one of the members' names was Young Blood... the name of the club was The Cave on the Strip, but the lower part of the Strip by Silverlake.

"Young Blood" was a musician who played in a band called Messiah or The Magic Tramps as they were sometimes called. They had been looking for a lead vocalist and rang Eric in New York. According to the Tramps drummer, Sesu Coleman, they arranged for him to come to L.A. Sesu recalls that Young Blood knew Eric "from filming Lonesome Cowboys in LA for Andy Warhol."

Sesu Coleman: (drummer, The Magic Tramps):

The Magic Tramps formed in Hollywood, CA as an experimental, instrumental, underground, theatrical rock band called Messiah. We became the house band for a club on Sunset Blvd. called, Temple Of The Rainbow (circa 1968-71). When not performing original material there, we played various blues bars in the Valley under the name Magic Tramps. The original line-up of Messiah was Sesu Coleman on Drums, Lary Chaplan on Violin, Young Blood (Xavier) on Guitar.

All material was improvised without lyrics except for some chants. Young Blood knew Eric Emerson from filming Lonesome Cowboys in LA for Andy Warhol and thought he would be a perfect fit for our music and theatrical stage show. I, Sesu, was the Indian Warrior; Lary was the classical, dark-ages maestro; and Young Blood was the cosmic neon space man. Upon contacting Eric, he came to Hollywood  from NYC - a Heat, Chelsea Girls Lonesome Cowboy, Warhol Superstar, live & in person. He was a natural showman. (Magic Tramps - history).

Although Sesu mentions Heat, Eric had not yet have filmed it. The portion of Heat that was filmed in Hollywood was shot during two weeks in July 1971. (BC131) Sesu recalls on the Tramps website that the band travelled from L.A. to New York after the San Fernando Valley earthquake of February 1971. If he met Eric before the earthquake, he met him before he made Heat.

Presumably "The Cave" that Krysteen remembers was the Temple of the Rainbow club, although there was a club called The Bat Cave on Sunset Blvd. It's described on a Vintage Los Angeles blog site as "either on Sunset or Hollywood Blvd. near Western in the 60s. It had the Batman logo from the comic book painted above the door and the enticing word "TOPLESS!" underneath it." The same site mentions a "nudie-club" called The Cave. I have yet to find a reference to a "Temple of the Rainbow" club on the internet. (Martinos time machine blogspot)

While Eric was in L.A., he stayed in contact with Krys.

Krysteen (September 6, 2002 21:47):

... Monique and I would go stay with him [Eric] when I was not at school, and sometimes my mother would keep Monique for me I would just go stay with Eric. At night we would walk down to The Cave where he was playing and I would sit there and subject myself to some really bad music. Eric really never had a voice, not even for punk. He had the lyrics but I think he just could not put it all together, to make something of it or it was so far out that no one could get it. It just seemed bad.

But anyway afterwards, we would walk home to his place and he would yodel. All the way home. All through the Silverlake Hills at 3 in the morning. Now that he was very good at and we would both start doing it until the neighbors started to wake up and throw stuff or yell out their windows.

Eric's place was small and I remember he had carved his name on the toilet seat. It said "Eric sat here." I saved that seat for awhile than lost it.

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