Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"A spontaneous eruption of the id"

LUNCHEON [held by] MARSH’S [at... Digital ID: 474996. New York Public Library
(From 1899, not 1966)

The Velvet Underground had a reunion the other night at the New York Public Library, and while I didn't get a chance to attend, a colleague made me feel better by sending me a wonderful article called Syndromes Pop at Delmonico's, from a 1966 issue of the New York Times, which described what happened when the group made an appearance at Delmonico's.

The New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry held their 43rd annual dinner on January 13th 1966, and the evening's entertainment was none other than members of the Factory crew: Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick, Billy Lunich, Gerard Malanga, and the Velvet Underground.

Warhol showed his films during cocktail hour, and while the black-tied psychiatrists and their wives dined on roast beef, potatoes, and string beans, the Velvet Underground played what one doctor called "a short-lived torture of cacophony." During that performance, "Warhol and his cameramen moved among the gathering with hand-held cameras, using the psychiatrists as the cast of a forthcoming Warhol movie."

Warhol wasn't the only one benefiting from the exchange. Many of the psychiatrists in attendance were thrilled to be able to study Team Warhol. There was Edie Sedgwick, "on full blast -- chewing gum and sipping a martini," John Cale "in a black suit with rhinestones on the collar," and Nico "in a white slack suit with long blond hair."

One psychiatrist likened the experience to "a repetition of the concrete quite akin to the L.S.D experience," while another was a bit more direct: "Why are they exposing us to these nuts?"

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