Los Angeles in the 1960s and 70s was the pop culture capital of the world—a movie factory, a music factory, a dream factory. Eve Babitz was the ultimate factory girl, a pure product of LA, and Vanity Fair writer “Lili Anolik decodes, ruptures, and ultimately intensifies Eve’s singular irresistible glitz” (The New Yorker).
The goddaughter of Igor Stravinsky and a graduate of Hollywood High, Eve Babitz posed in 1963, at age twenty, playing chess with the French artist Marcel Duchamp. She was naked; he was not. The photograph made her an instant icon of art and sex. Babitz spent the rest of the decade rocking and rolling on the Sunset Strip, honing her notoriety. There were the album covers she designed: for Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds, to name but a few. There were the men she seduced: Jim Morrison, Ed Ruscha, Harrison Ford, to name but a very few.
Then, at nearly thirty, her It girl days numbered, Babitz was discovered—as a writer—by Joan Didion. She would go on to produce seven books, usually billed as novels or short story collections, always autobiographies and confessionals. Under-known and under-read during her career, she’s since experienced a breakthrough. Now in her mid-seventies, she’s on the cusp of literary stardom and recognition as an essential—as the essential—LA writer. Her prose achieves that American ideal: art that stays loose, maintains its cool, and is so simply enjoyable as to be mistaken for simple entertainment.
For Babitz, life was slow days, fast company until a freak fire turned her into a recluse, living in a condo in West Hollywood, where author Lili Anolik tracked her down in 2012. Hollywood’s Eve, equal parts biography and detective story “brings a ludicrously glamorous scene back to life, adding a few shadows along the way” (Vogue) and “sends you racing to read the work of Eve Babitz” (The New York Times).
Lili Anolik is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Her work has also appeared in Harper’s, Esquire, and The Believer. She is the author of Hollywood's Eve and lives in New York City with her husband and two small sons.
Read an Excerpt
Hollywood’s Eve Hollywood’s Eve isn’t a biography—at least not in the traditional sense. It won’t attempt to impose narrative structure and logic on life, which is (mostly) incoherent and irrational, lived moment-by-moment and instinctively rather than by grand design and purposefully; or to provide explanations, which (mostly) dull and diminish; or to reach conclusions, which are (mostly) hollow and false. In other words, it doesn’t believe, or expect you to, that facts, dates, timelines, firsthand accounts, verifiable sources tell the tale.
Here’s what Hollywood’s Eve is: a biography in the nontraditional sense; a case history as well as a cultural; a critical appreciation; a sociological study; a psychological commentary; a noir-style mystery; a memoir in disguise; and a philosophical investigation as contrary, speculative, and unresolved as its subject. Here’s what Hollywood’s Eve is above all else: a love story. The lover, me. The love object, Eve Babitz, the louche, wayward, headlong, hidden genius of Los Angeles.
A book can be infatuated—hopelessly, helplessly, heedlessly—same as a person. I’m telling you this not as a way of asking for allowances, but for understanding. In the following pages, things might get a little heated, a little weird, a little out of hand. Now you know why.