BY: AMY HABEN
Andy Warhol Screen Test: Ivy Nicholson, 1965; © The Andy Warhol Museum
One particularly dead night in 2005 I was hunching over the bar at The Continental on St. Mark’s and 3rd Avenue, trying to endure some crappy band that was playing on stage. I pushed my earplugs in deeper and peered out the single window in that black hole, wishing for more customers to contribute to my cocaine habit.
(Photo by Nina Leen, 1950’s)
I looked up from washing glasses to a surprising view of a skeletal faced women digging in her change purse. I thought, “Oh no, looks like another junkie heard about our cheap happy hour prices.” She was older than our normal barroom degenerates. Dressed in loose, silky, beige pants, a matching blouse with a small v-shaped opening down the middle and thin strapped sandals, she was dressed more for a yacht party than this grimy East Village hole.
Harper’s Bazaar cover 1958. Photographed by Louise Dahl-Wolfe.
Ivy Nicholson in a gown by Maggy Rouff, 1953. Photo by Henry Clarke
“What’s your cheapest beer? asked the wrinkled woman. “Miller High Life is a dollar fifty, so is PBR, Budweiser is two,” I answered. “I’ll take the Miller,” she decides, as she scrounges in her purse for a dollar fifty in quarters.
Photo: Genia Rubins
I watch her as she makes long legged strides over to a table inhabiting a cute boy in his early twenties. She sits down and starts to flirt… balancing one of her falling sandals with her toes. The young man has a huge smile on his face… which I assumed was spawned by the irony of a woman three times his age being so brazen. I was envious of her confidence…. here I was, a good looking girl of twenty-five, and I would never approach such an attractive boy.
Village Voice ad for I, a Man. August 1967
The svelte women finished her beer and walked out the door. She asked the doorman Bingo, “Do you know who I am?” He politely replied that she looked familiar but he couldn’t place her. She exclaimed, “Why I’m a Warhol Superstar! I’m Ivy Nicholson… look me up.” At the end of the evening he let me in on this information and then it all made sense. She was one of the most beautiful models in her heyday. I’m glad she didn’t let aging change her pomp and strut.
Fifties cover girl Ivy Nicholson at Lucky Cheng’s on August 4, 2008. She was a Factory regular performing in many Andy Warhol films. Directed by James Tully. Edited by Ken Emerson.
Ivy Nicholson, 1962. Photo by Melvin Sokolsky
Here is some backstory on Miss Ivy:
Ivy was born Irene Nicholson in Queens, New York. Being born into a working class Irish family, she was extremely lucky when she broke into the modeling world at age sixteen. At thirty, she began to pursue acting, landing minor roles in Warhol’s: I, A Man, Batman Dracula, Soap Opera, John And Ivy, Couch and The Loves Of Ondine. Ivy married Ciao Manhattan director John Palmer and had twins, Penelope and Gunther. Adding to her brood, she had two sons from former lovers, which she named Darius and Sean. All four children have creative jobs in acting, modeling, photography, and music. Ivy has kept herself busy supporting her children’s careers as well as writing and directing the movie The Dead Life.
Ivy had amorous intentions for Andy and wished to marry him. She was known at The Factory for acting crazy from time to time. Ivy’s erratic behaviour included throwing a cup of coffee in Ondine’s face and even shitting on the Factory elevator after the group had thrown her out. In 1968, after Valerie Solanas shot Andy, Ivy threatened to kill herself if he died.
Photo by Georges Dambier, 1950s
An interview by Jarrod Decker of Danny Fields, where he mentions the crazy side of Ivy, is below:
DF: Well, here it is. I was at a party on east 72nd street. And, Andy was sitting there. Gerard Malanga was on one couch just like that and I was sitting on another and this girl named Ivy Nicholson, who was his Girl of the Year or something, was there. She was this beautiful model. And she crawled across the floor and tried to lick Andy’s boots and he sort of… not kicked her in the face… but sort of “go away (kicking gesture)” like you would to a dog…”Get outta here” gesture. So she crawled back across the floor and started to climb out the window. This is the 6th floor so… and I was just like … I GOT UP AND GRABBED HER TO PULL HER BACK IN. She sobbed and whatever. But later Andy said “OOOH YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE STOPPED IVY FROM JUMPING… WE WANTED TO SEE HER JUMP.” And I thought “Now that’s cool.” That’s a good attitude. You know? [laughs] . Whether or not he would have been happy to see it happen, it’s nice that he could have been wistful to not see it happen. “Awww, I wanted to see her jump (impersonating Andy).” The punch line of this one is that she lived, one of the few of us that lived. And she’s now just a nuisance hanging around, attacking people in Chelsea and the Village. “SHE SHOULDA JUMPED! WHY DID I DO THAT!?”