I don't know if it has been posted but it was the first time I had read it xD
LISA IN WONDERLAND
New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: Nov 9, 1986
Some time later there was a song on all the jukeboxes on the Upper East Side that went 'but where is the schoolgirl who used to be me,' and it if was late enough at night I used to wonder that. I know now that almost everyone wonders something like that, sooner or later and no matter what he or she is doing, but one of the mixed blessings of being 20 and 21 and even 23 is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before. Joan Didion--''Goodbye to All That'' Lisa Edelstein, a nice girl from a New Jersey suburb, is explaining how she got to be Lisa E., New York's reigning Queen of the Night, Girl of the Moment, new Edie Sedgwick and top ''celebutante'' of 1986.
''Being a celebutante means you're famous for not really doing anything,'' the 20-year-old says. ''You just try to get to know as many people as you can, so that you know everybody.''
A year ago, Lisa was just another New York University drama major and aspiring actress. She did not go out much at night because she does not drink and because ''when you grow up in New Jersey all you know about is the bars, the pick-up scene, and I thought that was really sleazy.''
Instead, she wore oversized peasant dresses and sat around in Washington Square worrying about her roommates. ''My first roommate when I moved into the dorm was this paranoid schizophrenic who wanted to murder me because she thought she was me,'' Lisa recalls in her low, thrillin voice. ''My second roommate seemed really sane, but then her boyfriend sliced his wrist in our bathroom.''
Her parents, a pediatrician and a social worker from Wayne, N.J., who raised their daughter in the Conservative Jewish tradition, became so worried about this strange succession of roommates that they bought Lisa a co-op apartment in Greenwich Village. he packed up her Mr. Rogers poster, her stuffed animals, her framed picture of Bette Davis and her photomontage of suburban barbecues and boyfriends, and she moved to Bleecker Street.
Soon she became friends with a classmate named James Clark, a baby-faced, epicene 20-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who told her about the world he had discovered.
''He told me about the Andy Warhol thing, cafe society, a whole culture I'd never been exposed to. I had no idea it existed at all.'' Lisa began going out with James to the clubs -Area, the Pyramid Club, Danceteria.
''The first time we went out, James and I just spent tons of hours deciding what to wear.'' She decided on a paisley-and-floral print dress and a big picture hat. James wore a red tube skirt. ''We thought we outdid ourselves,'' she recalls, ''but now I realize it did not work.''
To be cool, the pair needed not only to get into the exclusive clubs, they needed to get in without paying. ''When the doorman asks why you want to get in free,'' she explains, ''you say you don't have enough money to pay at the door and buy drinks, and you'd rather use your money to buy drinks.''
Once inside, Lisa was in Wonderland. ''There were all these neat-looking people wearing incredible outfits. I had never really thought about clothes before. James taught me how to be materialistic. I began to love having nice clothes, to know who the good designers were, like Gaultier, Azzedine and Claude Montana.''
Her pace began to quicken, to move in the rhythm of downtown. ''It started out as a fascination,'' she says. ''Then it became a life style.'' Fast forward was a speed that suited her. ''Somewhere inside, I'd always felt out of place in the suburbs. I'd always wanted to be here. There's constant stimulation in New York - always something to do, something to see, something to be scared of.'' Lisa laughs, a melodious sound, bubbling up from deep inside.
Since she has become a fixture of the club scene, Lisa has received obscene phone calls, pornographic postcards and ominous letters. She says she thinks a lot about young women who also were regulars and were murdered, some by strangers and others by men they had dated.
''There's so much insanity here,'' she says. ''It's hard because you don't want to be irresponsible with your life but you don't want to be scared all of the time either. With all the ways to die in New York, you just can't think of everything going on with rape and murder. That sort of thing is fate anyway. You just try to be as street smart as you can.
''I never leave a club with somebody I've just met, unless it's a friend of a really good friend,'' she says. ''And I never walk around alone when I'm dressed up. If I get into trouble, I can't defend myself as easily in high heels and tight dresses. Besides, basically, I'm asking for it if I'm walking around in a sexy dress. That's why I spend so much money on cabs.'' uring the school year, Lisa goes out four or five nights a week and tries to be home by 1 A.M. on week nights. In the summer and on holiday breaks, she goes out every night.
''I'm pretty hyperactive, and the night life gets the glamour and excitement out of my system while I'm in school.
''An amazing amount of energy starts falling out at night. You can throw it around and play volleyball with it.''
''I don't even like to talk about being a college student anymore,'' says Lisa, who is a junior this year. ''Now I'm a city person.''
As she spent more time in clubs, her style blossomed into something more sultry and sophisticated. She was embarrassed at first, but James convinced her to show off her figure with dresses that were tight and low-cut.
''My look kind of - what's the word they use about apes? - evolved,'' Lisa says. ''You just began to know what to wear. As James says, you know you can wear a little red cowboy hat one week, and the next week it doesn't fit.''
Even her figure began to change, developing sharper curves. ''I must have hit puberty this year,'' she grins.
Partly, Lisa was drawn to the night scene because it was fun.
But she also quickly realized that the clubs can serve as a glittering showcase for a young actress - the proverbial stool in Schwab's Drug Store - if she is very appealing and very, very clever.
Lisa Edelstein cannot become Meryl celebutante overnight. And that is a certain form of stardom - training wheels, so to speak.
''You learn how to carry yourself,'' she says. ''You learn about presentation. You learn what people want.
''You run into columnists and film people and producers and casting people. I also meet successful actors and I can talk to them and learn from them.'' Learn what, she is asked. ''Oh, you know, about the Hollywood life style.''
She became friends with the Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons of the downtown scene, Stephen Saban of Details magazine and Michael Musto of The Village Voice. Somewhere along the line, she dropped her last name in favor of just the initial. And, one night in a cab, James changed his last name to St. James. Lisa E. and James St. James just seemed to have a nicer ring than Lisa Edelstein and James Clark.
She got a job as a bartender at the Palladium and that cemented her club fame. ''I knew right from the start that Lisa was going to be more than a bartender,'' recalls Steve Rubell, one of the club's owners. ''Just the way I knew that Madonna was right when she used to sit on the steps of Danceteria and tell me she was going to be a star.''
Lisa no longer works at the Palladium, but she is a frequent visitor. ''If there's an opening of an envelope, Lisa's there,'' Rubell says.
This very evening, in fact, she is giving a 20th-birthday party for James at the Palladium. ''Thank Heavens for Little Girls!'' reads the invitation, featuring a picture of James wearing lipstick, pigtails and a short plaid party dress and holding a teddy bear, a downtown version of Sebastian Flyte.
Lisa leaves a bunch of invitations -''Barbie dolls! Home movies! Clowns! Toys!'' - with her apartment doorman for friends to pick up. The Palladium provides the room for the party and the guests pay for their own drinks.
Her parents, Alvin and Bonnie - or Dad E. and Mom E., as her friends call them - are driving in from Wayne to the party, which starts at 11 P.M. It is the Edelsteins' first experience with their daughter's nocturnal playground, and with her glamour-girl image. Lisa has a lot to do on this Wednesday, so she gets up early, at 11 A.M. She dresses in a tight black knit top and a clingy black skirt that falls in different lengths. (There is a cigarette burn on her left arm, an occupational hazard of the crowded club scene.) She carries her wallet and some Bazooka bubble gum in a metallic lunchbox - a trick she picked up from James, who likes to carry Planet of the Apes and Star Wars lunchboxes. er aura is quicksilver. She talks fast, walks fast, laughs often. Her stride is a fast-motion version of Marilyn Monroe's bouncy gait. Everything about her, from her vivid alto to her mane of brown curls, seems to vibrate.
Even in a city accustomed to beautiful women, Lisa creates something of a sensation as she walks down the street. Heads turn, horns beep, women stare, men trail. Indeed, a Saint Elmo's fire of energy crackles around her. And although she knows she is sending out very sexy signals, she does not seem completely aware of what those signals mean.
The first item on Lisa's itinerary is a store in the East Village called Enz's that features bizarre clothing. She needs to pick out a costume for an abbreviated production of ''Grease'' that will play at the Palladium the following evening. She is in the chorus as one of the Pink Ladies.
After choosing a flouncy blue creation, Lisa moves quickly on. She stops by the apartment of her friend Patrick McMullan, a paparazzo and writer who serves as her unofficial press agent.
Patrick says he promotes Lisa because he likes her. He takes pictures of her at parties, which he then sells to magazines such as Details, Vanity Fair and New York Talk. ''People like to have us around their parties, me as the photographer, her as the great beauty. They think the glamour will rub off.'' His apartment and darkroom are filled with pictures of pouting love goddesses - Rita Hayworth, Anita Ekberg, Marilyn Monroe, Edie Sedgwick. Patrick wants Lisa to pose by the haunting picture of Edie, taken 20 years ago in her glowing days as a Warhol acolyte, before her period of unhappiness and fatal drug overdose. He says Lisa is the new Edie. ''She's dead,'' says Lisa. ''I'm not comparing Edie to Lisa in terms of how Edie lived and how she died,'' Patrick explains. ''Lisa doesn't do drugs or get bombed. But when Edie walked into a room there was an excitement. And that's the same with Lisa.''
There's been some talk around the clubs, Patrick explains, that Lisa might be up for a role in the movie of the Tama Janowitz short-story collection, ''Slaves of New York,'' about the men and women who hang out downtown. Andy Warhol, the artist and editor of Interview magazine, has bought the rights to the book.
Lisa and Patrick ran into Warhol at a dinner party one night, and Patrick immediately began lobbying.
''Lisa would be perfect for the role,'' Patrick said. ''Yes, yes,'' Warhol answered in his vague way.
''She'd also be perfect for a story in Interview,'' Patrick persisted. ''Yes, yes,'' Warhol said. Realizing he was up against a blank wall with the pale Guru of the Night, Patrick went for broke. ''She's also selling Girl Scout cookies,'' he announced. ''Can she put you down for five boxes?'' ''Yes,'' Warhol nodded. ''Yes.''
Lisa likes the idea of acting in the film, but the image of Edie and the old Warhol Factory crowd makes her nervous.
''I'm very driven,'' she says. ''I don't like drinking or drugs. Occasionally, I'll have a wine spritzer. I walk into Limelight and there's a Tab waiting. That's a nice feeling.''
Patrick advises her on club politics. The clubs are a galaxy, with their own hierarchy and bylaws and vocabulary and etiquette. As Steve Rubell puts it, ''The club scene is as political as Washington, D.C., on its highest level.''
Lisa understands that in the club scene she only has a Warhol 15 minutes of fame, and she intends to make the most of that time. ''People get bored very quickly,'' she says. ''One minute you're the talk of the town. The next you're old hat. I'd rather be old hat than disliked. That happens to a lot of people. They fall out of grace with the power structure.''
Falling out of grace can be accomplished in any number of ways - gossiping about the wrong person, gossiping to the wrong person, getting the idea that you are more important than the scene.
''The danger of getting a lot of publicity is that people get resentful,'' Patrick says. ''Other actors don't like it and it can give you a bad name instead of just a name.''
Lisa agrees. ''It's a tightrope. If you get an attitude about you, some people are going to tear you down and make a joke out of you. It terrifies me.''
Once in a while, when the swirl gets dizzying, Lisa hits the brakes. ''Sometimes, I find myself going out too late and losing my focus, so I put myself back in check and I don't go out for a few nights.''
But there is a fine line between losing your focus and losing your spotlight.
''It's a funny thing,'' she says. ''If you feel too much pressure and you don't go out and do anything, you can commit club suicide, and career suicide, too. It's so much life in the fast lane.''
Club suicide may be easy, but club romance is hard. Despite her looks and charm, Lisa says she has never had a long-term romance. Boyfriends do not figure in this synthetic world, which only enhances the impression she gives of a little girl playing dress-up.
''It's hard to have a real romance in the clubs,'' she says. ''I'd love to, but I can't imagine how I would ever fit it into my schedule.''
Later, she comes back to the subject of love.
''I think the time is becoming more and more right,'' she says. ''I have a girlfriend who says that when you're 18, you think you know everything about life, and in a certain sense you do. But when you turn 20, you realize a lot of other things are going on to get in the way of that simple truth you had before. And then you get distracted until you don't remember anything you knew about life when you were 18.'' t is about 4 P.M. now, and Lisa says she is riding in third gear. ''Later,'' she says, ''I'll go to fifth and sixth. My energy flies up and down.'' She goes to a rehearsal for ''Grease,'' and then she comes home to get ready for the evening. She stops by the kitchen. On the counter is a black shoe, with a five-inch platform heel, decorated with plastic lemons. It looks like it was left there by Carmen Miranda. ''It's James's,'' Lisa says.
She then goes up into her loft, sits on her bed and turns on her answering machine. There is a message from James.
''Well, I'm in a tizzy, um,'' he begins, in his mocking, high-pitched voice. ''It's my day and it is not ruling.'' (Ruling, once part of the street argot of the 1960's, is the current chic word for (Continued on Page 54) being cool or powerful, for controlling a situation.) ''I'm really upset, O.K.?'' the voice continues, ''because what I wanted to do was borrow a tuxedo from Dianne [ Brill ] , and let me tell you that Dianne's tuxedo runs really large, O.K.? I mean extremely large. And so I had to go out and buy my own pants. And the belt and the jacket's still too big and stuff. So I mean the money I spent I could have, like, rented a tuxedo on my own, so why did I go to Dianne? At any rate, I wanted to start off in Dianne's tuxedo to be photographed in and, you know, eventually sneak my way into the party dress I wore in the picture on the invitation and then change into that red dress from La Coppia, and I called La Coppia and they said, sure, sure, sure, no problem. I went there and they had sent the dress to be photographed for Harper's Bazaar and so I can't use it and I'm really upset because it left me with nothing to wear. [ Big sigh. ] So I think I'm just going to end up wearing the little party dress.'' And on and on.
Finally, the beep sounds. ''I have unlimited message time,'' Lisa explains. Across from her bed, there is another loft space that looks like a teen-ager's tree house. It is draped with an American flag and stuffed with Peter Max plastic pillows, a Keith Haring plastic shopping bag, a sculptured head Lisa made when she was 15, a banner from a New Year's Eve show at the Essex House in which she appeared with Julio Iglesias.
Lisa's friend Zan Eisley arrives with a script she has written. Zan wants Lisa to play the lead in a short movie she is making for her New York University film class.
The script, ''Turtleneck,'' begins with the stage direction: ''She is nude. Her body is covered with scars. She picks a turtleneck off the floor and pulls it over her head, fastidiously fixing the neck and sleeves so that no scars show. Only then does she walk to the window.''
As she eats her vegetarian dinner -take-out broccoli from a Chinese restaurant - Lisa is asked how she feels about doing a nude scene. ''A nude scene like that is not - what's the word? - exploiting me.'' She and Zan dissolve into laughter. an tells her about a wonderful Joan Didion essay she has read called ''Goodbye to All That.'' ''It's about being young in New York and the feeling that you can do anything and take it all back if you want to. But then you realize you can't take it all back.''
But Lisa is not yet ready to worry about what you can or can't take back. She is reading her fortune cookie: ''The path of life shall lead upward for you.''
''Thank goodness,'' she grins, popping a piece of Bazooka into her mouth.
She goes to get dressed. It's Cinderella time. Lisa's closet is not your typical college student's. It is filled with dresses with cutout necklines and cutout backs; dresses covered with black beads and blue sequins and white glitter. On the top shelf are rows of black, white and silver high heels.
She puts on a drop-dead, strapless black evening dress with a matching cowl. A designer named Miriam Bendahan has loaned it to her.
''I make phone calls for Miriam sometimes, act as her assistant,'' Lisa explains, over the stereo blast of Kid Creole and the Coconuts. ''Also, designers lend me their dresses because everyone sees me in them and it's good publicity.''
There is one catch: ''If it gets burned with cigarettes, I buy it.''
There are other such quid pro quos. For a fee of about $300, Lisa sometimes gives parties at clubs in the mid-evening hours before they are officially open. She has her own mailing list, and she acts as a sort of Richard Viguerie of the night. The parties help promote the clubs, and the guests often stay for more drinks after the free bar closes.
She shows off her scrapbook. There is a restaurant check on which David Lynch, the director of ''Elephant Man'' and ''Eraserhead,'' had written his address for Lisa for a possible role in ''Blue Velvet.'' ''But it was already (Continued on Page 56) cast,'' she says. There is a newspaper clipping about the night at the Apollo Theater when Lisa slugged a man who tried to get fresh.
And there is a picture of Lisa and some other young women with Federico Fellini in the lobby of the Trump Tower. ''This is the pride and glory of our moments, the night we met Fellini,'' she says. ''He did 'Harold and Maude.' ''
''You mean 'Fred and Ginger,' '' Zan corrects. They both laugh.
Now it is 9 P.M., time to go. As Lisa walks outside, she looks too glamorous for the casual streets of Greenwich Village. ''Is she a model?'' people on the street ask as she passes.
''This is the most nerve-racking time of the night because it's the only time I'm alone,'' she says. ''It's dangerous because men rule the streets at night.''
She picks up Patrick at his house. ''Our little starlet,'' he coos. ''You look so pretty tonight. But then, you always do.'' An acquaintance, Richard Turley, chauffeurs the group in his maroon 1970 Cadillac De Ville convertible.
There are brief stops at the Milk Bar, on Seventh Avenue South, to arrange a party, at the Key Cafe for a party honoring Helmut Newton's photographs and at Madame Rosa's downtown for a birthday party for the roommate of a friend. But Lisa is distracted. She is eager to get to the Palladium, on 14th Street, because James's birthday party begins at 11 P.M.
In the Michael Todd Room of the discotheque, the dance floor is already crowded with young women in brassieres and rubber skirts, men in T-shirts and underpants and couples in matching black leather studded outfits.
There is one distinguished-looking couple in the midst of this downtown wild style - a man in a business suit and a woman in an elegant dress. Lisa's parents.
Alvin Edelstein is asked how he likes his first trip into this particular third circle. ''Are we on or off the record?'' he yells above the music. ''I hate it.''
He points to the projection screen, where his home movies of Lisa's third birthday party at Sea World are flashing. It is the only part of this scene that seems safe and familiar.
''How can a parent really be comfortable with the kind of people she has to do business with?'' he says, looking around at the crowd. ''But she's a very aggressive person. She has standards. I'm not afraid of what might happen.'' Pause. ''I am afraid.'' Her parents freely admit it's not exactly what they had envisioned for Lisa. ''This won't get her into medical school,'' her father says, smiling. ''You know what I wanted. I wanted her to get married, live across the street from me, have a dozen children and bring them over to visit every day.''
There is no son-in-law in sight, but there is James. ''He's still defining his sexuality,'' says Dr. Edelstein, with a shrug.
His daughter is whizzing around the room with James, who is wearing a white dinner jacket. They are playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey and posing for pictures.
''Who is that girl?'' someone asks a short woman with curly hair.
''That's Lisa E.,'' the woman replies. ''She's always here and at other places. If you go to clubs every night you get written about, that's all. She's nothing.''
Lisa soon emerges in a revealing outfit, a short satin dress adorned with pom-poms - a souvenir from a brief stint as a cheerleader with Donald Trump's New Jersey Generals.
James has changed too, into a purple-and-pink plaid silk dress with a crinoline. ''People know when I dress like this I'm not trying to look like a woman,'' he says. ''I'm just trying to play with roles and question people and see how much they can take.''
He is not sure yet to what end he wants to parlay his notoriety in the club scene.
''I prefer to remain a celebutante and keep it ambiguous,'' he says. ''Lisa thinks if she says she's an actress enough times, people will believe it and she'll roll into that. But I think if I don't say what I want to be, people can't come up to me and say I haven't lived up to it.''
Some of the denizens of the clubs think that making the scene can be a steppingstone to stardom; others say it is an attention-getting end in itself. ''The best way to be an actress is to go to acting school, not to be in the Palladium at 4 A.M. every morning,'' says Steve Rubell. ''But this is a land of make-believe, and what's wrong with a 20-year-old being in a world of make-believe?''
Lisa's parents leave at 1:45 A.M. ''It was very exciting,'' her mother assures her. ''We're never coming back.''
An hour later, the party is thinning out. Even Lisa, whose father says she has ''different glands than the rest of us,'' is getting tired.
''Let's work the room one more time,'' she tells James.
But her friends want to keep going, and the group moves on to Limelight. Lisa talks to Ron Wanless, a vice president of Atlantic Releasing, a film company, whom she has known for some time. They talk about going to Hollywood, where Lisa could meet some important people.
She also talks to John Wildman, a handsome young Canadian actor who starred in the movie ''My American Cousin.'' ''He told me I had a nice smile,'' she says.
At 4 A.M., she goes home, kicks off her high heels and checks her answering machine. She takes out her contacts, washes her makeup off, brushes her teeth and carefully puts away her borrowed black gown. Then, surrounded by her stuffed animals - a big white dog and a rooster on roller skates and a bee-collecting bear - Lisa goes to sleep.