BILLYBOY*, SCHIAPARELLI AND WARHOL
Portrait of the Ultimate Neo Nature Boy
by Paige Powell
In New York City around 1985 I was introduced to BillyBoy* by Andy Warhol, my boss, and naturally I fell in love with this exotic, romantic and exquisite creature.
He had the genius to inspire Andy to make portraits of the Barbie Doll and that is why he ended up at our office known to many as ‘The Factory’.
We hung out and ran around town in his limousines or sometimes Mattel sponsored limos with the poet/artist Réne Ricard and with Andy in Stuart Pivar's chauffeured car enroute to the Odeon, Mr. Chow's or west side flea markets, antiques shows at the Armory or up to Harlem to visit the Doll Museum in an old townhouse and eat at LaFamille, a jazz bar/restaurant then off to the Beverly Hills bar or Lenox Lounge.
I would quietly observe Billyboy*, watching the way he elegantly flipped his hand, his Schiaparelli gems lingering and receding like a gentle wave on his wrists, the perfectly tailored Parisian suits and sometimes a smart chapeau.
Always sublime with a Dorothy Parkeresque wit, perfect posture, beautiful manners, well read and a ravenous curiosity for totally everything. I mean everything.
BillyBoy* is a connoisseur of all that is visually stunning and significantly outrageous. His buoyant sense of humor sees charm and beauty in all. He will always find something fascinating in the most banal objects; exuding optimism and fun on the rainiest of days.
I went with Andy to the unveiling of his Barbie Doll painting called “Portrait of BillyBoy*”. It was in a large space on a Westside pier and there were many business men in suits running around the place and an elevated podium on a little stage with a microphone. There was BillyBoy*, in a marble print silk pyjamas suit and a ton of Schiaparelli jewellery, doused in ‘Shocking de Schiaparelli” perfume.
The event had all the drama of an unveiling when the black scarf covering the canvas was pulled off to reveal Andy's painting to much applause. It as all because of BillyBoy* and his splendorous imagination.
Andy was so excited about the Barbie project and adored BillyBoy* because he was so talented and fun to be with. Andy loved to go junking with him too.
His superb flare for innately understanding the lunacy of human psychology and all of its by-products puts BillyBoy* on the pedestal as the ultimate Neo-Nature Boy.
Because of BillyBoy*s seductive influence, years later I started collecting Elsa Schiaparelli and have quite a little collection going. People admiring the Schiaparelli parure gems on my ears, neck, arms and coat pins would often ask me how I got addicted to Schiaparelli? And my mantra was ‘BillyBoy*’. A perplexed look crossed their faces unless they were a true jewelry aficionado.
As if it wasn't enough that BillyBoy* alone, was an extraordinary walking piece of art, I soon discovered that he designed the most whimsical and drop dead gorgeous collection of jewelry called BillyBoy* Surreal Bijoux.
Each exquisitely designed piece was utter fantasy in somewhat Dada, Fellini and Schiaparelli inspired concoctions. My first true jewelry collection began with BillyBoy*, then some special Stephen Sprouse pieces, then Ted Muehling and later progressing to Schiaparelli, CIS, Coppola e Toppo, along with a couple early Chanel, Haskell, Balenciaga and Napier. The more insane and ridiculous the better.
My collections are not tucked away in dusty jewelry boxes because I only have one (a pink velvet Schiaparelli); almost daily I wear some precious gems mixing BillyBoy* with CIS, layering Schiaparelli on Schiaparelli, CIS with a MimiN. I love the puttanesca mix.
It’s so much fun to wake up in the morning and wonder how can I feel more cheerful today and know that a simple yet bizarrely glamorous Schiaparelli turquoise velvet schrunched hat studded with faux diamonds does the trick. Or a day-glo Sprouse micro mini and a Coppola e Toppo bid necklace in blazing orange and yellow designed for Emillio Pucci in the late 60’s . Even a Patagonia Ginko colored parka looks hip with a sparkling gem encrusted Schiaparelli emerald green necklace.
Since I’m mostly vegan and weaning off of silk and cashmere I love it that my favorite jewelry designers seldom, if at all, use real pearls. I go crazy for faux jumbo South Sea pearls and always the bigger the better. Or a massive Schiaparelli ruby bracelet with stones in Alice in Wonderland proportions.
Mixing Nicole for J.C. Penney’s with couture Courrèges and Isaac Mizrahi for Target with a Schiaparelli sweater looks too cool and chic.
My favorite designers to mix with Schiaparelli are Stephen Sprouse, Balenciaga, Courregès, Isabel Toledo, Jean Paul Gaultier, Comme Des Garcons, Prada (sans fur), As Three (once As Four), Issey Miyake, Nicole Miller, Marc Jacobs, Hermès, Agnes B., Patou, Vivienne Tam, Geoffrey Beene, Scott Crolla, Patagonia, Alexander McQueen, Zac Posen, Vivienne Westwood.
The women I most admire for style and beauty are Alba Clemente, Isabel Toledo, Diane Vreeland and Tina Chow, they all adored Schiaparelli, especially Diana and Tina. For the most eccentric style and beauty there is only one: Tama Janowitz. She’d accompany BillyBoy*, accessorized with Schiaparelli hats and jewels himself, to book fairs in Washington and New York.
His regal look with porcelain skin, willowy physique, delicate features and gentle demeanor reminds me of the quintessential Little Lord Fauntleroy. Then to later learn that he actually lives in a castle, filled to the brim with Schiaparellis, with his life time partner, Lala, in Switzerland truly makes fiction non-fiction.
Paige Powell, New York, 2005.
"EDIE SUPERSTAR" (Lala, 1992). In this video filmed in 2008 by BillyBoy* & Lala in Switzerland, after a song written and sung by Lala about Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol's 1960s Superstar, the artists have used documents and glimpses of Warhol iconography and other Warhol-size imagery of their own. The video includes "psychedelic" pop art inspired work mixed with Mdvanii artworks (called Mdvaniiisms) and black and white film parodying the Factory from 1990 for French TV channel Antenne 2 (© BillyBoy*).