Skip to content

DP Books

Don't Call Me Home

Growing up as the daughter of a Warhol superstar.

Alexandra Auder’s life began at the Chelsea Hotel when her mother, Viva, a longtime resident of the hotel and one of Andy Warhol’s muses, went into labor in the lobby.

The first five years of her life are all video memories captured by her filmmaker father, Michel Auder. Here, an excerpt from her memoir.

The Chelsea Hotel

My father films as my mother emerges from the bathtub, looking into the video camera.

“I’m sick of being a star. It’s like being a slave. This is my last performance,” she complains.

She moves toward the bed, naked, and dripping wet with that peculiar slow-motion walk, like a drunkard. Her breasts are like swollen torpedoes, jigging as she approaches me. I’m lying on my back on the bed, kicking my legs, my bald head turned toward her, my mouth gaping, apparently rapt by her breasts.

A topless woman is also sprawled out here in our bedroom in the hotel—my godmother, Brigid Berlin, another Warhol actress.

Now she lounges on the bed, me next to her, a white towel wrapped like a turban around her head. I am exploring the shadows, ridges, and plays of light on her face while I nurse and she talks to the camera. The cloudy, sweet milk seems to melt my limbs.

A topless woman is also sprawled out here in our bedroom in the hotel—my godmother, Brigid Berlin, another Warhol actress. She has rolls of flesh and fat and drones on and on in the same hypnotic way as my mother. A continuous monologue flows from both women, like they are the stars of the world’s longest opera. My mother’s palm covers the skin on my back, as if she’s sending silent love notes into my body while she laughs at something Brigid is saying.

My father continues to film as Brigid attaches a recording device to the phone—a little black rubber suction cup. Andy Warhol’s voice emerges from the other end of the line.

“Well, Andy, I was going to make you the baby’s godfather, but since you still haven’t come to see us . . . I don’t know . . . ,” my mother says coyly.

“Andy—why haven’t you called to find out about Alexandra?” Brigid drones, deadpan. “She’s so beautiful. And why haven’t you called Viva?”

“Oh, I haven’t had time—I just got back. Is the baby good-looking?”

“Wonderful. Here, talk to Viva now.”

Brigid hands my mother the phone.

“Well, Andy, I was going to make you the baby’s godfather, but since you still haven’t come to see us . . . I don’t know . . . ,” my mother says coyly, smiling at Brigid and the camera, clearly loving the fact that Andy hadn’t known she was in the room when he was talking to Brigid.

“Everybody says you were just great on the television,” he says.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes, everyone loved you. They said you were fabulous. Are you going to any other shows soon? They would boost your book sales . . .”

“Well, they want me to do Cavett again tomorrow, but I’m just too exhausted.”

“It would be good—”

“Andy, I’m not a superhuman. I can’t have a baby and then rush right off to television a few days after—”

“Well, take the baby with you.”

“The baby could go without me—sure, the baby will be fine—I’m the one . . . It was two hours of excruciating pain!”

“Are you taking a lot of vitamins?”

“I really think the pain was worse than the pain of your shooting.”

“I’m sure it was terrible . . .”

“Can’t they put something down there so that the pain won’t hurt?”

“No matter what they give you, you still feel it—having the baby born wasn’t painful . . . The baby coming out wasn’t painful, it was . . . I thought my pain was just like the crucifixion—how did you feel?”

“Um . . . mine was so different . . . it was just hot . . . it was so weird . . . it was really sort of weird . . .”

“Well, you had drugs afterward, didn’t you?”

“I can’t remember . . . You know who I saw tonight? You’re both from Midnight Cowboy . . . He really looks good . . . gee, I don’t think anything ever really happened to him . . . he tried so hard . . . isn’t that funny?”

“He who is first shall be last and he who is last shall be first.”

“Uh-huh…”

“He who tries gets no place . . .”

“Uh-huh…”

“Christ.”

from left: Alexandra Auder, Viva Hoffmann, and actress Gaby Hoffmann in 1997
Alexandra Auder (left), with her mother, Viva Hoffmann, and sister, actress Gaby Hoffmann, in 1997. Photo by Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

London

My father films the hotel restaurant, empty except for a long table seating about twelve English businessmen. They won’t seat us because I’m nursing.

Michel yells: “We want a menu!”

His voice behind the camera sounds irritated, hollowed by adrenaline.

“I am sure one of you gentlemen must have one child among you—surely you’re not that uptight that you can’t even conceive a child!”– Viva

My mother stands in front of the table of Englishmen and orates to them: “I am sure one of you gentlemen must have one child among you—surely you’re not that uptight that you can’t even conceive a child!”

They continue eating without looking up.

The hotel manager approaches us with his hands out toward the camera. My father says, “Don’t touch it, don’t come near me, it iz off . . . I will punch you . . .” He laughs a little when he says this.

The maître’d tries to pry the camera from Michel and there is a big scuffle. Suddenly, lots of hands are jabbing and poking around my head. My father yells: “We need a police officer!”

The next day my father videotapes the covers of the London Sun and the New York Daily News: “Warhol Actress Arrested for Indecency in London Hotel.”

Hero image: Viva with Andy Warhol. Photo by ullstein bild via Getty Images

Related
Gilded Chalet

Hemingway’s Swiss getaway

DP discovers a hidden gem, the understated Gstaad hotel where the author penned A Farewell to Arms

Womans hands holding gift or present box decorated confetti on pink pastel table top view. Flat lay composition for birthday or wedding
Santa Baby

DP’s Holiday Gift Guide

For the naughty and the nice on your list.

Alejandra Compoverdi, author of First Gen: A Memoir
Books we love

Should I go to Harvard?

In this excerpt from her moving memoir, a first-generation Mexican American explains how accepting admission to the country’s most elite academic institution wasn’t a simple “Yes.”

Book Club

What to Read Now

A British bookshop asked renowned writers for their recommendations.

More

Join us for the party

Join us for the party