Bibbe Hansen, 1999
WITH VAGINAL DAVIS
PHOTOGRAPHED BY TOBIN YELLAND
Among the myriad things she has done, Bibbe Hansen has been a great rock manager. She used to manage my conceptual art rock band !Cholita! — the female Menudo. But Alice Bag, who co-wrote the songs with me, had a major falling out with Bibbe

because she was basically doing too good of a job. Instead of ripping us off like most managers, she wound up getting us amazing gigs and lots of money.
Bibbe's roots are wild and deep. Her father was the Happenings and Fluxus pioneer, Al Hansen. As a New York teenager in the '60s, she was the youngest of Andy Warhol's "superstars," leading a juvenile life of crime and debauchery. She eventually settled down to marriage and children in L.A. in the '70s, but left her husband for 15-year-old Sean Carrillo. Bibbe and Sean ran a restaurant and rock venue called Troy Café in Little Tokyo for five years, which was the only cool thing in L.A. at the time.

In the early '90s, as a joke on Bibbe's pop wunderkind son Beck, we formed a band together called black fag, satirizing the testosterone-fueled Black Flag and the indie angst of The Nation of Ulysses. It was supposed to be a one-off project, but because of popular demand it lasted for over a year. We recorded an album called Passover Satyr that was never released but has been bootlegged like crazy from the demo tape.

I recently went out to dinner with Sean and Bibbe and decided to just let the tape roll. Bibbe had been on the road with the art show, Beck and Al Hansen: Playing With Matches, which is traveling all over the world, and was glad to be back home. The near-empty Euro-trash restaurant we chose began to fill up — and get ickier and ickier. Our quiet table soon became center stage, but then whenever you're with Bibbe you always manage to attract an audience. Let's hope nothing she said here will embarrass Beck.

VAGINAL: What's the name of this restaurant?
SEAN: Le Petit Four.
BIBBE: But don't tell anyone.
VAGINAL: Le Petit Four on Glamorous Sunset Plaza on the Sunset Strip.
SEAN: I don't want it to become trendy like all our other favorite places.
VAGINAL: I'm eating here with Bibbe Hansen, the starina of starinas and her sexy husband Sean Carrillo, who is much younger then she — she robbed the cradle. She snatched him at the age of 15 from his parents in East L.A. — basically kidnapped him.
SEAN: She took me across state lines ...
BIBBE: I took him to New York.
VAGINAL: Bibbe was running a brown slavery ring at the time for horny white ladies who like chorizo. That's why you removed Sean from his close-knit Latin family. Together since the late 1970s, Sean has been her child husband/bride for twenty years. He is still a radiant youth. And Bibbe is, of course, an ageless wonder. One of the 77 wonders of the world. You come from Bohemian Royalty. You've been the salon madame/mistress to all the movers and shakers, filmmakers, artists and musicians in L.A. since the dawning of the punk rock era, and right up to the present. A modern day Gertrude Stein.
BIBBE: A better looking version of Gertrude Stein, hopefully.
VAGINAL: You've been involved in art movements since you were a child ...
BIBBE: Janet Kerouac and I had an all girl band together as children. We grew up in New York and went to school together on the Lower East Side. We ran around the city getting into incredible amounts of trouble. We were stealing things — drugs, scams, you name it.
VAGINAL: You were frisky from birth.
BIBBE: Well, pretty serious jailbait, at least. I'm talking 12 or 13 here. We even hustled our way into a recording contract on Columbia's Colpix label with Don Rubens. The people who wrote the song for our A-side had written "Denise." You know — "Denise, Denise, oh doo be doo." And Murray the K's mother, who co-wrote "Splish Splash I Was Taking a Bath," wrote the B-side.
VAGINAL: What was your all-girl group called?
BIBBE: The Whippets. We put out a record that was the answer to the Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." Ours was called, "I Wanna Talk With You." I was also doing Happenings with my dad. I was involved in the whole downtown experimental theater thing at Judson Church and LaMama and the Living Theater. I also had a traditional theater background where I went off and did summer stock in upstate New York. That was my summer job. I would play the juvenile leads. "The Diary of Anne Frank," "The Bad Seed" ...
VAGINAL: When did you start acting in movies?
BIBBE: I made several films with Andy. The first was Prison, when I was 13.
VAGINAL: That's why you're known as the youngest of Warhol's superstars. How was it working with Edie?
BIBBE: I loved working with her. She was kind to me. She taught me a lot of makeup tricks — like the big sister I never had. We'd do speed and play with cosmetics for hours. And Andy was wonderful. He made an enormous impression on me and set a certain tone that has followed me all my life. I understand that in later years things changed, but at that time — in the mid-'60s — he had this wonderful tolerance, acceptance, and inclusiveness. In a world that was very exclusive and standoffish, he was very welcoming — even though I was just a child.
VAGINAL: You weren't like any regular li'l kid. You were innately sophisticated. I've never seen the movie Prison but I've read about it. You're supposed to be very authoritative in the film. Your complete stance is that of someone much older than 13, and you tell your story very matter-of-factly.
SEAN: It had a very brief release when it first came out. But the Whitney Museum's restoring it now and it's going to be re-released.
VAGINAL: What year did it come out?
BIBBE: '64 or '65.
VAGINAL: What other films did you do with Andy?
BIBBE: One was 10 Beautiful Girls and then 10 More Beautiful Girls. I also did Andy Warhol's L'Avventura, which takes place at the L'Avventura Restaurant on 2nd Avenue. We'd be hanging out and somebody would say, "Let's go to dinner," and in most circles they would have dumped the kid, but not Andy. Of course I was going along. And you're like that too. You won't be ghetto-ized, not by a black ghetto or a sex ghetto. You mix it up. Gay/straight, young/old ...
VAGINAL: Lowlifes and highlifes.
BIBBE: Andy believed in that.
VAGINAL: It's the perfect mix.
BIBBE: It's the shared aesthetic that brought us together instantly. I've been a fan of yours since the minute I met you.
VAGINAL: And I knew that you were a woman of substance immediately. I knew you'd be a part of my life, and that's what has connected you to so many people. You have this wonderful sense of whimsy and youthful bloom, horndoggy abandon, homosexy spirit. You are a true libertine in the sense that you don't see any boundaries regarding sex. You live life to its utter fullness. You're the ultimate modern woman. I remember when I brought Ghislaine — that hot boyish French girl — to Troy Café, and you got all wet for her.
BIBBE: Hush! My husband is right here listening to all this.
SEAN: Well I had the hots for Ghislaine too.
VD/BIBBE: [laughing]
VAGINAL: You are one progressive couple. Your husband is never shocked by your desires. Sean is never jealous when you get crushes on these cute young femme boys or butch girls. You two have such a complete understanding of each other.
SEAN: There is always some girl chasing after her, wanting to munch on that hot pussy. We can both appreciate a hot buttered bull dyke.
VAGINAL: Now, back in the Warhol days, were you thinking in terms of a career?
BIBBE: I was just hanging out. We also abused vast amounts of substances. It was very much the times. It's a shame so many adorable people, people I've loved so much, gave their lives to all that.
VAGINAL: The difference is that while you partook, it never ruled you. The main part of your consciousness has been fueled through art, not narcotics.
BIBBE: I'm lucky to be a survivor. I was in and out of reform school. I was beyond out of control. I can't imagine having a girl child like me now. My father would give me a couple of dollars to go to the store and get a quart of milk, and I wouldn't come back for three weeks. And when I did come home I'd have the quart of milk and no change. I was also in trouble with the law.
VAGINAL: There is a statute of limitations. I don't think they can prosecute you now, dear.
BIBBE: There was some dicey stuff — a big drug bust and a few sex scandals. It all got me a lot of attention. At the time, I wasn't going to school and I wasn't at home. There wasn't a lot my family could do to protect me.
VAGINAL: Your father was a working artist, and he was a wild bohemian himself.
BIBBE: They eventually locked me up for a very long time. That crazy summer when everyone died — Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy. My mother died that year too.
VAGINAL: Your mother was another great beauty. Audrey Hansen. She was a stripper. Tell me how she and your father met.
BIBBE: Downtown in the old Greenwich Village there was a hangout called the Waldorf Cafeteria. It was three or four in the morning, and my father was there with his pal Buddy Carmody and all the other beat artists. This was in the late '40s. The door blew open and this woman walked in. She had a raincoat on and underneath she wasn't wearing anything but emerald-green sequin pasties and a g-string. Green sequined high heels, long green eyelashes, green eyeshadow and bright kelly green hair. Followed by a couple of dykes balancing her costumes and luggage and makeup kits. There was always an Aunt Somebody with my mother.
VAGINAL: Like mother like daughter. Butch bottoms can smell a hot femme top.
BIBBE: My mother was originally supposed to play Sabrina in the movie — the Audrey Hepburn role. She was a dancer on the old Perry Como Show — the one who did the Thumbalina dance. And she was in those old commercials that were done live. One of the famous ones was the one she goofed up, where the girl comes onscreen in elegant profile and gets her cigarette lit. Then she turns to the camera to exhale and coughs half a lung out. She could be very silly and fun.
VAGINAL: You inherited her aesthetics.
BIBBE: She loved to play, she loved to go out. Her big pals were two gay brothers and she would go out with them and their friends, but she would be dressed in drag as a little sailor boy and they would go all over the city picking up guys together in gay bars.
VAGINAL: That's very Last Exit to Brooklyn.
SEAN: It's very Querelle.
BIBBE: So that night, my father took one look at my mother with her green hair and said, "I'm going to marry that cunt."
VAGINAL: And he used just those words?
BIBBE: I've had it confirmed from several sources. They immediately hit it off. Went on the road. Back in those days when you were in love you had a road trip together. So they went hitchhiking to Miami Beach through the south. But she couldn't do it in green hair. She tried dying her hair brown but it turned bright purple. She went on the road with purple hair.
VAGINAL: I heard a story about your mother tutoring gangsters.
BIBBE: Real gangster, New York toughs. After she divorced her third husband she went through her official gangster period. Jimmy Shapiro, my stepfather, was from a very important Jewish New York family. His mother was Chairman of the Board of Education, and she owned Fabergé Perfume with her half-brother, Sam Rubin. So after that relationship ended, my mother started hanging out at society nightclubs like the 21, the Pompeii Club, the Stork Club. She was meeting all these characters, and one of them was Charlie Walker, the heir to the Hiram Walker whiskey fortune. My Uncle Charlie. He was hilarious and he moved in with us for a while. My mother would be off in Boston scoring cocaine for Uncle Charlie and he would babysit me. He was always snockered, sloshed out of his mind. Constantly inebriated. He would take me to school in his black Jaguar. And he would read me Wuthering Heights with the real Yorkshire dialect. I loved that.
VAGINAL: Well you took from your mother all right, associating with all the dregs of society. That's a family trait.
BIBBE: She met so many thieves, degenerates, and gangsters. One of the lasting images I have as a child is waking up early one morning to go to school and hearing music in the distance. I went down the hall and saw my mother's door ajar, and I peered in and she was in bed dressed like Jean Harlow. She was wearing a lilac pegnoir and had a cigarette holder. She was saying, "If you listen right here, and listen very carefully to this part, it sounds like a beer bottle going through the window — Now! There it is! Did you hear it?" And at the foot of her bed there were four thugs, sitting in straightback chairs. It's 7:00 in the morning and she was giving music appreciation lessons to these guys. It was right out of Damon Runyon. They were trying so hard to stay awake and pay attention.
VAGINAL: Your mother was half Swedish and Jewish.
BIBBE: Her mother was Jewish. My father is Norwegian — a Viking. We're the black sheeps of the black sheeps in our family. So when it came time for my kids to rebel, they did the only thing they could — they became successful in both their personal lives and careers. That's all they could do to really act out against me.
VAGINAL: Well your eldest is what could be described as the epitome of success. Most mothers dream of their child becoming that successful and respected.
BIBBE: Yes, he's sober, stable, hardworking, has a fantastic relationship, and he's an understanding, considerate, decent human being. My other son is, amazingly enough, a college grad — from the San Francisco Art Institute.
VAGINAL: Yeah, Channing is more like you. He has that Hansen thing going strong. He's a rebel. He has a good job right now but I can see him dropping it in a second and going off into the hills with his four lovers ...
SEAN: He has a child now, and he's an amazing father.
VAGINAL: Now when you lived with your first husband, there were some struggling days before he became well-known — some hippy-dippy times.
BIBBE: I was never a hippy.
SEAN: She doesn't even know what "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" means. And she's never worn anything tie-dyed.
VAGINAL: That makes sense since you didn't have to go through any middle class rebellion. You grew up in such a bohemian environment. You never needed that kind of affectation.
BIBBE: I went from beatnik to mod to punk to international cultural bourgeoisie with no stops in between.
VAGINAL: I've seen pictures of you from the '60s and you pretty much look and dress the same now as you did then — streamlined, sleek, and modern. You've never gone with trends.
SEAN: When you see pictures of her at age 13 and 14, she really looks hot. Most people are embarassed by old pictures of themselves, mainly because of the hair. Not Bibbe.
VAGINAL: You had your own mind set from an early age. You've always taken chances and never worried about what other people think. You stay completely true to yourself. This is what's made you stand out. And it's what keeps you young.
BIBBE: I'm a good little sailor boy with a big dick.
VAGINAL: During the first wave of L.A. punk you encouraged a lot of bands here. You inspired, you were the muse, you suckled them and gave them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
SEAN: Like the Screamers and the Controllers.
BIBBE: My dad managed the Controllers. He was into punk rock before I was. He was the one who turned me on to it.
VAGINAL: Al Hansen recognized everything that was new. That's why he got into the punk scene.
SEAN: Then he made sure that Bibbe got into the scene.
BIBBE: He came to L.A. from New York and took me to punk shows here. And in 24 hours I had punks living in my garage, sleeping on the couch, hanging out on the porch. Darby Crash, DOA Dan, Kid Spike, Alice Bag, Carla Mad Dog ... it was scout troup 666.
SEAN: Bibbe instantly embraced all of this.
BIBBE: They were a bunch of sweet kids. My father did a punk zine and I took pictures of all the bands for him — the Screamers, the Germs, the Dils.
SEAN:
Why did her own kids grow up to be these incredible musicians and artists? — because there were punk rockers in the house day and night.
VAGINAL: They got it through osmosis.
SEAN: From an early age, Beck and Channing were not these little kids, but little artists.
VAGINAL: Beck and Channing are first generation children of punk. And now Beck is such a critical and commercial success. He knows how to back his excrement up.
BIBBE: I'm his fan and his mother. I'm proud of him.
VAGINAL: The body of works he's created — people haven't even seen half of it.
BIBBE: But you know, as we've been touring around with the Al Hansen show, there's one question that journalists always ask that amazes me: How do I feel, or how do I imagine my father would feel, that Beck is so wildly famous, while Al never had that kind of fame in his life? How silly! Al was an artist, and artists don't get that kind of fame. It's not in the program — not like show business. Beck is a pop musician. Fame is part of that.
VAGINAL: Al never compared himself to other people.
BIBBE: When the dust clears on the twentieth century, I believe that Al's body of work will really stand out. Not just the art, but also his philosophy of art and art education.
SEAN: He wrote the first book on performance art in 1965, A Primer of Happenings and Time/Space Art.
BIBBE: How he lived his life was completely consistent with his ideas. Al wasn't precious about what he did. He was endlessly fascinated by other people's work.
VAGINAL: I know he was very supportive of me. Very generous. True artists aren't selfish. He really gave back.
SEAN: He was a big fan of yours. He would play videotapes he made of you rehearsing with !Cholita! He had a TV but it had no antenna so he couldn't watch TV. All he did was play tapes on the VCR and you were his favorite entertainment. He had hours of footage. He loved your song — "Size Has Nothing to Do with Performance."
VAGINAL: Now when you met Sean, he was the youngest member of Asco, the art collective. Sean was making movies too.
SEAN: When I met Bibbe I was just this teenage kid, and she already knew everything about me and the Chicano art movement at that time. She knew where we came from, what we were about. She knows her shit. She's with the trends before they happen. When I first met her I said, "I'm going to marry that bleep." I grew up Catholic so that's all I could say. I still go to confession once a week.
VAGINAL: I'm not Catholic but I go to mass every day. I find it comforting. I love the rituals involved in Catholicism.
SEAN: Honey, it's drag queen heaven. I don't really go to church — only to confession because I like being in a creepy dark booth with a priest. It's sexy. I loved being an altar boy. All of the Catholic rituals are like a Genet story. I mean, come on, once a year the highest priest in your area washes the feet of ten bums — is that like shrimping or what? Everybody shows up for that one.
VAGINAL: I was obsessed with Catholic ritual as a child, though I was raised a Jehovah's Witness. My mother believed but didn't obey all the rules. She was too rebellious. We didn't celebrate Christmas or birthdays, but that was more because she was cheap, and since we were on welfare that was a good excuse for not having presents. And when we lived in the projects she would buy candy to give to the kids on Halloween, but she never let us trick or treat because Halloween was a demonic holiday that glorifed satanic doings. I don't deny my religious upbringing because that helped shape me into becoming this creature known as Ms. Davis.
BIBBE: My mother was never very religious, except for the period when she was having an affair with the abbot at the monastery. That was her Catholic period. I spent my first couple of years in an all black community in Nova Scotia called Africatown. The matriarch was a wonderful woman named Old Rose, and I was left in her care for the first several years of my life. I sort of went between her and Chickie Lantini, who was this gay woman who slept at the foot of my mother's bed. She took care of me. She was a bartender at a dyke bar, and she worshipped my mother. I don't think they slept with each other, well maybe once or twice. I think it was more of a worship thing, where she was just in awe of my mother and was in her service. There were several people of different sexes who slept at the foot of my mother's bed at different times. So between my Catholic/Italian nanny Chickie and Old Rose who took me to a Holy Rollers Baptist Church every Sunday, I had some pretty heavy Christian influences. I still remember that church to this day — the singing, the energy, the enthuiasm.
VAGINAL: How could you forget?
BIBBE: I loved playing with the other kids after Sunday School ... little Sally Saucer outside in the church yard.
VAGINAL: You didn't live the Jewish girl life that much did you?
BIBBE: In a way I did, because my stepdad was Jewish. There were Theodore Bikel records in the house. It was the '50s and we weren't allowed to join the country club because we were Jews. Once, in a little upstate town, my mother got into a catfight with some woman who started yelling, "The lousy kikes are messing up our town." So my mother hauled off and decked her. I remember getting turned away from hotels back then — they were "restricted," which meant that Jews weren't allowed. So we were Jewish enough to be discriminated against. My father and many of his pals were into Zen — that was a '50s thing. So because of all this I was open to different religious ideas. As a teen I was an atheist, of course. Then suddenly, somewhere in there, I realized I was really Jewish.
VAGINAL: Were Beck and Channing raised Jewish?
BIBBE: Yeah, a bit.
SEAN: When Jewish girls find out Beck is Jewish they'll just go crazy, cuz now they can bring him home to meet the folks.
VAGINAL: Bibbe, you've never lived a traditional life — at least not for very long.
BIBBE: I did for a little while. I wanted to know what it was like. I was a Hollywood wife back then. Married to Beck and Channing's dad, David Campbell. I always had a wild streak, but I was in wild recovery living with my staid husband — a wonderful musician, arranger and composer. I needed a rest from being a maniac wild child. I had my own children and things were very calm for me for about five or six years.
SEAN: They lived in Marlon Brando's old house in Laurel Canyon. The house had marvelous stairs up and down and everywhere. In the book Breakfast with Brando, Anna Kashfi is always talking about falling down the stairs. The house had fifteen sets of stairs on all crazy different levels.
VAGINAL: So you gave up that world and left Beck's father for a teenage Chicano lover?
BIBBE: I gave it all up for love. I've always been like that.



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