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Warhol Superstar Eric Emerson

Warhol Superstar Eric Emerson was an American musician, dancer, and actor, born on June 23, 1945. Emerson was well known for his roles in Andy Warhol‘s films and as a member of the punk band The Magic Tramps, which played gigs at CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. The band also recorded music alongside Lou Reed for Jackie Curtis‘ 1971 play Vain Victory: Vicissitudes of the Damned. In addition to Emerson, the play starred Warhol Superstars Ondine and Candy Darling.

Emerson also trained in classic ballet, and performed at Warhol’s “cinema-discotheque”called The Dom. After seeing Emerson dance in 1966, Warhol invited him to the Factory where he would soon become a regular. Emerson debuted his acting career in Warhol’s film Chelsea Girls in 1967, which became one of Warhol’s most successful films.

Emerson had sexual relationships with many people from the Factory crowd, both men and women. He is known to have had at least three children: one with Warhol Superstar Jane Forth, another with vocalist Elda Gentile of the Stiletto’s (which also included Debbie Harry), and others with various Factory regulars. In July of 1969, he agreed to marry Jackie Curtis, but stood her up at the alter. Instead, she married a wedding guest. The wedding, which was covered by the Village Voice, turned out to be a publicity stunt arranged by Curtis.

Emerson also starred in many other Warhol films, notably Heat, Lonesome Cowboys, and San Diego Surf. In 1975, at 29 years old, Emerson’s body was found next to his bicycle in Manhattan. His death is officially listed as a hit and run, but rumors soon surfaced that he actually died of a heroin overdose. Ostensibly, someone dumped his body in order to stage a hit and run. Debbie Harry was one of the last people to see him, during a recording session for Heart of Glass at Emerson’s apartment:

The next day we were sitting around the house just after we woke up when Barbara called with the bad news. “Oh, Eric got hit by a truck.” He had been a good friend and inspiration to so many people. We didn’t quite understand what had happened, but we went up to a party/wake held for him and saw a lot of people from the earlier glitter days. Eric’s death definitely marked an end to the glitter period. We still miss him.

– Debbie Harry. From Making Tracks: The Rise of Blondie, 1998.

Warhol Superstar Eric Emerson, photographed in 1971.
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