As I get closer to publishing Volume 1 of the memoirs (sorry, darlings, it’s not going to be ready in time for Festivus) I had started to think about cover art and such, and realized that it was time to commission a grand portrait of your favourite dilettante. I couldn’t keep the avatar I’d been using, because, well, blurry or not, it is of a real person — and not me.
What? Explain, Helena!
Okay, darlings, I will.
When I first created my nom de plume, I confess I was ripping on a couple of things. First, I knew that there was a factory girl of Andy Warhol’s called Helena Handbasket. (Of course, this is a pseudonym as well, darlings, unless there really is a Mr. & Mrs. Handbasket out there — cruel fuckers who thought that the name Helena might just be perfect for their little girl).
But then I thought about it a bit, and took a piece of my real history (My grandmother’s maiden name was Hann) and another bit of Warhol association (Basquiat and Warhol collaborated on a bunch of art in the mid-80s).
So then, I had to choose an avatar, darlings. One that would best reflect the sassy, in your face, say anything dilettante that you have all come to know and love.
And so, up until recently, I’d been using a blurry still from a 1967 screen test of Helena Handbasket, which I’d painted lipstick and a cigarette on. These screen tests are infamous in that they disappeared in 1968, and were missing for nearly 20 years. I was talking to someone around the time of Lou Reed‘s death, and talk turned to Warhol and the Chelsea Girls and whatnot, and someone told me that the screen tests had made their way to the internet.
I did not know that! I was so excited.
What I hadn’t considered — what hadn’t even crossed my mind when I chose that blurry still as my avatar — was Andy Warhol’s fondness for transvestites.
Like the crying man said after his trip to a brothel in Thailand, I thought he was a girl.
Well, more fool me, darlings, and I give a big round of applause to Miss Handbasket, wherever she is.
But, know that I knew that, I could never un-know it, and besides, I wasn’t going to use that picture for the cover art for my book. It was time for something new — something sexy; something glamourous — something with smaller hands and no Adam’s apple. And it was decidedly time to be rid of that cigarette, too.
And so, John W. Howell, now you know why I have replaced my avatar. As glamourous as Miss Handbasket might have been, the real Helena Hann-Basquiat is more glamourous still.