Montauk, Andy Warhol and His Fascinating Neighbor Peter Beard

Andy described him as – “one of the most fascinating men in the world …… he’s like a modern Tarzan. He jumps in and out of the snake pit he keeps at his home. He cuts himself and paints with the blood. He wears sandals and no socks in the middle of Winter.

It seems one of the reasons Lee spent 1972 in Montauk had to do with Andy’s charismatic next door neighbor, Peter Beard. Andy described him as – “one of the most fascinating men in the world …… he’s like a modern Tarzan. He jumps in and out of the snake pit he keeps at his home. He cuts himself and paints with the blood. He wears sandals and no socks in the middle of Winter. He lived in a parked car on 13th Street for six months. He moved when he woke up and found a transvestite sleeping on the roof.” He also thought Peter was one of the best looking men he’d ever seen. So did Lee.

Peter was both Andy’s neighbor and artist in arms. Unlike some who built his reputation around Andy, Peter had established himself as one of the great nature and fashion photographers long before meeting Andy. Grandson of a well to do western family, Manhattan/England/Yale educated, he began his career while still in college, signed to a $12,000 a year contract by Vogue in 1955. That was also the year he first traveled to Africa, a trip that would forever change his life and work. His landmark work, The End of the Game (1963), a collection of essays and photographs on the rapid decline of Africa and it’s wildlife, is a testament to early ecological and sociological sensibilities.

 

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I’ll Write Whenever I Can, Koobi Fora, Lake Rudolf, 1965 @ Peter Beard

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@ Peter Beard

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@ Peter Beard

 

Peter was both Andy’s neighbor and artist in arms. Unlike some who built his reputation around Andy, Peter had established himself as one of the great nature and fashion photographers long before meeting Andy.

 

Peter first came to know Andy through his uncle, Jerome Hill, one of the early partners in Andy’s Interview magazine. Beard in turn came to know Lee when he was assigned a photo shoot of the Rolling Stones’s Exile on Main Street tour in 1972. Long remembered as one of the most decadent rock and roll campaigns of the overly indulgent ’70’s, the frenzy to report this momentous event was such that the most prominent papers of the day battled to cover this bacchanalian tour. Rolling Stone magazine topped them all by assigning Truman Capote to follow the tour, and Peter to photograph.

While on tour Peter became good friends with Mick Jagger. They partied they way across the country in the “Lapping Tongue” – the Stones speciality outfitted DC-7. As has been well documented they flew considerably higher than the clouds that surrounded them. Half way through the tour, Truman Capote met the group in Kansas City. In tow was his new best friend, Lee Radziwill. The mix of rock royalty and Fortunate Four Hundred did not work well. Jagger hated Capote’s mincing manners, and Capote called Mick – “…a scared little boy ….. about as sexy as a pissing toad.” Stones guitarist Keith Richards welcomed the cultured Radziwill by banging on her hotel door that night, screaming “Princess Radish ……. C’mom you old tart, there’s a party going’ downstairs!”

The final date of the tour was scheduled for Mick’s birthday – July 26, at Madison Square Garden. Afterwards a lavish party was given for the 29 year old Stone by Ashmet Ertgun, president of Atlantic Records, at his palatial roof top suite atop the St. Regis Hotel. Overlooking Manhattan, the creme de la creme of arts and society came to honor the pouting prince – including Andy, Peter, Truman, and Lee. Andy provided the high light of the party. A naked girl popped out of a towering birthday cake, and twirled her silicon tits as a dozen black tap dancers provided a chorus line. The New York Post reported – “In the perfumed twilight of the Roman Empire unspeakable things went on.  Are we entering that same twilight?”

 

 

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(All rights reserved. Images @ Peter Beard.)

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