IN CONVERSATION WITH ELIZABETH DERRINGER
by Kofi Fosu Forson
Liz Derringer is legendary music journalist was once married to equally legendary musician guitarist Rick Derringer in what was one of the most celebrated partnership in rock and roll history. Liz got her start writing for Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine. Later wrote for other publication's as New York City's Daily News. She also covered the entertainment scene for CNN. Her interviews include such familiar faces as Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart and Debby Harry. Over the years she has created a strong friendship with most of these notables. As celebrity publicist she shared a past with some, like Steven Tyler. She went to school with Tyler, introduced him to Bebe Buell mother of actress Liv Tyler and God daughter to Liz. New York in the 60's was party central. Liz Derringer was seen at most of these places where she witnessed rock history from the British blues bands to rock icon Jimi Hendrix. At Max's Kansas City the allure grew as culture shifted to the glam rock era and the post beat culture of Patti Smith. I have fond recollections of watching Liz on Public Access Television. Currently in the post 2000 era television is full of young celebrity hostesses and journalists - they owe a lot to Liz Derringer. Liz has been at the forefront witnessing trends in fashion, pop culture and entertainment for a long time. Being Rick Derringer's wife all these years sharing in love gave her entrance into a whole new world which defined her and later has since encouraged another life in public relations and celebrity related events.
(The following is transcript from a telephone conversation)
Kofi Forson: Hello... Liz? How are you?
Elizabeth Derringer: I'm well. Been very busy doing public relations.
Forson: I remember when we spoke previously you mentioned ArtHamptons. Tell me a bit bout that.
Derringer: We do a big art fair every year. Dates are July 13th to 15th.
Forson: What's the theme this year?
Derringer: We are celebrating our Fifth Anniversary.
Derringer: There'll be tribute to Jackson Pollock. And Cheech Marin, you know him from
Cheech and Chong... he will be presented with Arts Patron of the Year award.
Forson: I hear he has quite an art collection.
Derringer: He owns the largest private collection of Chicano art in the United States.
Forson: What about the venue for the fair?
Derringer: We do have a much bigger better accommodation in Bridge Hampton.
Forson: And the works of art?
Derringer: Post War and contemporary. We're looking at four hundred artists, seventy five galleries
and dealers from ten different countries.
Forson: Any known artists?
Derringer: Peter Max has created a six portrait installation of Jackson Pollock.
Forson: Who else?
Derringer: We have on display a painting by Ed Harris. He played Jackson Pollock in the movie Pollock.
You may have seen that.
Forson: Actually I remember when he was researching for the movie. I was working at Strand Bookstore.
The world famous used bookstore. He came in there one night and picked up a few books.
Derringer: We also have Lisa Jack with her famous photo installation of Barrack Obama. She's the one who took Obama's photo
when he was in college. Photographer Michael Childers will be there. He has worked with Andy Warhol, Paul Newman,
David Hockney. You name it.
Forson: I'm almost expecting to hear Russell Simmons' name.
Derringer: Yes Russell will be there.
Forson: Mister Hamptons. He does such good work.
Derringer: He will hold discussions on all his wonderful charity events. So you should all come down. It will be a wonderful time. So many artists. People you know and others you might be privileged to know. Of course there's the art. So many great paintings, tribute to Pollock and so much more.
Forson: How is Peter Max?
Derringer: He's great. I go into his office three days a week.
Forson: I've followed your career for quite a while now. Interesting where we are with the internet. I remember watching
your show on public access television.
Derringer: Sure. It was another way to bring my work to a different crowd. Reading my interviews was one thing but
to actually see me talking to these celebrities brought a whole new dimension.
Forson: You also did those spots on CNN.
Derringer: Yeah. That was more about glamour and glitz.
Forson: You wrote for Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine. How did you meet Andy Warhol?
Derringer: I grew up in the Greenwich Village area when it was easy to meet every one. I would always see Andy at parties. He invited me
to a big opening at a club called Salvation. There was a guitar player who had made it big in London and came back here to perform.
Forson: Was this Hendrix?
Derringer: Yeah. His original group was Jimmy James and The Blue Flames. When he got back from London he started using his real name.
Forson: I can only imagine what it was like to see Hendrix.
Derringer: It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Seeing them dressed in those Edwardian and Victorian clothes.
Forson: Your ex husband Rick Derringer once played with him.
Derringer: He and I used to go to the Record Plant where Jimi was recording. He would sit there put down the music tracks,
go into the hallway and start writing the lyrics. Another time Jimi's guitar was stolen. He came to borrow one from Rick. He had to string it for him because Jimi was left handed.
Forson: So this was basically how you met Warhol?
Derringer: Yeah. That night lots of photographers took pictures of us. When Andy got shot in June of that year they took a file photo
put the picture of me and Andy on the cover of the Daily News. The Headline read "Actress Shoots Andy Warhol". A lot of people actually thought I shot Andy Warhol. (laughter)
Forson: Lili Taylor does a great job in the movie version.
Derringer: So Andy used to call me Miss Rock Star. He asked me to interview rock stars for a magazine he was creating. This became Interview Magazine.
Forson: What kind of man was Andy?
Derringer: He was voyeur. You ask him something he would say "Gee. Oh...Yeah". He liked me. He took time to bring me
up to The Factory and teach me how to do those interviews. Peter Lester actually sat down with me and showed me how to approach it. And then Christopher Makos, Andy's photographer took me around to other rock magazines like Circus and Creem.
Forson: I used to collect them. Sure does reflect on how music has changed. Rock magazines are no where to be found. What did you see in progression of music from the 60's?
Derringer: The 60's were about The Beatles and Rolling Stones. As a girl growing up on the streets of New York I didn't know much
about the blues. The Rolling Stones brought that to us. I watched as new bands came and went. The Who, Cream, Janis Joplin...
they all played at a place call The Scene. So I got to see pretty much everybody.
Forson: What happened in the 70's?
Derringer: The 70's was about the glam rock with Bowie and Tod Rundgren. They were very much part of the 60's but all of a sudden
there was a whole lotta glamour. They dyed their hair different colors. There was the nail polish and outrageous clothes.
Forson: Certainly rock radio was different then than it is now?
Derringer: WNEW-FM at the time would play the whole album not just a single. They also played deep cuts. I used to go to
Murray The K's show in Brooklyn. There are a few progressive stations on line.
Forson: Somehow I see how Hendrix and the pioneers of what we call hard rock inspired bands like Aerosmith. How long have you known Steven Tyler?
Derringer: I went to school with him. He's originally from Yonkers, New York. His family had a house in New Hampshire. That's how he met
Forson: So the story about them being from Boston isn't true.
Derringer: Joe Perry brought Steven to Boston. But originally Steven is not from Boston.
Forson: I bet you've seen him go through a lot.
Derringer: I introduced him to Bebe Buell. She gave birth to Liv. Liv Tyler. She's my god daughter.
Forson: Steven seems to have reinvented himself. He's on American Idol now. (laughter)
Derringer: Yes. (laughter)
Forson: Without Mick Jagger there'll be no Steven Tyler.
Derringer: They both happen to have big lips. (laughter)
Derringer: What's that song...
Forson: Oh you mean "I got the moves like Jagger... I got the moves like Jagger"
Derringer: Some of these new bands I like. Seems like you got to search the internet to find new talent. Legendary producers like Clive Davis and Jimmy Iovine... that's what they have to do now.
Forson: Sure is far from Debby Harry and Blondie singing at CBGB's.
Derringer: Sure is.
Forson. Nothing better than live music.
Derringer: I agree.
Forson: Remember the model Rosie Vela?
Derringer: She was Peter Max's friend.
Forson: Is that how you met him?
Derringer: Yeah. Through Rosie.
Forson: She did that album ZAZU.
Derringer: Rick (Derringer) played on that album.
Forson: I own it on vinyl.
Drringer: Rick came home one day and told me he was working with a girl named Rosie Vela. I said Rosie Vela the model. He said I don't know if she's a model but she's really pretty and she's hippie. (laughter) We all went to Barbados and they wrote some songs together.
Forson: Yeah. The video for the first single Smile was shot there.
Derringer: I remember when I met Jeri Hall. She came over with Bryan Ferry for dinner.
Forson: Did you swoon... at Bryan?
Derringer: Oh... he was gorgeous. (laughter) He loved my husband's speakers. He thought Rick had a great stereo system.
Forson: What has Rick meant to you over the years?
Derringer: Oh my god. He was everything to me. He was my life. My love. My confidant.
Forson: Three women in music journalism who affected my life over the years are Lisa Robinson, Carol Miller and yourself.
Derringer: I've known many people behind the scenes. It's been quite the honor. It really has.
Forson: I'd like to thank you for sharing this time with me.
Derringer: You know your stuff Kofi. (laughter)
Derringer: Take good care of yourself..
Forson: Been a pleasure to talk to you Liz.
Derringer: Be well.
Forson: Bye bye Liz.
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Kofi Forson is a writer, POET and PLAYWRIGHT living in NYC. His current blog is BLACK COCTEAU, a mixture of philosophy and art on modern culture.