Monday, March 16, 2009

[christa päffgen] reasons to continue, reasons to pass away

On July 18th, 1988, a lady went out cycling around her favourite roads in Ibiza, on a swelteringly hot day.

She was found unconscious by her bike and taken to the Cannes Nisto Hospital with a brain haemorrhage; she died at 8 p.m. Cremated, her ashes were placed in her mother Margarete's grave in a small cemetery in the Grunewald Forest, at the edge of the Wannsee, Berlin,

A few friends played a song from Desertshore on a cassette recorder ...

You can get a metro train to Wannsee and there is a bus that goes from outside the train station. It's the old fashioned historical omnibus which runs hourly. When you get off the bus there is a sign pointing in the direction of the cemetery. In winter the bus only runs until 17:00 and the cemetery shuts early, too. As you get to the cemetery, her grave is a couple of rows in to the left.

Thus ended a living enigma in less than romantic circumstances.

Christa Päffgen was born on October 16th, 1938, in Cologne, in Nazi-controlled Germany. At the age of two she was taken to the little town of Spreewald on the outskirts of Berlin where she lived together with her mother and grandfather, a railway man, through the end of World War II. Her father died in a concentration camp.

Fleeing from the Russian occupation in 1946, mother and daughter wound up in the ruined American Sector of Berlin where Christa worked part-time as a seamstress. She was sent to school till she was 13 years old, then took a job selling lingerie. After a year, her mother found her work as a model with a Berlin fashion house.

At 15 she was sent to the Isle of Ibiza on assignment and met a photographer who gave her [a different name to use] after a recently departed boyfriend of his.

In 1958, she fell in love with Ibiza on a visit there. In 1960, she was enrolled at Lee Strassberg's Method School in New York, joining the same class as Marilyn Monroe.

She became a supermodel, then one day Fellini signed her for a part in La Dolce Vita the instant he saw her. In 1964/5, she had a child by Alain Delon.

Among her friends and partners were Andrew Loog Oldham, Brian Jones, Jimmy Page, Andy Warhol, whom she supposedly told, ‘I want to sing,’ the Velvet Underground, Jackson Browne, Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop.

The Velvet Underground threw her out when she wanted to be their lead singer but John Cale was so taken that he produced three of her albums; Bob Dylan also dedicated his song Visions of Johanna to her.

Chelsea Girl and Camera Obscura were two albums associated with Christa.

Her work was obscure, mystical and intense, with gothic overtones and sparse instrumentation, her voice deep and soulful, almost fey. Death appeared the companion to her narcotic life and she may have understood that her time was up, as her final works resembled a requiem, remembering old friends and others littered through her past.

I feel she ran out of reasons to live.

The notion that a person cut off from youth, from the real love of her life and from the things which gave her life some piquancy, which allowed it to make sense, the notion that this person simply dies, is an appealing one.

There are two battles I’m fighting at the same time right now.

One is that the girl I love is trying to get here to see me and some days ago, it appeared that it’s now a forlorn hope. I’ll have to go there although there are no means to. What were the odds that her former best friend, having returned from another country, is also trying to get in touch with me?

Both of them are characters in Insanity.

The second struggle is having to kill off a character in the second last chapter of the final book but I can’t let her go. A tragic girl, rescued from her past, I’m thinking of killing off my main characters instead. Somehow the tragic character needs to live on and others who’ve gone as far as they can should take her place on the last train.

When the writing’s done, then the mission is completed. Parents, friends and loves having all gone and with no infrastructure, the future is too opaque to continue.

It wasn’t an altogether unfulfilling experience.

There's a nice article here.


  1. Fantastic - I learned something today - fanx

  2. Nico was madly in love with Jim Morrison whom she considered the love of her life, and often tried to get him to marry her.
    I think you have romanticized her death. She did a hell of a lot of drugs, was never quite right in the head and who knows what damage that did her.I am surprised she lived as long as she did,given she was as reckless as Morrison, Joplin and Jones.

    I thought I was the girl you loved? Plus I am your friend- you my white knight- your job is not nearly done! Look at MY life? Do I look like I DON'T need a white knight anymore?

    You're not alone,your work is not done. It's the country we're in. Makes everyone feel that way!

  3. Ahh! James in your heart of hearts you know your loves/friends haven't gone. They are always there by your side even if you can't by physically side by side.

    I have learned the truth about love and friendship and you are never truly on your own even if you think you are xxx

  4. Pisces - thanks.

    Uber, I didn't know that aspect so I've learnt something too.

    Cherie - hope you're right.

  5. The Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

    I once rented a house with that, and a lot more from the mid to late sixties on the record shelves; a couscoussier in the kitchen; a Moroccan threshing sledge, which I've also seen described as a 'harrow', and a half skeleton in a nicely made wooden box, with an address opposite the Br*tish Museum stamped on the lid, in the sitting room.

    I remember the place principally because while I lived there I was, again, subjected to the unwelcome attentions of the daughter of a Hungarian nuclear physicist who thought that she could fall in love with me. I got rid of her eventually but I will always associate 'All Along The Watchtower' by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with that house.


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