I didn’t know Barbara Allen Kwiatkowski, but I knew of her. Anyone who was around in the 70s knew the name Barbara Allen. And anyone who read the Andy Warhol Diaries in 1988 after Andy died knew that Allen, like Bianca Jagger, was a leading lady in the Warhol saga.
Barbara Allen has apparently died at the age of 69. George Gurley, who’d previously profiled her years ago in the New York Observer, first reported the death Saturday night on Facebook. He’d heard about the passing from his mother. No one who’s reported it tonight seems to have any idea who she was.
In his Observer piece, Gurley says she’s mentioned 37 times in the Diaries. I think it’s more. I know that when a lot of the Interview staff came to work at Fame Magazine in late 1987 after Andy died, this was a woman I heard about all the time. Gorgeous and resourceful like a Dawn Powell heroine from the midwest, Barbara Tanner (from New Mexico) had come to New York, reinvented herself as a Warhol heroine, married Joe Allen (not the restaurateur) and divorced, partied with the Studio 54 crowd, had affairs short and long with movie and rock stars and eventually married the very wealthy and much older Henryk Kwiatkowski.
In the reinvention, Barbara cut her official birth year back to 1955, which made no sense. It was more likely 1950, since her family says now she was 69.
Joe Allen, who is now married to journalist Annette Tapert, was then a budding newsprint mogul. He invested in Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, and Barbara went to work there as a “writer” and “contributing editor.” Since Interview was all Q&A’s it wasn’t hard work. Or really journalism. It was what it was. She married Kwiatkowski, described as a Canadian aircraft broker. They lived at 1 Beekman Place, in a 5,200 sq ft apartment that went on the market last year for $11.5 million. Barbara said she was ready to downsize but now in hindsight maybe she knew she was ill. (Kwiatkowski had died in 2003. He had one son with Barbara, and six children from his first marriage.)
It’s a little ironic that Barbara died so soon after Peter Beard. He was her boyfriend early on in New York in the 70s. This was the period leading up to and through the Steve Rubell Studio 54 and Max’s Kansas City, a wild time that pre-dated AIDS and was not as judgmental. It was also lacking the constant intrusion of cell phones and internet and even fax machines. You could get away with everything, and this crowd did. (If we hadn’t had the Post and the Daily News, Liz Smith and Claudia Cohen and Neil Travis, and Nikki Haskell’s local cable shows we’d have known nothing!)
Some of Barbara’s boyfriends and admirers included Mick Jagger, Bryan Ferry, Taki Theodoracopulos, Philip Niarchos, Ilie Nastase, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty. Warhol chronicled her love life in the Diaries, and I’ve clipped a few funny moments here. She was the kind of character almost impossible to have now and so missed: an original who willed herself into existence. Someone in the Diaries complains about Barbara being famous for nothing. She wasn’t the first beautiful young woman to pull off that feat of magic, and she obviously isn’t the last. But all those guys couldn’t have been captivated by her just for her looks. Here’s a toast to Barbara Allen Kwiatkowski.
Just as a PS: Barbara Allen, so much a part of Warhol’s life, doesn’t appear once in the new, disastrous biography by Blake Gopnik. It looks like the author didn’t even speak to her. What a terribly blown opportunity.
from the Diaries: