Bebe Buell. So you know her as Liv Tyler’s mom, a force to be reckoned with as a rocker starting in the 70s after a career as a Ford Model and a Playboy cover star. She dated a lot of rock stars, some for long periods, but she’s also an author, a muse, and tribute to the expression Living Well is the Best Revenge.
In the old days with Todd Rundgren, the statuesque blonde used to hang out with Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, and other cool downtown denizens at Max’s Kansas City, on lower Park Avenue near 18th St. Last night, Buell hosted an intimate book signing (“Rebel Soul,” a hillarious and insightful read), cocktails, and a charming performance around the corner from the long gone Max’s at the National Arts Club.
The National Arts Club? The stodgy private domain founded in 1898? Yes, indeed! They love her. I asked her, Did you even know about the National Arts Club when you were hanging out at Max’s 50 years ago?
Bebe shot me a look. “Of course, honey. We all knew about it. It was very important!” They were young actors, models, and musicians but they knew what the Old World meant.
Guests at last night’s show included really famed photographers Bob Gruen and David Croland, director and E Streeter Maureen van Zandt, Factory girl Penny Arcade, rock and art world legend Liz Derringer, St. Martin’s Press’s Elizabeth Beier, famed Columbia Records exec Dick Wingate, rocker and writer Richard Barone, Beverly Keel (dean of Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Media and Entertainment, and about three dozen other admirers.
Bebe’s mini-concert was a stripped down affair that worked surprising well considering usually she’s played Joe’s Pub or the old club Don Hill’s with a more substantial band. Dressed in a chic new wave semi-Goth fringed black top and long dress, the eternally youthful Bebe was joined on stage by her husband of 23 years, gifted guitarist Jim Wallerstein, and Nashville musician Gyasi. Kind of like a tryout for Cafe Carlyle, mixed this acoustic, unplugged set with stories from her book about her colorful life, her history in pop and punk rock, and so on. She has a naturally engaging and disarming sense of humor, and a hearty laugh to go along with a smokey voice that reminds of Marianne Faithfull.
Her songs included originals that juxtapose a punk stance with witty lyrics backed up the musicians’ intensely melodic guitars. All things Bebe Buell are eclectic, which is why she’s more interesting than ever.