Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Night Out: Bebe Buell Brings Her New Book and Some Hot Songs to Shake Up the National Arts Club


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‚Äôs 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.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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