International Velvet was the Andy Warhol “superstar” who was the immediate replacement for Edie Sedgwick in the Warhol retinue. Born Susan Bottomly into a venerable New England family (her father served as a district attorney in Boston), she attended boarding school, but was expelled four times. In 1966, the rebellious deb met Warhol at a party in Boston. Simultaneously, her modeling career was launched independent of Warhol when she was featured on the front cover of “Mademoiselle” magazine. She was 16 years old.
Bottomly hooked up with Warhol after she moved to New York City that summer. She began living at the Chelsea Hotel, financed by her allowance from her family. Warhol factotum and superstar Gerard Malanga shacked up with Bottomly at the Chelsea for the first couple of months of her stay in Gotham. According to Warhol, the smitten Malanga wrote poems about her.
Warhol’s personal and professional relationship with Edie Sedgwick, his greatest creation and – for a time in 1965, his constant companion – had fractured due to the erratic behavior linked to her drug use (addicted to speed, she was a raving paranoid by 1966). Edie had virtually abandoned Warhol to became an acolyte of Bob Dylan, becoming a virtual “sex slave,” in her own words, to Dylan’s right-hand man, Bob Neuwirth. She took Edie’s place, and Warhol began escorting her to clubs, restaurants and art shows.
The Machivellian Warhol used Bottomly in the mind-games he played with his own acolytes, the assistants, hangers-on and others who hung out with him at The Factory, his industrial loft living/work space. He played Bottomly off against the others in the Wahol crowd while exploiting the well-heeled Bottomly, who like fellow “poor little rich girl” Edie Sedgwick, had family money that she used to pick up the tab for Warhol’s gallivants about town. Unlike Edie, Bottomly’s well-to-do and influential father, a member of the Eastern Establishment, introduced Warhol to to potential financial backers.
Warhol rechristened her “International Velvet” (Warhol had recently discovered the great rock ‘n roll band The Velvet Underground and had become their manager and promoter) and gave her a role in his film Chelsea Girls (1966), which was shot in the summer of 1966. Her sequence, in which she co-starred with Mary Woronov, was actually filmed in her own room at the Chelsea Hotel. International Velvet also appeared in two other sequences in the movie, which was Warhol’s most successful film, critically and financially, of the 1960s.
Velvet and Woronov both appeared in the movie Superboy (1966) which has never been screened in public. She later appeared in **** (1967), Warhol’s 25-hour long “movie” consisting of all the footage shot from August 1966 through September 1967. **** (1967) was only screened once and was later cut up into a two-hour version and into other films with normal running times.
Velvet broke up with Malanga and launched an affair with tyro fashion designer David Croland, who later become known for his fashion illustrations. She met Croland at a party she attended with Warhol; instantly smitten, they became lovers that night at another party, in the bathroom of a Fifth Avenue apartment. They soon shacked up together in a hotel room paid for by Velvet, registered as “Mr. & Mrs. Bottomly” as she was the one with the checkbook.
Velvet and Croland eventually broke up when she pursued an affair with the French movie actor and director Christian Marquand, a good friend of Marlon Brando who was directing him in the movie version of Terry Southern’s “Candy.” Marquand cast Velvet in a bit part in the movie, but it did nothing for her career. Under Marquand’s spell, she moved to Italy to perform with Julian Beck’s Living Theatre and stayed there for months.
Velvet arrived back in New York on June 2, 1968, the day before Warhol was shot. The day of Warhol’s attempted assassination by Valerie Solanas, she ended her relationship with Croland for good, after finding out that Warhol would survive.
While Warhol recovered in the hospital during late June 1968, Velvet had an acting gig in John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy (1969). She was also one of the Warhol crowd who appeared in the psychedelic party scene. By this time, dynamics at The Factory began to change. After getting out of the hospital, Warhol began to be less accessible to the pubic, and Viva was becoming the new “queen” of The Factory. Velvet realized her time was over and it was time to move on. After Midnight Cowboy (1969), International Velvet went back to being Susan Bottomly.