In an increasingly (and exhaustively mourned) gentrified New York, today we pay tribute to a true New York eccentric. And like many New York eccentrics, she wasn’t a native. Born in Germany, she arrived in Greenwich Village in 1913.
Baroness Else Von Freytag-Loringhoven’s strange blend of aggression and artistic pretensions was truly bizarre, even by bohemian society standards: whether she was getting her teeth knocked out in a cigarette factory, stalking and assaulting poets like William Carlos Williams, getting arrested for stealing an umbrella, creating Dadaist sculptures with Marcel Duchamp or just parading around town in bizarre outfits: postage stamps stuck to her face, metal teaballs hanging from her tits, her lips painted black.
Some might even say her greatest work of art was herself. In 1917 she asked artist George Biddle if he needed a model. He recounted that,
With a royal gesture she swept apart the folds of a scarlet raincoat. She stood before me quite naked—or nearly so. Over the nipples of her breasts were two tin tomato cans, fastened with a green string around her back. Between the tomato cans hung a very small bird-cage and within it a crestfallen canary. One arm was covered from wrist to shoulder with celluloid curtain rings, which later she admitted to have pilfered from a furniture display in Wanamaker’s. She removed her hat, which had been tastefully but inconspicuously trimmed with gilded carrots, beets, and other vegetables. Her hair was close cropped and dyed vermilion.
This badass Baroness was a true outlaw artist provocateur. New York needs more of her kind, but instead we keep importing corporate drones and their supervisors. And what do we have to show for it? A porn-free Times Square? Very soon the wacky vibe that once drew people to this city will vanish, leaving in its wake a top notch selection of chain drug stores and lame sports bars. So all hail The Originator, The Bad Ass Baroness Else Von Freytag-Loringhoven. All other pretenders to the throne can fuck right off.