Once the Queen of Pop Culture, Sweet Baby Jane Holzer Tries to Build An Ice-Cream Throne
04/09/1984 at 01:00 AM EST
It was the way she walked. It was the way she talked. Like wow, Baby Jane Holzer had style. Postbeatnik. Prehippie. The year was 1964. The Beatles had just launched the first wave of the British invasion, inciting hordes of American girls. Yeah, yeah, yeah. A 23-year-old Park Avenue housewife and millionairess who bought most of her clothes from designers in Paris, Baby Jane took a side trip to London's Carnaby Street and returned to New York heralding the "switched-on" look.
Baby Jane was electric, with her lion's mane of long blond hair and the way she turned everything she liked into something simply supaaah. "She was a blaze of golden glory and she rose like a rocket," recalls fashion maven Diana Vreeland, who featured Baby Jane's jeweled good looks in Vogue. "She was the latest, the greatest, the most avant-garde," adds designer Halston. "Baby Jane truly was the girl of the '60s."
She seemed to be everywhere, all the time, with all the right people. Baby Jane became a pop art superstar whom Campbell's Soup can artist Andy Warhol featured in such underground film classics as Kiss, Soap Opera and The 13 Most Beautiful Women in the World. Meanwhile, Baby Jane rocked with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in New York and Europe and was present at the creation of the Stones' first blockbuster transatlantic hit. "One time we were all running around London and Keith was in the back of the car humming 'I can't get no satisfaction,' " says Holzer. A few months later Satisfaction shot to the top of the charts, and Baby Jane joined the screamers at Stones concerts in earsplitting choruses of "no, no, no."
Carol Bjorkman, a Women's Wear Daily columnist who first dubbed her Sweet Baby Jane, meant it as a joke. But somehow things got out of hand. "I became famous for nothing," says Holzer, now 43. "Just because I had the bucks and could buy clothes, the press picked up on anything I said. It was ridiculous."
She no longer dresses in Paris and London. But her friend Halston continues to attend to her sartorial desires. "She has not lost any of the innocence that made her Sweet Baby Jane," says Halston. "She is such a raving beauty," adds Warhol. "She looks the same, and no face-lifts or anything."
He and his cronies jetted down to Palm Beach two weeks ago to put their seal of approval on Holzer's new ice-cream parlor. Located on fashionable Worth Avenue, where Holzer's real estate broker granddaddy planted the first palm tree, the shop is called—no surprise—Sweet Baby Jane's. The idle rich who blow into town for a few days of sun and fun can now cool their lips on the Andy Warhol Special, which is six flavors of the customer's choice, or the Not-So-Plain Jane, a chocolate chip, fudge-walnut cookie topped with three scoops of gelato, whipped cream, nuts, cinnamon and sour cherries (amarena). Of course, everything is homemade and the ice cream comes in such oh so deliciously exotic flavors as kiwi-mango and strawberry daiquiri.
Holzer is having so much fun she is now entertaining franchise offers. She dreams of becoming the ice-cream queen of Florida, then maybe the ice-cream queen of America. So roll over, Tom Carvel, and tell Howard Johnson the news.
For the girl of the '60s, it has been a long odyssey from carefree young socialite to aspiring tycoon. Two decades ago Baby Jane began her strobe-lit quest for glitz and glory because she was bored. "I just didn't want to be a housewife," says Baby Jane, who grew restless after marrying wealthy New York businessman Lenny Holzer in 1962. "I wanted to be a star. I mean, it sure beat going to Bloomingdale's every day."
Baby Jane's moment of glory ended just like it began—in a flash. Her life was in sync with the Rolling Stones for a couple of years, but no one manages to stay on Mick Jagger's cloud for long. Then, in 1965, Edie Sedgwick replaced Baby Jane as Andy Warhol's latest star. "I would be a liar if I said I wasn't jealous of Edie," admits Holzer. "She was very beautiful." Edie cut her hair short and dyed it silver to match Andy's, and they went around to parties and TV talk shows looking like bleached-out twins.
In 1967 Baby Jane co-starred with Edie in a film called Ciao! Manhattan, which turned out to be a chronicle of Edie's slow suicide by heavy drug abuse. "I reached in my makeup bag one day and someone had hidden a loaded syringe," says Holzer. "A lot of people on the set were shooting speed. The fun was over for me." Edie died of a barbiturate overdose before the film was completed.
After Baby Jane's son, Rusty, was born in 1969, she abandoned her dream of becoming an actress to become Plain Jane, a full-time mother. But by then her marriage was on the rocks. Husband Lenny was living with another woman. Jane eventually gave up her two drag-queen butlers and her lavish summer residence, the Du Pont mansion on 16 acres of oceanfront property in Southampton, Long Island, when Lenny stopped the mortgage payments. On her own she purchased a 173-acre farm and 20 horses in Pennsylvania's Amish country and had Rusty riding by the age of 4. "I couldn't play baseball with him, so we rode together instead," she says. Rusty is now an A student at Manhattan's Collegiate School and on weekends performs on the show-horse circuit.
Holzer no longer spends much time at the Pennsylvania farm. Any given week she is more likely to be off tending to family real estate holdings in Colorado or Palm Beach, with brief stopovers in New York in between. "I'm a mess," she says during one such respite in her two-bedroom penthouse apartment just off Madison Avenue. "I mean, like I skied for a total of maybe five hours in Aspen this week. I'm so busy working I don't have time to exercise. But I don't stay up all night rock 'n' rolling."
Baby Jane spent five years with an investment banker named Bob Dennison, but that relationship ended in 1979. "I am just beginning to stand on my own two feet, and it's hard," she says of life without a live-in. "I once said you can only have true love for about a minute. The truth is that the hardest thing in the world today is to hold a relationship together."
In one sense, Holzer will probably always be Sweet Baby Jane. "I'm still afraid of getting bored," she says. "But maybe it would be nice to get bored with a guy. I couldn't handle it when I was younger, but now I think I might enjoy that kind of boredom."