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Liv on the cover Vanity Fair - May 1997
Liv for the Moment

Kevin Sessums, Vanity Fair, May 1997

"She kind of stuns you when she walks through the door, before she's ever said a word", says Tom Hanks. Like everybody else in Holywood, he's talking about Liv Tyler. "There is no act going on with her", he continues, having cast the precocious 19-year-old as the female lead in his feature directional debut, That Thing You Do! "She is not pulling a slutry power trip with you the way a lot of very beatiful women can - or have learned how to do."
Tyler walks through the door to my room at the Chateau Marmont and, true to her amazing form, says not a word. She ofers me a chioce: in each of her outstretched hands is a crisp golden apple. I hesitate. "Ever read that book by Eudora Welty?" I ask. Tyler silently lifts one of the apples to her famous lips and chomps off almost half of it in one giant bite. She shakes her head no. She chews. "It's a group of interconnected stories titles The Golden Apple. There's one called 'Monn Lake', about a summer camp for orphans were at once wondering and stoic - at one moment loving everyrhing too much, the next folding back from it, tightly as hard green buds growing in the wrong direction, closing as thay go.'"

Tyler smiles and thrusts the other apple at me. I take it from her, and am startled when a yo-yo, hidden behind the apple and attached to one of her shockingly long fingers, suddenly unspools.
from Vanity Fair - May 1997
"Never have read that", she says, beckoning the yo-yo back. "I just finished reading Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote, though."

Wearing a black T-shirt, black jeans, and tattered black Converse All Star, Tyler plops down cross-legged in a velvet wing chair, throws a half-empty pack of Natural American Spirits on the coffe table, and tells me how much she loved the Capote book, about an exotic 13-year-old who discovers his long-lost father. She fires up a cigarette.

"I konw I shouldn't smoke. but they're so yummy", she confesses. "I started at 15. I'd hide them in my pantie drawers."

"It certainly hasn't stunted your growth"
"My major spurt of growth happened the second I stopped modeling," she says, remembering that couple of years between 14 and 16 when she graced many magazine pages.

"Are you still growing?"
"Goddamn it, I hope so. I want to be an amazon. My hands are bigger than most men's."

"You do seem to have filled out since Stealing Beauty" I say, referring to her breakthrough performance in that Bernardo Bertolucci film set in Tuscany, in which she and everything around her seemed a bit overripe.
"What do you mean?" she asks, taken aback. "My breasts? I'm wearing a pointy bra. I'm wearing my white pointy bra from Inventing the Abbotts, actually," she says, invoking director Pat O'Connor's upcoming film based on a Sue Miller short story, in which Tyler plays one of the wealthy Abbots sisters.

"You've just summed up Liv Tyler", I tell her. "A white 50s brassiere under a black 90s T-shirt." she smiles, and pulls on her cigarette.

"Have you ever tought about stopping that?" I ask.
"Well, this is such a gross light to smoke in," she says. "It's just flooding around my face. Here, let's fix these blinds." She gets up and adjust the wooden slats of the old venetians. Satisfied, she plops back down and takes another long, deep drag.

"So, I guess my first question for you should be: What do you want do be when you grow up?"
Tyler cuts a quick stare my way. This time she does not smile. She leans her head back. Close her eyes. Her lashes - waiting for the tremor of inspiration - remain as still as a row of commas types on a wordles page.
"I want to be," she finally says, yawning, "a happy old woman."

"George Stevens once told me that acting in films is 'talk soft and think loud,'" says Shelly Winters. "Liv has a bit of that." Acclaimed for her co-starring role with Tyler in last year's art-house hit Heavy. Winters got a close-up look at the young woman's instinctive talent. "I kept watching her and going, 'Was I like that when I was that young? Was I that assured?' I just hope she doesn't get frightened later on."

"It's an odd thing to say, but I got the impression that she was a person", says rocker turned actress Deborah Harry, who also co-starred with Tyler in Heavy. "I've never met another teenager that I can say that about."

"I've felt like an adult since the day I was born," Tyler says when I ask her how her unconventional upbringing affected her. The only child of the model Bebe Buell, a woman infamous in the rock world for loving her share of front men, Tyler for the first few years of her life considered singer-producer Todd Rundgren her father.

"I don't think anyone is ever a full-grown adult," she says. "Maybe the day you die... Maybe then. But poeple grow and change and learn new things every day. There is not a day you suddenly decide, I'm an adult now. Do you know that song?" she asks. "Todd produced that song once by a Canadian band. I was nine and walking around singing it."

She sings it again at 19: "I'm an adult now!"
from Vanity Fair - May 1997

Rather like Capote's autobiographical character in the novel she has just finished, Tyler discovered the identity of her real father when she was 10 years old. A year earlier, she had been hanging out backstage at a Rundgren cencert when she was introduced to Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. Later she realized that there was a striking resemblance between the androgynous rocker and her, and Buell had to acknowledge that Tyler was, in fact, her real father.

"Liv is a person with a lot of parents," says film producer Susan Hoffman, Rundgren's former manager, who is Tyler's second godmother. (Liz Derringer, ex-wife of guitarist Rick Derringer, was asked to be her godmother at birth.) The two have spent time toghther bonding at Hoffman's second home, on Royal Street in New Orleans.

"One night we were out with my desinger friend Alain Simard at the Cafe Brasil in the Faubourg Marigny," Hoffman recalls. "He has all this white hair and is crazy and wonderful. There was a great Latin band playing, and Liv wanted to dance. I held her shoes for her as Alain swept her into the floor. For months after that, everybody who had a conversation with me in the French Quarter began by saying, 'Aren't you the godmother of the girl who danced the merengue with Alain Simard?' Hoffman laughs. "Liv's life brings new meaning to the idea of 'It takes a village,'" she says, then quickly reconsiders. "It a blessing, but it has also been an issue."

Buell shipped her daughter off to Maine when the child was four months old. Until Tyler was three, she was raised by a cousin of Buell's, whom she always refers to as Aunt Annie. Her mother then migrated north from Manhattan and shared the responsibility with Annie until Liv was 12. In 1989 the two moved back to New York, settling in the East Village.

"Can a surfeit of parental love be as damaging as none at all?" I ask Tyler. "Can the consequences be the ones that the orphans suffered in 'Moon Lake' - a constant turning from loving everything too much to loving not at all?"
"I don't think too many people can ever love you," she says quietly. "As far as being in love with someone who is not a friend or a family member, I know that just happened for the very first time"

she says, referring to her co-star in Inventing the Abbotts, Joaquin Phoenix, the younger brother of the late River Phoenix, who transcends his Prada print-model coolness by giving his own star-making performance in the movie. Indeed, audiences have the pleasure of witnessing a kind of Pirandellian pas de deux as the film unfolds: while their characters are falling in love, it is rather obvious that the young actor and actress are doing the same. Oddly, such displayed and layered emotion does not embarrass them or us, but adds a sweeter, deeper dimension to the film.

"Why I was most attrected to her is her honesty," says Phonix. "She's so fucking real. She's a goddess." "Their relationsihp was quite helpful in making the movie, because thay were simply so happy to be around each other," says Inventing the Abbotts's director, Pat O'Connor. "I wasn't at all privy to their relationship at first, for they are very discreet people. Professional. Emotionally mature. And yet they are still that age. Liv is - to use the cliche - a child-woman."

Tyler the woman remembers her childhood: "I'd live at Annie's and at my mom's pretty much equally. I consider Aunt Annie my other mom. I get a lot of my simplicities from her... I was really a tomboy. All my friends were boys. I never really knew the difference between male genitalia and female genitalia until I had this crazy experience one day. We were all playing like normal - running around sweating and filthy. Suddenly all three of the boys looked at me with these eyes I had never seen before in my life. Completely nutty-looking eyes. They started chasing me and telling me thay were going to pull my knickers down and do something terrible to me, I was terrified!"

"How about your rock 'n' roll roots? Comfortable?" I ask, knowing that she certainly looked a little too comfortable in Aerosmith's "Crazy" video, in which her not-yet-legal sensuality was put on display by her own father when he cast her as a schoolgirl turned exotic dancer.
"Hell, yeah, I'm comfortable."

"Does it ever worry you that your father went through such hell?" I venture alluding to Steven Tyler's well-publized heroin problem. "Some speculate that addiction is hereditary. You do live your cigarettes."
"I can get worked up about this," she says. "To let something like that control you is incredibly painful. I've never seen heroin. I've never smelled heroin. I've never been in the same room with it. I think it is the absolute devil. I see it in a human form it is."

She tells me at one point, "The most difficult thing in life is to take yourself and to think of yourself first and to know that it is not a selfish thing even though it feels like it is. In certain situations in your like you have to do thing for yourself, And those are the ones that I'm sure you get the most reward for... somwhere."

"I have alot of faith that she will be able to handle whatever comes along for her." says Aunt Annie. "She's always been kind. I think that will take her a long way."

"Just before we started shooting, I called her mother, who was her manager at the time, to make sure everything was all right," says Hanks. "I was worried that she was tired and frazzled. Her mom said, 'Naw, you know, Liv has a very old soul. She's not needy. She knows what's expected of her.' When it came down to the character of Faye in That Thing You Do!, I was looking for someone who was hip and content. I was looking for an old soul."

"Did you fire your mother?" I ask Tyler, who no longer uses Buell as her manager.
"How can I fire someone I never hired?" she asks me right back. "She's my mother. You don't fire or hire your mother, I just feel that it's much more important for us to have a personal relationship than a constant business relationship. I love my mother, and I want my mother to be my mother."

"Do you feel fired?" I ask Bebe Buell when she meets me for a late-afternon lunch at Pete's Tavern in Manhattan. "No, I don't. I don't even know what that word means," she insists, If much of Tyler's allure is the result of the womanly shadow cast by her girlish presence, Buell's rests in the girlishness that rebelliously hangs around even now that she's reached her 40s. "How can you fire your mother?" she demands, echoing her daughter.

"Do you remember the night Liv was conceived?"
"Absolutely. It was at Liz Derringer's house. She actually gave Steven and me her bed that evening, and she slept downstairs on a foldout. Liv was conceived on a gorgeous antique French bed."

"Your situation was tenuous. You left Steven Tyler when you were theree months pregnant and went back to Todd Rundgren. Was there ever a question of terminating your pregnancy?"
"Never. Everybody else had questions. There were a lot of people who were giving me advice. But abortion to me was never even a consideration."

"Times have changed a lot since you were - how sall I put this? - active in the rock world," I tell her, referring to what is very definitely her past since she married 28-year-old punk-pop musician Coyote Shivers a few years ago. "Liv herself has now become an unobscure object of desire. Did you ever sit her down and discuss not only sex but also the profound sexual pull she has on people?"
"There was never a birds-and-bees moment", says Buell. "No. Birds and bees just buzzed around in our house all the time."

"So what was her favorite Halloween costume?"
"She liked going into my colset and dressing up in my stuff. She loved boas - anything flashy. An old drag queen, that was her favorite. She would always do these little shows to the Village People."

"Her rock genes were already rolling?"
Bueel lets one of her throaty laughs fade into a wistful smile. "I think everybody's got a little Elvis in them," she says.
A couple of weeks later, Tyler and I are heading out for lunch in L.A. Her blue eyes dart from Santa Monica Boulevard down to the portable CD player she has plugged into the car's cigarette lighter. On the floorboard is a paperback of Roald Dahl's My Uncle Oswald.

"I can't decide if I should read that or start A Confederacy of Dunces," she says, turning up the volume on the CD. Bessie Smith is moaning about yet another lover who has done her wrong, but the old blues number skips a few beats with each bump along the boulevard.

"You've got to hold it in your lap," she tells me as she slaps the portable player down on my thighs, speeds out into the passing lane, and picks up the smoothed-out verse right along with Bessie. She drives us to a Lebanese restaurant in Hollywood and briefly seems lost.

"No - here it is!" she exclaims.

"I love this place. It's called Marouch. You never hear anybody in the next booth sat the word 'movie'."

We slide into a booth, and hummus is hurried her way. As she peruses an assortment of peppers, she brags about the latest addition to her extanded family, a godchild of her very own, named Ella. She is the 11-month-old daughter of Marlon Richards, the son of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. The child's mother is her dearest friend. Lucie de la Falaise, the niece and grandchild, respectively, of those French arbiters of global glamour Loulou and Maxime. "Do you think these are hot?" she asks, sliding a tiny pepper gingerly into her mouth before squealing with pain.
from Vanity Fair - May 1997

"Who was the first person ever to kiss that mouth?"
"A boy called Rich. I was old - almost 13. He had to beg me... You know, I remember being very dirty one time," she confides, pushing the peppers away.

"I was in day care in Maine, and I had a boyfriend. We'd go and sit in the library and pretend to read a book. He'd touch me and play with me - but we never kissed. He touched me... there. I don't remember it very well, but I remember the sensation of being touched there. I'd probably already touched myself down there by then, though. I learned how to do that very quickly."

After we finish our meal, we speed back down Santa Monice Boulvard, and Tyler decides the protable CD player will be safer in her possession, not mine, and nestles it... there. She takes a Marilyn Monroe CD from her traveling case and carefully inserts it, her strong voice mingling with Marilyn's catty mew:
"I want to be loved by you... I want to be loved by you... alone."

Monroe now asserts that Diamonds are a girl's best friend.
"I hate diamonds," Tyler says. She removes Monroe and inserts Iggy Pop. Iggy roars. Liv? She looks straight ahead, and listens.

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