In July 1970 Jane Forth, teenage supermodel appears on the cover of Life magazine. The four page colour spread with photos by Jack Mitchell was titled “Just Plain Jane” and described Forth as “a new now face in the awesome tradition of Twiggy and Penelope Tree.” It also noted that she had just turned seventeen and “claims no special talents.”
She was featured not only in several of Andy Warhol’s movies, but in the pages of American Vogue,Harper’s Bazaar, and many more magazines of the time. She modeled early wrap dresses for Diana Von Furstenberg and apprenticed with Halston. Known for her original style, and creative hair and makeup – she inspired many with her look then and now – including the creators of Dallas Buyers Club, who referenced her photos as inspiration for Jared Leto’s character in his Oscar winning role.
Forth became a sensation, Warhol Superstar and the downtown New york It Girl. Discovered working as a receptionist at the infamous Factory, she appeared in Warhol’s films ‘Women in Revolt’, ‘Trash’ and ‘L’Armour’. She also became the creative inspiration to fashion’s editorial elite.
In een interview in 2014, Forth (born 1953) recalls the inspiration behind her own famous use of make-up. She was being pulled toward older movies, particularly black-and-white films “due to their contrast,” she says. Forth’s favorites included Clara Bow, Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Hedy Lamarr, Dorothy Lamour, Vivian Leigh, and Myrna Loy. To develop her own style, she says, “I experimented with many different looks as a young adolescent. I was not consciously looking to create something new as an image. I took my inspirations one step further and mixed it with my own creativity and artistic eye and my look appeared. It felt right and it felt very comfortable to me when I finally found it.”
“There were no hair products in those days. There was like Aquanet hairspray and shampoo. There were very little choices for products. I started to like the idea of very shiny hair– shiny hair pulled back, very flat and put in a bun. So that’s how I started to use Wesson oil. I would use cooking oil and I’d slick my hair and make it almost like patent leather!
To the question how she met Andy Warhol, Forth answers: “I had a boyfriend by the name of Jay Johnson. He was my first boyfriend and he had a twin brother. His twin brother was Jed Johnson, who was Andy’s boyfriend for many, many years. Jed lived with Andy for many years. I was seeing Jay, who is still alive and kicking. We had to go meet his twin brother Jed and that was in Andy’s home on Madison Avenue in his brownstone, where he lived with his mother. It’s odd because very rarely did anyone ever get to enter that brownstone, and that was my first meeting, which was actually in his home in his bedroom. It was a very unusual situation, because so many people (except for maybe Paul Morrissey and Jane Jett) were ever in that brownstone—and Fred Hughes. So, Jay had picked something up, and I was sitting in Andy’s bedroom. I remember there was a beautiful powder blue satin quilt on the bed. I was sitting there not even knowing whose home I was in, and just sort of rubbing my hand on this quilt, and I heard a voice go, ‘And who are you?’ I turned around and I said, ‘Oh, hi. I’m Jane. And I’m Jay’s girlfriend’ and that was it.”
Jane Forth & Andy Warhol
Forth traveled with Warhol and attended events with him. Yet her recollections are marked by more private moments Forth recalls, “My most vivid memory of Andy was receiving phone calls in the middle of the night from him to see if I was watching the same classic movie that he was watching.” And she usually was, she remembers. Forth also recalls spending summer weekends in Southampton with Warhol, Jed Johnson, Peter Brant, and Fred Hughes. On Sunday mornings, Warhol would sit under a giant tree and read the newspaper. Hughes would play Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and the group would at times venture into town to buy rhubarb pies, lobster salad, and fresh berries. She adds, “I would always buy my Yoo-hoos [chocolate milk]. I loved Yoo-hoo. […] It would be so quiet, relaxed, beautiful, so normal and peaceful and tranquil.”
About Andy Warhol:
“There were many faces of Warhol and it depended on your relationship with him and where you came into play with him. I can only speak to my relationship with Andy, in which he was very warm; he was very talkative with me. He was also flirtatious! He could be very flirtatious, absolutely.”
Forth decided to give up her unique spot among the Factory Superstars. Warhol and her had a fight about it. “I found myself pregnant and did give up my career. I went into a whole different mode. In those days there weren’t a lot of single moms having babies on their own. I raised my child, my son, until I met my husband at that time, Oliver Wood, who I stayed married to for 22 years. He was a director of photography from England and he actually ended up doing a lot of big movies in Hollywood. That’s who I ended up having two other children—my daughters—with. Later I went into makeup. After I had my son Emerson–when he was about six years old–I decided to start doing makeup for film work and special effects. I went to school at night, I self-taught myself and I got into the union. For many, many years I worked in the film business with makeup and special effects.”
Jane Forth, then 17 years old, is best known for appearing in Paul Morrissey’s ‘Trash” (1970), alongside Joe Dallesandro. About her part in the movie, she says: “I played an upscale, richer woman who was a very bored, stay-at-home housewife. Well, I created this myself. This was the most exciting thing in the world– to have this junkie break into my apartment. It’s like, I was so bored day in and day out that this was like ‘Wow, this is fun!’”