Reed It and Weep: Legendary Lou, Velvet Underground Singer, Greets Groupies at Book Signing with Schnabel

berlin Reed It and Weep: Legendary Lou, Velvet Underground Singer, Greets Groupies at Book Signing with SchnabelLou Reed, legendary frontman of the Velvet Underground, and Julian Schnabel, noted artist and filmmaker, were sitting at a rustic wooden table inside the Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea on the evening of Thursday, June 25.

The two longtime friends were there for a book-signing and cocktail party celebrating the forthcoming release of Berlin, a new collection of photographs taken during Mr. Schnabel’s filming of a tour Mr. Reed did in 2007 to revive his classic 1973 album and rock opera of the same name.

One by one, enamored fans approached the duo with copies of the book and other memorabilia—vintage concert posters, black-and-white photographs, Velvet Underground LPs—that they wanted Mr. Reed, dressed in a saggy black sweater and black jeans, and Mr. Schnabel, wearing loose white pajamas, the top half of which were unbuttoned just enough to reveal a thick swath of chest hair, to autograph with shiny silver markers.

At one point, Mr. Reed reached over to fill Mr. Schnabel’s wine glass with a healthy portion of Johnnie Walker Black Label. (Perhaps the director was drowning his sorrows over the roughly $10 million worth of price cuts he’d made earlier that day to the two top-floor units of his pink Palazzo Chupi on West 11th Street.) Shortly thereafter, a friend of Mr. Schnabel’s leaned in to light him up a Parliament, which filled the otherwise sterile white room with the smell of cigarette smoke, but was extinguished rather promptly.

The Transom, to its surprise given the magnitude of both men’s work, didn’t spot many celebrities, save Mr. Reed’s wife, Laurie Anderson, who darted in around 7 p.m., and the actor Willem Dafoe, who had arrived with Mr. Reed’s and Mr. Schnabel’s entourage an hour earlier. Mr. Dafoe declined rather brusquely to chat.

“Creatives” in attendance included photographer Ralph Gibson, artist Stan Gaz, and Bill Powers, the former BlackBook editor, novelist and husband of designer Cynthia Rowley.

There was also some walking art—a slender and attractive model named Reby Sky who was covered head to toe in yellow, blue, green and pink body paint, wearing nothing but nipple rings and a nearly invisible bikini thong. She was out gallery hopping with the Rockland County, N.Y.-based body-painting artist Andy Golub, who had coated her skin.

“I love it. It’s sort of liberation through art,” said Ms. Sky of her virtually naked state before scooting off to get her copy of the book signed. The gentlemen at the party were not complaining either.

Married super-fans Lau Nielsen, 63, and Lis Braendguard, 61, had flown in all the way from Denmark for the event. They said they’d seen Mr. Reed perform dozens of times since the early ’70s, including his first-ever live performances of Berlin at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn in December 2006. (Mr. Schnabel released Lou Reed’s Berlin, a film documenting the concerts, in January of last year.)

“I’m staying in here to have all the looks of him I can get,” said Ms. Nielsen, clutching her newly signed copy of the photographic adaptation of Berlin.

The book (Rizzoli, $45) features a rare transcription of a conversation between Mr. Reed and Mr. Schnabel. Some of its beautifully blurry images are pictures of the set Mr. Schnabel designed for the Berlin tour, and others are stills from the film. Many have passages of Mr. Reed’s verse scrawled over them in white ink, like the following line we read on an enlarged photograph hanging on the gallery’s wall:

“Staring in my picture book she looks like Mary Queen of Scots. She seemed very regal to me. Just goes to show how wrong you can be.”

jpompeo@observer.com