Sorel's Way

She died in her apartment just five doors down from the 9th precinct— murdered. A loner and, perhaps, one of the last Bohemians

Sorel's father died when she was 13, and Edward recalled that it was a critical event in their lives. Sorel went on to college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and majored in philosophy. Soon thereafter, she moved to New York City. In the early '70s, she worked briefly at Abaris, an art book publisher. According to a coworker there, that was the last job Sorel ever held. Thereafter, dressed always in ripped dungarees and T-shirts she'd found on the street, she dealt marijuana and cocaine to make the rent on what friends described as her roach-infested hovel, and to pay her bills, which she always did on time and in cash. She also developed a cocaine habit. During this period, she hosted a self-styled talk show called The Lesbian Family Hour, which aired on a public-access cable channel, and she wrote a regular column for a gay rag in the Village.

Another East Village writer, Sarah Schulman, recalls seeing her often around this time at St. Mark's Bookshop. "We used to talk about politics and books. She was very intellectual. She was hyper-hypercritical and she thought that people were fake. She was alone a lot."

By the time she reached her early fifties the short, slender Sorel could still pass for a 12-year-old boy, though by then her raffish appearance had begun to deteriorate noticeably. She had learned to ride a skateboard, and was often seen wheeling around the Village looking, as Albert Mobilio said, "like one of Fagan's kids in Oliver Twist." Toward the end, one friend said, she also tended to frequent West Village lesbian bars like the Cubby Hole and Henrietta Hudson in search of some shred of companionship.

Detail from Marcella S. Nelson's cover illustration for Sorel in Love, a self-published memoir
Portrait of Sorel by Marcella S. Nelson, oil on canvas, 1984
Detail from Marcella S. Nelson's cover illustration for Sorel in Love, a self-published memoir

"She seemed to get more irritable as time went on and she developed some paranoia, side effects of that cocaine hobby of hers," said her brother. Others described her as being a less severe version of Valerie Solanis, another East Village writer who was briefly famous for shooting Andy Warhol.

But amid all the talk of Sorel's tortured, contentious existence, her brother and her former friends all speak fondly, even reverently of her as a unique, complex, intelligent artist who enriched their lives and the ethos of New York City immeasurably.

"She was a romantic figure to many people," said her brother. "She was a complex person, difficult to get along with. But when you were close with her she was great: engaging, entertaining, and smart."

Laurie Sucher, one of Sorel's ex-lovers, remembers her as "a very, very unusual person with a lot of wonderful things about her and a lot of challenges. The world is poorer for her loss."

"She was the essence of what the East Village once was," said Mobilio wistfully. "This word doesn't mean much anymore," he added, "but she was a true bohemian."

Sorel's friends and family are planning to hold a memorial service for her in the East Village in a few weeks. Police have asked anyone with information to call Michael Wigdor, the detective assigned to the case, at 477-7809.

« Previous Page