The Allan Midgette Interview
How did you arrive at the Silver Factory?
The thing is it would be very hard to accept how it was I arrived to be at the Factory to begin with, because people would immediately assume that, oh, you’re an actor or you want to be an actor or you want to be something, and you, really want to be in Andy’s movies, which is absolutely not true.
So what’s the story then?
The fact is that I had worked in Italy with BERTOLLUCI and PASSOLINI and Joseph Losey, not him, I can’t think of what’s his name. Anyway I had a different thing about the way I thought about making films. I had wanted to do things that were very important, that I thought were important anyway, and that meant to me, that it was like a stronghold of people, you know, was that really the kind of reason I wanted to be in films.
Meeting Rudy at a Factory Party.
I once went to the Factory, and there was a party for NUREYEV, when he was king of the world. TENNESSEE WILLIAMS threw the party at Warhol’s factory, and I had never been there before, I had known a few people who had worked for Andy, and at that particular time I was hanging with MONTGOMERY CLIFT, and he was going to the party and he invited me.
"I took Monty to the party."
Monty was a very fragile person, and I knew that he needed someone to go with him and, you know, I had also wanted to go to that particular party even though I was not one of those people that was always trying to find out where the party was, because I did want to meet Nureyev, because I was very, I had been very influenced by *Nijinsky and the Russians, the Moscow Art theatre, Stanislavsky. I was very into the Dostoyevsky and Proko, and these were the kinds of things I’d wish I’d (do), so I just wanted to see this Russian dancer because to me anybody who could become that successful as a male ballet dancer in America, everybody knows who you are, they have to have something, there has to be something going on there beside just being a great dancer.
Edie dancing at at a Factory Party....
So we went and we arrived at the factory, and there was just EDIE and a few people from the Factory doing their thing, and then across the room there was JUDY GARLAND and Tennessee Williams doing THEIR thing, which was like, a little drunk and maybe a few pills, and they’re looking into each other’s eyes and saying, “Oh, you’re so beautiful”. And it was, you know, I thought it was quite sweet. And then Monty knew them, of course, and he started talking to them, and I thought, well, you know, let him be with them. I knew BILLY NAME from Italy, I’d met Billy before he met Andy. Billy and I met in Spoleto, working as an actor there.
Billy Name self-portrait.
He, (in the Factory), Billy, had come back into his little room, and he offered me a joint. I smoked it and got, you know. It was also the very first time that I had heard continuous music for dancing, because parties used to be the record, you put the record on then you, you’re dancing, you’re in the middle of the dance, you really get going and you’re breathing really hard and sweating maybe, and the record stops. And you feel like a complete idiot, because everybody else is continuing their little cocktail and everything and you’re, you know…
So anyway, now it’s continuous music, one song leading into the other and in those days I would always dance if there was music, it didn’t matter where I was, I just, it was my natural instinct. So I went to the middle of the floor and started dancing, like, who cares? And everybody’s just hanging around kind of, and, when I dance I would also get into a twirl, do you know? A lot of it was in circular motion. This is really a hot party because I’m here having a good time dancing, and I’m seeing Judy Garland, Tennessee Williams, Monty Clift, and there are these people from Andy Warhol, you know, they were nice young people, but I didn’t really know them. What ever. And then, in the middle of it, the elevator comes up to the Factory, and Nureyev walks out. And it’s obvious he’s just come from taking a shower, because his hair his pushed back, and nobody actually recognizes him. And all this time I had been, people all over New York think I’m Nureyev, my hair is this long, and I’m saying “No, I’m not”, you know, whatever, but anyway I’ve never met him before and he walks over, and I continue dancing and he stands next to me like “hmmn”. And then I say “pleased to meet you (?), and he says to me, “Pleased to meet you too. Are you a madman, or a sexy bitch?” And I looked at him and I said, “I’m afraid I’m a madman.” And then we went over and joined Monty and Judy, Tennessee, and Judy’s husband at the time, and what’s his name (?), and they decide they want to go to the next party already.
Factory Party Scene...
This was “The Most Beautiful People Party” wasn’t it?
Right, but the *next party was at Lester PERSKY’s house, and, so we got into the limo and went over there, and I was very complimented. Nureyev was giving me a lot of attention, and he was inviting me to come see him rehearse, and we go have lunch at the Russian Tea Room, and so we’re sitting talking and ANDY comes in with Chuck Wein and Edie, and, that night at the party I had asked Edie to dance, before I danced by myself, and she said “No, thank you.” As I’m leaving with Nureyev, and Judy, she’s like at the elevator looking like “Wow, what happened ?”
or something, I don’t know, because it was all a surprise to me, too. I didn’t plan it. So we’re at Andy’s, they all have dark glasses on, which is something that I have a hard time with, I’m taking LSD in order to clear my lenses, and really see what was really there.
I wanted people to see who I was. I wanted them to have the ability to look into my eyes like me, just like me, whatever, and so I was thinking, God, why do they need these glasses on at nighttime? They’re inside, already. And then suddenly Edie’s walking over to me, and she says, “Oh, we just think you’re so beautiful, and we’d like to invite you to go to the country this weekend.” And I said, well, you know, I wasn’t doing a goddamn thing except taking LSD and actually, I would be going with the flow and meeting whoever I met, and in that way, I don’t know how to explain it, I tried, I was able to make up stories in those days very quickly, I don’t even know where they came from, I just pretended that I was a working actor, and I said, actually I said, “I’m very busy at the moment, I have three projects I’m working on, and the only reason I came out tonight was ‘cause I really wanted to meet Rudy”, and so, that was the first time I ever met Andy.
Edie Sedgwick dancing.
After that first experience with Andy, what happened?
Then, later on, I’d done various things like hitchhike to California, and get into a whole other state of mind there, fix whatever, working construction, I mean, I, you know, the Warhol thing was never who I was. I dropped in on something. I was always something very different than that personally,
But it did lead to being part of the Factory crowd, right?
I mean a lot of people now (know me) because I impersonated ANDY and that whole jazz. They actually believed that, they actually believed I looked like him, and they believed that I am just like him probably, except that I don’t have money (laugh) and that maybe, you know, but the truth is, I would rather not have money and be myself.
Later on...impersonating Andy.
Yes, but it was fun, right?
That was the most fun of all because it really had nothing to do with Andy, and it had nothing to do with the Factory, really, because I had to do it. I mean, there are many stories about it, you know but….
So when you finally got back to New York, what did you do?
I started working at a place called ARTHUR discotheque, that was owned by SYBIL BURTON & RODDY MCDOWEL and I was a waiter there, and it was like, part of your job as a waiter was to actually respond to the music, and you know, shake your tush around, whatever, you know.
David and Susan.
And so while I was there DAVID CROWLAND used to come in with INTERNATIONAL VELVET, SUSAN BOTTOMLEY, she must have been about seventeen or eighteen at the time, I don’t know, and he introduced me to her and she asked me if I wanted to dance, and we started dancing, and she told me she was working with Andy Warhol and I said, Oh, that’s very nice. And she said, “I think he would really like you,”, and I said, “That’s okay.” (laugh) Then it seemed like a week later, Andy makes…one of the people that owned it, or ran it said to me, “Andy Warhol’s coming in tonight and he wants to talk to you.”
Andy wanted to make Allan a "Star".
So, Andy came in and he came over and he said, “Could you join me at a table, I’d really like to talk to you for a while.” So I went over, and he said, “You know I’d really like you to, well, be in my movie, and we’d like you to be the star.” And I said, “Well, you’ve got a lot of actors already, don’t you?” and he said “Yeah.” And he said, “But we want a star.” And I said, “Oh, um, well, what about GERARD MALANGA,” you know, and he said, well, something about him being too short or something.
He's too short to act?
Which I didn’t, see, in those days I wouldn’t appreciate that too much because of taking LSD and becoming hypersensitive about what somebody might say about me or what I might say about someone. I was like very keen on not, those were things that you really, really shouldn’t say. Anyway, and so I said, “No.” I had been an actor before that, and wanting to be an actor, wanting to please people, you know, oh, somebody wants you to be in a movie, well you just want them to really be pleased with you. Well I didn’t feel that way, I was like, well what are you, what’s the idea behind your movies because I already knew a lot about his movies, and they weren’t really what I wanted to do, because I, as an actor, always wanted to engage my heart, I don’t want that to be separate, and so, I started telling him what I wanted to do, you know. (laugh) and I said, “Well you know, I’ve been thinking about movies a lot, and really what I would love to do is get together with a group of people, and make a decision to actually work together for like ten years, and you begin by not trying to do anything, you just try to get used to being in front of the camera, and I’m sorry if I’m not with the camera myself (referring to turning his head) it makes me not feel it so much in a way, that’s the way I won’t get in (?) Anyway, what was I saying?
You were talking aobut your personal acting philosophy....
Anyway, I said, you know, let’s, you start out without necessarily talking or anything, but you’re developing. It was, I don’t know, I couldn’t actually describe what I believe, that I felt there was some possibility there. It didn’t have to be ten years. I guess you might believe the director does something like that with his actors, where they come together for six months and improvise before they actually make the film, you know. And what I’ve seen of his films, I just really, I really feel that he, that accomplishes something.
I like the idea of rehearsing in a way, too, you know, but most of the movies I’ve been in, there was no rehearsal, there was no script, there were no things written out. You got there that day and they told you what you were going to do and the cameras started rolling.
Andy calls Allan...
And anyway, so I exchanged telephone numbers with Andy, and one day, he called me and he said, “ You know Allan, I’m here with uhm, MARY WORONOV, and ULTRA VIOLET and IVY NICHOLSON, and Rod Larod, and we got a limo and we’re gonna go upstate to Henry Mchelheny’s house in Rittenhouse Square and make a movie. And I thought maybe you’d want to go?” And it was a day when I was really kind of bored and had nothing to do, and I thought, oh what the hell, why not. So I went, and we drove, I don’t know if you want me to talk more about this…
So let's go make a movie!
Okay, so well we get to the limousine, and you have to understand, they all know each other, I’m really coming into this group as a total stranger all the way around, and they have their little clique and their way of talking and they’re really more like each other because they’re either from the Bronx or New Jersey. I’m from south Jersey, but I grew up in Florida too, and I’d already lived in Italy, so there had been some major changes in my psyche, whatever, but I’m also, ah, a very open person, you know I try to get along with almost everybody. So we arrive there, and it’s a magnificent house, this five story mansion with antiques, TOULOUSE LAUTRECS on the wall, that French sculptor, the ballet dancer with the tutu, (Degas) DEGAS. I mean, ah, I’d seen these things in museums, it’s different when you’re in someone’s house and you’re actually with a bunch of very weird people, and you can’t even imagine how anybody could let them in their house with all of this exquisite, you know, I mean this is the real stuff for sure. And all the servants are Irish.
Andy lets Ivy direct?
So it’s like, if you’re taking LSD in those days, and then you’re suddenly in this thing with these people.
And now I’ve got two things going at once. These are people I wouldn’t normally hang out with, Andy, and then we have the very rich, that I normally wouldn’t hang out with either. I mean, I’ve done my time, but, you know, it’s like, why am I here, this is pretty bizarre. You know, we’re going to shoot the next day and we don’t have (?) telling me, nobody’s told me anything and I’m not asking.
But, the next day Andy says, “We’re going to go to this client’s penthouse apartment and they’re going to let us shoot up there. Well, we arrive at the hotel and Andy very quickly gets out, he goes to the trunk of the car and he has one of his paintings that he has to very quickly staple to a frame.
Flower Paintings in production...
And I couldn’t believe what I was looking at, to be honest with you. I mean these are like, you know.. So we go up to the penthouse and it’s a penthouse, big deal. I mean that’s where I was coming from. I was looking totally for freedom all the time. It could be very quiet, it could be, even wealthy, as long as it was quiet and understanding and everything else. But, whatever.
In this penthouse they had a pool, a sauna, the whole works, you know. And I would venture to say that everybody else was very impressed, and maybe they weren’t. Maybe used to it at all. (I cough) Andy says, “Uh, well, why don’t we take a sauna?” And I’m like thinking, “He’s not going in the sauna with that wig on, whatever, the makeup or whatever, his (?) sitting there. And, but (?), I’m a child of the sixties, so to speak. I’m ready to take my clothes off and have a good steam bath. I studied in the European way, whatever, do you know what I mean. I’m not getting ready for a sex scene here, you know? So I go in, and I’m here and there, and I’m steaming myself away, I hope I am right now.
And then, we come out and now Andy says, “Why don’t we shoot something by the pool?” Oh okay. So now we’re standing by the pool and there are three actresses, who are like, you know, they’re not madly in love with each other, let’s face it, do you know?
They’re there to do their thing, and they’re all hoping they’re going to outdo the other one and that’s what starts. Well, I honestly believe that I had no agenda, that this was not even a movie to me. And so I just thought, I’m just relaxing, period. And what would I do if I was naked, and there was a pool in front of me. And I dove in. And I tried to, then I thought, I’m going to try to get these girls into the pool, you know, let’s get real for one minute, let’s get to know each other before we start making a movie for each other, because the people watching the movie don’t know that you’ve never met these people before, they’re not exactly being cordial, you’re not having people with a craft who are getting together and discussing anything about what you’re trying to do, as an improvisation or as anything, do you know?
It’s just me against you, babe.(laugh) you know? I just remember swimming around the pool and thinking, I’m not even getting out, because I don’t see the point of it.
And there’s IVY Nicholson standing like in a very rigid position as I recall it. She suddenly pulls out a photograph of her uncle and her father and shoves it in front of the camera and says, “This is my uncle, he was an alcoholic. He died at, I don’t know, thirty-seven”. And all this stuff is coming out and I’m thinking what is this all about, you know what I mean? And then, so then, that film was over, if you can call these things films, that was the film. You know, hello?
Then, that was on a Saturday as I believe, just like today, and on a Sunday we’re supposed to go to the museum in Philadelphia and shoot, and I’m thinking, oh, my God. I couldn’t understand why a rich person would have Andy and all these people enter their house, I mean, they were having very wealthy people over too. The cream of high society, you know. He was friends with the Gr(ace) Kelly’s and the whatever. And he was a big patron of the arts and the heir of Tabasco sauce. Henry Macalhenny. Macalhenny’s Tabasco sauce.
And all of this is very funny because you think of Andy with the Browns, and these are things growing up as an American that you know about. And so, the next day, we are going to the museum, and as I recall, I took a little LSD, and we went to the museum, and there we are on the second floor of this museum, we’re the only people there, it’s closed. And there’s these guards there too. Andy says “Oh, IVY’s going to direct this movie,” and I’m thinking, oh shit. This is really, you know, this is a mind game, I am really just observing the mind game that I believe. So I thought, oh, okay. So she said to me, oh yeah, she gives me a piece of cloth about that big and I have to wrap that around me with no clothes on. And they had their clothes on, the three ladies. And we walk into this room, and in the very center of the room is this incredible Egyptian lion SPHINX on somewhat of a platform. And I’m looking at it, and the vision haunts me, and I’m on the LSD and I’m looking at this thing thinking, well I’m just going to climb up on the top of there and not say anything to anybody, and I want to do this, I will never have an opportunity to sit on a sphinx again, and I climbed up to the top and sat there. And I couldn’t believe that I was getting away with it, and nobody said anything. The guards didn’t bat an eyelash.
Uultra with Viva in "Tub Girls"
Andy said, “Okay, let’s shoot in front of this,” and he got all the women in front of the sphinx. And that’s how the movie began, that way. And you know, there was some dialogue along the way, but it wasn’t even that interesting, I mean half the time it was him saying to ULTRA VIOLET, “Oh, Ultra, why don’t you say something?” Ultra says, “Well, what should I say, Andy?” and he says, “Well, tell me about anything, talk about what you had for breakfast.” And she says, “Oh, (?) this, oh, I like bread, and butter, and marmalade,” and I’m thinking, you’re sitting on a sphinx on LSD and you’re listening to someone talk about this shit, and it’s like, unbelievable. (laugh)
What was the film?
You’ll have to find out from people, because I, we, were just shooting. There was no name. I mean, there was no script, how could there be a name? I mean the names came afterward, the name came after and that was really all there was, I don’t know how to explain it. I never in my life believed that these would be considered films.
I never thought, people are not going to ‘The Exorcist’, but you know, I’ve been wrong about a lot of things. Which is cool, it doesn’t matter, there’s no right or wrong anyway. You know, it’s all up for grabs. So that was the two movies we made in Philadelphia.
What about the movie ‘24’?
They’re all separate, they’re all being redone. They’ve been working on it for like seven years at the WHITNEY MUSEUM. She’s interviewed everybody. CALLEY ANGEL. She’s interviewed everybody, she’s writing a book about it. They’re all going to be on DVD. It should be coming out fairly soon. And also they owe me some money. They have to do it, I don’t know, we’ll find out.
Taylor Mead and Viva in Warhol's "Nude Restaurant"
I heard about that from Taylor Mead. How did you and Taylor relate to each other?
Well, I’m trying to remember. One of the movies I made with Andy was called ‘NUDE RESTAURANT’. And I intimated to Andy that my thing to Andy was, sorry, I’m doing my own performance for these movies, can we come up with a basic idea? I said how about this for instance. Rent a diner, a small diner. I’ll work behind the counter, I’ll be the person behind the counter, and I’ll even cook things for people that come in. And they’ll sit down and order. But if they get out of hand, I can call the fucking police. Do you understand what I mean? (laugh) It’, you know, I’m not into fighting with people, I was in the Marines, you know in boot camp etc, and incidentally that was my first movie and I wasn’t into that, I mean I wasn’t into, before I went into the marines. When I came out of the Marines I was less into it, completely rid of it completely. As an actor I never wanted to fight with people, I never wanted to step ahead. To me, it was a religious thing in that if I don’t get it, (the role), I’m not supposed to. Period.
OK then, the first “Nude Restaurant”?
The first Nude restaurant actually happened. But, it wasn’t the way I had envisioned it, of course, which I expected from Andy. If Andy said something, I knew it wasn’t true. That is not what he would do. That’s just what he’s saying to you right now. Later you’ll find out, like there’s no title to the movie, there’s no title to any of it. So, he, what he finds is to rent a sleazy bar, and when I arrive, at that point I was living with ROBERT THURMAN (Uma’s dad) who had just gotten out of a Tibetan monastery. So, you know, I’m coming into it from a different point of view. And I would say to him, “what do you think, Robert, what do you think about me working with this Andy? It was so funny. And he said, “Well, don’t worry about it Allen, just be a calm center.” And I remember that. So, I walked in, and there’s nothing but men there, these other people who are going to be in the movie, nothing but men. And I can’t even smell a gay bar, do you know what I mean. (laugh) No problem, it’s fine, you know? But at any rate, these people were some Cuban refugees, and, but, when the movie began, everyone had to take their clothes off. Now all the people with just their clothes off besides myself, were sitting down at tables, so you’re not seeing anything. I have to stand up and wait on them, with no clothes on. So I’m thinking , this is really, it’s really kind of boring because you can’t go any further with it when you’re already nude, unless you start getting pornographic, which is not gonna happen. So I decided to do it as if I were fully dressed. And to act like, you know, no big deal. Well, in going to a table, and you ask anybody what they want, and sometimes they’re like, playing games, they’re not talking, they’re just looking at you, so you have to invent dialogue like, “They only have a few things on the menu, and this and that. And if you want something say it now, because I don’t have all day”.
And I’m trying to work up something, you know as an actor, I’m trying to work up, do whatever you want to do, say whatever you want to say, but at least, we’re all in a restaurant, or something. We have to come together at some point other than just fighting. It’s not creative, for me. And so anyway, that movie went down, and then after that, they redid the film, and gave the lead to VIVA. You see, now I’ve worked out something for another actor to take advantage of. Nobody else did that, you know. And I’m not bagging either, because I need to.
It’s kind of psychologically interesting to me, and so then anyway, they asked me to be an extra in the movie. Well that, and I think it’s kind of funny, I don’t mind, and I’ll just take some more LSD and watch what’s going on here. Because it’s pretty weird, really. The whole dynamic, and they don’t even imagine that I don’t think that I have a mind, that’s actually working. When you’re on your own, when you’re a single person, totally and you’re in the middle of a Warhol movie, it’s an experience that many people couldn’t have.
So anyway, there were other movies made from the naked, from the Nude Restaurant, because then I got put in jail, so they used what is now the Film Anthology, on second avenue where we shot, that was just before they changed it over. They had been given the property, but it was still a prison and a courthouse. I was in a prison cell and ONDINE came in he was telling me in the cell that he was my lawyer. And I said that I don’t need a lawyer . And he said, “Well don’t you want to get out of here?” I said, “No, I don’t want to get out here.” I said, you know, let’s face it, you could be in a square little box and be free. Or you could be supposedly free and be a prisoner, it doesn’t really matter. But I went up, and there was a little window with bars on it, and I propped myself up and put my feet in it and hung by my feet. I would also do things like stand on my head with no clothes on, which would scare the shit out of Andy.
Believe it or not, just before we’d shoot, I would have no clothes on, and I’d stand right on my head. You know you could feel the tension but they all thought that. There were many rumors, anyway, and NICO referred to me as the Italian movie star. So they all had this kind of, they were out to shoot me down.
Let’s just take a break ..and talk about personalities who were around the Factory. Did you know Billy well?
Well. ..I knew no one at the Factory at first except Billy, who I’d met in Spoleto, Italy, I went to the festival there because I was living in Rome at the time, and we became somewhat friendly because we knew each other a little bit, and then when I came to the
Party of the Century or whatever they called it, then we met again, and now I’m there, to work with Andy. But you know, the Factory, it’s really kind of hard to describe correctly,
Edie, Ondine and friend...."kind of like a Pinter play".
I think, I tried, the people, it’s kind of like a HAROLD PINTER play in a way, where you’re there and if there were no press people or anything like that, or important people around, it was really kind of like, people were just out on the couch and they were like, they knew each other, so they had been out the night before doing whatever with each other and I hadn’t been, and immediately, for instance BRIGID BERLIN, I remember, I would just sit down, and I would think, okay, I am going to wait, and I would sit and wait and if it took an hour, I would sit quietly, and if somebody talked to me, I would be very happy to speak to them, but I wasn’t going to go over and say “Hi kids, what’s going on?”
Brigid and Andy
It wasn’t that kind of scene, in reality, for me at that point. And I’m like Brigid comes over and she calls me a Flower Child. Which I didn’t mind, because first of all, I knew that that didn’t mean anything, and in some way it could just be a look, or anything, but I didn’t mind, you know. It’s better than being a speed freak.
It’s not that I want to put any of it down, but there was definitely a division. It’s like the three parts. And I don’t know what they would be, I’m sorry. There’s a way to really talk about it because, oh, yeah, they’re one big happy family, you know. But that wasn’t really true.
Viva, frizzed out with Andy, Ondine and Fred on the bus to Bickford's....
So when I started working with Andy, I wasn’t working with Susan at first, which was somebody I had met, and I had a very good rapport with her always. So later, VIVA came. And I had known Viva before. I had met Viva at a party, and I told her to let her hair frizz out, cause she’d say, “Oh, I gotta go to the beauty parlor”, this is when I first met her, “and get my hair straightened out.” And I said, “What for? Your hair is really great that way, you should go with that, and then next thing I know she’s there, and her hair is out. And she’s looking very good about it, whatever. And so, I had some rapport. But with Viva, I didn’t make any real movies, I made ‘LONESOME COWBOYS’ after I stopped working with Andy.
Q. What about Taylor Mead?
I never worked with Taylor, to be honest. He was in the same movie, but there was no… I wasn’t given that opportunity somehow, or it didn’t happen. What I remember was, I was with other people, I didn’t just want to stand in a room and just be myself, but hey.
So after a while I just said to Andy, I’ve got to get out of here. I think it was, as far as I can remember, it was like two or three months, and I thought, I’ve got to get out of here.
I wanted to go to Haight Ashbury, you know, that was just beginning. I was very curious to see what it was like, you know? Well, Andy said, “Well, we’d like to take you to the Cannes film festival. That’s what we’re gonna do with everybody, we’re all going to go,” I’m thinking, I’ve had movies at the Cannes Film Festival that have won prizes. I do not want to go to Europe, sorry, this may sound really awful, but I have no desire to go with these people.
I said “I’m going to Haight Ashbury”. Then Andy offered me a painting. And ah, he did not do it directly. Paul Morrissey said, “Andy would like to give you one of his paintings.”
And I said, “Well what is it?” And he said, “Twenty-two dollars.” I said, “Really, I travel with a bag about this big, that’s what I go around with and I don’t have room for a painting, and I wouldn’t be dragging that, I don’t want a painting of Andy’s. I said , “I’ll take five hundred dollars, how about that?” So they gave me five hundred dollars and I went off to Haight Ashbury. And it was wonderful. I gave all the money away as soon as I got there.
So I go with this guy who I just met, and he says you gotta meet Robert Reeve, and this other dude, they’re like heavy Tibetan dudes. I said, “Well I’m sure I’ll meet the Rolling Stones.” And he says I guess you’re supposed to because they’re walking in the door right now. And so I’m walking down the street with them and this dude attacked me, and he said, “You can have my apartment, two months are paid up.” He gives me the keys to his apartment, so now I have an apartment. Then I start meeting people who don’t have a place to live, and say, guys, (blah blah) then we met another guy and pretty soon there were like five guys there and they all had girl friends and they all carried on very nicely.
One day, Andy arrives with NICO, and I’m pretty certain that was the day after I had a roll of film from the first film I took, and Andy said, “Do you think we can make a movie here?” And I said, “Oh, I’ll have to ask these people.” They had no idea I’d ever worked in a movie, they just saw me as, you know. And they, so I said I’ll ask my friends. And so Andy said, “Fine we’ll just do whatever.” So I said to them, this guy I know is from New York. I didn’t say his name, they wouldn’t have known, anyway. I said, this guy I know from New York, he has this little camera, he just wants to make a little kind of home movie if it’s okay with you. And they of course said, yeah, right away. Well, they continued to do business the same way they always did. Get up in the morning, have something to eat, and go to the Golden Gate Park and hang out with everybody. And, you know , Andy was actually used to people responding to his being Andy Warhol, you know what I’m saying. He couldn’t get any reaction from somebody who doesn’t know who Andy Warhol is. It was like boom. So they didn’t make the movie, and that was a very funny time.
They had lunch with GYPSY ROSE LEE at the one of those places that’s very oriental, very famous, I can’t remember the exact name of it, but they asked me to go with them. Well, I went in barefoot with this short fur coat that was deteriorating before your very eyes. And they said I couldn’t, they wouldn’t allow me to come in. And then ONDINE starts screaming, “Don’t you know who he is. He’s a star!”
And I said, Ondine, please (mumble) so I just ran off back to my friends in Haight Ashbury. And you know, end of story once again.
Can you tell me your “college tour” story?
But then after a while, I got a little bored and I called up the Factory one day, and Paul Morrissey answered the phone and he said, Oh, my God, I can’t believe it, this is unbelievable, we were just talking about you. We didn’t know how to get in touch with you. And we want you to go on this college tour of Andy’s. I had only done one college, that was the Rochester, and that was the end of it, and that was after I’d stopped working with Andy that they asked me to do that. Maybe you’d like me to explain a little bit about that?
I went to MAX’S KANSAS CITY one night where everybody hung out, and it was about one in the morning, and I had been running around, and I was just going to stop by there real fast and then go home. Where home was I can’t even remember.
Okay, how it all happened. So I’m in Kansas, Max’s Kansas City, I go in there that night, I see Paul Morrissey, he’s sitting in a booth, and he’s got a black leather jacket sitting next to him. And he says, “Oh, would you like to have a drink?” Well, Paul never asks me to have a drink, okay. To be honest, well, if you want to know how people relate, so anyway, I’m very suspicious. “Would you like to go to Rochester in the morning and pretend to be Andy, because Andy can’t go.” And I said, No.
Why would I, I mean really. You have to realize I did not get paid for working in his movies. So, now I’m going to do a college lecture for Andy for free? That’s what I expect, I mean that’s what I had learned to expect.
So, he said, well, you get six hundred dollars. And I said, oh, that’s fine. When do we leave? You know, I didn’t have very much money at that moment. I was living with LOUIS WALDON at the time, and his wife Karma and their daughter Francesca, and they had a very nice apartment, two floors right where the meat market is now. Do you know that really incredible building where the wisteria climbs up the side, they lived there.
So I said to Paul, “Yeah, sure, I’ll go”. And he said, well, you have to spend the night at my house. Because he didn’t trust me to get up in the morning, which was actually another mistake of his because if I say I’m going to do something, it didn’t matter what condition or whatever. But I went to his house. He lived on Tenth Street. I’d never been there before because we weren’t that friendly. And I had to sleep on this kind of antique Victorian little sofa. It wasn’t very big.
And I’m lying there. I had this dream that was kind of prophetic. And I don’t always have those dreams to be honest with you. It involved police. And I woke up about five in the morning, and I thought, okay, calm down. I think I threw the I Ch’ing and I didn’t remember what I got. But I turned in the couch and I laid back down and tried to be calm, and in about ten or fifteen minutes I heard a knock at the door (knocking sound) And the person says, “Paul, it’s your friend.” And I’m thinking, nobody says that, do you know. I’m not answering the door, it’s not my house. So I’m pretending to be asleep. So I see Paul come stumbling out of his bedroom and he’s only half asleep and he answers the door. And it is the Narcotics people. Two of them. And they want to check his apartment out because he’s been bailing all these people out of jail, the DRAG QUEENS or whatever that worked for Andy.
So they (the police) had his address, I guess, and they decided to make a bust on him, figuring he had to be a druggie. Well, I knew he didn’t take drugs, and I didn’t have any on me.
So, when they approach me, my head is down and they flash their light in my face and said, wake up right now, have you ever smoked marijuana, or taken LSD? And I said , NO sir, what’s going on here? What is going on. I said, “My friend Paul doesn’t do drugs either”. And, so they start looking all through the house. They find the VELVET UNDERGROUND album, and then they, they’re looking at the titles and one of them is ‘HEROIN’, so they’re like pointing to that and I’m saying, “Yeah but that’s a song. You know?” I mean please. And they said, well fine. You know they finally leave. And I’m thinking, is this telling me that I shouldn’t go. And I thought, Oh, what the hell, because I needed the money. And I figured, I can buy, like Tiny Tim or whatever, I can get the turkey, some nice bottle of wine, whatever.
So Paul and I get into a taxi. Nothing’s been planned, you have to understand. And I said, you better stop in a pharmacy, and I’ll get some makeup. So the taxi stops on Broadway, but first we have to go to the Factory, so I go in and I buy the lightest shade of erase, Max Factor, I just smear it on until it’s so thick it’s almost dripping on my ears, nose, over my eyebrows, eyelashes, neck, and then I wipe it off a little bit, off my lips and everything, then I have talcum powder, and hairspray. I spray my hair silver, in the cab, of course, in this tiny mirror. And I put the talcum powder over the silver hair spray. And, I’ve got Andy’s black leather jacket on already, and sunglasses. And so we go down to the Silver Factory to get the film that we’re going to show, and, BILLY is just waking up, and comes from the back and he sees me, he thinks it’s Andy at first. That was great for me, because if I could fool Billy for even a second, with other people that didn’t really know Andy, that would be cool. So we get back in the taxi and go to the airport.
I have on a tremendous amount of patchouli and cedar oil, because I purposely put on so much that people will be overtaken by that that they might not notice that I’m not Andy Warhol. And, I do things like, do you know what I mean, with my shoulders, and I make sure that I’m kind of stiff. If that’s the way I could be in those days, especially. And well, wearing a leather jacket helps because it’s something I would never do. I would never, I’m not a black motorcycle jacket type, and so I remembered not to be myself. And being an actor, you know, those things kind of work.
And, when we got to the airport, I bought a Pan Am bag, and a Vogue magazine that had JACKIE O on the cover. And I slipped it into the outside pocket so the jacket was peeking out, and I carried that, like very calm, because to me, that’s what it was all about anyway. It was. Damn, there was nothing real happening, it was just a bunch of products, whatever. Good old America.
And I’m like, I’m thinking maybe now I’m getting a little fun out of it, because you have to understand, I’m actually directing producing and acting, and people can say whatever they like, but it wouldn’t happen unless I made the decision to do it, because Andy had sent people out before. And they told them to leave immediately.
So, we arrive in Rochester, and it’s like one of those clear, autumnal days, there’s no haze, and we’re walking down the street, a little early for the lecture. Well, while we’re on the street I’m looking in the mirror, checking myself out in the store window. And I’m thinking this doesn’t look so bad, and then Paul turns to me and says, “Andy”. And then Paul catches himself, and then it’s like “oh, my god”, and then it’s “Oh, great”.
And I said, “Look, let’s have some breakfast in this joint here ‘cause I’m hungry. And we’ve got all this time.” So we go in, and it’s one of those really great scenes where you have the older waitress with the handkerchief in the pocket and she’s really nice. And she looks at me like I’m totally normal and treats me like a regular being which the airline stewardesses do not do. They did not give me orange juice or anything. I was getting off on that too. I was thinking, God if this plane crashes, no one will know that I died. And then I have, so we get into this basketball gymnasium or whatever you call this, you know. So I get in there and it’s like, and students are starting to come in, but there’s still time before the film began and so I have this vision, I just say to Paul, I’m going to sit in this chair over there, and with my back to the audience, and I’m just sitting there. When they started the program that afternoon, the whole thing was basically Paul Morrissey and we’re going to show this movie of Andy’s and then he’s going to come and he’s going to answer questions.
So, I had never seen this film before, first, so I have to watch it, I almost forgot at one point that I was watching it backwards and thought that I need to understand what this damn movie’s about because they’re going to ask me questions about this movie that I’ve never seen before.
And it was basically about, one of those, somebody asked a question blah blah, have you ever smoked pot or taken it. People are thinking yeah, I smoke it all the time, and making up these stupid things, really, nothing too clever to be honest. So then the movie’s over and I have to come up to the podium and the first question was, “Mr. Warhol, why do you have so much makeup on?” I said, you know, I can’t remember, but it was almost no answer for that, things that Andy would do, then somebody said, “Mr. Warhol, are you homosexual?” And I thought to myself, well if I were speaking for myself and I were homosexual it would be one thing, but I’m not Andy Warhol and I had never gone to bed with him, so I said, without hesitating really, “No”. And you could hear a pin drop.
Nobody could ask any questions for a while. Very weird. It was almost like, “Why would you look like that if you’re not completely gay and out of your mind?” So I made it through. Suddenly there was this revolutionary type, beard, long black hair, dark glasses, and he sits in the front, lotus position. He’s as close as I am to you. And he looks up to me and he says, “You know when I saw this movie I thought it was a piece of shit, but after hearing, you talk about it, it’s really interesting”. And I’m thinking, oh my God, what am I getting into here. I’m convincing people who don’t like something, that it’s actually quite good.
So that was more or less the questions that were asked. As soon as that was over, this TV crew comes in, local television show. And they want an interview, and I’m oh my God, I’m not in a certain state of mind because I didn’t have this all sussed out. To me I thought well maybe I’m committing some kind of crime. Who knows, whatever. I’m like trying to do all kinds of things like (mumble, mumble) you know, and finally we get out of there and Paul says, now we have to go to a cocktail party, and I’m, now wait a minute, that was okay. But I said, “Come on, Paul, I can’t do this all day”.
And to boot, I’m going to the house of one of the art professors there, who’s going to present me with a drawing that he did of Andy. He’s met Andy before, and he’s going to present me with a drawing he did of Andy. So I get to the house, he presents me with this drawing who looks exactly like Andy. It doesn’t look anything like me, excuse me, if I say it? I am thinking, what? And he still doesn’t know. It kind of shows you how the mind works, and without all of the programming, nobody knows who anybody is. I swear to God, I really believe that.
So anyway, I’m like people are coming in talking to me, and I’m trying to do it, and I’m saying to Paul, get me out of here, get me out of here. And then the students arrive, they didn’t want to let them in at first, so I said, oh, let them in, cause they wanted to meet me, and I thought, so what. And he brought me this poster, and said, this is from my girlfriend. And it’s this very romantic poster, a guy kissing a girl, very much like the scene from the movie of me and SUSAN BOTTOMLEY, it became a famous photograph and Andy made a silverized edition of it, and its me leaning over Susan , INTERNATIONAL VELVET, and so he asked me to sign it for his girlfriend. And he said, my girlfriend thinks this is you and her. Anyway, I signed it. That was kind of that, the Rochester trip.
If you were making a docu about the Silver Factory, If you were in that position, what would you want to bring out?
Okay, well, you know I’ve seen a couple of films, which I thought the way it was presented, and it never quite rang true for me because you know, you really have to have a sofa that falling apart that’s kind of greasy. If you’re an actor, it’s not the most inviting thing to go and want to sit down on. It was rather bare. I mean, silver, when you say silver, but in reality much of it had a dull silver, a bit leaden more than silver.
I remember one thing, that was funny, was the toilet. Of course was also silver, but on the wall of the toilet, IVY NICHOLOSN had printed, “I’m in PARIS once more with no money. It’s kind of little things that you would want to capture, the fact that
the windows are just factory windows looking out on the street, and not so clean, ugh. Kind of dusty, kind of Mrs. Haversham, from GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Which is another thing, Great Expectations is part of what the Factory was, and the Great Expectations that all these people had are what made people think of it a more glittering, and silvery.
As I don’t know why they think, personally I haven’t a clue what people think the Factory was like. I mean, other than Hollywood always gets it wrong, so it’s no surprise, ever even getting close. To me, the Factory was a place I would rather not be in if I wasn’t doing something. Personally, that’s the way I felt about it. I would rather be outside, I’d rather be dancing. To me, dancing was such an important part of my life, that the fact that people just sat around that were musicians, I didn’t understand. I couldn’t see how, where do you get your inspiration from if, when you’re not playing music, you’re just sitting around. And I guess because, I guess that I would have the privilege or the honor or the award for being the least excited about being in the Factory. So, it has to be seen through that lens for me, because that’s the way it was.
You felt like an outsider?
JOHN CHAMBERLAI was in love with ULTRA VIOLET at that point. I remember being in Max’s Kansas City and, he knew I was going to Santa Fe. So he wanted me to meet up with him in Santa Fe. He was like, I don’t know if you’ve ever talked to John but John’s very straightforward, kind of like a sailor. And he said, Hey Midgette, you’re not one of Andy’s people. And at first I felt, is that an insult or what, you know? And then he said, yeah, but you’re not. The others are, Andy’s people. You’re not. And I definitely feel that way, and I think Andy felt that way.
I think Andy wanted me in his movies because he knew that I was that way, that I was not going to be like anybody else. I couldn’t. And I impersonated him. And that was the only acting, the only acting experience I got with Andy was impersonating him, and I had to do it all myself.
There was no direction there, excuse me. How do you like it when they ask you about the colleges you went to etcetera. and I have no idea if Andy went to college or not.
I mean, I wow, I just shut up. And luckily the student who was asking the people who could ask questions said, don’t ask stupid questions like that, it’s on the brochure. I could have read the brochure, but I didn’t, but of course everybody could talk to me.
I had dinner with the presidents of the colleges, and their wives, and faculty, it wasn’t just an impersonation on stage. These people would say to me, like the President of Salt Lake City, didn’t know, nothing about Andy Warhol, and he would say to me, well you won the Coty award in 1958, didn’t you, and I’m like, yeah, I think so (laugh), but I have no idea.
Then I read the brochure and yeah, he read the brochure too. That’s what it’s all about. Read the damn brochure and you’ll know everything. That’s all it is.
You have to keep up with our studies. I was a very bad student of Andy Warhol’s the worst student of Andy Warhol that ever was because I was a bad student to begin with. But of his particular art and work, do you know? I was happy for him, but I wasn’t happy for me. It was like, hey, good for him, this little boy that was probably unattractive to everybody in his school, in Pittsburgh. I grew up in south Jersey, so I know what people are like. And he probably was really tortured, and now he’s back being in the limelight, and he’s got great people around him, fine, but it’s not what I want.
What if Andy were alive today?
I have to think, he would probably just be here, like every other rich person, staying here and there, you know. He wasn’t so different from every other rich person. Substance is the word. There’s only so much you can do if you’re that rich, and that famous. You definitely can’t go and hang out in Rome by yourself. You can’t go to Haight Ashbury, you can’t do anything that I do. It’s impossible, you know, when you’re famous.