The Mary Woronov Interview
From the Factory People Notebook
Photos by Billy Name of Mary Woronov from Andy Warhol's "Chelsea Girls"
Mary, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
"Mary Woronov , born in Florida, lived 30 years in New York, 30 years in LA. I like LA better. I am a writer. I have written 7 books. I have always painted, but I have now sort of understood that everybody has always painted."
Mary Woronov in "Andy Warhol's Factory People"
You’re a “cult queen”….?
"And I am a cult star. I am a cult star because when I was with Warhol in New York, I was probably the only person there who was also a very good, who was an actress, and thought she was going to be an actress not just a star.
So I did theatre when I was there and the theatre that I did was with a genius director who is responsible for my cult star status, his name was John Vaccarro, and he was at the theatre of the ridiculous not to be confused with “the ridiculous theatre” or whatever it was.
I came to Hollywood, and of course I can’t get a job because I am a camp actress. I am a really good camp actress so you know, like let me explain camp. For me when I use the word camp it is like there is a “personality actress” like John Wayne, and there is the real actor. You know like Paul Newman who’s a studio actor like he becomes the part.The camp actor, doesn’t become the part it’s like a transvestite. A transvestite is a guy. He can’t become a woman but what he does is he acts like a woman and his acting is commenting on the woman, commenting on what a woman is like, so that is the kind of actress I am.
I’ve got very, very strange roles because of it, “Eating Raul”, where I was a mass murderer, or “Rock n’ Roll High School” where I was, you know, this ageing, viciously unsexual school principal. I got a following because I am a good little camp actress, and so now I am a cult queen as you would put it."
You were you acting in college?
Yeah, I did, I did this play. It was fabulous. It’s “The Chairs” by what’s that Spanish guy? I think it is Lorca but I am not sure. But anyway, I was orator I came in and could not talk.
I was supposed to give a speech and I couldn’t talk because I am deaf. And the reason why I got the part is because they put a beard on me, and the guy said that when I had the beard I looked just like Jesus Christ, and he was just thrilled with me. But this was like the beginning, no this wasn’t the beginning. The beginning was in High School you see, we always put up a play.
I went to Catholic Institute for young women of Brooklyn, it is very, very …. And there was a play every year and because it was an all girls’ school I always played boys parts except for that one time where I played a monster. And then I get to Cornell and once again I have a beard and I am playing a guy so…
How was your acting in Warhol’s movies?
It is sort of interesting because when I was with Warhol, when you go to a scene, you always look for a niche that has got to be a little different. Then the rest of the girls with Warhol…and my niche was not to be this tuned, you known just fabulous star who is just teetering on the border of, you know death, which was mostly Edie Sedgwick and a couple of others. No mine was different, I did not want to be feminine.
I was, I acted like a guy. I was masculine and I fitted really well with all the guys who were being very, very, feminine. I was a their counter part I opened the door for them, I made love to them with my eyes.
Like a balance?
I am into balance, balance is good, and so that was the reason why Warhol used me in the movies so much because I was the counter part always. I played in the “Conquest of the Universe”, the conqueror of the universe…more masculine roles; but I kept getting good at it. And the reason why my masculine roles worked so well was because sitting on the stage was this gorgeous girl. Obviously I am not a guy, and it is very sexy because of gender slipping, it is attractive in a way that people do not explore, and so they are very attracted to it. When you were with Warhol it was sort of like a circus thing, you had to think of something to be effective, so that was my thing.
Let’s go back to the Cornell days, what was life like at Cornell really? Cornell was fun?
Well when I started at Cornell it was about party-time; when I left Cornell it was, you know, serious anti-government action. Cornell matured while I was there, it over matured. I have friends who are dead because of it. For me Cornell wasn’t political because I wasn’t political, sorry to say. I went to an all girl’s high school so Cornell was basically about boys. It was also about drugs because I never drank or did drugs in High school as most of the people do now.
I never did drugs or drank in my home or during high school, I didn’t do anything. Well that is not true, and no it is true I guess. I didn’t do anything in high school, but my mum was on amphetamines and, because I don’t know, because she didn’t party good enough for dad or whatever, and I would come back home from Cornel, and take back bottles of 100 amphetamine tablets from her; and so I had a pretty good habit. But I did not realise it was a habit until I got to Cornell, and I could sell those bottles. What were we talking about? Oh Cornell. Cornell lets see….
I was an art student and I was kind of good, I wasn’t really interested in, in anything that had to do with what school was about. I just could care less. I had learned everything I needed to know in high school, you know. I had 4 years of Latin. I had read every book in the world, school was something else for me, I don’t know what it was, that was why I did not finish.
I hung out with people that I could not get my hands on when I was at home, you know. People who were exciting, you know, basically the dregs of the earth, boys who were flunking, other boys who were dealing, you know, a couple of other boys that weren’t even in school , you know they were cute, they were hot. Oh and I had a really good friend, Susan Rothenberg and I had fun with her.
How did you meet Gerard Malanga?
Gerard picked me up at Cornel because, he came up to read poetry because he was a poet, you know. I couldn’t care less about poetry, but Gerard was insanity! Gerard had long blond hair, a necklace around his neck, and he was all dressed meticulously in black. He was like a little cat or something, and I was there because, you know, I was hanging with this really raunchy drug addict group with Danny Cassidy, and David Murray who was not even in school, but these were the poets. They were all poets, so, you know, I was there to get the poetry or whatever, and there was Gerard.
Why do you think Gerard was attracted to you?
Gerard took one look at me and just latched on to me. And the reason why, I now think, before I thought, you know, it was because I was so cute. I think the reason why was because Gerard seriously knew Warhol was going into movies, he had been with Warhol way before movies and he wanted to be the male lead in the movies and he realised that he needed a counter part a female and I was it.
We, he was scouting or whatever, and the second time I saw him he had a little Bolex camera and he did a movie! Mary crossing the bridge or whatever. I thought it was hot, and you know I got even hotter, you know, while he did his little films of me, I liked it. So that was why I left Cornell.
Before you got to New York, before you got to that Factory party thing, Gerard was out there hanging out with you at Cornell?
Yes, he came back for me, he came back to give a bag of weird soap, scented stuff. I don’t know, he was kind of “hippie”, I knew nothing about hippies. I came straight from this boarding school atmosphere, my friends were serious drug takers and alcoholics, but I was not allowed to do any of that, nor did I; and then Gerard showed up, you know, incense coming out of his ears, and I thought maybe we were dating but we were not fucking, you know, so I don’t even know why he was there, but then he started making movies of me and, I liked it.
Was he taking the movies back and showing them to Andy, you think?
I do not know what he did with them. I had no idea, maybe he was thinking of doing his own movie.
How did you first get to the Factory?
It was not because of Gerard, it was because, Cornell had sent, Cornell had this program where everybody had to go and live at artist studios, and we saw Rauschenberg’s studio was all white and everything, and then we saw the Warhol studio, the Silver Factory, when Warhol wasn’t there. The place was black and silver and nobody paid any attention to us.
I could not see any art anywhere, nor did I care; and Gerard came out of the mist and said “Oh Mary!” you know, and I said “Yeah! Wow! Gerard cool!”, and then we sat down in this tacky little dirty couch and he said, “You should stay because we are doing screen tests, and you should do a screen test…this will be the beginning of movies for you!” He didn’t say you and me. It’s interesting he never said that. I didn’t find out until later, he was so secretive in a way, it was weird so I did what I could. Whatever he said, I did.
So you started a relationship with Gerard?
I did that little, you know, thing and Gerard was like, you now, lets go here and lets go there and we sort of hung out; but he had no place. I never saw an apartment that he had or something like that, and as I say we weren’t, you know, he was very attractive, but it was more like we were brother and sister. I mean he would put his hands all over me, but, you know, but it wasn’t like, he never came on to me. It was like brother and sister all the time, but he himself is like a very sexual cat, very sexy, so I liked it. He also made movies with me through the Warhol system, so that I had a place.
How did things change with Gerard…?
But then what happened, (was) Andy started using me and not him. By that time, I knew several of these, you know I called them fags, and with love ok; so I knew a couple of these fags and we just got along fabulous. I was way beyond Gerard by that time. I was like Mary, and it was like it was a game with me and Andy, so he matched us all the time on screen, there was no other girl he did that with.
And I mean, other people liked me. Ronnie (Tavel) liked me immediately, because once again I had a sense of humour that, you know. I was completely queer on my sense of humour. I did not realised it at the time, so they just loved me, and they wrote for me. He wrote plays for me, you know, so even Warhol sensed that I was an actress to be used and used.
When you did that screen test, Andy was there?
Yeah there, all the way over there. Gerard said, “You do a screen test and Paul Morrissey…, and they put me on a stool. And then Paul, arranges, no he didn’t arrange, the cameras were already there, but he fixes the camera, and then they walk away, and I am immediately paranoid, and I think well this is funny there is no film in the camera, they are playing a joke on me. So I go OK should I, you know, show them what’s what; get up and walk away? But maybe there is film and so if there is film then, because I had seen someone else film, I saw Salvador Dali film, which was really funny because he stroked this pose, but he couldn’t hold it, you know, so it started to crack, you know like this, it was really a riot.
You mean, you did a screen test for Dali?
Who also did that? Ultraviolet did that to?
Yeah, yeah, the tongue! Yeahhh, she had the longest tongue in the world it and it was tilted at the end, it was amazing. And everyone was like “Stick out your tongue, stick out your tongue!”.
So everyone was always having “fun”?
Well I do not know about that, no, no, no back up back up. We were having, I wouldn’t call it fun, I mean most of the time what we did was wait for something. I do not know what, you know, it was like, “Are we going here? I don’t know, Are we going there? Well where is Warhol going? Well I don’t know, well we will sit around and wait, but so and so left yeah and so and so, well lets make a film about a telephone call.”. I mean it was nuts, it wasn’t fun, I mean no one was having fun, it was really very tedious.
Take me back to that time where you were doing the screen test with Salvador Dali and Ultraviolet, do you remember that day at all?
I remember watching a movie with Dali, and Gerard, Gerard was very close to him, you know. Gerard had a way with people you know, so if I was next to him they were talking to me.
I remember when Salvador cracked it was very interesting because later we saw the screen tests, we used to play a game with these screen tests, we would judge them because, for us we considered it a test of whether someone has a soul or not. And if they look at the camera and nothing comes thru, then they are soulless and they get a 10, and then otherwise they get a 1 or whatever.
It was really, it was kind of insane, but I mean the guys that hung around, that hung around Warhol, Ondine, Billy Name, these were really, really intelligent and gay people, and they were not allowed to be gay and they were terribly repressed, and they ended up being just screaming lunatics, but really smart and really funny. I was attracted to them desperately.
Gerard didn’t like them, he was like no, no, no, it was ruin for his image or something. He just did not like that kind of play with words, but I did. So I was always with these people, you know, shouting and screaming and being mean and sort of nasty.
Why did Andy do the screen tests?
But I think for Warhol the screen test was not….I believe that Warhol was afraid of people. And he invented the screen tests, Paul Marcy thought we were actually screening for, you know, actors, but that wasn’t true. With Warhol what it was, was because he loved to have the screen test of Nico behind him all the time. So what it was for this guy who is like afraid of people to finally have this person sitting in front of him looking at him, but it wasn’t the person it was just the film of the person and he would become close.
Whereas with real people he couldn’t achieve that so he was actually sexually fanta…sexually fascinated because, what happens when an artist actually makes art, they are sexually fascinated with something. And that is why the screen tests kept on happening, it was something entirely different. We used to watch them and we would be all bored out of our minds, and he was like HUMMMMMMM, Hummmmmm. LAUGHS…!!!
The first Warhol film that you did, do you remember the first one that you did?
Well I do not remember the name because we did not know the titles then, but I think it was “Milk” or something, but all of the sudden ….they shipped in this insane lunatic Puerto Rican, who spent 19 hours putting, you know; on someone elses face on his face, you know, Mario Montes, and I sat around bored out of my box. And when the camera went on, I was still bored out of my box, and he walked across…he’s tittering like this and he handed me some milk that I drank or I did not drink. I think I couldn’t drink it. But that is a very vague, vague memory, the only thing I really remember. I don’t remember filming really, I remember Mario putting his make up on. It was nuts, the only person to top that was Jack Smith, this insane, detailed, you know, glamorizing, this really ugly face. It’s just a total Jack Smith, and I think he is from JACK SMITH. I don’t know, I think Jack Smith found him and then Warhol used him.
He was from Jonas Mekas too, I think….
Probably, this is only my thinking but I wasn’t around. I was around when he was doing it so I considered him a genius, but I really, you know, doing all these interviews and everything I have talked with other people and I think a lot of it was Jack Smith, and you know, maybe Warhol perfected it but I think Jack Smith fathered it. Jack Smith was nuts, quite nuts
Did you ever did any films with Jack Smith?
I was supposed to do a film with him, Ondine and I. Ondine said, “You have to do this film. This is Jack Smith!”. And I am like HUMM, and once again I do not know what I am doing, but ONDINE was the other person who scootered me around. And this man was brilliant, not like Gerard, Gerard was instinctive, you know, he runs on instinct. Ondine was brilliant.
I mean, just brilliant, and very, in a way more and in another way more, he is always a combination. So anyway we go to do this warehouse or something, and we arrive and of course the waiting starts, its always the waiting, the waiting, but waiting for Jack Smith can take all your life, I mean Jack Smith is like, slow. So we waited, I think we waited, I don’t know, we had drugs so we could never keep track of the time and we waited and waited and then we came across these other people and they are actually cooking their dinner and we said well how long have you been here, and they said two days, so that is when we left.
What’s the first movie with Warhol that you actually remember?
The next movie that I did with Warhol, that I do remember the filming of and probably the real first movie I did, I think that it is what is called “The Shoplifting of Edie Lamarthe”, or something like that. So this was with Ronnie Tavell, and actually Ronnie Tavell actually wrote this script. It was very weird seeing him standing with the script like this. He is very intense you know, always like this, intense, intense; and he looks like a little boy with a little hat on. But he is so intense, so intense he can’t even see what we were or anything, just to intense, so we started filming and you know, I don’t really care what the script is because there is Mario and that is my prey that is all I know. I am lethal. I am quite tall, so I shoot my prey, and I am the police and she is the kleptomaniac. And so it goes really well, she looks at me and I bend her fucking arm, and she looks at me even more, so when, you know, so and, Warhol looks up and goes “There is still film in the camera…”, so Ronnie is hysterical. He did not know what t do so he runs up and he goes ARHHHHH, hufffff; ughhh, and dies.
He mimes taking poison and dies, on the floor and he doesn’t know how much film there is in the camera, and so he does this elaborate thing on the floor, flapping around like a fish and finally he is dead. And then Warhol looks at him and goe there is still more of it in the camera. So he does it again. And that is the end because he immediately takes the film out of the camera the minute they cut, there as no such thing as cut.
But this did not particularly strike you as “acting”… acting?
What I did was acting. I mean I am not in the habit of going up to some, you know, insane, Puerto Rican and grab him by the arm, and like pinning him. I did though, and I did it right because that was what I was supposed to do. And that is what they all wanted, there were occasions were I didn’t do right, one was when they started setting things up for me, like you know, ok, in bedroom, and he was this fat man and OK Mary, come on get on the bed with him you know ,and you know I said no! I mean I got on the bed with him but nothing happened. I would not be pushed around like that or set up or just turned on like they turned Ingrid on, or something like they either give me, you know, something intelligent or I do not do it.
And then Gerard you know, desperate because he is getting, he is never on the films, he suddenly corners Warhol and he says you know, this is in the McClure play and Mary and I are doing it and you know, you are going to film it, and I do not know what he ever did to get it but you know, we filmed that and of course that was never seen, because McClure told him that he could never do it.
So Gerard didn’t even clear the rights to go ahead and…?
No, he never knew anything like that. I mean business is beyond Gerard. No he didn’t think, he’s an instinctive guy. He is not a thinker, and he got trapped a lot
Was Billy around as well when you were there?
Of course, Billy was typically, well first of all he was dressed in aviator glasses, and he was very thin, and very lethal looking, but very gorgeous. And he would be in the back, the back, you know, like the shadow land. Billy was another intense person, viciously intense, like you know, it had to be that way or alright if you know another way we will do that too. He was on speed. Umm, when I met him my idea of Billy was that he had power. He was interesting, I didn’t understand it at first, but then I saw him throw Ivy Nicholson out. I knew he had power, he had power to throw someone out of the Factory which is amazing because people wanted into the Factory.
Why did Billy throw Ivy out?
The reason why he threw Ivy out is because she wanted to marry Andy. She is very good looking, you know, this Egyptian kind of hair and thing and of course she wanted to be close to Andy. Everyone was really bored with her, and in order to remain close to Andy, and she knew she was going to be thrown out, so she took a dump behind the couch so that a part of her would remain with Andy. This infuriated everybody and so BANG, Billy just literally threw her out. You know there was an elevator at the time and she was in the elevator, went down, and when the elevator came up, and there was another turd.
Ivy was nuts, nuts, but anyway Billy was that kind of power he could throw someone out.
More about Billy?
He was also someone that you trusted, you could trust him with anything, it was bizarre, it was like he had a higher calling, he was the general, you know. The Emperor could be mad all the time, but the general knew what was going on all the time. But he started cracking too, I remember going there with Warhol, no not Warhol. I never went anywhere with Warhol, we just kind of formed a line and followed him, but I remember going there with Ondine and it was to take Billy books because he had holled himself up in the wall, and Ondine would take him Madame Lubousky, and some kind of Egyptian book.
Well it is really interesting from my perspective in getting to know, both Gerard and Billy very well, never knowing Ondine, because Odine is dead, and listening to people like Victor kind of sort of explaining the period, and what was going on, but the reactions like, you know, this guy Ondine must have been very fascinating because there is little written about him and people who have talked about him said, examples of what Ondine did or how Ondine behaved. Can you give me some Ondine?
Ondine was a great actor, probably the best camp actor I know. Ondine was capable of… I mean he did not bother to have a camera or stage, I mean when he wanted to act he did. He could do it in the middle of Max’s, or he could do it somewhere else. I once did a play with Ondine, it was interesting John Vacarro directed it. He could decide weather it was about, you know, this place that had an MC and the MC was a very lethal object in the place and he didn’t know if he was going to use me or Ondine, and so he used both of us! What happened was that Ondine would say something obviously being gay but also looking very, very masculine and powerful, and a minute afterwards, I would say the same thing, obviously being feminine but acting very masculine, and it was just a weird compliment thing that always happens and from that moment on Ondine and I were like this, we were very, very good friends not lovers, but really good friends.
Ondine, I would say was one people with morals. That was the first thing, that his morality was not the taught morality, he invariably picked up the right side, or the right thing or the right whatever. Lots of people were afraid of Ondine, because it wasn’t that he was stronger than anybody or things like that, but once he has decided something, or once he felt something there was no limit, he did not see any limits. So when he was angry at you it was like suddenly all the walls fall away and there is absolutely no limits, to the destruction that he is capable of, and yet I have never seen him hurt anyone, it was really quite frightening. Once he slapped Rona; I don’t know, he was probably, of everybody there (in the Factory), the most gentlemanly.
Talking about this trio is very interesting, and I think from what I know Billy, Billy had this vision of control of making sure….?
He (Billy) was a control freak. And Ondine was not a control freak. And Gerard is more or less in the system of getting things done, getting things done is Gerard’s concern or whatever.
Gerard wasn’t necessary, Gerard was more necessary In a different way, Gerard was Gerard. He moves on a sexual level that’s truth. That was his place. He was responsible for bringing girls in……
Andy was not a sexual object for me. I could not understand his sexuality at all. I mean he had many, many lovers in the beginning, when he was an advertising guy. Fag advertising guy with a lot of lovers. And then I remember that he seemed to have none. I know that he and Gerard played games, and he was into torturing Gerard, like he would say, “We all have plane tickets to go home but you don’t have one.”. And I know that Gerard would get hurt. For some reason he would keep Gerard powerless, like why didn’t he use him in the movies more. I don’t think knows.
But there were other people….
Warhol did not want me, he said, you know, don’t don’t go with Brigid, and he would say the same thing about Ondine, but it wasn’t because Ondine was evil, it was because he was fearless and he would get in these situations that were bad and um he would never be careful, he would not hold back. As a matter of fact he would laugh and make it worse…he was very scary you know. I saw him at Max’s. He was talking to this person and the person was getting more and more nervous, he ordered salad and he started mixing the salad, you know with his hands and laughing and all of a sudden the person is panicking and sweating, and then all of a sudden he takes the salad bowl and puts it on his head. This is really funny and in most places you would laugh, this guy was shrieking in terror and there’s something about the way Ondine did it. It was like, “I show madness and you’ll never fucking recover.”. And he could, so it was very insane.
Was this something that fascinated Andy, you think?
Totally fascinated all of us. Everybody was in love with Ondine, not just me. Billy. Gerard was not! Gerard was very self protective like a cat with its nest. Ondine didn’t care, it’s scary when someone doesn’t care…and he didn’t care about himself either. I mean he’d be walking around you know, with no clothes. I mean he would have clothes, but you know like, it’s raining, he didn’t have a hat.
What did Andy need Ondine for?
Andy put him in the movies, also what did Andy need all of those people for?
What Andy needed all of those people for is that Andy is not stupid. He knows that out of chaos come art. He needed those people because they didn’t think like in a box like my dad and my mom; they thought way off the map, and the further off the map you have people thinking around you, the more artistic you can be, cause it’s not real and it’s not bound and tied up and that’s why we’re all there. Well that and drugs. But you know Billy was all responsible. First they all met in some café somewhere this is way before me, and then Billy brought them into the Factory and It became the place where they met…but I came much later.
And Brigid was there because she gossiped with Andy. They could talk forever about a fucking hangnail, or about you know, and Andy was a tremendous Star Fucker. I mean you know…and she would talk forever about that. Ondine, the only star he ever cared about was Maria Callas and that was it. He really thought the rest of it was bunk. It’s also that heightened thing, of heightened living, you know, that everything should be intense! Nobody liked it calm, everybody liked it INTENSE!
Can you describe typical Factory party night?
I never saw a party there. I mean a party is where you have cocktails, a hostess saying how do you do, and people dance some of the time. I never saw a party there it was this weird “holding tank” where people came in and other people were excited by them, deciding to eat them alive or not, er…that’s all. It was always a battle about who could come in and who couldn’t come in…the only vague kind of parties was where Andy would show his movies…you knew Henry G. and other people would be there, kind of uptight, not really having a good time and Warhol wouldn’t really give a shit. He would just show them the movies anyway cuz he loved them so much.
Were you there for a lot of that?
No, when those people were seeing the movies, I wasn’t really around. Um, I was basically with my set. I have a funny thing, I don’t like to go where I’m not really invited, so I was never pushy and if somebody didn’t ask me or go with me, and say, “Look, we’re going, come.”, I didn’t go. It was only when we went to LA that I understood I had a role and had a place, and as a matter of fact ha ha…Gerard wanted me to stay with him in his bed!
I went to my father before we went to LA I said, “Look dad I’m GOING!”, umm my mother, who is a complete insane woman said YES she can go! And dad didn’t think I should go with a bunch of flying freaks, so he went all the way down there to Warhol and knocked on the door and said , “Excuse me, I’m Dr. Warnov, and my daughter is going to go and YOU’RE responsible.”, he did the man thing to do. So Warhol was like kind of touchy, and he said that when we got there you know there’s this big thing and like some people will stay in a motel and other people will stay in a castle, blah blah…so Andy said this to me and this was all to torture Gerard. He said, “Mary, don’t you want to go with us to the castle?” , and I thought hmm, castle, YES! And so I said yes, and Gerard said, “NO she’s staying with me in the motel.”, mainly because that’s where all of the fun was going to happen. I would be completely marooned in the castle with the rest of the drips, but you know, I didn’t know that.
So he just managed to separate Gerard and I, and the separation was very lethal, because we became less friends because of it, because he knew what he was doing. I didn’t because I’m always floating around you know. I was young. But in the end, it was interesting. He made sure that I was at the castle sleeping with Maureen the drummer, who was completely petrified of me. She wouldn’t take any of her clothes off for a whole week. She slept in her clothes because she thought I was queer. Umm…She could keep her clothes on for all I care.
The Factory screenings….?
When I was there, it was like a fucking fish tank. It was free bait time. People did get really nasty there. Other times, it was really fun other times.
Out with Andy for the evening…?
The parties, he (Andy) did go to, now those I was asked to come to. There was a while there when he wanted me with him all of the time and we would go to these parties,
Once we went to Philadelphia and played somewhere and then W said, “Now there’s a party you’ll all go.”. The velvets would dress in Black with their black goggles on and I would dress in black with my black goggles, and Gerard would be out there with his blond hair. You know he would never wear his sunglasses, and umm we would arrive at these people’s houses looking like the death crew and they would be completely very, very rich, and they would say “Oh fabulous look at them they are freaks, oh wow!”…and I would of course eat myself sick cuz I was always hungry. So it was just stupefying the whole thing was just stupid. I never really met anybody.
What about Viva?
Vivia was different, because if you hear Viva talk she mentions everybody’s name, phone number, serial number. “Oh, remember when we went to France, and we slept in the blah blah and the whole blah blah, and we went on so and so’s plane?”. So obviously I just didn’t handle it right. (laughs) Because I think she was a different story so maybe its just different for me. Maybe I missed all of the parties. Maybe I didn’t want to go to them. I wasn’t into parties. I never have been.
What about Edie?
Edie, she was the golden girl when I went there. I saw her demise, or her self-ejection from the Factory which is not something Warhol wanted.
Edie to me was this very beautiful girl who understood her role just like I understood mine, cuz I don’t think she was stupid. She understood that her role was being attractive; that’s any girl’s role, only her attraction was fabulous, rich, beautiful, about to go out the window.
I mean that was her attraction and she played it to the hilt. She finally, she offed herself.
I don’t know. She definitely just had more…I mean she never understood what was really going on, and made the most of it for herself. She seemed to self-destruct all the time, so I have to think that self-destruction was part of her attraction and she embraced it.
What about Ondine on that level?
Ondine did pretty much the same thing, only I don’t think he thought of it as his attraction.
He was attracted to IT! So Edie for me was something not to go near to. I was not interested in that. I was interested in survival. I was into, already being an actress, and I was not interested in competing with her for Miss Self-Destruct mode. I don’t think I said three words to her.
Nico was so gorgeous that people would just drop dead. She was just incredibly gorgeous. People, they just ummm, not something you want to be around if you’re me. And I’d make sure I wasn’t around her. As far as her personality, she was nuts. She was vicious, she wasn’t vicious, she was stupid I think, very, very dog like about her “bone”. Like she wanted to be a chanteuse, you know, Elieen Ford is like dieing for her to just stand still for one second so that she can get a polaroid of her and sell it for a million dollars! NO. “No, I want to be a singer.” Oh she was just moronic in this way. Also she was, she wasn’t self-destructive, she was destructive. She knifed someone. You know she had prejudices, that I didn’t understand because they didn’t seem to do her any good. But everybody forgave everything because she was GORGEOUS. Paul Morrissey he would just go ahhh. He would do anything. It was nuts. I thought she was OK you know, but I didn’t want to be around her.
Your Velvets experience?
I liked Lou and Lou liked me. He would like collect bizarre things in his head. Like once I remember he stayed up all night telling me about this guy who operated with his hands, you know those people who pretend to pull stones out of your body? I mean he was just sooo, and then he would play music sometimes like I would hear the beginnings of songs. But we just got along.
John Cale, I’m friends with him now, but then he was violent. He’s well you know he’s Irish, and he’s got this insane maybe it’s when he drinks, but he was bigger than me and too scarey that’s all. He was funny, (laughs).Really funny. When he was in a good mood he was very funny.
Sterling was you average rock ‘n roller, Maureen was, she wasn’t supposed to be there and she was, kind of sweet. I liked band life…and I thought what they were doing was great. I loved their songs.
How did LA react to Andy and the Velvets?
He went to LA. They turned him down. They turned the band down too. LA is the capital of Bands not NY. Maybe Dylan comes from NY, I mean Jim Morrison, all of those people were there. Everybody plays there, and when we went there they HATED us, saying the Velvet Underground should go underground and remain there, never to be dug up, but umm it was, and we hated them because it was like a big dichotomy. In NY you were intelligent, in LA…they knew three words, wow..wow…and wow. I mean they were moronically stupid in LA, this is what we thought. They took acid, we took only amphetamine. We never touched acid, heroin, fine but acid…you had to be lame in the brain, they walked around without shoes, they had feathers, colourful clothing, sex fests, fucked all the time. We were into S&M…something like a little twisted maybe. We didn’t even fuck, it was just twisted that’s all. But they were like ANIMALS (sounds) So it was very, very different and also when we went there it was the Mothers of Invention who were playing, and they were like the enemy of us, they really were. And we had a little side show you know, lift weights, play with the whip, wore leather, we had this show going on and then suddenly we went to SF and suddenly the Mothers of Invention had all these girls dancing and Lou was so pissed off. He was really really angry. They weren’t like us. We were the choregraphed, insanely, it was choregraphed in Gerard’s and in my mind because we knew what we were doing; but they just sort of had these girls. Their whole act was messy, messey, messey.
What aobut the stage thing with you and Gerard?
I was a good dancer. He was a good dancer. But it wasn’t the dancing for him. I mean I was like this thing, you put on music I dance. I didn’t care where. It was just so wonderful to dance. You didn’t have to think anymore, it was the only thing that shut my mind up. I would dance all night. Until you took the record off. So I danced in the pit with everybody else. People would stop and watch me dance, it wasn’t freaky or anything it was just really good dancing. Gerard put us on stage. Gerard wanted to be on stage. Gerard wanted to be part of things, he knew he had to be part of things…Movies were not working out, so he made this whole thing, like I said, he bought me the pants, the whip, had the lights, first strobe, barbells, you know. We were in Anaheim or some place like that, and you know they were playing “Heroin” and I’m like dancing cool, and Gerard whips out this gigantic neon needle! I couldn’t believe it! It was funny but also fabulous. And then this poor guy got sooo exited he ran onto the floor and shot-up! Right in front. That was it, the cops came we had to leave. Gerard liked to be watched, he’s like a cat, he purrs.
Who said what about your dancing?
No, They never said anything. Paul Morissey never said anything, it was completely Gerard. Gerard forced his way on stage, and once I started dancing I went yeah right. When the Velvets played at the Cheetah, Gerard just pushed everybody off the little thing, and we danced and we got in the paper. Gerard’s pushy like that, but also we were good , what we thought up and when you’re good who’s gonna mind, the Velvets didn’t mind. So there were three things going on stage : The Velvets, for all they cared, just turn around and watch the wall, and then there was Nico who came off and on , and she was never considered part of the band, she was like an instrument they used, and she dressed in white as opposed to black. And in front, was Gerard and me. But it wasn’t just dancing. It was illustrating what the song was about which is why I guess they liked it.
Let’s talk about some more movies…
(VIVA) She was after me.Didn’t really have much to do with her. What happened to me is that I had a fight with Paul Morrissey. He wanted me to sign a release and I didn’t want to sign it…release for what…well there’s a book coming out you have to sign it, otherwise we won’t get the book out. I said well you know this is a group project, I don’t have to sign away unless you want to pay me. And I know you don’t , so I’m not signing. Umm, so Warhol was very VERY angry, and uhh, I stopped going to the Factory.
BUT I didn’t stop seeing Ondine and all of those people and going to Max’s and things like that so there was a long section where I was not at the Factory, but I was involved with all of the troupe of Ondine and everything , and plus I was doing plays.
Tell me about “Chelsea Girls”….?
“Chelsea Girls” was Ronnie Tavel again, Ronnie and Gerard. It was early in my career uh, Ronnie Tavel wrote a script that had Tokyo Rose in it, he wanted me to play Tokyo Rose. I had done many Ronnie Tavel plays, the best was Kitchenette which was really well received, so he wanted me to do this to play this part in this movie, um and uh, I think that’s why Warhol asked me to play it. I know that the other part that I played was with Marie Menkin and that was withGerard, and Gerard was the one who got me into that.
“Chelsea Girls” was just really funny cuz I was feeling good by then , I just sort of knew my place. I knew I was wanted, and I did what I wanted cuz there was no structure. Warhol did not direct, uh, I knew the script, nobody else knew it. They didn t bother reading the script. I mean these girls were so stupid. But I knew it backwards and forwards. Um, I had a sense of you know what should happen. And I was pretty strong at making it happen. But you know something like Ingrid, that was the idea of tying her up and outing her around the desk because she was unreliable and stupid. But that was her thing, you knew she was invented as a dark mirror to Edie. She looks like Edie. Edie’s rich, she’s poor, Edie’s classy, she’s trashy. So she was always encouraged to bark up and say stupid things. And disrupt things and I didn’t want her around. I didn’t like saying hi to her. For the first part of my famous scene with “Chelsea Girls” we tried to tie her up nad put her under a desk, which I was part of.
I thought that was a good idea. Ha ha. Um
Then the next thing was International Velvet, Susan Bottomley. So Susan you know is gonna be a model , this is her big thing, she’s gonna be a model, and I don’t even think she thought about acting , this is a woman you know with ninety-two thousand eyelashes. She could barely open her eyes. She said to Andy, she said, “Listen, I’m gonna get this call, and we are gonna have to stop filming cuz we were in a bedroom in the Chelsea Hotel, and we have to stop filming so that I can get this call.”. And I just thought, you know, fuck you bitch . Umm so you know we’re attempting to do this movie where I only know the script, she doesn’t know what she’s doing and I was pissed off at her, and then the telephone rings, and I wouldn’t let her answer the phone and she flipped out, and when nobody backed her, nobody did anything, you know to stop the movie or anything, she left. And then of course, she wasn’t in the movie, she didn’t have the phone call. So she might as well be in the movie if she’s not gonna get the phone call. She came BACK you know, it’s like kind of really stupid , but that sort of heighted the scene and made it this sort of this S&M scene because you understand that this isn’t supposed to happen and yet it happens.
Meanwhile, I do things like this every night on the stage of “Conquest of the Universe” but here they think , maybe it’s not supposed to happen, well it wasn’t supposed to happen it’s called improv , relatively simple.
Umm and then there was this girl, I don’t know why she was there, I never saw her again, her name was Pepper. And I don’t understand girls like Pepper. I just I don’t know. So anyway she picked up the script and started to read My lines. And I started to repeat the lines to her. And I thought fine, you know, things are happening? And um, I know she did something, I forget what it was, but uhh, something about an ashtray and I told her not to do it , because I would move her around where she should be. And it was something that I said that didn’t sit well with her, anyway she threw this ashtray and it broke. And I said, “YOU pick that up!”. And so she takes off her socks and shoes and starts collecting the glass in her feet and I’m going Jesus, fuck…I don’t wanna do this but, uh, . You know so then Bottomly came back in and we sort of finished off in a lame kind of way. But the thing that I do is I sort of keep my cool thru the thing so I do look like this demon which I understand is my role . So it wasn’t complete disaster. I thought it was OK.
Your favourite film of Warhol?
(Chelsea Girls) It’s my favourite film because I get to watch Ondine slap Rona in the face. Just Brilliant. Ondine was so great at improv, much better than me, much much better. He was just really good. And yet when we did our film together, I just completely froze, I couldn’t believe it, that movie about Jack Kennedy, I played Jack Kennedy and he played I don’t know who, I froze.I don’t k,now, because I like him too much, because I was intimidated, maybe I don’t know. It’s just simple stage fright. It’s like the first time it ever happened. I hate watching that movie. It was funny
Let’s talk a little about the group project, “Chelsea Girls”, signing for Andy…?
He just wanted me to sign because he knew he didn’t have the rights to the movie. Chelsea Girls. He was lying , He needed me to sign off on Chelsea Girls so that he could own the movie. You have to sign a release. That’s what he wanted me to sign. Right, and my mother says okay my daughter didn’t sign the release, because I went and told Mom, you know. She got on the phone, “My daughter didn’t sign the release. You’re not getting the release, would you like to go to court or would you like to settle?”. So he settled and he gave me money. That’s why I knew he was mad at me, because he doesn’t like to give anyone money. That’s not true. He would give these crazy transvestites, you know, a hundred dollars once in a while, but me no. We weren’t paid. And that was part of my whole bit, you know. I wasn’t paid, but I was part of it. If I’m not part of it, then pay me. So part of it means that you trust me, and I won’t do anything bad. But I’m not going to be squashed out like that.
So, you know . Enough already with Warhol. You know, I’d done enough with him, it was a good thing to leave him. I mean you can’t stay there forever. These people. I went on to do that fucking Boom Boom Room in Lincoln Center and get the Theatre World Award. What, I’m supposed to stay with Warhol? It wasn’t that fascinating.
Now it’s fascinating. Then the only reason I stayed was Ondine. Ondine was an amazing person. You meet only abut two in your life.
Why do you think all of these people came together?
There were people like Billy who brought them together, but why did they stay together, the reason they stayed together is the same as like a party. You know if you meet someone at party that you’re getting along with, that you’re on the same wavelength, that’s taking the same drugs, talking to you about things you’re interested in, you stay with them. That’s why they stayed together.
There were things that we liked. I liked transvestites, I like gay people because they were just nuts. They satisfied something in me that was insanely rebellious, they were rebelling, they were not like gay people now, kind of fat and happy. They were angry, and so was I. So that’s why I stayed there. And nobody could be angrier than Ondine. The whole thing was rebellious.
The Velvet Underground, the songs were rebellious, the art was rebellious. So, you stayed there, but I believe after Warhol was shot, he was afraid, and he didn’t want to be so close to the irrationality and raw kind of insanity that he wanted to before, because he recognized, he just knew, it was different but now it was scary, and so he stepped away. When he stepped away he lost part of his power and he became the artist that he is.
He didn’t do any more movies. No, he stopped doing movies. Well, Paul helped him stop doing movies, because he took over. There was a really different set of values.I don’t find that interesting. But hey, you can only stay there for so long. Maybe he was tired of it. Without him we don’t exist., I mean Ondine still did plays with Vaccarro, but I moved on. Billy wasn’t into plays, I mean we all had a thing where you could do a lot of different things.
How would Billy and I be together without Warhol. There’s no way.
We stayed together a little longer because of his plays. But even that fell apart. Vacarro stopped doing plays.
This glue you’re describing that held it all together……
Warhol got scared. The setup at the downtown loft was totally different. I would certainly never go there. Brigid was the only one who liked it. No one else did. I don’t even know those people.
After the shooting it got less freaky. It got more corporate. There was something else, this weird, you know how New York looks for entertainment, and it’s like the bottom and the top came together. Like when we would do a play, suddenly there were a lot of mink coats in the audience. Why? It was like they were searching down, instead of just staying up where they normally are. We were the Pied Piper, taking them down as far as they’d like to go. (laugh) We were almost more powerful than they were. With all their money and everything. I’m always remembering,
VIVA had a lot more of this than I did, but these guys, these really well known famous guys that I never paid attention to, I wouldn’t even talk to them. But they would you know be around the Factory wanting, wanting what. I didn’t understand. Girls? I mean they could buy whatever they wanted. They didn’t understand, nobody understood it, but there was this tremendous wanting, it’s interesting, and it wasn’t just on a sexual level, because like I said, they could buy any kind of sex they wanted. It was like they were searching for the real thing. Reality of some kind. But it was a time when those kinds of people were upset because things were cracking in America.
New York is a very intellectual place. They feel those cracks far before the Midwest. The same with L.A. L.A. is very emotional though, they feel it emotionally. New York feels it sort of intellectually. But I don’t know, it’s hard for me to remember….Cornell was really upset at the time, Cornell became this open battleground. So did Kent State.
They, not only were they not political, but they would look on the situation of the VietNam War and things like that as you know, is it entertaining yet? Serious.
Andy would stay as far away as he could? Not political?
Unless it was interesting, you know. Unless it was entertaining, but he wasn’t connected to it in any way. It wasn’t like he, you know I don’t really know, I didn’t talk to him that much, but I know that nobody really cared about politics. Nobody really spoke about it.
There wasn’t any interest in Paul Morrissey’s camp..anti-war movies?
But they WERE fighting a war. The Stonewall. They, you know, gays were not allowed to be gay, and that war was, they understood that war. They had to, (laugh) they were gay. But politics no, and sometimes I don’t even think that it’s you know, for them, it was like well, “If I’m gay and I’m not part of the world, why should I be interested in politics?”.
And the other thing was like, everybody was supposed to be an artist, and artists don’t go fight battles, artists stay home and break ideas open, like little eggs on their canvas. And Warhol, what is the ultimate artist that was breaking down, well, I can’t get into this.
I don’t care for Pop Art. I mean when I was there I thought it was gold, I thought it was fabulous, and the reason why I thought it was fabulous was because it was a little game and I knew the answer. I knew what the silver pillows meant. Other people didn’t, they just paid fortunes for them. I mean there was this game.
Now that I think about it, what he did was he broke the barrier between commercialism and art, and who wants that barrier broken? Why? It’s sad. It’s like everything I didn’t want suddenly poured in and gave birth to conceptual art, which to me is a nightmare. I mean, art to me is something emotional, it is not logical, and people make art, you know, the concept. (laugh) So, what Warhol was doing was really revolutionary, but, it’s like the revolutionary corporation. I didn’t understand what was going on, I was just one of the little flies on the wall going , “Oh this is fabulous, oh wow! A soup can, hahahha.” I hate it now. But I’m I the minority.
Why do you think that Warhol’s movies never went anywhere?
Because they’re not entertaining enough. Once again, they are breaking barriers. What those movies did was to break barriers. Those movies were done in the time of the ‘50’s movies, where the sound was perfect, the makeup was perfect, this was a girl and that was a boy.
If he’s gay. Better not show it. You know, everything was like this solidified perfect fucking thing, and Warhol suddenly makes movies where the sound is shitty, he’s on a real location, maybe that’s a girl, maybe that’s a boy. Oh, my God, you know, there is no story, so we can’t follow anything. It was all about breaking things open, just like Pop Art was all about breaking things apart. And that’s why it was so amazingly interesting, because you just couldn’t believe your eyes. This isn’t supposed to happen. So if it’s breaking that stuff down, if it’s breaking that fifties stuff apart, suddenly you feel a release, because you can think of something different. Because once a movie attaches on you, it’s like religion, you can’t get away from it, it’s like (zzzz), but here he broke all those things. You were going Wow! And it was like Fabulous! But did it create anything No! No, it didn’t. Hence Paul Morrissey stepping in and trying to create something. Who knows?
Well the Velvets were like breaking things down too…right?
They created something though, he created, he had a voice, and he still exists, Lou.
I don’t think he was necessarily just breaking things, I think that he was recording things in a way that seemed right for him. The only time I really saw him breaking things was when he turned on all his instruments and left the stage, made that verve thing and that was in reaction to the Mothers of Invention in San Francisco. Otherwise he cared about his songs, and very very desperately. They were creations, they were entertaining, they were beyond entertaining, they were intelligent. He was very, very smart, his thinking. So it’s different
When you’re talking about breaking things down, was Andy an influence?
Everybody influenced everybody, and Lou was doing, he was doing different music than the normal music, yes. You know. It led to other things, that you know, other ways of building things, but I don’t think that Andy created a movie that I would choose to watch. He created a movie that freed you, that released you, that did all these other things that normally other movies don’t. I mean what he did was brilliant.
I could do anything I liked. I mean there was nothing to do. There was no…it was a blank page. But that’s a scary thing. Too much freedom. People want boundaries and fences and things. He came at a time when the fifties had such a boundary and such a fence that people were becoming strangled and they needed to have this broken. I mean breaking is just as good as building in a way, because you need both. Or they over-build. And it was fun, because it was very emotional. When I was in the movies. Even onstage, more so on stage, I would say, because on stage there is a boundary. Here is a stage. You can’t walk off it and come into my life. I’m a watcher. Ondine would do it all the time. What’s that performing group, the LIVING THEATRE.would do it all the time. “The Brig”. All these things were about breaking things. The Living Theatre didn’t create a play that’s gonna go down with Ibsen. What they did is they crossed the boundary of the stage all the time. They just happened, that’s what was happening in New York. It was just this breaking of this straw, and that’s why the gays liked it, ‘cause they also broke out. “I’m queer. It’s allowed.” So, we were very into what was going on. And pop art at that time you know, was certainly a break. Hi, you don’t need art. No, I’m too nasty I know.
Do you ever think the Silver Factory could happen again?
It would take a fifties mentality. It would take “jail of the mind”. And we’re verging on it.
See, I’m not that worried about us because I believe in the American people, I know a lot of them, and what happens is when it gets too strong, they correct it. I’m waiting for the correction to happen. Maybe it’s not gonna happen because the people who are too strong now are really, really, you know, the T.V. in there, telling them what to do, shopping you know, they’ve got a mindless, you, know, and so maybe it’s not gonna happen, maybe this is the death of us. But we tried. But usually this kind of art and this kind of movement happens when jail becomes too strong. It’s a Christian morality, you know. It’s not the fabulous Buddhist wheel. It’s struggle and failure, struggle and failure. It’s what we do.
Andy was a conduit. He really wasn’t interested in the things most people are interested in. He was an enabler and he was also a thief. You know, he was motion. I think that’s his main thing is motion. I mean he would sit there and I would say, oh wow she’s really great looking, and he would go, “No, ugly.” I mean okay, she’s really hideous, but beautiful, like that. You would say Hi! And he would go, hmn. I mean he was always the opposite. He loved opposites. It’s interesting to think the way he does. ‘Cause once again it’s releasing, you know. I’m sorry that he got scared. I was in Italy doing a movie when he got shot. And when I came back, nothing was the same. Even Ondine wasn’t the same.
So.The only thing interesting to me at this point is the way this thing keeps affecting me, because it doesn’t die. And so you know, in the beginning I didn’t know what it was, and then I loved it. And then, you know, I was rejected from it. I was sad, but it was a good rejection ‘cause I went on to the Mr. Warhol of the West Coast, Roger Corman.
Then, you know, I hated it, ‘cause I had this terrible thing about being an artist and not liking pop art, and you know I keep on going back and forth and back and forth, To me this is a good thing because it means that Warhol is still alive because it keeps on moving. I cannot nail it to the wall, and neither can you. It just keeps on moving, and I like that. It’s a good thing. That’s all.