The Victor Bockris Interview
From the Factory People Notebook
Who is Victor Bockris?
"I am a writer living in New York for the past 28 years, covering essentially the major iconic figures of the counter culture and the arts, the cultural changes of the last thirty years, and my central focuses have been the Warhol factory, the Beat Generation, reborn with the return of William Burroughs in 1974 after 25 years of exile, and the emergence of punk in the mid seventies that coincided with Burroughs return and Warhol’s come back from being shot, so there were an abundance of extraordinary things there, and I was right in the center of, and have been writing about."
How would you define the period of the Silver Factory?
"The Siver Factory definitely has periods. ‘ 63/64 is the beginning... ‘65/66 The middle.. ‘67/68 is the end of the Silver Factory.
One of the least known periods is that early period because it’s before he starts “Make Love”. He’s started to make films but it’s not known yet. He hasn’t made his impact yet...so he is still seen as an artist. Which, you know, means a more limited audience, a more limited press...so, in a sense those were quiet days.
There were some very beautiful photos of him and Gerard Malanga making the Brillo Boxes...where you see the whole room full of these boxes..and there is just the two of them..crawling around the floor and just doing bits and pieces. There was a lot of that.
There’s Gerard Malanga, Billy Name and Ondine...the three horsemen of the Silver Factory...who are “following Andy to hell”...to wherever he wanted to go. The body guard of Lawrence of Arabia. I always think...Lawrence of Arabia had this famous bodyguard... which consisted of 60 men who swore to die in protecting him. I always thought that people’s attitude at the Factory was sort of similar. There was an enormously and really quite wonderfully protective feeling towards Andy.
In the beginning you just have this little group. It made it very strong and very tight. They were going through Andy’s last great painting period. The Silver Factory opened in the April of 1964.That was the year they did the Brillo Box Show...and later that year, he painted the Flower Paintings and that was his last show of paintings on the wall.
Then, in 65, in Paris, he announced he was retiring from painting to make films. So that was another aspect of this early period. There was this very intriguing filming beginning-to happen. It hadn’t picked up a pace yet where they would make a film every two weeks. It was beginning to happen. Andy’s form of filming was essentially an interrogation. The film was like a sort of interrogation which goes along with everything else he was doing, in a way.
People would say that everything Andy did visually was based on photography. Which is true. Photography is the basis of his mentality almost. The actual photograph and everything. Equally, he was interested in recording voices, and he really had a very good sense of how to do that badly in films and how to do it very well in interviews and so on.
I would say that the Factory, from the moment it opened it’s doors was one of the most intelligent art communes in the world compared to the Bauhaus say, early on, or whatever earlier examples you have of that. It was on a very high-level think tank, a communal artistic gathering place."
Victor Bockris in "Andy Warhol's Factory People"
What were the origins of the Silver Factory?
"The Silver Factory phenomenon was born out of the roots of sort of what became the Gay Liberation Movement. You know, the gay liberation movement was born out of the Second World War when so many returning soldiers came home with different attitudes toward gay people because of some of the things that had happened in the battlefields.
So there was this unusual openness and change, and the gay culture in New York was so creative in the 1950s particularly; and so dominated really by gay people, gay influences, gay attitudes or intelligences. That the male groups that came out of the fifties, into the sixties, to become the trendsetters of the 60s. essentially the amphetamine heads, the Mole People, the amphetamine faggots, the people who Andy drew closest to at the Silver Factory at the beginning. Ondine, Billy Name, you know these people were coming out of a reaction to the 50s.
And then Andy himself had become a star in the 50’s within his own world, with the commercial art world. You know, magazines, entertainments, illustrations and so forth; and so there were very many aspects of different people coming from different levels of society coming together at the beginnings of the 60’s who had developed the personality of princes.
Because they were rich, they were healthy, they were young, good-looking, they were American, and they were having the best time in the world. I think Truman Capote said that, “Living in New York was like living inside an electric light bulb.”
In your opinion, did the Beat Generation have something to do with it?
"Right, there’s always been a lot of confusion about the relationships between the different entourages that dominated the 60’s, like Leary’s entourage, or Ginsberg’s entourage, or Rauchenberg’s entourage, or Warhol’s entourage, and Dylan’s. And a lot of them had to do with drugs and people’s attitudes toward drugs. So for example, some people would think that people who shot amphetamine were like inhuman reptiles who should not be allowed in the house, and other people would think that anybody who didn’t shoot amphetamine was a fool and shouldn’t be encountered. And then there were people who felt that heroin was a terrible thing, and so on and so on. And they formed sort of groups, and along with the extreme division between gay and straight men which still existed, of course, very strongly in those days, that really separated people a lot.
Now the Beat Generation were, in fact, very influential on Warhol. He had been influenced by the movie they made, ‘Pull My Daisy’, in ’59. He’d been in one of the recording sessions when Kerouac was laying down the sound track, and you know of course he’d read ‘Howl’ and ‘Naked Lunch’. And don’t forget that that was a very gay thing, the Beat generation at that point, apart from Kerouac, and uh, so these people were you know, you notice that rock stars tend not to hang out with other rock stars, but they tend to hang out within the center of their own walls, and this was a little bit like that, in a sense.
Allen Ginsberg used to go to the Silver Factory sometimes, to drop by to see if he could pick up some cute boys or something , but he just wasn’t their style, so he didn’t really fit in that well, although Andy did put him in that movie “The Fifty Most Beautiful People”. Andy was very supportive of those people, he was always very supportive of Allen. He loved Jack Kerouac, …always said very positive things about him. But I think the people around him didn’t think they were as cool as they (themselves) were."
What drove Andy to New York?
"There are so many different stories about that, and one of the most interesting ones is that his brother told me that Andy had seriously applied to a teaching college to become an art teacher, in high school, somewhere in the Midwest, like Ohio or something, and he’d gotten a rejection letter and been very upset. This is according to the brother, and Andy had said at that moment, “Well, that’s it then, I’m just going to go to New York.”
And there are a number of people who witnessed that Andy did talk a lot about wanting to be a teacher, which I think is very interesting, because Andy had the soul of a teacher, he was a guru, you know. And I think that the best and most sensitive experiences he had in his childhood were with his art teachers. I think he looked up to them and glamorized them, and thought, well, I could do that, and that would be a cool thing to do, a helpful thing to do. Well, I think it’s a lovely story, but a little bit of a fairy tale, because I’m sure that Andy had been planning to go to New York for a long time, like a bullet, and had in fact gone to New York the previous year in the summer of ‘48 with Paul Olstein, the guy he roomed with originally, and a bunch of other people from college, to check it out., to see if they could get jobs in magazines and things. And so, his coming to New York was the most important move he made, and he made it against his mother’s wishes, and against the wishes of his family in general…Am I answering these questions at too great a length?"
What was it like when Andy moved to New York?
"Well, he lived on St, Marks Place, in a fifth floor walk up apartment, although NY wasn’t anything like as scary a city as it’s become, because you have to remember that after the Second World War there was a period in America of sort of good feeling and there was a pretty pleasant atmosphere, and, he wasn’t afraid of New York.
There are people who say that Andy wasn’t afraid of anything, you know, and of course there are people who say he trembled with fear every second because he was so highly sensitive and highly strung, which indeed he was. And he did take rejection very hard, he would really get emotionally upset if he was rejected. For a job, or anything. But, he was, by the time he came to New York, being self-taught, and extremely hard worker, he worked many many hours a day and I don’t think he had any doubt at all that he would succeed in making a living within this world that he’d aimed at, the commercial art world."
Did Andy dream of becoming a great artist?
"In terms of the bigger aim, to become a great artist, which is clearly what he wanted to be when he came to New York, he obviously had a much more contentious relationship, because
it took him like ten or eleven years to become a great artist, and he did paint, quite a lot in the 50s. He destroyed all the paintings, as he went along, or later, before in the 60’s, but he was trying to paint, and he did some works that signaled what was to come. But for all sorts of reasons, I think Andy had a wonderful time in the 50’s after he got over the initial hard period of poverty when he was walking around with holes in his shoes and all that. I think by the mid 50’s he was having a ball, going out every night and living in this very highly charged world of sharp bright, funny people. Intelligent, good looking , glamorous…you know he was right in that. I think he had the most wonderful, I think you could write a whole book about Andy Warhol’s life in the 1950’s.in New York, it would be fascinating."
Where did Andy’s idea of the Silver Factory come from?
"I think it started in his mind when he had St. Vitus’s dance when he was six years old. And he created his first factory in his bedroom. In fact his mother moved his bed down into the dining room, so he would be in the center of the house, next to the kitchen where she would be cooking; and he had her running around getting materials for him. He was cutting out stuff, making collages out of magazines and things, and then she would give him a Hershey bar every time he did good work, and that was his first factory, sort of, because it lasted for three months, and he created a lot of work. So I think he got the idea of the factory from that, and the idea of the triumvirate, the triangular power structure that would run it, that would be its engine, came from the way his mother created a triangular struggle between the three brothers for her attention, and that was very basic to his understanding of how you get three people to totally be under your control and do everything you want and so on and on.
That’s, that’s why it came naturally, the fact that the colors of the factory are silver and black is very much a reference to Pittsburg which is silver being steel and black being coal, the two great products of Pittsburg, because Andy would never say anything like that or analyze at anything like that, but clearly this is what was making him, you know I think that somebody said about Warhol that, “Great artists make art out of what creates the most distress for them.”, and I think that’s very true and a very good point, and you can really follow Warhol’s work and see how he is facing the things that cause him the most distress. Ultimately his theme is death, you know, the death of his father when he was twelve, the near death of his mother when he was thirteen, left indelibly imprinted on him the horror of hospitals and how quickly someone can just disappear. And then also the horror of death in the religious tradition where you bring the body back to the house for three days and everybody sits around crying, you know, so it was a very big thing to him, a big, big thing in his life, “Death”."
What were his other “inspirations” for a Factory?
"Well, the other inspiration for the Silver Factory was that Warhol had often spoken to Gerard Malanga, for example, and other people, about his fantasy of running a male brothel, where you’d have literally rows of beds like in a dormitory or something and you’d charge to go to bed number seven and so forth.
Well, you know, certainly the factory was in a sense, you could see it that way, he was attracting the most attractive young gay men in New York to come hang out with him and act out their sexual fantasies. In his films and in his conversations and so forth, um, and of course he was always encouraging people to have sex with each other, and tell him about it.
So when he actually opened the factory in April of 1964 after 6 months of its being prepared by Billy and Gerard and Ondine, and other people who were there, as he was he was working in it and developing the whole silver design and everything, you know they’d have these conversations, “What should we call it, the factory!”, you know and everything. All those different elements that I mentioned, the black and silver of Pittsburg, the factory like aspect of that, the triangular relationship that comes out of his mother. This is a wonderful example of Andy taking from all these different aspects of his life, someone over here, he pulls that up and develops it with this.
Was there a “party scene” in the early Silver Factory days?
The Silver Factory opened with a grand party, to which came, really interestingly, the old world and the new world. The old world was represented like by Judy Garland and Tennessee Williams and people like that. And then, we found those people there but then, the new world was represented at that party by the Superstars like Naomi Lavine, and there was Gerard.
What Andy noticed in the middle of the party was that the old people were getting less attention from the press than the new people were. People were like interviewing and photographing the new people because they looked so fantastic. It’s hard to get back to this, but you have to remember that Andy purposely assembled an entourage of highly sexual people, who were literally very active sexually. But also, it bounced off them. They were beautiful, but the way they walked, the way that they looked at you was always sexual.
It also was very challenging. You know, particularly the gay thing. If someone’s not gay and you walk up to them, back then I mean, they got very nervous. Wondering what you are going to do. So Andy really had a sort of frightening sexuality around him. It’s super fascinating; it’s the perfect thing to do.
The party for the opening of the Factory in April 1964 was probably Warhol’s first famous party. He made a lot of fame out of giving these parties, going to parties. This one was actually a disaster because, since there were a lot of very expensive artworks up there, the insistence of the person who was giving the party with Andy, who were the Scull’s, Ethel Scull and her husband. They insisted on having a Pinkerton man at the door downstairs, so no one could come in if you didn’t have the invitation. This really worked badly because a lot of people hadn’t gotten their invitations. That’s the way it always happened. So, a lot of well-known or important people weren’t allowed in and they were very pissed off.
The next day Andy had to put up with alot of calls from people screaming because everyone was dying to get in. This was IT. The opening for the Brillo Boxes was earlier that day, in the cocktail hour. So, it was a very high point of shaking change happening. People wanted to be there. The party was great. I’ve seen millions of photgraphs of it. It was great in the sense that this room was packed with people. There were all these different worlds there. They were always very good looking, very well-dressed. Some people wearing formal evening dress and then you have the jeans and tee-shirt crowd. So, visually it was fascinating. Girls were dancing on the tables. Lots of visual things. Lots of fantastic meetings between people. Clashes, or Judy Garland started singing. It was a very “Warholian” thing. His presence, although very quiet, seemed to unleash in these people...they were kind of performing for him to please him. Even some of the people from the older world were trying to get his attention. “Make a film about me!”
It was really the beginning of that whole…Andy’s attitude towards life is that it should be a party that works. Work should be a party. Everything should be a party. He really tried to take that mentality into everything he did. It sort of had a double effect, because it worked for him, but it doesn’t necessarily work for everybody, that, everything’s a party.
A Lot of people were very influenced by Warhol, so they started trying to live as if they were “Warhol people”, but many of them really weren’t, naturally, so they just sort of fell apart.
People were there until about 4 in the morning. I think a lot of people went out to breakfast together afterwards. I’m sure Andy did. He didn’t sleep much in those days. And, such a thing didn’t finish. It was the beginning of the long party that would go on at the Silver Factory until 1968.
Can you tell me about Andy’s idea of “art”?
Andy of course was really a conceptual artist more that anything, because it was his ideas that were so great. In a sense once you’ve said, “I painted a Campbells soup can.”, you kind of almost didn’t need to do it. I mean just the idea was so absurd, and then effectively so, like a Becket play, or something. But he was a conceptual artist and so many of his things were based upon ideas, for the way people should live or the way things should be.
His desire to have homosexuality accepted was not so much just to flaunt that in the face of people, but to destroy the nuclear family. Which he saw as, anyone would see as, a purely economic construct, not of any value to human beings, but to the culture, the economy, and you know, so these things are deeply rooted in very human influences, and they’re aimed really at extremely human experiences. They’re not aimed at intellectual reflection really, but they’re aimed really more. Warhol’s work is so widely universal that anyone can do anything they want with it, you know, including analyzing its mathematical qualities. But I always thought Andy’s art was very humane, he was a very human artist, he was most interested in people.
What was it that he had, what was the magnet?
Well he had this ability that a number of people have of making you, the subject, feel like the center of attention. He had the ability of giving you his approbation in such a way, that by the time you left, you felt like a beautiful person and ten feet tall; and normally you didn’t feel that way, but he could give you that. And in a way, that would then make you do things, like worry very hard to succeed at whatever it was you were involved in, give, “open myself completely to whatever he wants me to do”, etcetera. So was a very effective, I mean it worked both ways, he wasn’t just making you feel good he was making you do this so you would work well for him. But I mean a lot of people can make you feel very important, but they can‘t necessarily inject you almost like a drug with some kind of enormous energy turned on by contact with them. His ability to get people to work for him was quite extraordinary, and I certainly was part of it, and wanted to work for him.
Ondine, the star of ‘Chelsea Girls’ put it so well when he said “Andy completed us”, that is to say, in the 60’s particularly, where you have such an extremely bizarre group of people, for those times and for now, even today there are those you would consider bizarre people, from such disparate walks of life and such different forms of work, brought together and forged into one group of people, who created in one year, the film ‘Chelsea Girls’, the album ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’, and the novel ‘a’. So three works that are all telling the same story and they’re all part of the same thing, the picture of this life, showing you the Factory. And also the Index book which came out in ‘67 , was very similar, and the Swedish catalog with the four hundred photographs that showed you the Factory, I mean all this stuff just came pouring out, it’s amazing.
Was Andy stingy with money?
No, I don’t think Andy was stingy with money. His father had been very stingy with money because he earned a very small amount of money and lived in a cultural group of people who drank and gambled their money away in the frustration of poverty, and he saved every penny of his money so that he was able to buy his family a house and he was able to send Andy to college. He had eleven thousand dollars when he died. This is an amazing amount of money for a man like that to save, and Andy had exactly the same kind of drive his father had. He inherited from his father the sense of the need to accumulate enough wealth so that he was safe or solid, realistically, and then beyond that he was very willing to in invest his money in making films and doing all these things.
Andy was never stingy with money, he was realistic with money. For example, if he knew someone was a drug addict, he wouldn’t hand them 25 dollars, he would tell them they could go to this restaurant and eat for free, just sign the check and he would pay for it, and he indeed, did that, which was the sensible thing to do. But when I worked with him in the seventies, he always paid people more than they asked for. So, no, he wasn’t stingy, he was extremely encouraging and realistic, and a lot of those people in the 60’s Silver Factory days, they were like bottomless pits as far as money was concerned (makes pouring sound, laughs) you know it would never end.
Who ran the Silver Factory?
Well, the factory was always run by a triangular power group and the first triangular power group consisted of Ondine, Billy Name, and Gerard Malanga. Billy Name and Gerard Malanga were approximately 22, and I think Ondine was maybe 24 or 25 possibly, just a tiny bit older, and had had more experience as a result, and they were three guys who came from completely different worlds, and had sort of stumbled into this place, hanging out in the coffee houses of Greeenwich Village, you know, hanging out on the scene on the lower east side, drawn by that cultural landscape that allowed people to live very cheaply and live unusual lives, make a living cutting hair, as Billy Name did, or Ondine was working in the underground theatre and was making some kind of money, and Gerard had gone to college to study poetry and was just coming out of that.
Gerard Malanga, who was Andy’s first assistant, was really an extraordinary combination of characters. He was unbelievably beautiful. The sort of beauty that he had, in his sort of Renaissance face was drop dead sexy; but at the same time he had this big thing about being a poet. He introduced himself, “I’m the Poet.”. So he would dress in costumes and things.
He really was able to maintain that image and that whole perception.He was a person who didn’t break character. He got that thing together. Meanwhile, he came from a very poor background. He lived on nothing. He never had an apartment the whole time he worked for Andy. Andy kept him on a shoestring. But, he was very devoted to Andy. The thing is that Gerard walked a very fine line on…it was that he was really totally heterosexual. He was actively bi-sexual; but primarily just heterosexual. He was the Silver Factory’s stud. He did have sex with all those girls who came to the Factory. He often brought them in. He picked them up at parties and spent the night with them. That was all very useful to Andy. It got a stream of the kind of women he wanted to have coming in. At the same time, it weakened Gerard’s position ultimately. When you are in a small group of gay people, and you’re not gay...and they’re talking about business, and how they’re going to make it, the “opposition” is vulnerable. For a while Gerard did very well at balancing everything out; but then, later on, things got bad for him.
Ondine was...He was called the Pope. That was his nickname. Because he had two outstanding abilities. One was his extraordinary ability to talk. He was one of the early amphetamine men...an A-heads. He could stay up for two or three days. At that point you wouldn’t notice it. You weren’t aware of this, and he could talk brilliantly about many things, mostly the arts. He loved Opera. He always played Maria Callas very loud. He had good taste and he had a great sense of humor. Basically, although his reputation was for being ascerbic and critical, and for putting everyone down, he really was one of those guys that had a really sweet heart and he, basically, could make you feel like he was the Pope. And he was blessing you and he was giving you the freedom to act however you wanted to act. He was blessing our activities. He was the Pope of the underground. The Black Pope. Ondine had a reputation for having one of the funniest and fastest mouths on that scene, uh, the underground acting world.
Billy Name...Billy Linich.who changed his name to Billy Name during the Velvet Underground period. He was the manager of the Silver Factory. He was somewhat the equivalent of Gerard in many ways. He was very good looking. He had the “New Look”.
He loved Andy. I think they had a very, very brief “liasson dangereuse” at the beginning of the time then, for about a week or two. But that’s ok because it wasn’t like anyone rejected each other. It was a kind of a happy coming together, and that’s good. Let’s move on.
Andy relied upon Billy very much and Billy was reliable. He LIVED at the Factory. He was the only one that was allowed to live there. He was the gate-keeper...the key man. And everything. In those early days, before the life ravaged him, he was just extraordinary. He was part of the Judson Dance Company. He was a dancer. He had the incredible balance of that.
He was closely associated and close friends with those people at the Judson. That was a door into another world that he took Andy into. He became also a great photographer. I would argue that Billy Name was one of the great photographers of the 60’s in terms of capturing the atmosphere of that scene. The collection of Billy Name’s photographs that was presented by the Museum of the Arts in Stockholm...he did the first retrospective in ‘68. Andy did the catalogue. Something like 300 pages of black and white photographs. That was it. They were all photographs of the Factory. A lot of them were taken the night of the party. Of the opening party. They captured the movement and the spirit of that world.
The way he became a photographer was so classic of the way Warhol worked. Andy bought himself a camera in early ’63, cause he sort of realized that photography was going to become very big; and also there was this whole thing going on, and he should photograph it. But in those days, before the full auto-focus camera, having a camera was a little cumbersome.
You had to have a light meter. You had to really check things out before you took the picture. It didn’t really appeal to Andy. He just didn’t like that. He wanted something fluid and quick. After using the camera a couple of times, he gave it to Billy. He said, “Billy, here, take this camera and why don’t you take some pictures.”. And, from that, having never taken a picture, Billy Name made his own film, developed the pictures, the whole bit. From beginning to end.
So that was the trio? The first “Warholian” triangular group?
And Andy characteristically met all of them individually and developed individual relationships with them that were strong when he brought them into the same space together. He’d met them all in ’62, and by ’63 when they started working, and making the Silver Factory what opened in ’64, Billy was living there immediately. He immediately moved in, and Gerard lived there for about two weeks and that didn’t work and he had to move out. Ondine never lived there, but they were there for 48 hours at a time, and I mean they were highly respected people in their very different ways at that time.
How did Andy treat them?
That was the great key question to understanding the way Andy worked. He treated them the way his mother treated him and his two brothers.
Andy’s Silver Factory always worked with a triangular group at the head of it. It comes directly from the family. The idea is to keep each person in competition for your attention. Who loves me most. ME! ME!..no ME! This is exactly what happened. These people were very young. Gerard and Billy were like 22. I think Ondine was maybe 25. They were very young and easy to manipulate. They wanted very much the attention. When Andy gave you his attention, it really was like a drug. He literally would shine his light on you. In a way, it made you feel like he was really only concerned about you; and he was going to make you a star. And you would just feel fantastically good. You’d come away feeling ten-feet tall. He’d make you feel beautiful. It wasn’t so hard because many of them were very beautiful...but he could make anyone feel beautiful.
So, he had a lot to give. In those early days, before the thing became so big, where, in a sense, I think he lost control of it, it became too complex, it was just a little tight group. It was a wonderfully turned on scene. These three guys basically were supporting each other. They weren’t squabbling naturally. Basically, they were on the same ship. They were all there for Andy. They took it very seriously. This is a cause. This is an artistic cause. It’s a part of the ‘60s. It’s part of the revolution. They were very serious about it. At the same time, humour was at the base of everything. You couldn’t be intellectually serious. You had to be cool. You had to maintain your cool. Which meant never show your emotions.Never being depressed, never anything. Just be really cool. Be there.
What happened in the underground film world then?
I think ..Lawrence Ferlinghetti, no Allan Ginsberg wrote a letter when he came back to New York in 63 from his trip around the world, saying, “the most exciting scene was the underground film scene,” at that time, where it had been the poetry scene in 1958, now it was the underground film scene and that’s very true. The underground film world had become very, very active, full of lots of parties and meeting people and sex and drugs, and the sort of beginning of that thing, probably the most creative people were in that world., and Andy was going into that world very fast by ’64, you know he was almost in the center.
Andy won a prize from Jonas Mekas for the greatest film in ’64, the Film Culture magazine award, so by ’65 he was overtaking most of the people in that world. So the thing is I suppose the most fascinating thing about it is the sense to which it was kind of a teenage gang, these guys started dressing alike, they had this uniform that consisted largely of black jeans, black T-shirts, black boots, black leather jackets or something akin, you know, they didn’t walk around looking like the Ramones, but it’s interesting how much it does become a costume, and I always thought the movie of Andy’s life is a “hero pic” as they say, rather than a “bio pic”, it’s like Lawrence of Arabia, this geek who doesn’t ..I’m sorry (he bites apple, back to work)
’63, ’64, Gerard Malanga, yeah they called Gerard the prime minister, and Billy was of course the manager of the Silver Factory, and Ondine was the fool, the court jester, the king’s court jester .
I think Henry Gerdzweler put it very well, when he compared Andy’s world to the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King, because Andy was the sun, and for this particular period, I think from ’63 to ‘66ish, they, really, as Ondine said, “Every moment was the right moment.” Any moment you arrived at the Factory was the right moment, It’s like they were in the zone, they were the zeitgeist. When that happens people talk about it, the zeitgeist. But imagine, being the zeitgeist, it’s great, it’s also a heavy trip, depending upon what kind of crossfire you’re caught in, and being the zeitgeist in America in 1963-66, that meant that people were shooting at you literally as well as metaphorically, and so those people were very courageous people; and they were enlightened in a sense, there’s a certain Zen Buddhism involved in this, there are so many different aspects.
Tell me about the middle period, 65/66…?
The ‘65/66 period is the period in which Andy is making a film every two weeks. These films were scripted. From the time he would turn to Ron Tavel, the script writer, and say, “I want a film, WHITE..I want it to be white.”. Ronny would say, “You mean you want a kitchen?”. “Ya, a kitchen!”. And they would figure it out. Ronny would go away and write the script that would take like 2 days and he’d bring it in and Andy would read it and say,”Great”.
The film would be arranged for two days later and by the time the film got developed, the whole thing took about two weeks. So, in two weeks they were shooting the next one. As soon as he shot a film he forgot about it. He’d say, “OK, now I want a film about the war”. Or something. That was the central operating line. Andy had retired from painting. The only paintings he was doing were copies of paintings he had already done... an order for a Marilyn or something...Or portraits. He did start to do an occasional portrait to make money
Then Edie Sedgwick became the first really famous female Warhol Superstar. There were a couple of female superstars before her, but they weren’t famous. Their names are not memorable. Baby Jane Holzer, Naomi Lavine. But Edie was something else. Edie took the whole thing to another level because of her connection to society and money and a family which goes back to the Mayflower, and a fantastic, androgenous, childlike girl/women.
She had it all together and she was absolutely fantastic. One of those persons who just burned through the screen. When she was on the screen you just watched her. So, he had a real goldmine in Edie and he knew it. He brought her to the center. So now you have a sort of visual situation. You have Andy with Edie, but usually with Gerard, in a photo situation or a nightime situation. They would be a triangular thing. He made 11 films of Edie between April/May’65 and December ’65. He made eleven films. So, really, that second half of ‘65 was all about Edie. We’re going to make Edie the queen of the Factory and so on.
At the moment Edie, literally, does her last film with Warhol, in which she ends up vomiting in a toilet, dying...he brings in the Velvet Underground. Gerard found them and brought them in.
The Velvet Underground?
So, the Velvet Underground becomes 1966. The whole year is taken up with the Velvet Underground. That was so brilliant...as many things he did...a brilliant thing to do. In the year of ‘66 he records the Velvet Underground record. The first one.
Andy’s involvement with music, and especially with the Velvet Underground rock group, which they became involved with in the very end of 1965, and worked with through 1966, came about largely out of his perception of the Rolling Stones, with whom he had a social relationship, and seen every time they came to New York. So he’d seen them, and when he went to London, so he met them two or three times and recognized how much money they were making, you know, and how quickly they were making it, and also how much money that Brian Epstein the manager of the Beatles was making, who he knew socially, because Epstein was gay and they’d know each other through gay contacts in the New York social world. So Andy thought to himself well, “God, that doesn’t look too hard”, you know, “I know people who can do that.” And so he asked people around him, he said “Let’s find a group. We gotta get a group, we’ll manage a group and make a lot of money, and we’ll take the money, and we’ll make a great, a big film.”
That was the whole idea, it was that he wanted to make a big film, not a half hour film but like a sort of two hour film or something, make some huge impact, a break-through in the film world, but he needed you know, sort of twenty five thousand dollars, or thirty thousand dollars, and he didn’t have that kind of money.
And so, they found the group, the Velvet Underground, and they rehearsed with them. They very quickly between January and March of ’66, put together this act, put it on in April, in a club they rented in St. Mark’s Place downtown. It became a sensation overnight and, and they recorded the record, they started recording the record at the same time. ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’, produced by Andy Warhol, the first great Velvet Underground record. So by the end of April ’66, after four months of work, they had essentially done the creative work that went into that package, that looked like it would make a lot of money as they went on tour and also looked like they were going to put out a record which was going to be revolutionary and probably make a lot of money too, like the Rolling Stones, right?
So then what happened is, Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey’s knowledge of how to work in the rock business was minimal, too minimal. They didn’t bend to its rules, or the standards, and therefore they got kind of knocked out business-wise in the, what happened, in the outcome of the year. And so, for example the album was delayed from being released by a year, which was just very bad, because in those days things moved so fast, that if you didn’t bring it out, then it was too late. If they’d been released earlier it might have had more success, you know, hard to say, but when it was released, it was released badly, no one was really watching out for it, it could have been, it, it was a disaster.
Plus they started a tour in L.A. The club was closed by the police in three days, and the whole thing just…He didn’t really make any money out of it. By the sixth month, until the end of it, Lou Reed refused to sign the record contract when Andy finally got him a deal, until the wording was changed so the money went not to Warhol, to Warvel, the corporation Andy made, but to the Velvet Underground.
Consequently Andy Warhol never saw a penny from the sale of that record, which he should have gotten, something like 25% from his managing. That’s his entrée into the music business, but subsequently he became one of the most influential people, in a sense, in the music business. Strange.
Yet, he knew nothing about the music business, I think that he had this fantastic eye, and a very strong sense of what’s the culture, and he liked rock and roll, you know, so because of the Velvet Underground, because his name is on the cover of that album, and is the only name on the cover of the album, where he stamped his signature on the design of the banana, on the white album, it says Andy Warhol. You know, it just became such a cult item and Andy Warhol became this cult figure in the rock world.
And when the Velvet Underground sort of regained their fame in the 80s, made this long comeback and stuff, his fame grew and grew and grew in that world, right? And people like David Bowie started talking about him a lot, and you know, now it seems like millions of rock groups are influenced by Andy Warhol, you know. And they are, in one way or another.
But it’s a bit complicated because Andy didn’t really influence any of the actual music that Lou Reed wrote, he influenced., the fact they released the album in the rough raw way they recorded it, which normally they wouldn’t have been allowed to do, or able to do. He insisted on that, .and he had a very strong influence on that record, and in my mind, he produced the record, because of his insistence on it sounding the way it did live, you know, and um, from my understanding, if it hadn’t been for Andy, the record company would have bulldozed over the group and just done whatever they wanted, but he still had enough power as a sort of celebrity figure, that they kind of accepted it, said, “Okay, we’ll do it that way,” so they can sign off on it and get it done.
But then they wouldn’t release it for a year, because, you know, and that, as I said, was a real problem. So, I don’t know. Andy’s influence on rock music is, it’s as immeasurable as his influence on film, you know. It’s very hard to say. The influence is there because people think of him and this giant figure behind, sort of punk, the Velvet Underground attitude, the you know, some of those lyrics.
As they say, there’s a trilogy of work, ‘Chelsea Girls, ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’, ‘A’, the novel, they’re all products of the Silver Factory. That record is a product of the Factory. It was written and rehearsed at the Factory, you know. And that Warhol imprimatur on it is real, at the same time it’s an elusive subject.
I don’t get the sense that Lou Reed, John Cale, I don’t get the sense that they felt they were part of the Silver Factory. Were they?
Yes they were, I mean, certainly my book ‘Uptight’ goes into that in some detail. And I think there are a number of other texts that, where certainly John Cale and Lou Reed speak about the extent to which they were part of the Factory. The thing is, a rock group, as you know, is a very tight unit, nuclear unit on its own, and, it needs to be, in order to succeed. The members of that group have to have this sort of unity with each other, at least for this period of time that they were in now. So I think that the fact that they were a group, and the fact that they worked as a group, meant that the definition of their involvement was slightly different than the other factory people. They were there every day, but they weren’t there taking part in the activities of the factory. They were there rehearsing their music when Andy put together with the ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’ and the multimedia show.
So while they’re over there doing that, he’s got these people over here figuring out how to put the films on the wall, and projecting, working on the strobe lights. He’s getting Gerard to set up the dancing in front of the group, you know, different things.
Andy was the conductor of those different aspects, and the Velvet’s one of them, I mean, like he and Lou had a closer relationship than he had with anyone else in that group. That had to do with Lou’s being gay, and, their sharing a gay sensibility which the other members of the band didn’t have. And, you know, many things like that.
On that scoreof the Velvets, access to John Cale is relatively simple, but access to Lou Reed, it’s as if he doesn’t really want to talk about it.
Well I think the reasons for that are very simple. One is that for a very, very long time, for about twenty years or so, it dominated his life and people wouldn’t see him but through the scrim of the Velvet Underground., sort of primarily as the leader of the Velvet Underground, not Lou Reed, solo star. You know understandably he was trying to be a solo star and he kind of wanted to say, “Well, forget about that, how about this?” Now I think, over a long period of time, that he has become recognized, you know, seriously recognized as a solo star and, indeed, done work as good as he, what he did in the Velvets, that it’s not such a big thing.
But, the second part of the problem is that he doesn’t have anything to say about it that he hasn’t said. He’s not going to tell you anything that you want to know. There was a very big dispute between him and Warhol, because of his, he betrayed Warhol completely, by refusing to sign the contract that they had written together when they made managerial arrangements in January of 1966. As soon as April, four months later, he refuses to sign the contract, I’m sorry, May, in May he refuses to sign the contract, when Andy gets him a record deal. Because he perceives, he sees the money going into ‘Warvel’, and doesn’t trust Andy, I guess, to share the money. And the combination of basically, going totally back on the word, your word, that you made not even a few months earlier, having spent four months working intensely together every day, and then suddenly say, “Well, I’m not going to do that.”, I guess, it’s very extreme. And it totally, it changed their relationship forever. Andy never let Lou back in that closely, but he’d been, but he and Lou had been pretty close for a while.
What was Lou Reed’s reaction ... coming into the Factory?
I think that Lou was a very good example of somebody whose life was changed by about 100 percent...like that ..by meeting. And 48 hours after they met, Lou came to the Factory, and they immediately offered him the deal. Not a managerial deal, but a business deal, like a finished document that said A.B.C.
The Velvet Underground, they, basically Lou, embraced this for what it was. This is a great opportunity for us. They had just started playing; they’d only played 3 gigs and they needed a manager.Well, they had a manager, but they needed someone much bigger. They believed in themselves. They thought that they were the next Rolling Stones, potentially, in terms of success level...and they wanted to be at that level of success.
They wanted to stun the world , and Andy shared their vision. Andy saw what they were. He pinned it exactly right. The best indication that you can get for that is the extraordinary thing. The first move he makes with them, “You gotta get a new lead singer, and it has got to be this woman.”. Now, to say to Lou Reed, you have to get out of the center of the stage, you’ve got to get someone else. And actually it’s a stand-in for Andy, because Nico is this blonde Nordic Goddess with the high cheek bones and the pale skin, just like Andy. There is a photograph that Billy Name took where Andy is standing sort of slightly behind Nico, beside her, where his head kind of melds with her head. You see her face and her hair and suddenly it’s his hair. It’s a picture of them becoming one person! Also, in the back of her solo album, “Chelsea Girl”, what Nico wrote that part of Pop Art was that. “Andy told me, explained to me, that being part of Pop Art is being another person. Being able to be another person.” She said it’s fun. Why couldn’t you be another person? So, Andy saw himself in Nico. So, there’s a joke in there.
So, because it was Nico, they (the Velvet Underground) accepted it. They accepted it right away. It’s unbelievable that he (Andy) did that and they accepted it, but they did. That’s the strength and that’s how much they knew he was right. Because there was no way they would have considered that. It was brilliant.
Then, he shoots “Chelsea Girls” which is the break-through film that broke through internationally for him and that made him a famous director. As famous as Bergmann, was in those days. He was looked at as an auteur. He’s also writing his first book. He wrote two books. One was “A”, the novel, and the other was “The Index Book”. The “Index Book” was the first to be published.
What about Chelsea Girls?
“Chelsea Girls” really was the single work which changed everything at the Factory. Looking back on it, you can analyse it and say “Chelsea Girls”..Velvet Undergound, and “A”, the novel are the trilogy that all kind of does the same thing. But “Chelsea Girls” was the only one that made it in it’s time. That had world success in it’s time.”Chelsea Girls” was the film that came up out of the underground and went into the mainstream. It was shown at regular theaters. It was shown at film festivals all around the world. It was shown on Paris campuses, and the result was it made, relatively speaking, a lot of money. I think it made about $300,000 in it’s first year or something. Andy got 50 percent of that. And the distributor got 50 percent. He really made bad distributership. Most of these deals were terrible. His business deals....but, the fact that he got the money and nobody in the film got any money, except like fifty bucks or something, and also, that the fact that it made him about 100 times more famous, it didn’t make THEM any more famous.
Andy began to rub people the wrong way. I don’t know why, but that is what happens in every film case. These people, as you would say, were a particularly resentful group in many ways. The thing that made you stand out in the Factory was your ability to be critical....as Ondine was, as Viva was...to have a real spot...”We’ll get it somewhere.”. I think Billy Name put it really well in my biography of Andy... “To be in the Factory, you really had to be able to stand up in front of those people and take it.”. You have to have confidence in yourself. Your self-image has to be really strong. Because, you were going to be put to the test.....constantly, not just once, constantly....and basically, your ego is being attacked constantly.. can you take it?...can you stand it? Are you really one of us... are you really serious? Are you committed to this?... If you’re not, then get out of here. We are committed to our deaths for this. They were... I think they really were...these people.
Back to the “trilogy” as you call it…?
I always think that “Chelsea Girls” and the Velvet Underground Album and “A” are a trilogy of works because they’re all made by the same base-group of people...10 to 12 people, the Base. And they are all really about the same thing, which is people sitting around talking about, telling stories. Songs in the Velvet Unerground are about this, and so on.
The “Chelsea Girls” are the people doing what the others are talking about. “A” is people talking about what people are doing in these two things, or just about what they are doing with Andy. I don’t know if anyone has ever perceived that; but I don’t think anyone has ever done it either.
To have a hit movie, a hit record, and a hit book all at the same time. Not that any of them were hits in the commercial sense...on the charts... but certainly ...for the ages they were hits. Hits for the Ages !
How could Andy operate on so many different levels?
One of the first things I learned about when I was writing my book about Warhol was that he was an almost impossible man to pin down because as soon as you, through perhaps a week of thinking and working, realized something about him, you had to realize that the opposite was also equally true. So it’s the classic paradox, right, but then when that becomes true of ten different things at the same time, you know, he was a very complex man, and he was operating on many different levels.
And so you know, on the one hand he wanted to run a male brothel; on the other hand he was a kind of a Zen guru, with all the implications of those images. “Drella” was the perfect name for Warhol in the ‘60s, a combination of Dracula and Cinderella. Perfect, perfect name, and it was made up by Ondine and it really just pins him, because he did have a Draculean quality, but he also had the Cinderella quality, which is the poor little girl, you know, who has to sweep up the kitchen and stay at home and is very pathetic. But you know the story, and it’s really that part of the character that’s more important than the one who goes in the pumpkin. It’s the character who’s the poor little girl.
Andy’s favorite song on the Velvet Underground’s album was “All Tomorrow’s Parties”
, “What shall the young girl wear, for all tomorrow’s parties. Riches and shrouds…”. Images of the ‘60s female image going through all these changes.
Did Andy make these people jealous of each other?
Well, I think that you have to realize that one of the important things we’re missing here is the female contribution. This is not an all male world, although it’s a very homosexual world for the times, and a very hardcore gay world and so forth, but there are women in it who are very important, playing different roles within the operatic mythology of what is going on then.
So. I say that to both set a larger stage to answer your question, and also to bring in the sense of the performance aspect of the whole thing, because Andy, I think Jonas Mekas said it really beautifully in a thing he wrote in the (Village) Voice when he was describing a performance of the ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’, the multimedia show Andy created in ’66 which centered around the Velvet Underground, showing his films with dances and strobe lights and all these different things. And Jonas Mekas said that, “Warhol is conducting with personalities more than with instruments.” And that sort if gets to the core of what Warhol is doing in general, he’s always the conductor of the personalities in the situations, and how one does that is so specific.
Taylor Mead gave me a wonderful image. He once stormed off a set of a Warhol movie, you know, histrionically. And as he walked by Andy who was behind the camera, say eight feet, he’s come walking toward him, a short distance, walking out of the room, Andy said to him in a very quiet voice, no one else could possibly have heard, “Oh, Taylor, don’t go.” And of course Taylor didn’t go, because when Andy spoke to you in the, you know, he was such a, he summoned up in people, many different protective sides and through his own ability to be many different people, to be Cinderella and Dracula and many things, he had this extraordinary quality, but largely it was about his extreme sensitivity to everything.
So he directed through his nerves and his body language and his just being. It’s very, very unusual but it works very well on his part, and I don’t think anyone else, I mean a lot of directors, but I don’t think anybody else has ever done that.
So then, what about the women in the Silver Factory?
Well, as soon as Andy set up the factory, there had to be a queen, so he created a movie studio, based on Warner Brothers where you create these stars. Yeah, once he opened the Factory, the first thing Andy had to do was find a queen, to play opposite his king, so he did it, by taking the attitude that he would create a movie studio situation, where he would obviously be, Warner Brothers. He would be Jack Warner, he would be this sort of top guy.
But you would have the scriptwriter, the director, the this, the that; and then you would have the parade of female stars. The times he was most influenced by in the movies was the ‘30s when all the major stars were female. You know, you’d have all these great images of Deitrich, Garbo etcetera. So he wanted to have that and he did, he immediately got it going.
It took him about a year, his first couple of choices didn’t work out too well, they were a bit too crazy and they didn’t really make it, they were good on film but they didn’t know how to give interviews. But BABY JANE HOLZER started working with him in ’63, you know she was a socialite, just coming down to have fun.
By ’64 Baby Jane Holzer was the girl of the year, the star, the queen of the factory. So when she came by, she had handmaidens, she had all this help, this support. And all this “you look great, you look terrific”, this buildup. What happened with her of course was that she didn’t really need this, so she wasn’t really dependant enough on Andy for his liking. She didn’t have to come down there every day, and so, after a while she got a little freaked out as the scene got heavier, with the drugs, and the gays, and the open sex.
How and when did Edie Sedgwick come in?
The celebration of gay sex in particular, I think, drove her (Baby Janr Holzer) away and she was replaced by EDIE SEDGWICK, the great, the most famous Warhol. Edie Sedgwick was the first real superstar. They created the word superstar, they were trying to work it into the culture, but it didn’t really work until well, until “Chelsea Girls”, but that’s skipping a year. Edie came in, early 1965 and she became very quickly one of the greatest reasons for his success. This was not a guy who sat around thinking about something. If he saw something, he moved toward it immediately. Like he walked across the room, got hold of it and said “let’s do this”.
He (ANDY) and Edie made eleven films between March and September of 1965. Certainly four or five of them are fairly well known in the canon: “Beauty Number 2”, “Poor Little Rich Girl”, and so, but then you saw for the first time’ you saw the rise and fall of the “Girl of the Year”. Of course the very title kind of set you up for the fall, but on the other hand he probably realized, the kind of thing he was doing, he would need to have a new girl of the year because of the pace of pop culture, and because of the fact that he’d be working them to death and they wouldn’t survive for much longer than that anyway.
What was the progression of the “Girl of the Year” philosophy?
So that’s basically what happened . He got Nico, he got Ultra, then he got International Velvet, then he got Viva, and so on, and so on. Some of them have much shorter spans than others. Andy said in a number of his books and writings that the thing he really loved the most were good talkers, and it’s true his favorite thing of all was for a beautiful woman to tell him in great detail about her sex life; so he could kind of experience it vicariously. And of course the more detailed she would get the better. There were some panicked phone calls to the factory after he died. “I told him on tape about my husband, my..(unint). LIZ TAYLOR apparently was particularly upset about having told him the size of all her husband’s penises. She said she was worried that it was going to come out.
Who was Andy’s favorite “Girl of the Year”?.
Well he said Edie was, in ‘The Philosophy of Andy Warhol’ in that chapter called Taxi, which was about her. And I think she was, because she was the ultimate. See I think one of the things that Andy shows us, in a sense, is that women are often…sorry, men are often jealous of women because they want to be them, you know. And if Andy could have been any of his Superstars, he would have been Edie. And probably of all the Superstars, that would have been true of most men, they would have wanted to be Edie. Even though she had the worst life, by a long shot, and was a totally tortured soul, and probably very rarely enjoyed herself, or felt good. She emanated the glamour-weight of playtime 60s art, celebrity, chick better than anyone, so that’s why that book came out on her, and I was actually interviewed by somebody who professed to be a professional in the art business recently, who said something to me like, “Gee, Edie would be such a wonderful example for girls these days (laughter) in colleges. It would be such a great way to teach people how to be”.
So anyhow, Edie was burning alive. Andy did like to watch that, he did have a fascination with incineration.
Was Andy …at all sexual?
Himself? You know, Andy’s sexuality was a question that I took seriously because if your writing a serious biography of someone you have to ask yourself what are the key motivations of the character, and if they are sexual, then you have to deal with the character’s sexuality. If they’re not, you don’t necessarily have to deal with the character’s sexuality. But in the case of Andy to ignore his sexuality would have been absurd, since he made such a big thing about sex, all the time. And it’s a complex picture, essentially, because of the time in which he grew up.
He was born in 1928, he experienced his teens in the 40s, a very, very unusual time because of the war. He really, his form of homosexuality was he wanted to be a girl. He would have been happier to be a girl, that’s the way he looked at it, so there’s this sense of “A.W.”,
“all witch, all woman”, Andy Warhol. This is phrase from ‘A’ that’s repeated a number of times. But that leads you to realize that there are photographs of him standing with Nico in which his face is obscured in such a way that suddenly her hair seems to be his hair and it could be either of them, you know. So Andy certainly had an interest in trading places, or becoming a woman through the woman’s openness to him to become her. So that’s a relationship that could work on all sorts of channels, that would not involve sex necessarily of the physical kind, but could be an emotional sexual relationship of a kind.
I think he had very close relationships with some of these people and certainly with Viva. Viva wanted to marry him. Viva was an intelligent woman, she was no idiot, she was no crazed person. She fell in love with him. Andy was very lovable, a lot of women fell in love with him.
What about Ultra Violet?
Ultra to me doesn’t count, because ULTRA was a fake, you know. She was just one of those people who liked to go around, attaching herself to Salvador Dali or Andy Warhol, because she knew she looked good in the pictures and everything and that they could use her and then she would do this. But I never heard her say anything, or reflect anything or do anything in a movie or anything that actually made you feel that she was necessary to the situation. I think she just happened to come along and Andy could use her, you know. She doesn’t really have anything to contribute in the sense that Viva, or Edie, or any number of other people, that Mary Woronov would have, you know.
What about Mary Woronov?
What do you mean? MARY didn’t really get very close to Andy because she was first of all she was Gerard’s creature, as it were. Gerard brought her in. She had an affair with him the summertime, the beginning of the first six months of that working together period, and she wouldn’t let Andy change her name, that’s the key point. She wouldn’t accept. He wanted to call her “Mary Might”, and he had a couple of other ideas, and she didn’t want it, because she wanted to become known as an actress,
So as soon as that happened Andy realized well, she’s not really playing the game. And then her mother sued him, after she appeared in “Chelsea Girls” because she was under age. Not for that, but to get paid for her role. And she got a thousand dollars, which is all she was looking for, and Andy subsequently had to pay everybody who acted in the movie a thousand dollars just, so (laugh) he wasn’t too happy. So he and Mary were never tight, they certainly weren’t like him and Viva, or him and Edie. Mary wasn’t a superstar on that level, but she was very good in what she did, in ‘Chelsea Girls’ and in “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable”. Dancing and everything. And I think she wrote a really good book about Andy too.
Why did Andy give up on the female Superstars for the drag queens?
Well, yeah Andy, definitely by the time he got Edie into the factory in ‘65 , he had developed the notion that, like a big producer in Hollywood, if he could discover, really discover, a female star, like a Marilyn Monroe or a Kim Novak, maybe this could really work on some level, like it worked for Woody Allen, say. He really wanted to do that, so he was looking for that kind of person.
What about the third period?
Well, in the third period, ‘67/68, things did get out of control.
One of the main signs of this were the number of shootings that took place in the Factory. There were three or four gun incidents before Andy was actually shot. People coming in,
and one of them shot a portrait of Marilyn through the forehead...just sort of shot Marilyn. Other people came in and actually did threaten some people...have them kneel down and stuff. So there was that. The fact that that could be happening was a sign that something is really breaking through the door that is wrong. How’s it getting in here? The police came around a lot...with noise complaints and things. The entourage swelled from the basis 10 to12 people to say 25 people.
In 67 and 68, a surprisingly small amount of creative work appears, if you look, if you really look at what happens. It’s as if, you know, when Dylan made those three rock and roll albums before his motorcycle accident, it’s as if he kind of unloaded his head, his image bank, you know. And then when he comes back with ‘John Wesley Harding’, it’s like a different image bank, he’s renewed his image bank or something.
And I think that Warhol opened, from 1962, when he started the silk screen paintings, not the ones where he painted by hand, but the silk screen technique, through 1966, with the completion of ‘Chelsea Girls’, that’s, in those years, Warhol unloads his image bank from his life. And then he has to renew it. He has to find, you know, what do you do after you do that? And indeed creating great works and had quite extraordinary success in at least three different mediums at that point, and what happened, the truth is, he stumbled. He became unsure. And a lot of it had to do with the fact that he was losing control of the fact, the Warhol Silver Factory. It was spinning out of control.
The Silver Factory was spinning out of control?
Yeah, spinning out of control. The Factory world started to spin out of control when, after ‘Chelsea Girls’, the success of ‘Chelsea Girls, when it was released in September of 1966, between then and the end of the year, December, was very unexpected.
It was remarkable. It was like a brush fire, you know, it started off with a few reviews in places like the Village Voice that were extreme, but they were underground essentially. Until there was this sort of leading story in the New York Times, where the critic actually, using almost a quote from Henry II demanding the death of Thomas Becket called upon someone to “put a spoke in Mr. Warhol’s wheel, his attack on heterosexuality and the basis of the nuclear family is no longer funny,” they said. And they meant it, because, the thing is, the real success of “Chelsea Girls” coincided with the release of “The Velvet Underground and Nico.’ And even though the record was not spectacularly successful by any means, in terms of reviews or sales, it was actually getting into the top hundred. It was beginning to make some sort of headway when the copies got recalled from the stores because somebody sued over of the use of a photograph on the back cover, and the whole horrible, sidetracked story, but the point is that it’s presumed that when the New York Times or the powers that be saw that Warhol was going, not only beyond the art world into the world of film, the sacred American form, but now he was going into the world of pop music, which went into the bedrooms of their children, that they actually began to say, “We have to stop this guy!”, this was the attitude that came out, very strongly.
And I think that Andy himself, as I say, became confused by the enormous glamour and power he suddenly had. If you look at the world’s image of Andy Warhol in 1965 as opposed to 1967, with the subsequent change in the culture, ’67 being the ‘Summer of Love’, the summer of Sergeant Pepper, etcetera; you know, he really has gone from being a sort of Jean Luc Goddard underground guy in a striped T shirt, to some pop star on the cover of a big magazine, and there was nobody else, certainly, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, or Dylan, weren’t putting out the kind of material that Warhol was putting out.
There’s just no comparison at all. I don’t mean in terms of quality, just in terms of subject matter, where you’re focusing on, where you’re filming people, and it wasn’t acceptable (laugh) to put it mildly. It was not acceptable what he did. But what he did in those years, in producing “Chelsea Girls”, it was filmed in the summer of ’66 but it was (sirens go buy, Victor looks down, waits) the combination of the making of “Chelsea Girls”, the making of that record, the writing of the novel ’A’, was all basically introducing the world of the Silver Factory, the attitude, the philosophy, the lifestyle of the Factory into the culture, injecting it into the culture, which you can do with an image, you can inject a culture with an image, or sometimes a phrase, the culture can’t not hear it. It’s there, you know, the medium is the message, it’s like, you can’t erase it. And Warhol was injecting into the culture, “I don’t believe in love, I don’t like to think, you know, I don’t like to be touched…”, etcetera, etcetera, I mean, all these opposites of what was going on in the American dream culture, in its ecstasy of selling love, selling the greatest narcotic in the world, and the one that makes the most money and has the longest habit of you know, that we know of, love.
So he became a real target, Warhol became a target by ’67. He was put under surveillance by the F.B.I. in the last six months of his ‘life’, as it were, at the end of that period. And that says a lot. The F.B.I. files on Warhol are amusing, because they are so paranoid.
There’s this wonderfully rich story ot these two FBI agents flying around the country trying to pin Andy Warhol down for transportation of interstate pornography, based on the filming of “Lonesome Cowboys” in Arizona, where they thought they saw from a distance, through binoculars, Viva being raped by Taylor Mead. (laughter) And they actually then spend money, on asking people to fly down there to see if Taylor Mead was raping Viva so they could arrest Andy Warhol! You know, it’s so, the stupidity, it’s like the Marx Brothers, it becomes a Marx Brother’s thing.
The irony, that it’s J. Edgar Hoover behind it, orchestrating all this?
Right, right. “We’re gonna get that faggot.”, right, it’s the greatest of ironies, but there you have it.
What was happening then with the female Superstars?
There were 3 or 4 women who were competing for that lead place, and this created a great deal of angst among all these people. It put a lot of pressure on Andy, who had to deal, not only with the problems of his boy friend or his closest friend; but a lot of women were throwing themselves at him. Literally getting down on their knees and saying “Please, I want to marry you!”. “Let’s go away!”. He’d say, “Oh, God!Leave me alone! ”. What he tried to do
as a way of dealing with this was, he brought in Paul Morrissey who was a technically useful man in the film business. He was, also, in many ways a very intelligent guy with a great sense of humor, and who fit very well into the Factory. Initially he was very well-liked and appreciated for his good points. “He’s helping Andy.”. He had a great love for the 30’s and 40’s movies which is the great period in American filming. Andy did too, and so did Gerard. So they had a kind of meeting of the minds.
But as soon as Andy tried to move out of the directorial position and to replace himself with Paul...which is what he was doing at the time, particularly in 67 and68, the actors got really upset because, the way Warhol films worked, and this is hard to believe but it’s true, people were acting . Everything they were doing, they were doing for Andy. Andy behind the camera, or standing to the side of the camera, looking at you. He had such an extraordinary sensitivity for every little breath you took. He could react, in a really quiet voice that no one else would hear, to someone in a way that would bring them up and keep them up. They would come out and be what he wanted. I saw him do it; and people have told me many stories of him doing it. For example, Tyler Mead went through a tantrum and walked off the set. “Ive had it etc..”. He walked past Andy and Andy said in a really quiet voice, “Look Taylor, don’t go.”, and Taylor went right back and did the scene.
He could appeal to people. “I need you to do this. This is important to me. It’s the most important thing I’m doing. Please.”. And of course they would immediately do it. So, he had a terrific ability to make actors work on a high level and just, generally, make people do what he wanted them to do.
Paul didn’t have that. He was more kind of blunt in his directing,“Take your pants down.”.
It didn’t work. The actors weren’t protesting, “We want Andy.”. But like, “We NEED Andy...we can’t do this without him.”.
Was Paul the wicked step-father?
Yeah, I think it’s true. But I think it’s unfair to see Paul as simply the wicked bad one, because Paul was originally liked and appreciated. It was only when he started directing in this blunt way that people got pissed off. He was put into the position by Andy, to be a sort of disciplinarian to some extent. You have to take 14 people across the country and live in someone else’s house and make a film? He had a lot of difficulty with that. Everyone’s going to be rushing off and getting lost and stealing things and it’s a nightmare.
So tell me about the impending doom…?
The Superstars are beginning to compete with each other. Rather than supporting each other as a group, like, “Oh, you were great, oh she was great.”, they started putting each other down. Now Viva, who was the number one major female Superstar in this period.67/68...she was unlike the previous female superstars...completely different from them in that she had a very biting tongue. She could be very sarcastic and she’s very intelligent and she is very good with words. She could pick someone apart or make someone feel really foolish very quickly. She did this quite a lot. Mostly it was done as a joke and all within the spirit of the thing. That kind of thing can very easily go over the edge and become unpleasant. In fact, in her case it did, a number of times.
There was this famous incident where one day Andy went to the factory and it’s raining heavily and Viva is outside hammering on the door. She’s basically screaming...I mean when she saw Andy she turned around and started screaming at him like, “ Why does so and so and so and so have a key and I don’t? It’s because I am a woman!”, and she started yelling about being a women and, “ You are all faggots!”. No one in the Factory ever said anything like that to Andy. It’s like spitting in the face of Louis the 14th. You’re dead! And the worst mistake that she made…She threw her handbag at him. It hit him. And it hit him on the shoulder or something...She was aiming for his face. But it didn’t hurt him at all....it bounced off, but he was shocked by it because Andy was really repelled by violence. He actually repelled.
If he knew that someone in his entourage was beating their girlfriend, for example, that person would have to go. He just couldn’t stand it. I think he saw a lot of it in his childhood...a lot of male/female beating.
So there were a lot of cracks. There was a situation on the West Coast...in La Jhoya, when they were filming “San Diego Surf”,a film that was never shown, never completed. There was a situation in which Viva led a revolt, and got the whole cast to walk off the set because of the way Paul was directing it. She stormed out with Louis Walden who was the star of the film. They stormed into the house and went directly to Andy and made this big speech about how, “We can’t do this anymore, you have to come out and take control. You have to be the film director.”. People did not tell Andy what he had to do. That wasn’t the way it worked. Although she was right and she was speaking for the cast, it just wasn’t the way that it worked. He, very passively, he was a passive aggressive, he very quietly, without reacting with any kind of anger, did not do that. He carried on with the path that he set up, and basically, that film was never finished. So the film was never shown.
So, it’s the sign of the breakdown, because Andy didn’t just go across the country with 15 people. The cost was certainly a few thousand dollars, and make this film, and it doesn’t come out! Like he was into it! To make things that were shown.
There was this incident in which one of the girls, Ivy Nicholson, who was a very statuesque model, left the factory in a rage one day, with Andy, because he wouldn’t marry her, or he wouldn’t go to Mexico with her, or something what she wanted; and he wouldn’t do it.
The next person going into the elevator found a steaming pile of shit on the floor of the elevator. She took a big shit in the elevator. You know...her message...Goodbye!
You know there were times, if anyone used the word, if anyone criticized homosexuality or someone for being gay they would be physically ejected. Billy Name would have to take them and put them out....physically. Most of them would not leave voluntarily. There were incidents where he had to slap people in the face...he had to. You know, the thing was really shaking.
There’s a kind of repeated pattern in his relationships with these people, these particular woman, Edie in 65, Nico in 66, Viva in 67. There’s a rise and there’s a fall. With Viva who was probably the most intelligent, the most self aware of those people, and the one who went on to have some kind of career of her own more successfully, she actually got angry with Andy about the way she was being treated. She realized that the Factory was, didn’t take, they were using these women and they weren’t really giving them the same level of involvement as they were giving to the men and so on.
So when Viva did that, it changed his attitude toward her, and he never felt the same about her again, and that was in early 68, and Valerie Solanis shot him in June of 68.
What about Valerie?
In the issue of Valerie....I feel very imbittered about that, because I think it has been blown out of proportion. Valerie Solanis was a bona-fide 60’s revolutionary person, although be it not very well grounded in her thinking or her actions. She had this whole thing about the “Scum Manifesto”, and having this whole group of women, who, what, were like-minded with her. But there was no group. There were no people that belonged to Scum. There were no meetings, the things she talked about. So, she had made these things up. Just as she made up that Andy had stolen the rights to her work. She got very confused between three people. Gerodius, who published the “Sucm Manifesto”, and who had given her a contract to write a novel, and Grove Press, to whom she had taken the manuscript and left it there, and Andy,
to whom she had given the manscript of her play “Up your Ass”. All three people... well Gerodius gave her a contract and gave her money in advance, a five hundred dollar advance which is not a small amount of money back in those days. The Grove people had the manuscript and they didn’t respond to it. That doesn’t mean even they had read it, but there was no response. But Andy, once she started yelling at him, “I have to get my script back!”; and basically, he had lost it. It just got lost. So, she started asking for money, and he said, instead of giving you money, he said, “Why don’t you come over and make a film and I’ll pay you?”. Which was a very nice way to deal with that. It’s allowing her to become part of the Warhol group. She gets 25 bucks, and she gets more than that. Attention. And in fact, in the film she was in “I, A Man” she was good, one of the outstanding people in it. She was very funny. They all liked it, right? So, Valerie’s “twistedness” and “bentness” inside herself... her self-image as being an ugly duckling among these beautiful swans, resents that. She had this boiling resentment in her. It grew and grew until the only way she seemed to be able to handle it, which was a strange kind of of reaction, was to kill someone.
She apparently wrote, I know for a fact that she wrote to Gerodious to kill him if he didn’t respond the way she wanted him to. I know she had Barney Rossiter on a list of people she wanted to kill, and then Andy was on the list. But other people like Lou Reed was on the list.
I think a lot of people liked that because it put you in the Pantheon. Really though, I think it was those two people because it makes sense, because of that twisted thinking that someone had stolen the rights to her works. Her understanding contracts and all that, having signed a contract with Gerodious. She didn’t really understand what it was for and so on. He gave her an advance for a novel. That was it. Write a novel. On the day she killed Andy...she shot Andy, she did kill him to some extent. On that day she had visited the Grove offices first and Barnay wasn’t there. Gerodious had gone to Canada for the week-end, specifically in reaction to Valerie. She had told him. I’m going to do it this week-end or this period, this time man...and he went away. So when she went to his place he wasn’t there. Everybody said, he’s gone away, he’s out of town. So that’s how she wound up, washed up at the Factory at four o’clock in the afternoon. It was her last stop. If Rossiter had been there she would have shot him more likely than anyone else. Besides he was unprotected; Barnay at least had a cordon of people around him.
You can make a graph of Valerie’s slowly mounting resentment over the year from ‘67 to ‘68. You can sort of make a list of the times at which she met Andy or was with Andy; but she wasn’t part of his entourage. She didn’t walk into Max’s with him. She didn’t go to the Factory every day. This business of treating Valerie as if she was a major player in the Factory scene is really completely wrong. Historically this isn’t the case. Before she shot Andy, Valerie was a completely unknown person, considered worthless by those that knew her. The “Scum Manifesto” was just thought of as a bad joke. Nobody took the girl seriously. Nobody considered that there was some good writing in there. Actually, in a way she had created a satirical piece of writing. It was kind of appropriate to the time. The sort of reverse side of celebration. It was totally misunderstood. No one knew what it was. She was a nut. Out working on her own with....she wanted Daddy’s attention. Daddy wasn’t paying enough attention to her and never had. She was ugly, and she was a lesbian; and even lesbians rejected her. She was a rejected person. Reject! But Andy didn’t reject her. He put her in a film. He paid her money. She did go to the Factory. They let her in. I think you have to look at that thing a bit differently. You could, to some extent, use her as a symbol of the resentment.
Taylor Mead did say that, “If Valerie had not shot Andy I would have!”. Of course he was joking, but,the point is, what he’s pointing to is that we all did feel those kinds, that kind of resentment that Valerie felt. It’s just that she honed it into a particular shape and made it specifically a reaction to...even the fear that Andy had taken over her life. She put it to the police, that “he had too much control over my life”. It was a feeling...it was prevalent among those people.
Particularly those who had been there for a while, if you were there for a year or so, big deal.... you were playing.....but if you were involved as Taylor Mead was, from the beginning or other people to mention, Ondine, Billy etcetera...This is really important..
After Valerie Solanis shot him, Andy became frightened of crazy women, and he remained frightened of crazy women for the rest of his life. I think that is something one could go into in depth and find a lot of interesting…His mother was a crazy woman in a way. There was a lot of craziness in the female side of his family. So Valerie just really scared him. And he writes about it in the ‘Popism’ abut how he was worried that after the shooting he wouldn’t be able to have ideas because he depended so much on crazy people for ideas, right?.
But all he did was change the females for drag queens, who are even better at what he needed because these were men who spent so much of their time trying to be exactly the kind of women Andy wanted to surround himself with, i.e. extremely glamorous Hollywood stars, with a spectacularly satirical point of view. I mean it was just perfect, one of those Warholian moments, you wonder like, well this is the best thing that could possibly happen to him to make this switch. Did this happen because he was up tight with women after he got shot or was he just making the right moves? So many of his moves just seemed to fit the time so perfectly. And Andy pointed his finger at drag queens and two years later drag queens were kind of moving into the culture in a big way, and subsequently they’ve become a very big thing so…(lights cigarette).
Let’s go back to the earlier part of factory era, the concept of collaboration, when Andy would do his art and have scores of people helping. What about the early days?
Well, I personally think that collaboration is one of the great unrecognized art forms, and I think that Andy was certainly the greatest collaborational artist of the twentieth century.
The person who, more than anyone, made use of and to some extent celebrated the art of collaboration and how you worked with other people. Brecht did it, a lot of people did it, but Andy kind of celebrated it and pointed toward it, focused on it. Again, it came sort of naturally I think. For example in the 50s he used to produce once a year, a privately printed, beautiful book, which he would send out to his clients as a sort of gift. And it would be a hundred copies. And he would get ten of his favorite boys to come over, and help collate the copies around the dining room table. Now you can imagine, it was fun, people loved doing this, because he would have nice drinks, music would be playing, and they’d be doing something. And at the end of the night a hundred copies existed of this book.
I wrote a poem once in 1972, which went “In America all we do is work”, and I got that from Andy, and also Muhammed Ali who I was interviewing at the time told me that what they were saying was, the way to live is to make work fun, cause life is essentially work, so instead of saying “oh my God, I’ve got to go to work”, you make it into a party in some way.
So Andy, in doing anything, even in painting, he would have people sitting talking to him, telling him stories while he was on the floor painting. Plus he’d have music on, the TV on, and so on. His idea was, that’s a way of picking up a lot of other people’s energy, it’s not just to entertain you.
So his whole idea was to surround himself with people who could help him get things done quicker, so they could make more money, have ideas, and knock them down, test them out, etcetera, bring in the right people at the right time, “I need to get this done.”
For example, Gerard Malanga brought in Paul Morrissey, in 1965 because Andy needed some technical help on the movies, which he did. He was having trouble with sound, and trouble with this and that. Paul was a good technical man who knew exactly what he needed him to do. Andy could never have made ‘Chelsea Girls’ without Paul Morrissey. But it was totally Andy’s idea, and Paul himself told me, “We all thought he was crazy, we kept telling him not to do it, we didn’t understand what he was doing, he didn’t know what he was doing either”. But he was right in what he did.
So collaboration is the core of the Warhol work esthetic, or, you know, the work ethic. It’s based upon getting people to work with you, but it’s as much for human, the comfort of human contact, and people not being isolated and alone. It’s trying to change the image of the artist as a person who sits alone in a garret to somebody who’s basically running a factory.
And the only thing that went astray to some extent, that with Andy’s encouragement, playfully, it led some people to believe that he didn’t really do his own work, that other people did it for him, and that certainly is just not true. I mean he may have said to somebody, “Paint in a blue background in this area.”, but then he came over and did the face and the stuff, of a portrait for example. So he was definitely in charge of every single painting he made in terms of making decisions about the colors, applying, you know. But he certainly understood collaboration, and was more positively affected by it than any other artist, I think, I’ve come across.
In your opinion, what would Andy be doing now if he were still alive?
Well, when he died in 1987, he had something like eight major retrospectives planned in the next two or three years, and his career was growing at an extraordinary rate at that time. The value one might have put upon what he was earning per year would have gone up, a lot. (3)
Whether his prices would have experienced the extraordinary and staggering level they’re reaching now, without his death is hard to say. Probably not. I mean usually that happens when an artist dies, that you get into that level, but certainly they would have been up there in the millions, given what’s going on in the general market, right?
So he would have reached rather an extraordinary stage in his career, right, just sort of find himself at that level. But I think, more interestingly, he would have reacted to what’s happening in this culture, with a lot more, ah, aggression than any artist who I’ve seen anything from or reacting to it.
Susan Sontag, a week after the invasion of Iraq, no I’m sorry, after 9/11, famously wrote a letter published in the Times, pointing out that this is not exactly something that we should have been surprised, but trying to give some sense of the international image of the United States. And she was almost like, hung drawn and quartered as a result. She was told, “Never open your mouth again”, and after that no intellectual or artist was quoted anywhere, saying anything.
You know, there are no world figures, when Andy was alive, there were a number of world figures, who when they said something, it was relevant to the situation, it was quoted usually in some…so I think that he would have continued being important in that sense, and I know
those of us who worked with Andy Warhol and knew him, always believed that, like Picasso, he would live into his nineties, and work until the last day of his life, because he was very strong, a remarkably strong man physically.
If you ever touched him, touched his arms or his back particularly, it was extraordinary how strong, and how hard he was and how strong he was. And he had really, he had planned, I think to have a long life.
He was only 57 when he died. If William Burroughs had died when he was 57, we would have had about half the work that he did in his life. For example, many artists of Warhol’s character do great work in their older years, so it’s a great pity that we didn’t get to see what he could have done. On the other hand, of course, being such a celebrator of youth culture and such a celebrator of those iconic figures whose fame came to a large extent after their deaths, Marilyn Monroe, etcetera, you know, it was almost a wonderful career move, without meaning to be at all facetious. It affected his career marvelously. It made him so big that he is now being considered as the greatest artist of the twentieth century, you know, by the New York Times publications.
You know I think he will end up being considered the greatest artist of the twentieth century, because he spoke so succinctly to those, to the concerns of the twentieth century. What became the concerns of the twentieth century, destruction of the species, the endangered species that we’ve become.
I have this thing in my head about “being famous for 15 minutes”. All these people who were involved in the Factory, in the solden era. I find a lot of them to be very bitter about what happened to their lives after that. Can you speak to me about that?
Yeah, I can, because of my own experiences in researching my book, and the responses to it from a number of those people. I think that, again you always see this with people who gain a good deal of attention in their own lives, and work, through association with a much more famous or bigger figure than they are. There always is a confusion, as to what happens to them afterward. And it really then depends upon their character and their seriousness of intention as to how they react.
For example, Paul Morrissey has continued to make films, since he last made, “Frankenstein and Dracula” with Warhol in 1974. And I’ve seen a number of them, and I’ve read reviews of them, and certainly none of them really had the kind of impact or response of, say, “Trash”, for example. And yet I don’t see Morrissey as a bitter figure, personally. I don’t know if he is, but I don’t see him as a bitter figure. And he seems to have a career.
There are a number of people who had no career after their time with Warhol, and they became much more bitter, and much more confused, and tended much more to blame him, or the world or whatever, for their problems. They are people who would have blamed someone for their problems, you know, rather than themselves. And that’s really, basically, the difference of the two groups.
Was anyone harmed by their association with Andy?
I don’t really know of any example of a person who was harmed by their association with Andy Warhol. And actually a very good example of that would be Lou Reed. You know, Lou Reed made quite a successful comeback as a solo star in 1972, two years after leaving the Velvet Underground. His career was undoubtedly shadowed by Warhol, for many, many years, for at least, say, ten years, before Reed began to really be accepted without every first sentence having to be, “Lou Reed, who worked with Andy Warhol”.
You know, I think it worked both ways for Lou, I mean, I know it was very frustrating for him, but I also know it brought him a great deal of attention, and, that Andy played an incredibly important part in his career, in the collaborative sense. So, it’s really a question of your own intelligence; it’s how you deal with it.
I might end on a personal note. I’ve just spent the last week transcribing a tape that I made with Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger, and William Burroughs in 1980, when we got together for a dinner specifically to tape an interview between Burroughs and Jagger, for my book on Burroughs that I was doing at the time. Anyway, we did it, and the results were published in various places, and I’ve had to re-transcribe it recently. It was a very peculiar experience, because I had remembered it as basically a somewhat crazy, but productive session, but in re-listening to it, and I’d also had a number of memories of people’s reactions to me specifically in it, obviously, my own memories.
In re-listening to the tape, I have a completely different view of it than I had, you know, from my memory. And it speaks to this business of the extant to which one ‘mythifies’ one’s life with Warhol and the extant to which, if you actually go back and listen to, you know, an evening with him. For example, basically on the tape, everyone is extremely nice and there’s a lot of interesting things that get said that I completely missed when I was transcribing it at the time. And Warhol, I see, so much more clearly than I could possibly see then, is so nice, and so just trying to make this a good thing, you know, that it’s remarkable.
I’ve always, I’m sure that anybody that had any contact with Andy Warhol, benefited from it enormously, and anybody who worked with him, benefited from it at least twice as much as he benefited from working with them, you know. At least, in my case maybe a hundred times, but, you know, there were some people with whom he worked, you know, it was a more mutual relationship.
But as I said earlier on, he had the soul of a teacher, and he was a guru, even though he didn’t want to be, within the context of the word, in the sixties. But he was a wonderful man and a wonderful person, and I think it’s very important to underline that anytime you’re talking about the way he would use a triangular group for example to manipulate, to run the Silver Factory. It wasn’t out of any negative intentions, it was out of, “How do you get something done, how do you get people to do things, how do you keep people turned on, and how do you keep people on edge, how do you keep people awake? This is a good way to do it, this works”, you know.
I don’t think Andy ever hurt anybody, I really don’t. I know one woman, Andrea Feldman committed suicide when she was working with him, on “Trash”, (no) the film “Heat”, actually, the second one to that, and, you know, she would have committed suicide anyway, there was no question. She was a very disturbed woman. Lou Reed put it very well when he said, “The Factory was not a mental hospital.”.
Was the Factory symbolic of what was happing in the 60’s?
Well, Alan Ginsberg once said to me, “I know this sounds strange, but I think Andy Warhol created the sxties single-handidly. I think he was the man who had the vision of the 60’s, and actually made it happen.”. When he first said it I thought... that’s ridiculous. Why in the hell are you saying that? But I thought about it for many years; he said it to me in the mid 70’s. And to some extent, I can see that he is right.
I think that your idea is correct. I don’t know if it is metaphorical. The Factory was an idea of a way of being....a communal way of living and working...which yes, I say, it was very essential to the real e-pulse of that time. If you take the sixties seriously, trying to really change the basis of life-styles and the way we live and think, the way we see things, then the Factory would be the place to go to get your instruction manual as it were.
There was no other organization, nor group of people that had a stronger hold on the idea of it all. Even though Andy is most known as a painter and a film-maker he was, in fact in those days, doing many things...like his “Index Book”. He did the interviews, he did them at the end of ‘69.
It’s like the tentacles of the Factory spread already into many different places…like the fashion world...the rock and roll world...the world of interviews and the magazines...the literary world in a very small way because people rejected it completely. But “A” is one of the top ten books of the sixties ...if you are making a list of books that kind of ARE the sixties...Like “Naked Lunch” would be one for example... “A” would be one. The “Essential Lenny Bruce” would be one. These people stepped out and laid down their rap.... that was where it was, and it became recognized as a Bible or instruction ....or whatever you want to call it of that time. You could make a list…and “A” would definetely be on it. It’s an extraordinary book and I don’t know why people don’t read it.
(“A”) It’s Andy’s book about the Factory. It’s just driving around in cabs and sitting in apartments with Ondine and a few other people, central to the scene, in regards to this one and that one, coming in and out, but it’s basically about Ondine, asking him to come in on this and that. They talk about Edie, about all these people... about Gerard. They put them down…they look at them.. .they examine them... they joke about them.. and then, in a sense, it’s really a book about Andy. The core of the book is Andy actually being honest about his emotions.
A cab driver asked him in the middle of the book ....are you happy? And he says no. And everyone goes ..No? Why are you not happy...basically because he hasn’t got a boyfriend.
He hasn’t anyone who is in love with him. And he referred to himself as Andy Worhol.. AW....all witch... all woman. Andy Worhol. And that is how he saw himself. That’s not the whole picture, but it’s part. That book is pretty spontaneous.They took some speed and... they did it in two parts…it wasn’t done in one day, but the idea was 24 hours-on.
What would be the most important thing to remember about Andy’s Silver Factory?
That level of sensitivity that I was talking about in the way he directed films. It was the way he brought all those peole together, and maintained the whole thing. It’s the way people reacted to him with his protectedness..and with this sensitivity to him. Andy gave people more than they gave him. People say, “Oh.. I gave my life to him.”, and they did. But he gave them more because he was able to inject them with this enormous sense of themselves and enthusiasm for what he was doing...what they were doing.
I think that at the center of the core ... you have to understand that, and very few people do...Andy was a great romantic. The Factory was really all about romance...in a twisted way, but that is what it is really all about. Romance for work...romance for collaboration...collaborative partners.
The greatest people in your life are the people that you work with if you are working creatively and on a daily basis. They become your family. He created the new family of the 60’s. It’s not just a commune of people who are having sex with each other. It’s a commune of people who are living life together, who are helping each other in living and getting through the day.
I remember the book, “How did you get through the day?”, because I was interviewing Andy and I said, “what is the most difficult thing for you every day?”, and he said, “just getting through the day.”