Research Presentation: Andy Warhol
(Slide: Andy Warhol.)
When people describe who I am, if they don’t say “Andy Warhol the Pop artist”, they say “Andy Warhol the underground film maker”. Or at least they used to.
My um people at the Factory used to call me Drella. Only my mother called me Andek, but she’s um dead now.
Gerard - my um assistant - had a theory about my films. He said:
. . . they were a stepping stone to finding a producer who would back his films . . . wishing he would get somebody to put up money for a big legitimate-type film. So [those] “16mm two-reelers” . . . were really experiments . . . They were a learning process for Andy, too. I mean: Andy really didn’t know how to make a movie.
I experimented a lot. One reel silent movies of a sleeping man’s face, the Empire State Building, the face of a man getting blown. The whole idea was to be ridiculous. Then movies with sound, just the um people in the Factory being themselves, no script. Real life. Even a go at Dracula. What I really wanted was Hollywood.
(Video: Camp montage.)
Vacant vacuous Hollywood was everything I ever wanted to mould my life into. Plastic. White on white.
Then I met Paul Morrissey. That’s him there, with the um hair. Gerard Malanga brought him round one day. He’d said “This is a friend of mine, Paul Morrissey. He’s very resourceful.” He kept coming around, and got involved in our movies. When he made Trash - when I was um in hospital - it made me more money than any other film had, so I let him make some more. We kept going from there.
(Slide: Dollar Bills painting)
I liked money. It was one of the first things I painted, when I started using my um silk screen press, and I only painted things I liked. I used to sit on the floor of the Factory with the TV on, and my um music turned up as loud as possible, reading a book and painting my pictures at the same time. It meant I didn’t think about what I was doing, you see.
What I really wanted was to take my personality completely out of the pictures, until all you had was this um impassive comment. Blank. Empty. A robot. I would have liked to be a robot. That’s why I liked my silk screen. It was mechanical: it meant I had as little contact with the paintings as possible. That’s why I um liked Paul. He was my um machine for making films, so as my um personality wasn’t in the movies.
It was Paul who turned the Factory into a business. When he first came there - in um 1965 - it wasn’t anything but a silver attic where people went to score drugs, have sex, try to get famous, amuse me. He thought it should be more under control, like a regular office. He wanted it to become a real moviemaking-moneymaking business enterprise, and I always liked money. And after the um Valerie thing in 1968, I was more happy to agree.
Paul put partitions up, dividing the loft into little cubicles. The intention was to let people know the Factory was now a place where actual business was conducted. It didn’t exactly work out the way he’d um envisioned it, though: people started using the cubicles for sex. After that, we used to pay Little Joe - one of my um “Superstars” - to keep people out.
Paul was always coming to the Factory while we were filming, to see how we did things and if there was any way he could get involved. We all went to Rome in 1973, when to make Blood for Dracula and Flesh for Frankenstein with Paul, Little Joe and Udo Kerr. We even had De Sica in Dracula. Nobody’s really sure just how much I did, or what - I like it like that. But you could definitely see me in them, through my machine. In the sex, for example.
(Video: sex montage.)
I used to think about the silly, unreal way the movies treated sex.
After all, the early ones used to have sex and nudity - like Heddy Lamarr in Ecstasy - but then Hollywood suddenly realised they were throwing away a good tease, that they should save it for a rainy day. Like, every ten years they would show another part of the body or say another dirty word on screen, and that would stretch out the box office for years, instead of just giving it all away at once. But when the foreign films started getting big, it threw Hollywood’s time-table off.
So they began to say that they were “protecting public morality” when the fact was they were just upset that they were going to be rushed into complete nudity when all along they’d been counting on lots of money from a long drawn out striptease. We certainly did our bit to hurry Hollywood along.
But I was there in the style, too.
I read this:
. . . horror movies follow a three part dramatic pattern . . . instability is introduced into an apparently stable situation; the threat to instability is resisted; the threat is removed and stability is restored.
And a review of Flesh for Frankenstein, too:
. . . it is a development in which pastiche, parody and even slapstick comedy are not uncommon, usually based on the presumption that overstatement of the genre conventions is an effective substitute for comic invention.
But that wasn’t what we were about. I was a Pop artist: these movies were art. The Pop artists did images that anybody walking down Broadway could recognise in a split second.
(Video: Frankenstein brought to life, Dracula biting neck.)
Isn’t it natural that we would make films in just the same way? Because the more you look at the same exact thing, the more the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel.
Even some of my life managed to make it into the films:
(Video: Gall-bladder scene.)
Life fucked me in the Gall-bladder.
I didn’t know Valerie Solanis very well - she brought me a script for a film once, acted in a scene. I was on the telephone to Viva - another um “Superstar” - when she walked in on the 3. June 1968. I was putting the ‘phone down when I heard a loud exploding noise and whirled around: I saw Valerie pointing a gun at me and realised she’d just fired it.
I said “No! No, Valerie! Don’t do it!” and she shot at me again. I dropped to the floor as if I’d been hit - I didn’t know if I actually was or not. I tried to crawl under the desk. She moved in closer, fired again, and then I felt horrible, horrible pain, like a cherry bomb exploding inside me.
As I lay there, I watched the blood come through my shirt and I heard more shooting and yelling. Later - a long time later - they told me that two bullets from a .32 calibre gun had gone through my stomach, liver, spleen, oesophagus, lungs. And my gall-bladder. In 1987, I had to have another operation on my gall-bladder. I died soon afterwards.
Of course, I always left problems for anybody who tried to analyse me. I never took anything seriously. I lied. One of my um class mates said:
He was always silent about himself and his motivations, and he was, you know, by no means a theoretical person. Other people superimposed that on top of him.
I think it was um Ondine who got it right. He was my um assistant at the Factory. He said:
[Andy] deals with the visual as the visual. He simply doesn’t . . . you know? So - ah - for my saying that you should see the film and (you know) and pre-p-p-empting you saying you should see this on that part of . . . no way: see the film, and that’s it. That’s the only way to experience a Warhol film.
He’s dead now.
(Music: Walk on the Wild Side)