Poet John Giorno was the subject of Warhol’s infamous six-hour film Sleep, which he shot as his boyfriend slumbered at night and later shared a Bowery residence with William Burroughs known as “The Bunker,” a very short walk from the Blondie Loft.
While happily buzzing along on Obetrol, a diet pill often abused as a stimulant, Andy Warhol began filming his boyfriend, poet John Giorno, as he slumbered at night. This resulted in the long silent film Sleep, which was composed of twenty-two different shots, some of which were looped and repeated several times. Warhol also began working on a series of Kiss films, which included little more than scenesters such as Ed Sanders locking lips in semi-slow motion. “When he made his first films, Kiss, already I had almost fifteen years of cinema in me,” Jonas Mekas recalled. “I was publishing Film Culture magazine already for ten years, and writing. So I was very familiar, and I immediately saw that this is different—this is new, this is important. I was running at that time a filmmakers’ showcase on Twenty-Seventh Street between Park Avenue and Lexington, and that’s where I presented that series of Kiss films and premiered Sleep and his early silent films.”
From Chapter 10 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Craig Leon, who produced early singles and albums by Blondie, the Ramones, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and others, would sometimes see dead homeless people on the Bowery’s sidewalk. “It was right on the borderline between the bohemian upmarket West Village and the very underground Beat scenes and junky neighborhoods,” Leon said. “It had a mixture of old fifties and sixties Beat people living there.” William Burroughs lived with poet John Giorno in his “Bunker” residence in that part of the Bowery, just a few blocks south of CBGB—where his friend Patti Smith recalled that the sidewalks were often lined with burning trashcans that helped warm the street people. The Blondie Loft was located just up the block from the Bunker, an area that was populated by many a musician, writer, junkie, and/or all of the above.
From Chapter 30 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore