Valerie Solanas had previously been known around downtown as a hustling street urchin who wrote the satirical-but-serious SCUM Manifesto in 1967 before shooting Andy Warhol after he and others declined to producer her play Up Your Ass.
Earlier in the day on June 3, 1968, Realist publisher Paul Krassner ran into Solanas on the street when he was heading over to have lunch at Brownie’s, a vegetarian restaurant near the Factory. When she walked into Brownie’s a little bit later and asked to sit with him, Krassner politely declined because he was with his daughter, who he didn’t get to see much. “She said she understood and she left,” Krassner recalled. “Right after that, she went and shot Warhol. I still think about that. It’s like, suppose it wasn’t Warhol she shot. Suppose she said, ‘What do you mean I can’t join you?!?’ BANG! It was kind of scary because she really obviously had some kind of mental problem.” Solanas walked from Brownie’s, took the Factory’s elevator up to the main offices, then shot Warhol multiple times as he crawled under a desk and pleaded for her to stop. Sanders heard about the shooting that afternoon when he was in his apartment and became justifiably concerned. “I was afraid she might come to Peace Eye or, worse, to our apartment, with her smoking .32,” he recalled. “I hid behind the police lock on Avenue A until she turned herself in to the police on Times Square a few hours later.”
From Chapter 18 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
Before Andy Warhol declined to produce Valarie Solanas’s Up Your Ass, she had already approached Charles Stanley and Robert Patrick at Caffe Cino about directing the play. Stanley wanted Patrick to direct the play, but it was a little too extreme and filthy even for his tastes, so Patrick declined. “I remember her look,” he said. “She shot Warhol for not doing that play. I wish I had done it. It might have saved Andy Warhol. I deeply regret it.” Ed Sanders was another man who dashed Solanas’s dreams after she delivered the twenty-one page SCUM Manifesto manuscript to his Peace Eye Bookstore. She hoped he would publish it, but after he sat on it for too long, Solanas left a terse note for him at the bookstore. “She wanted the manuscript back,” Sanders recalled. “I got the impression from the store clerk that she was miffed.” Adding to her frustration, Solanas unsuccessfully approached Realist publisher Paul Krassner about publishing SCUM, yet another male gatekeeper who turned her down. “It didn’t fit whatever my editorial criteria were,” he said, “but I did give her fifty dollars because she was an interesting pamphleteer and I wanted to support her.” She ended up self-publishing the manifesto and sold it at Paperbook Gallery, the Greenwich Village store where Jackie Curtis collaborator Paul Serrato worked. “Valerie would pop in with her SCUM Manifesto and she’d chat, just like anyone else,” Serrato said. “Who knew what she was gonna do, right?” Solanas began showing up at the Factory more frequently, asking for money, so Warhol put her to work by casting her in his 1967 film I, a Man. Over the course of 1968, she became increasingly agitated until she finally snapped on June 3 and shot Warhol.
Valerie Solanas had previously been known around downtown as a hustling street urchin who wrote the satirical-but-serious SCUM Manifesto in 1967. In addition to promoting her SCUM movement, Solanas wanted someone to produce Up Your Ass, or From the Cradle to the Boat, or The Big Suck, or Up from the Slime—a gender-bending romp that took place in the social gutters. The play featured a character named Bongi who ran into a variety of degenerates: Alvin, the ladies’ man with a revolving bed; Ginger the Cosmo career girl who gets ahead by “lapping up shit”; a misogynous bore named Russell; a sex-crazed homicidal mother named Mrs. Arthur; her penis-obsessed child, the Boy; and so on. Up Your Ass climaxes during a scene about a “Creative Homemaking class” that encouraged mothers to combine their sex lives with the mundane task of washing baby bottles. They are instructed to lather up the baby brush and surprise their husbands by “r-a-a-m-m-ing the brush right up his asshole. So, you see, Girls, marriage really can be fun.” When Solanas was staying at the Chelsea Hotel, she recruited actors for Up Your Ass by passing out her outrageous mimeographed literature in the lobby—which prompted resident Arthur Miller to complain to the management. Andy Warhol ultimately chose not to produce Up Your Ass, which started a chain of events that led to the shooting.
Patti Smith was wary of the Warhol scene, but she supported Robert Mapplethorpe’s desire to break into that world. This led them to what she called the downtown’s “Bermuda Triangle”: Brownie’s vegetarian restaurant, Max’s Kansas City, and Warhol’s Factory, which were within walking distance of one another. Warhol had become reclusive after he was shot by Valerie Solanas, but the back room of Max’s remained one of the downtown scene’s hot spots. Its social politics were reminiscent of high school, though the popular people were not jocks and prom queens, but rather drag queens (who, as Smith observed, knew more about being a girl than most females). Mapplethorpe and Smith sat for hours nursing twenty-five cent coffees or a Coke as they slowly edged their way into the dark, red-lit cabaret that was Max’s back room—where “superstars” made grand entrances, blowing theatrical kisses. Smith was especially taken by Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, and Wayne County, whom she viewed as hybrid performance artists and comedians. “Wayne was witty, Candy was pretty, and Holly had drama,” she recalled, “but I put my money on Jackie Curtis. In my mind, she had the most potential. She would successfully manipulate a whole conversation just to deliver one of Bette Davis’s killer lines.”
From Chapter 21 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore