Warhol superstar Viva first met Shirley Clarke when they worked together on Agnès Varda’s film Lion’s Love, and Viva appeared in several of Andy’s films, including the controversial Blue Movie (she happened to be on the phone with him when Valerie Solanas shot him at the Factory).
One might say Max’s Kansas City owner Mickey Ruskin was an art patron who happened to run downtown bars and coffeehouses. Andy Warhol gave him art in exchange for an unlimited bar tab, so that he and his Factory associates could eat and drink for free. “Mickey had always been attracted to the downtown art atmosphere—at Deux Mégots, he’d held poetry readings—and now painters and poets were starting to drift into Max’s,” Warhol recalled. “The art heavies would group around the bar and the kids would be in the back room, basically.” Future Warhol superstar Viva (born Janet Susan Mary Hoffmann) began going to Max’s with a couple of painter friends well before she met Warhol. “We went to the opening of Max’s,” she recalled. “Soon, everybody congregated there, including Andy Warhol, but I met a lot of people at Max’s before I even got involved with Andy.” The energy at Max’s Kansas City increased in the spring of 1966 when Ruskin opened up the unused back room to Warhol, who lurked at a big roundtable. Dan Flavin’s red neon light sculpture, which lit the room, cast even the most innocent visitors in a hellish light. “Max’s was the place where all the different scenes crossed and merged, which was what made New York so fabulous in the late sixties and early seventies,” recalled Jayne County, then known as Wayne County. “The gay scene, the drug scene, the theatre scene, the music scene, the art scene. Everyone was getting ideas off everyone else, and everyone ended up in a film or a band or something.” During the 1970s, County became one of the club’s resident DJs, and her various bands regularly performed there with the Ramones, Blondie, and other punk groups.
From Chapter 18 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
“One time,” Wendy Clarke recalled, “Arthur C. Clarke came over and he had just gotten this small laser that you can hold with your hands.” The science fiction author, another Chelsea resident, had been given the handheld laser beam projector by a crew member who was working on the film adaptation of his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. The mischievous Clarkes (who were not related) projected the laser onto the Twenty-Third Street sidewalk below—and then Shirley, dressed as Groucho Marx, did a slapstick routine while playing with the beam on the ground. “People on the street would become fascinated with the beam,” said Nancy Cain, a member of another collective called the Videofreex. “They would try to take the beam with them as they walked all the way down the street and then they would turn the corner, but the beam couldn’t turn the corner with them.” Viva recalled, “I was with Arthur when he and Shirley had the laser. I said, ‘Isn’t it kind of dangerous?’ They said, ‘No no no, it’s fine.’ Well, I wasn’t so sure.” Viva and Shirley got to know each other when the two worked together on the 1969 film Lion’s Love. “I was married at the time to Michel Auder, and he, Shirley, and I all moved into the Chelsea. Shirley had the penthouse, and we also had a place, so we became close friends.”
From Chapter 22 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore
The play Pork was based on transcripts of Andy Warhol’s audiotaped conversations with Factory regular Brigid Polk (née Brigid Berlin), with some notable alterations (Brigid Polk became “Amanda Pork” and Viva became “Vulva”). “Andy was just a very quiet guy who didn’t say anything,” recalled Tony Zanetta, who played the Warhol character in the show. “He liked to instigate other people to talk, and he started carrying around a tape recorder everywhere. What Warhol did with everything, he would take something real and then put it on the wall and it was ‘art.’ Pork was that as well because, really, what was it? It was a bunch of words. It was real conversations, but it was put onstage with actors speaking the lines. Pork became a play in the same way that his art was created.” While Zanetta performed in Wayne County’s World: Birth of a Nation and worked on the crew for the next show Tony Ingrassia directed, Sheila, Warhol was arranging for him to direct Pork. One day during rehearsals for Sheila, Ingrassia turned to him and said, “You could play Andy,” and Zanetta was happy to oblige. One of the first things he did was cut his hair like Warhol’s, and he also closely studied the artist when he came to rehearsals. “For me, it was the thrill of a lifetime to do Pork,” Zanetta said, “because I just thought that Warhol was, like, it. I look at pictures of the show and, sure, I don’t look like Andy Warhol—but if you look at pictures of me made up to look like Andy, there are a lot of physical similarities that I wouldn’t have even been aware of.” Wayne County played Vulva, and Pork also featured a young actor and playwright named Harvey Fierstein in his La MaMa debut (he would go on to win two Tony Awards for writing and starring in Torch Song Trilogy). “Pork was still the Ridiculous theater thing, but it pushed Ridiculous into a whole different area,” Zanetta recalled. “Ingrassia’s way was more polished, sort of like I Love Lucy. It was like TV acting. It was very broad, very exaggerated.”
From Chapter 24 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore