All about the NYC’s notorious Mudd Club where art and music intersect with sex, drugs and the slumming glittering elite by Richard Boch!
“I was a Long Island kid that graduated college in 1976 and moved to Greenwich Village. Two years later, I was working The Mudd Club door. Standing outside, staring at the crowd, it was “out there” versus “in here” and I was on the inside. The Mudd Club was filled with the famous and soon- to- be famous, along with an eclectic core of Mudd regulars who gave the place its identity. Everyone from Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, and Robert Rauschenberg to Johnny Rotten, The Hell’s Angels, and John Belushi: passing through, passing out, and some, passing on. Marianne Faithful and Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, William Burroughs, and even Kenneth Anger– just a few of the names that stepped on stage. No Wave and Post- Punk artists, musicians, filmmakers, and writers living in a nighttime world on the cusp of two decades. This book is a cornucopia of memories and images, and how this famed wicked downtown club attained the status of midtown and uptown. There was nothing else like it– I met everyone, and the job quickly defined me. I thought I could handle it, and for a while, I did. ”
This piece was literally dictated to me in one to two hours. I don’t think I changed a word of the original text. It was not easy to get it published in 1979. All the magazine editors were frightened that it would raise the ire of the feminists. Although the girls who inspired this piece were among the strongest women I’ve ever known. Finally a bright editor at High Times, Bob Singer, chopped of the first five pages which made the piece more direct and easier to understand. High Times published its as cover story in May 1982, the same month the book I wrote with Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, ‘‘Making Tracks:The Rise of Blondie” was published.
I did not know Negative Girls had also been published in an underground magazine in London called The Fred, but when I had previously submitted it to a small magazine being edited by Richard Hell he told me he had read it there. I had sent it to them a year earlier but never received a reply. I liked the magazine, edited by Bryan Maloney and Colin Charles, so much I published another related piece, ”Memoirs of A Modern Slave Girl”, in a later issue.
Actually now I’m recalling Negative Girl’s history I remember my fellow writer Legs McNeil, who had a relationship with German Playboy’s New York Rep, Monica Kind, told me they would publish it if we re-wrote it down to make it easier to understand! I actually have the manuscript of this re-write. It was published in German Playboy as ”Minus Mädchen” in 1981. The High Times piece broke it open though and next thing I knew one of William Burroughs French critics and translators, Philippe Mikriamos, published it in French in Metal Hurlant, (Heavy Metal) in 1983. This translation was then republished in two issues of an underground magazine in New York edited by Ann Hemenway. I think it was the prettiest translation. Then in 2009, Mark Kostabi asked me to write a text for a book of his paintings called ”The Only Ones” . The text was much too literal. I really liked these romantic paintings and tried to literally describe them, which did not work so well, but sometimes when you’ve written something you cannot change it. So I added Negative Girl, which was a much better text. Mark appreciated it, telling me it reminded him ofhis own feelings. ”The Only Ones” was published in a bilingual edition in English and Italian. It was most recently published as a cover story in Night Italia 2013. Negative Girls is currently being published in a book by Robert Carrithers in Prague.
Writing Negative Girl was one of the greatest experiences in my life. I made a serious effort to turn it into a book in 1982 and on several other occasions. Oh, I forgot, after High Times published the piece I received a call from an agent at the William Morris agency, the most powerful agency in America. They wanted me to turn it into a Broadway Musical. They had everyone they needed to put on the show, directors, stars etc. I told them I would think about it. But by the time I lost my desire to complete the book, when the girl who inspired it told me she was getting married, I remembered talking to Viva, then at the height of her powers after publishing ”Superstar” and a fabulous book called ”The Baby”. She was telling me how she was making headway on her third book (”The Lover”?) when Knopf asked her to go on tour with ”The Baby” and how she never made it back to her book and never published again. I suddenly realized I was on my path and could not veer off it. It was the path that lead me to”Uptight: The Velvet Underground Story” and ”Warhol: The Biography”. Of course I think Negative Girls would have been a huge hit on Broadway and I often wake up in the middle of the night singing one of its songs. Negative Girls is a timeless piece of prose. Just as there will always be Bad Boys there will always be….
By Victor Bockris Mudd’s Club Girl’s Room 4-6 AM Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22, 1979
The live of American girls terrify me. I cannot look.
BOYS TELL LIES, GIRLS TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS
Girls are climbing all over the living room furniture, and crawling out of my hair, girls are using my eyes, girls are slipping my checkbook into their handbags, girls can’t stop talking. Allergic girls. Detergent girls. Floating girls. Stolen girls. Girls and death. Girls defeated by hammers. The girls department. Girls and money. Girls for sale. Legendary girls. Insect girls, Inspect girls. Inject girls. Girls in the supermarket. Backstreet girls. Singing girls. Driving girls. Let me go girls. Walking girls running girls standing still girls. Hot and cold girls. Hot and cold running girls.
Cunts tits feet faces hair. Electric girls. Nominated girls. Financed girls. Jungle girls at the Mudd Club. Diamond girls at the Pierre. Cunts with shields and cunts with spears. Spy girls. All the same girls. All the time girls. Finished girls. Girls in the war. Girls on tour. Girls in the mens room. Inquisitive girls. Intuitive girls. Exquisite girls. Girls who live in the crotch of metropolitan life to illustrate what it’s like to be a girl in America today. Negative girls who say, “We are second class citizens!” White girls who want to be black, they demand to be recognized as dogs at war. They learn to say,
–“I had to be a prostitute!”
–“I had to do it! He would have killed me!”
–“He shot me in the chest from four feet and then spent half an hour cleaning up the apartment before he even called an ambulance. The cop thought I was going to die and held my hand all the way to the hospital.”
Negative girls are mirrors. They are seeking for the proof of their visions every day in every activity. They take photographs of boys telling lies then show them the photographs of their lies revealing the false structure of our sexual code, which negative girls aim to break.Most girls who get thrown down stairs, beaten up, raped, left, used, abused, slutted, whored, wined and dined close up like foul black flowers and become ugly dishwashers, but negative girls never fall in love, they rise in hate. They take their pain to the public. They exorcise disappointment with its photograph. They celebrate another moon. They chase gaiety and emerge purged. A negative girl only has bad news. A negative girl only tells bad stories. She likes to tell stories about every bad person she ever knew, and if you try to cheer her up by telling her something good she’ll turn down her mouth and say it didn’t happen to her. But most of all she likes to tell bad stories about herself.
-“Did you stuff blueberries up my cunt last nigh? I thought so! I told you not to! Now I have a swollen cunt. I hate cunts. I wish I didn’t have one. All it does is get me into a lot of trouble.” -“Well… I think you have a very nice…” -“Oh stop it! I don’t care what you think. I’m going to have my cunt sewn up!”
Negative girls know that the male’s primary impulse is to insert himself as far into the female’s body as he can possibly go and they don’t care. Negative girls pretend to be forced to have sex because it proves how negative it is, how negative you feel about them, and how negative their lives are.
-“Well you fucked me last night so you’re not going to fuck me again this morning. You’re not going to fuck me in the ass. It hurts too much! I’ve tried. You can jerk off into my mouth.” -“When did you last come?”
-“Ten years ago. What happened last night?”
-“Well I was fucking you, I was fucking you for a long time and…”
-“I don’t remember anything.”
-“Then you came.”
-“I NEVER COME WITH YOU! I’m sorry, but…”
-“Oh no, it’s okay. It’s okay. No, I know, but anyway you seemed to have a good time.”
-“Well, I don’t know.”
Negative girls are very annoyed if you suggest they enjoyed themselves too much. Negative girls are distinctly unhappy if asked by their partners to adopt a superior position during coitus. Little girl who really need help, vulnerability is their strongest suit. It always hurts negative girls when you fuck them. “Ouch ouch, you’re hurting me. Stop. Oh My God.” Negative girls are embarrassed about sex and don’t like to talk about it. If you start being passionate she will scream out, “I’m very drunk! I just want to get raped and fucked! Just fuck me! Rape me! Oh God rape me!” and expect you to rip her clothes off and fuck her like a savage from the realms of Tarzan’s imagination.Lawyers, book keepers and priests everywhere tell me there are a lot of normal reasonable girls around capable of leading a straightforward adult life, getting married, settling down and raising a family. I’ve never seen any and I don’t believe it.
Every girl I meet is just as crazy and remarkable as the one before her. It’s always bad with their wheedling and whining and little girls cries: “Sally wants presents. Sally wants ten presents. Sally wants more presents. How many presents does Daddy have for Sally?”
WARNINGS ABOUT NEGATIVE GIRLS
You take a negative girl out on the town everywhere in a limousine and keep giving her cocaine, you take her to exotic private dinner parties, then you ask her if she had a good time and she says it was okay, before going uptown to turn a trick for fifty dollars – just to make sure you understand how much she needs you and how much she wants your attention. A lot of attention. All of it. A night with a negative girl is fraught with danger and can be a nightmare. At any moment she may turn its tide, leaving you washed up on the alcoholic shores of morning. Flapping off of grey rocks you wake to find yourself fully dressed alone, a cigarette between your teeth, a pork pie hat stuck on your head.
A negative girl will never stay in one place for very long. A negative girl gets bored easily and if you aren’t running around with a feather stuffed up your ass or dressed in a chicken suit, or if you haven’t got any more funny stories to tell her or famous people to introduce her to, a negative girl will run off screaming “WHERE’S THE PARTY!?!” Negative girls are not interested in newspapers or politics. Negative girls do not like to think, although you have your substrata of intellectual negatives, really bitter bitches with whiplash tongues, regal snatches up on the higher floors who make men kill to fuck, snapping turtle cunts in Jaguar’s, all whoring for power.
Be very careful who you introduce a negative girl to because she will always collect any famous phone numbers lying around and then call up the famous person and say you told her to call. Negative girls will use your name and connections indiscriminately, but if you ever try and elicit a favor from a negative girl – an introduction, a place to stay, an invitation – she will recoil in horror and assume a superior, removed position.
It has been asked: are negative girls aliens? Negative girls were certainly given different orders.
FROM KNICKERS AND KNEE SOCKS TO SWITCHBLADES AND STILETTOS: HOW BAD GIRLS UNDRESS:
Negative girls don’t have many clothes because they spend a lot of time in bed, mostly just sleeping it off, although they do have to perform or else they wouldn’t be allowed to stick around. What they wear is remarkably uniform, depending upon the image the individual chooses to employ. When dressing, negative girls concentrate on what will be immediately recognizable to negative boys, except in the few cases where the girl doesn’t have to bother what she wears she’ll get fucked.
The majority of negative girls wear black. If they wear dresses the skirts are short over black stockings or knee socks, white cotton underpants are de rigeur, high heels (to push their asses out) bras (to push their tits out) and black leather jackets. If they wear pants the pants are black the boots are black the jacket’s black. The underwear may also be black. Some negative girls throw in a few colors, wear red shoes or pink feather boas and carry yellow plastic handbags, but only on the weekend or if they’re temporarily acting in a recording company office. Negative girls are too serious to get that fanciful about their outfits. A seminal costume for the negative girl is the Catholic School Girl dress. Variations run through most schoolgirl uniforms from China to Paraguay. An alternative is the little boy’s sharkskin suit worn over black high heel boots and under short spiky hair. Add tear gas gun and – Hey presto! You’re a negative girl!
Where do negative girls get their clothes? “We shop in other people’s closets!” A negative girl rushes into an apartment and heads straight for the closet to see if there’s anything she could wear you might lend her for the night. A negative girl will never return anything she borrowed and if you ever leave anything in a negative girl’s bed it will get lost before you remember where it is. I have lost a number of small items this way. Watches, drugs, credit cards.… Negative girls are jackdaws, but even the ones with the biggest noses and worst acne are always pretty because they dress up in ballerina clothes and wear black gauze masks and spangles around their ankles. Negative girls are confectionary. Their cunts taste like candy.
NEGATIVE GIRLS AND DRUGS
Negative girls are great in bed if they’re not too sick, but they’re sick a lot. Some negative girls are always sick because they never eat anything and take as many drugs as they can. But negative girls are quite particular about what kind of drugs they will take, and most of them abhor marijuana. Boys who smoke marijuana around negative girls always catch a lot of flak-
-“What a pothead!”
-“That stuff stinks!”
-“Oh God! More marijuana again…”
– because it makes them paranoid and paranoia is the last thing a negative girl can afford to have added to her afflictions.
Negative girls like speed and their mouths are always falling out. A lot of negative girls have to take quaaludes in order to get fucked because they’re too tense otherwise. They say all girls like to get smacked and negative girls concur, liking smack better than anything else. You can pretend heroin doesn’t exist, or only underworld stooges of the lowest order use it, but negative girls shout, “We’re going to get some smack as soon as we get to London! Don’t be a boring moralist about it!” While sociologists pout, “Many young girls who fear the permanent side effects of drug addiction accept bizarre sexual experiences in the belief that they are the lesser of two evils.” What sleazy liars they are!
A boy walks through a crowd of beautiful girls wearing a black bandage across his eyes. A negative boy walks through a crowd of beautiful girls he cannot see. He covers his eyes with a black gloved hand. The wind blows a boy in a black hat and coat over, a car veers around the corner, the streetlights go out. Two priests pull up in a limousine. A negative boy goes into another world he has the pictures of. A negative girl screams: “THAT ISN’T WHAT HAPPENED! WE WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE BIT WHERE HE TOOK HIS PANTS OFF!”
Negative girls only like negative boys and negative boys hate their girlfriends, so negative girls are always close to the flame of hate. This keeps them awake. Negative girls want to have sex with negative boys because negative boys match the desired sequence of pictures negative girls have superimposed on their sex screens. The negative girl sees the negative boy walking across the room, she appreciates his skinny ass his skinny legs his skinny head his skinny brain his skinny veins – all withered up and dried away, which is why he’s off the stuff for a while. They flip for his tight skinny mouth and his giant animal like member protruding from his pants like a rolling pin. How many times have I had to listen to negative girls describe their boyfriends’ cocks with the guy nodding out right next to them? I always think the guy is going to be embarrassed when his girlfriend says, “You can’t help the way nature made you honey, you have a beautiful cock,” but he just pops another quarter in the pinball machine.
Negative boys say, “Going to bed is really giving up. We never go to bed until we pass out. All imagination of the future is wrong and I am in a precarious position flying over unknown territory without control of my plane, so don’t bother me.”
How do negative girls deal with negative boys? Most negative girls are frigid. They can usually cover it up pretty well with their acting experience, but most negative boys are impotent, even after reading textbooks on the physiology of erections and this creates a problem. She tries to jump on top of him wearing a red knee socks and a tee shirt that says FETISH or ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL on it, but he can only jerk off to her voice over the telephone. A negative girl will never masturbate her boyfriend.
-“Could I just ask you a favour that’ll only take two minutes. Would you just jerk me off?”
-“There’s nothing wrong with asking as long as you don’t try and force someone!”
-“There’s nothing worse than asking.” She is embarrassed if you mention masturbation.
-“Getting caught masturbating would more embarrassing than getting caught turning a trick,” a negative girl told me over a lunch which she ordered, stirred around and disdained at Mortimer’s. It is unwise to take a negative girl to a restaurant. She’ll make sure it’s expensive, then keep the waiter standing around while she bites her nails and asks what everything looks like. When it comes you realize why. She just likes to look at the food and push it around. (Unless she’s at DAVE’S LUNCHEONETTE, where she’ll eat everything on the plate and lick it.)
Negative girls communicate with their bodies as bait, but negative girls own their own bodies completely and can do whatever they want with them. The city is strewn with corpses of boys who thought they owned negative girls. Negative girls like to boast about how much they’ve been getting. They insist on their right to be debauched. Negative girls demand to get fucked. “I want to get fucked!” they scream at you over the telephone, and running into your apartment they hand you a rubber, wail “Wanna Fuck?” and dash into the bedroom. Negative girls demand control. Negative girls want to get excited. Negative girls like to seduce young boys. Negative girls like to be little girls and fuck famous old men. Negative girls like to fuck drummers, singers and guitar players. Negative girls look for cute boys wherever they go. Negative girls rip off straight men whenever they can. Negative girls have sex with giant insects. Negative girls are treated like garbage and they come. Negative girls are fulfilling comic book fantasies.
A negative girl would never think of getting married because she knows if she sits at home and watches television knitting and washing dishes and walking around the block with babies, she will become suicidally depressed, and her boyfriend will become incredibly bored with her ugly pan and will hardly ever want to see it, let alone touch her creepy flesh. Negative girls are smart. They keep moving.
Grab a negative girl by the wrist, fling her onto the carpet, drag her across the floor and throw her out the door into the corridor and she will threaten to sue and walk around with a bandaged wrist for a week, but all she really wants is an apology. Apart from photographs, negative girls like to collect confessions. They always make it seem like it’s you fault and they are very persuasive so you often end up apologizing to negative girls. This one girl was complaining about how her boyfriend wouldn’t even give her fifty cents to go uptown so she could be a model for Penthouse magazine and I said, “But he arranged for you to make two hundred dollars so that’s pretty nice of him,” and she goes, “Yeah, but because of that stupid jerk I met at Penthouse I went on the Scarsdale diet and consequently became a junkie and a whore again, so I don’t think arranging a photo session at Penthouse for me was really such a nice thing for him to do.” The same girl saw Quadrophenia three times and blamed its destructive influence on the boy who had given her his tickets. Intercourse is when she is “used” by her partners, pregnancy is when she is “ill” and childbirth is when she “gets better.”
Negative girls can be very violent very suddenly. The only way to handle this is to be equally violent. All negative boys have had to beat up negative girls. Zsa Zsa Gabor says, “I love it!” And most negative girls make a big thing out of getting beaten up. Bruises are beautiful
IS THERE ANYWAY TO TELL IF A NEGATIVE GIRL IS HOMICIDAL?
There you are. No. That’s what makes them so dangerous. Makes them change from being your friend into being your murderer in a second’s time. We all hate to a certain extent. You’d be surprised at the murderous daydreams that some sweet old lady is indulging in, but it’s only when hate is so damned up that it breaks out in murder. Imagine an infant enraged over some slight frustration like having a toy taken away. Then think of her with the strength and imagination of a negative girl. She would kill.
NEGATIVE GIRLS AND MONEY
SCIENTIST:”In order to maintain replacement fertility, financial incentives to encourage childbearing may eventually become necessary” NEGATIVE GIRL:”I’m a beautiful girl and I shouldn’t have to do that!”
Negative girls are irresponsible. They deny any demands. They don’t owe you anything. Try and find a negative girl on Thanksgiving Day. She shakes her fist at the sky and screams, “Thanks! Thanks a lot!” before running inside. Negative girls never have any money but they often “have some coming.” The mysterious source of their supply is not easy to discover. Negative girls spot friends in the morgue and identify them for newspapers, making an extra buck on the side. Sometimes their grandmothers back in Wyoming died and they got two thousand dollars, all of which they will immediately spend on shoes, airplane tickets and heroin. Some negative girls have families living somewhere else who occasionally send them money, like maybe there’s a baby in the background or they’re getting paid to stay away. Negative girls are brave because they always live alone. Alone she goes to the hospital in a cab to have her baby, paying with a jar full of change. Inside the hospital no one tells her anything. She screams, the brat is stuffed in an incubator.
Negative girls count their money and curse. They expect you to pay for everything and they expect it to be good or they will complain. A negative girl only reads the wine list to make sure the wine is expensive. She will not accept a house wine. She recommends prophylactics made from imported lambskin, ($6.98 for 3, but definitely don’t break.). If you ask her to pay for anything a negative girl will be insulted. If she does give you any money she will throw it at you, having taken fifteen minutes to extract it from her boot. If you expect her to pay again she will start to flirt with other men in the restaurant, or run uptown to turn a trick. Meaning rises out of what we don’t understand.
NEGATIVE GIRLS ON TELEVISION
Negative girls are nervous, irritable and excited. They cannot just sit staring at television, they have to get up and go out and do something. “OH GOD. WELL LET’S GO TO THE MUDD CLUB. FIRST ONE’S ON ME!” And all the girls run down the street for a drink.
Negative girls are much more interested in how horrible life is now than how terrible it was then, and this is, in my opinion, much to their credit. Did television come as voice-overs in your future? They rarely talk about the past. Of course you had a bad childhood, childhood is a bad time and people didn’t use to pretend they did until television put the alphabet in its grave.
Negative girls are appearing in increasing numbers on television. Look for these scenes: crying on the toilet. Beating up on their kids. Really pretty but always tight lipped. Must be the season of the witch. Sociologists say negative girl beating is widespread, but a negative girl always wants a negative boy to take care of her because she always has a lot of problems. It’s like a cop show on T.V.: a chick arrives with a problem. The policeman comes to her aid and helps her solve her problem. In the end, the chick is happy again. But then another chick arrives with another problem for another sucker. Negative girls spin out their mythological routines on television. Negative girls are Cleopatra. They want to live in electric times and quiver in the silver light of morning with the haunted duchesses of history where television is Shakespeare.
NEGATIVE GIRLS IN THE FUTURE
A negative girl will never be happy. A negative girl will never be satisfied. A negative girl will never be afraid to admit she is bored, tired, depressed, broke and has V.D. again. Every negative girl carries a camera in her cunt, a tape recorder in her head, a loudspeaker in her mouth and television in her eyes. Negative girls are agents. Sex with them is dangerous. They keep files. They hold conferences. A negative girl’s common complaint: I am a photograph fixed in the imagination of men. They are whatever they want to be. Negative girls don’t think about whether they’re happy or not. What a dumb thought.
A negative girl’s main ambition is to have fun, but in order to really have fun she is going to have to get a gun. I am putting forth a motion for all negative girls to be able to have licenses to carry effective handguns in their garter belts. They should all be allowed. Of course a lot of people would get shot but so what. If they want to mess around with negative girls that’s their prerogative. It’s par for the course to get smashed up by a negative girl. At some point she will do her best to bring you down crash. The trap in her magnet is honesty and pain. Sitting next to it you get hit.
A negative girl wears a shield on her wrist – her suicide scars: all negative girls have scars. All negative girls have abortions. There’s a little bit of whore in every negative girl. Sex is too dangerous. All negative girls have been raped and will admit it. But when you try and talk seriously to a negative girl about taking more precautions and not being out alone at 4 a.m. drunk and depressed she gets annoyed and says, “Well you make it sound like it was my fault.” A negative girl will not be intimidated. She appears in my room three times in the night crying, “I am dead. I am dead.”
A negative girl is a play. A negative girl is an abortion, a moment, a mirror, a mirage, a motor, a meat cleaver, a meathook. Negative girls are Queens of the Mudd, negative girls are bright and beautiful, negative girls walk grandly in regal splendor, negative girls always have a lot of cash in their voices, negative girls are demons and sorcerers and witches – messengers from a contorted night star. Negative girls rise like wraiths in a funnel of black silk over forests and disappear into fairylands forlorn. Negative girls go out of their bodies and have electric sex. Negative girls are all supposed to be good at pinball but this isn’t a magazine world. Negative girls read their schoolbooks and paint the cave walls and experiment with nitroglycerine. Negative girls are serious students learning the skills necessary to qualify They are invisible in your dreams.
I urge you to make a contact with them. They are the language. They will teach you how to fall over without hurting yourself and how to plan your itinerary with the doctors. Negative girls are the bottom line in girls. You cannot retreat or advance further. They are capable of blurring into the essence of adolescence and freezing in future frames.
Following my review of Andy Warhol’s biography by Victor Bockris, I was pleased to know that the author himself was kind enough to grant me an interview regarding the book itself as well as the recent deal that was made regarding the making of a biopic involving Jared Leto. The actor Jared Leto, the producer Michael De Luca and Terence Winter are teaming to tackle the life of Andy Warhol, the famed pop art artist whose blend of art and commerce made him a household name. Winter, the ”Boardwalk Empire” creator who wrote ”The Wolf of Wall Street”, will pen the screenplay, using the 1989 Victor Bockris book, ”Warhol: The Biography”, as a jumping-off point. Leto and De Luca jointly acquired the rights to the book, having had a desire to partner on a project for some time now and since it is now a done deal, I thought it was the perfect time for a little chat with the author of the well acclaimed biography which has been published in nine countries since 1989 and remains in print in several.
LAN: Do you remember how, where, why and under what circumstances Andy Warhol caught your attention for the first time?
Victor Bockris: Andy Warhol had a tongue in cheek “Retrospective” at the I.C.A. on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia in October 1965. (Tongue in cheek because he had only started showing paintings in 1962 and it usually takes much longer than three years to get a retrospective!)I had moved from my British boarding school Rugby to Central High School in Philadelphia in February, a week before Malcolm X was assassinated in New York. My transition from the one school to the other was fraught with the most extreme culture shock I had ever experienced in a life of shocks. During my first two months at Central I had a nervous breakdown, which I kept confined to the afternoons at home so nobody else knew about it. The trauma faded as soon as I started making friends amongst the cool kids who were all folkies. They were mad about Bob Dylan and took me to Convention Hall to see him on the early 65 tour he did with Joan Baez. My closet friend, Elliot Fratkin, invited me to go to the Warhol opening in early October.
As we approached the I.C.A that night walking across the lawn at the center of the campus I started seeing people standing around in small groups hugging each other and crying or lying on the ground like the victims of a nuclear attack in Peter Watkins famous film The War Games, which I had seen in the same place the previous week. As we got closer I could see and smell the aftermath of some hideous event such as a lynching or a riot.
I was right about the riot. Apparently when Warhol swept into the gallery with Edie Sedgwick, Girl of the Year and star of eight films Andy shot in six months, Gerard Malanga, superstar stud of the Factory, and Henry Geldzahler, curator of modern art at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the ecstatic crowd of students packed like penguins in the small space and spontaneously exploded in a riot that reminded Geldzahler of a Beatles concert. People were screaming and crying “Andy and Edie! Andy and Edie!” This was the moment at which Andy crossed over from being a famous artist to something more akin to a rock star, somebody who has transformed themselves from a person into a magician. Of course I was not there, but Andy Warhol’s essence hung in the air like the acrid smell of machine guns and wild horses.
LAN: What made you decide back then that Warhol was to be the subject of your next bio? Do you have similar reasons for the other biographies you wrote? Is there a link? How do you connect the dots (if any)?
Victor Bockris:I did not decide to write the Warhol biography. My agent, the young and ambitious Andrew Wylie just at the beginning of building his literary agency, suggested it in 1982. I was spending the summer writing ‘‘Negative Girls” into a book in Philadelphia. He called right after the girl who inspired the book phoned to tell me she was getting married, (to a rock star!) which drained all the desire and drive to finish Negative Girls out of my frenzied mind. We discussed the book for six weeks before I decided to take it on. There was much at stake, not in the least my friendship with Andy. I knew nothing about biography, which is a complex form one can only master by learning on the job like The Ramones did on stage. I decided to do it because Andy was the most mysterious figure in the vanguard of the American culture. Nobody knew anything about his childhood or the years before he became a pop artist. He was also a sitting duck for a writer who wanted to grab the attention of the country. Earlier that year Jean Stein had done just that with her bestselling book, “Edie” (Sedgwick). The most powerful part of that book was the long section about Edie’s relationship with Andy. According to Stein He was a verrrry bad man. His nickname at the Factory, Drella, summed up the impression. He was a monster, half Cinderella half Dracula. He never slept, he never ate, he drank blood. He wanted to be machine, he did not believe in love, and that was the tip of the iceberg. I had known Andy for almost ten years and I loved him the way you love a hero, like a comrade in a war. Believe me, stating your alliance to Andy Warhol could still ignite a bar fight in 1983 New York. He was still the most hated artist in America, but he was the most loved artist in France, Italy and Germany.
There are several links between all my books: I never wrote about anyone unless I knew them well enough to see how they got through the day; everyone I wrote about was a remarkable talker; everyone I wrote about played a role in the development of the Counterculture in New York in the 1970s. They were all living in William Burroughs Magic Universe.
As soon as I garnered good reviews for the Warhol biography I wanted to dash off and write my own biography. However my Dutch Uncle and mentor in biography, Albert Goldman, who published a masterpiece, ”Ladies and Gentlemen Lenny Bruce!” as well as first class biographies of Elvis and John Lennon, told me, “You’ve just mastered how to write a biography, don’t throw away what you’ve learned, do at least two more.” Keith Richards was a dream subject and ”Keith Richards: The Biography” was published right before the release of his first solo album. The book has been published in ten countries and stayed in print in the English language since it’s original publication in 1992. The third book in my trilogy of biographies, ”Transformer: The Lou Reed Story” was well received in the U.K. and U.S. in 1995 and did a lot to broaden his audience in the six countries in which it was published.
This biography obviously required an incredible amount of work. So many subjects, so many people! How did you manage to achieve such a complete story of his life without being drowned in archives of all sorts!? Did it require a different methodology than your other books??
Victor Bockris: It required a one hundred percent commitment for five years. At several stages I employed an editor to keep me on track. Writing a biography is quite different from writing the portraits I had previously published of Ali, Burroughs,Blondie and The Velvet Underground. Warhol was by far the hardest book I ever wrote, in fact it almost killed me. I have always been lucky with my timing. My first seven books were perfectly timed. Andy died two and a half years before the book was released. It was the first and remains the only real biography of Warhol. I started it by going to Pittsburgh with Keith Haring and meeting Andy’s oldest brother Paul Warhola, who was a lovely man and became a good friend who helped me out until the very end. Andy did not want me to write the book but he never told anybody not to talk to me. I think he realized that somebody was going to do it and he was in safer hands with me than with some hack who did not know him and would mess it up.
There are by the way two distinctly different versions of my biography. When Andy died in February 1987 my British editor, Paul Sidey, at Hutchinson (Random House UK) got in touch and played a strong role in helping me complete the book. This climaxed with an all expenses paid six-week visit to London during which I was given a full-time editor and copy editor. By the time Sidey gave me the retyped 721 page manuscript of ”Warhol: The Biography’‘ I was in heaven, because it had come out much as I originally envisioned it. The British were planning to publish in May 1989. This euphoria was short-lived. A week after I delivered it to my agent, word came back, or so I was told, from Warner Books that the manuscript was “unpublishable.” I never found out if this was actually true, but the long and short was Warner wanted a re-edit. At this point I was exhausted. I had given it everything I had. Finally Hutchinson published their version ”Warhol: The Biography” in May 89. It received wonderful reviews and was published in paperback by Penguin. Warner Books published their version, on which I worked for six weeks with an editor they had flown in from England, ”The Life and Death of Andy Warhol’‘, in October 1989. It was about one hundred pages shorter and much of the life had been cut out of it.
Whereas the U.K. edition did well and remains in print twenty-seven years later, the Warner edition was a fiasco. Although it was well reviewed it suffered very disappointing sales for the advance they had paid me. Today, the British edition is in print in the U.S. (with DaCapo) and in France and Poland. With the movie coming out in 2017 we are looking forward to seeing it in print in several other countries.
LAN:How do you perceive Warhol’s contribution to the literary world? I know you feel pretty strongly about a: A Novel…?
Victor Bockris: I think it’s a disgrace that Andy Warhol’s books have not been released in uniform paperback editions or in a complete twelve volume set. Starting in 1967 and continuing until after his death Andy published a series of between nine and twelve books. They are as vital to an understanding of his oeuvre as his paintings and films. There is much more interest in his writing in Europe than America. Language is the basis of all Warhol’s work. In his college years his confrontation with the American language distressed him so much it became the root of his artistic drive to portray America as a land of Deaths and Disasters. He is a conceptual artist. His first works like the Campbell’s Soup Can paintings and his first film Sleep were seen by few people, but their names became part of our culture. He published at least three classic books: ”a: A Novel;The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and The Andy Warhol Diaries.”His collected literary works are ignored by the Warhol Foundation because they do not make enough money to warrant even an investment of time. They appear uninterested in developing his literary reputation and have done nothing with the unpublished books in his archives. There appears to be nobody taking care of Andy Warhol’s literary works and nobody to defend the books against people who claim they wrote them. Andy Warhol’s writing is pure Warhol. I hope one day somebody will wake up to the fact that there is actually a goldmine yet to be discovered in the many unpublished volumes in the files of the Warhol Museum. Somebody should write a book called ”Andy Warhol: The Writer”, but they might have a problem getting permission to quote from his writing. There appears to be a determination to keep him down or out of print. I have published six essays about Andy’s writing in various sources, including the current DaCapo version of the Warhol biography.
LAN: You were obviously close to Warhol. What were the most valuable things you learned from him or about him?
Victor Bockris: The most valuable things I learned from Warhol: To grow my ambition higher; to realize works is the most important thing in my life; to simplify; to minimize and to recognize that most growth comes via connections to people who open doors to other people. To never let anybody take your work away from you. To collaborate. To do interviews without questions, to just let them happen. To connect to the power in yourself. To be a very tough businessman. To never lose your self-respect. To treat people well. To not get hung up on your problems. To discipline yourself to not waste your life on alcohol or hard drugs. To believe that you can transform yourself.
LAN:Do you feel you have resolved the enigma of Andy Warhol’s persona through this book?
Victor Bockris: Jared Leto told me my book was the only one who made him feel that he got Andy, got to know him and understood him. My original motivation for writing this book was to reveal Andy so that people could feel as if they knew him and liked him. So, yes I think I succeeded.
LAN: Do you feel that part of the enigma of Warhol persona is whether he was a psychopath or simply an oversensitive person who simply just couldn’t afford to deal with a heartbreak, betrayal or negative feelings of any sort?
Victor Bockris: This question is difficult for me to understand. Andy was not a psychopath in any way. That sounds like the kind of word somebody desperate to write something new about Warhol might come up with, but I can’t imagine anybody who knew Andy saying that. He was, much like William Burroughs, the opposite of his image. Andy was a supersensitive romantic who found it harder as he got older to be alone. He certainly denied his emotional distress, but there is no question that he became increasingly lonely as he got older. At the same time he was turning out an extraordinary stream of great paintings.There is something almost too poignant for words about his final works, The Last Supper paintings which regained the vitality of the Car Crash paintings. And the fact that when he died he had so much work to do but perhaps nobody to look forward to seeing. Nobody he could give his love to. He checked into the hospital under the name Bob Robert. In his last phone call to Vincent Fremont, Vice President of Andy Warhol Enterprises, he was full of energy and humor. Some people called him Superman some called him the Angel of Death. He was an otherworldly figure who gave us everything he had.
LAN: Do you feel Warhol’s works and ideas are still relevant today?
Victor Bockris: Much has been written about the Legacy of Andy Warhol. I think he will be relevant forever in the sense that Shakespeare is still relevant. I wrote his biography and it would be hard for anybody to write a new one because most of the sources on the first thirty years of his life are dead. However, I don’t think anybody has yet put together an understanding of the impact of his collected work, not in the least because nobody has recognized the importance of his writing in his oeuvre. A writer who could show us the overall influence of Warhol’s contribution, without being over influenced by the prices of his art, but saw the art the films and the writing as the triangular base of his huge body of work would be doing us a great service. Andy Warhol may be the greatest artist of the twentieth century because he harnessed the century’s theme of death. But we will not know until somebody emerges who isn’t frothing at the mouth about the money.
Andy’s brother Paul Warhola told me Andy never really changed. Sophisticated art dealers might scoff at that remark, but Paul is right. The Andy who drove his assistants mad by endlessly pushing them with his divine energy was the same Andy who as a child drove his brothers wild in the same way with his insistent, “What are ya gonna do now?”
LAN: How do you feel about your book becoming a biopic next year and Jared Leto with his very talented friends being so enthusiastic about co-producing it and playing Warhol himself?
Victor Bockris: I have seen several opportunities to make the book into a film come and go, starting with Gus Van Saint in 1992. I’m sure he would have made a good film, but I don’t think there was the large international audience for Warhol’s heroism back then. I hope we are going to see a film about a revolutionary culture hero who changed the world with his brilliance and his machine like drive. Something like ”Lawrence of Arabia” but with the desert being the streets of New York. Mind you this comes from a fevered brain in the middle of a hurricane. I am confident that Leto will be Warhol by the time he starts making the film and I imagine he will give us something we cannot even imagine until we see it. Something Magic.
LAN: I wish you all the best!! I hope you will finally get all the credit you deserve for the quality of your books and that the world will remember your name and that the movie will be an incentive to check out the rest of your work as well. You do have a very special place as the witness of an era, an author and as a very special friend, you most certainly had a huge influence on everything that went on since the 60’s. It seems it’s not about to stop…
Victor Bockris: Thank you Tobe for the opportunity to talk about Andy. It went well because you asked stimulating questions and I enjoyed answering them. I wish you all the best with Loud Alien Noize. And I look forward to contributing some of my favorite pieces to you in the future. I hope your readers enjoy with what we’ve come up with above.