Americans who deplore crime and disorder might consider the case of Andy Warhol, who for years has celebrated every form of licentiousness. Like some Nathanael West hero, the pop-art king was the blond guru of a nightmare world, photographing depravity and calling it truth. He surrounded himself with freakily named peopleViva, Ultra Violet, International Velvet, Ingrid Superstarplaying games of lust, perversion, drug addiction and brutality before his crotchety cameras. Last week one of his grotesque bit players made the game quite real.
From the start, Warhol worked to a chorus of cheers and jeers. Campbell soup-can silk screens ladeled him with fame, becoming artistic beacons gazing at life's banal objects with a wan, reportorial eye. Turning to moviemaking, he lifted the underground cinema's popularity to new heights while sinking the contents to sadistic depths. His bent is parody and plotlessness, and he has a whimsical flair. Sleep shows six hours of just that; Empire, eight hours long, stars the Empire State Building. ****the title spoofs film ratingsoriginally lasted all day and night.
Ultimate Voyeur. So avid is his camera that anything goes at The Factory, his New York City studio. He wants to "show people honestly," says Ultra Violet, "whether they are homosexuals, drug users or drunks." He is accused of glorifying the ugliness he depicts, but Ingrid Superstar defends him. Says she: "He likes to sit behind his sun glasses and observe the world." If so, Warhol is the ultimate voyeur.
His best-known film, The Chelsea Girlsit earned $500,000shows its huge-eyed heroines disporting in kaleidoscopic perversity; in I, a Man, one droll scene shows a pea-jacketed lesbian sneeringly turning down the tomcat antihero. Playing the lesbian in that film was Val Solanas, 28, who last year formed the Society for Cutting Up Men. Her S.C.U.M. manifesto begins: "Life in this society being at best an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex."
Last week Val was as bad as her word. She strode into The Factory, pulled out a .32-cal automatic and pumped a shot into Warhol's chest. As he fought for life in a hospital, pals insisted that he had not brought it on himself. "Violence is everywhere in the air today," said Ultra Violet. "He got hurt in the big game of reality."