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Lonesome Cowboys (1968)

Viva [after filming the rape scene]: "Get Ultra Violet for the part. I quit!" (L&D288)

Color/109 Minutes
Directed by Andy Warhol/Paul Morrissey

Executive Producer: Paul Morrissey
(filmed January 1968)

Joe Dallesandro/Viva (Ramona D'Alvarez)/Taylor Mead (Nurse)/
Louis Waldon (Mickey)/Eric Emerson/Julian Burroughs (Brother)/
Allen Midgette/Tom Hompertz (Julian)/Francis Francine (Sheriff)

Martin Holt and Bob Broder on Warhol filming Lonesome Cowboys

Filmmaker Martin Holt and photographer Bob Broder talk about
shooting Andy Warhol shooting Lonesome Cowboys in Tucson


Lonesome Cowboys was shot at the end of January 1968 in Tucson Arizona - on location in Old Tucson and at the Rancho Linda Vista Dude ranch 20 miles outside the city where some John Wayne movies had been filmed. (L&D285)

It was edited by Andy while he was recuperating from the gunshot wounds inflicted by Valerie Solanas on June 3, 1968 and won Best Film at the San Francisco Film Festival in November. Unable to find a major commercial exhibitor, Warhol rented the Garrick Theatre where it opened on May 5, 1969. According to Morrissey, the film grossed $35,000-40,000 during its first week, with only $9,000 spent on advertising. It was also booked at the 55th Street Playhouse at the same time where it broke the "single-day housemark", taking in $3,837 at $3.00 per ticket. In the same day it made $2,780 at the Garrick. It also ran for twenty weeks at various art houses in Los Angeles, and 2 1/2 months in San Francisco under distribution by Sherpix. (JOE63)

Andy Warhol shooting Lonesome Cowboys

Andy Warhol shooting Lonesome Cowboys
(Photo: Bob Broder/Eric Firestone Gallery)

The film was originally conceived as a western version of Romeo and Juliet called Ramona and Julian. (JOE52) In Autumn, 1967, while on a lecture tour in Tucson with Warhol, Paul had also mentioned to the press that their next film would be a western filmed on location in Tucson and would be called The Unwanted Cowboy. (L&D285)

Both Brigid Berlin and Ondine were supposed to be in Lonesome Cowboys but, according to David Bourdon, "failed to show up, presumably because of their skepticism about Arizona's amphetamine supply. Brigid was to have played the leader of a rival gang of cowboys, and Ondine had been slated for the role of Padre Lawrence, described in the scenario as a 'degenerate and unfrocked priest who tries to hide his addiction to opium-laced cough syrups.' (John Chamberlain was offered Ondine's role, but turned it down. He was also invited to play the father of the cowboy brothers, but declined that part, too, on the grounds that he wasn't old enough.)" (DB271)

There are different versions of the film. One version includes a title track by Bob Goldstein during the opening sex scene between Viva and Tom Hompertz who was an art student that Andy had met the previous year while lecturing at an art school in California. This version also has opening credits after this scene. In another version, there are no credits and no song - just an assortment of extraneous sounds during the opening scene. (JOE53)

An ad for the film in the 26 June 1969 issue of the Village Voice attempted to explain the "Warhol phenomemon" to New Yorkers:

Andy Warhol ad - The Warhol phenomenon

Village Voice ad, 26 June 1969

The controversial rape scene in Lonesome Cowboys occurred when Viva (as Ramona) ordered the boys off her ranch. The boys attacked Viva as she pleaded, "you're hurting me... please." She screamed out to both her fellow actors and the tourists who had gathered to watch the filming, "oooh, make them stop! Oh, Andy!" as the boys continued to molest her. At the end of the scene she yelled "Disgusting pigs! Look at all those children shocked out of their minds," referring to the onlookers. (JOE57)

Because of the filming, Andy Warhol was put on surveillance by the FBI on 23 February 1968 in response to a complaint by the the public. The FBI were investigating the event in order to see if there were grounds to arrest Warhol for interstate transporting of obscene material, ie if he had taken a film of a rape from Arizona to New York. (L&D288) He was never charged. However, in August 1969, Lonesome Cowboys was seized by authorities during its third week playing at a cinema in Atlanta, Georgia, and the manager of the cinema arrested. (JOE62)

According to Victor Bockris, "a thickset young stud from San Diego known as Joey had been flown in to stay with Andy." during the filming. (L&D286) On the second morning in Arizona, "Warhol awoke to the acrid stench of gas in his cabin and sprang out of bed to discover that Joey, who only the previous afternoon had lain tranquilly next to him in bed holding hands over the covers as Viva drew their portrait, had tried to commit suicide." Fred Hughes got rid of him immediately, putting him on a plane. (L&D287)

Gary Comenas

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