Valerie Solanas and Tom Baker in I, A Man
For updated information about Valerie Solanas see "Valerie Solanas."
Valerie Jean Solanas was born on April 9, 1936 in New Jersey. Although her last name is sometimes spelled Solanis in Warhol biographies, it is the Solanas spelling that appears on her death certificate and is also the spelling used by her sister.
As a child, Valerie was repeatedly molested by her father. When she was fifteen years old she became pregnant and was kicked out of high school. She went to live with a family in Washington called the Blackwells during her pregnancy. Her son, David, was born on March 31, 1953 and the Blackwells raised him as their own. Valerie returned to high school and never saw her son again. After high school she studied psychology at the University of Maryland and graduated with honours. (FM36)
After college, she eventually ended up in Greenwich Village in New York in 1966, supporting herself through prostitution and panhandling. She wrote a play called Up Your Ass and submitted it to Warhol in early 1967. Although Warhol loved the title of the play, he thought it was "so dirty" that Valerie might be a cop trying to entrap him. (POP271) Warhol lost the play and when Solanas started demanding money for it, Andy suggested she appear in his film I, a Man and earn some money, which she did.
"When I finally admitted to her that it [Up Your Ass] was lost, she started asking me for money. She was staying at the Chelsea Hotel, she said, and she needed the money to pay her rent. One afternoon in September when she called, we were in the middle of shooting a sequence for I, a Man, so I said why didn't she come over and be in the movie and earn twenty-five dollars instead of asking for a handout. She came right over and we filmed her in a short scene on a staircase and she was actually funny and that was that." (POP271)
Although Warhol refers to I, a Man as being filmed in September, it was actually filmed earlier. The first version of the film, which was 99 minutes long, opened at the Hudson Theatre prior to September on August 24, 1967. The uncut footage was also shown as part of Warhol's 25 hour movie, **** (Four Stars) which was shown on December 15-16, 1967. A 110 minute version of I, a Man was playing at the beginning of 1968 at the Cinematheque-16 in Los Angeles. (FAW30)
In 1967 Solanas also self-published her SCUM manifesto. When she was interviewed in late 1967/early 1968 by Robert Mamorstein for the Village Voice, she called Warhol a "son of a bitch," saying that "A snake couldn't eat a meal off what he paid out." She told the interviewer that, in addition to the SCUM manifesto, she had written a few sex novels and was paid $500.00 for one. (Although the interview was done earlier, it did not appear in print until June 1968 - after Warhol was shot.)
Valerie had signed a contract with publisher Maurice Girodias for an autobiographical novel, but when she was unable to come up with the goods, she convinced him to publish the SCUM manifesto instead. (FM352) When she later read the contract carefully, she was convinced that she had signed away the rights to all future works to him.
On June 3, 1968, Solanas arrived at Warhol's Union Square offices and was told that Andy was not there. He was doing some errands that morning and had not yet arrived at work. One of Warhol's errands that morning was to collect a prescription for Obetrol which he had been taking on a regular basis for the past five years. While many of his stars were taking illegal 'speed', Warhol had managed to obtain a regular prescription from his doctor for pharmaceutical speed in the form of Obetrol (amphetamine) which was also popular with street dealers because of its purity. (POP33) Warhol took it regularly until he was shot. He stopped taking it while recuperating, and then switched to Dexamyl. Dexamyl was a combination of amphetamine ('speed') and a barbiturate ('downer') that was known as a 'purple heart' among street dealers. After Andy died in 1987, Brigid Berlin told Bob Colacello that "Andy took one or two Obetrols every day until he died," although she may have been confusing Dexamyl and Obetrol. (BC50)
Although some people blamed Warhol for the drug addictions of his superstars, there is only one record of him giving any of them drugs from his own supply. When Patrick Smith interviewed Ondine in 1978 for a book he was writing on Warhol, Ondine told him that Warhol gave him drugs at the beginning of the marathon 24 hour tape recording session that took place on July 30, 1965 and was the basis for the book A: A Novel by Andy Warhol.
"At the start of A, Andy and I are having a snecken in a restaurant called Starkee's on Lexington Avenue (in the 50s), but who walks in but David Whitney... And Andy hands me four pills immediately. He takes them from his bottle of speed, and the said, 'How many do you want?' and I said, 'Oh, I'll take them all.' He said 'On Ondine!... How could you possibly?' I said, 'You swallow them, and, then, you have a snecken. And then everything is all right'... but I managed to take 100 milligrams right there, and he said, 'Oh! My eyeballs would be... you can't!' And I said, 'Oh, you have to.' He said, 'Well, here we go.' And that 's how the book started." (PS440)
Three years later Warhol was still taking Obetrol. After picking up his prescription on June 3, 1968 and finishing other errands, he finally arrived at his Union Square office at approximately 4:15 pm., only to be met by Valerie Solanas who was still waiting outside after nearly two hours. Jed Johnson arrived at the same time, carrying a bag of fluorescent lights he had just purchased at a hardware store. (POP270) Valerie joined the two of them in the elevator. Warhol noticed something highly unusual about her appearance - she was wearing make-up.
"It was a very hot day, and as Jed, Valerie, and I waited for the elevator, I noticed that she was wearing a fleece-lined winter coat and a high turtleneck sweater, and I thought how hot she must be - although, surprisingly, she wasn't even sweating. She was wearing pants, more like trousers (I'd never seen her in a dress), and holding a paper bag and twisting it - bouncing a little on the balls of her feet. The I saw that there was something even more odd about her that day: when you looked close, she'd put on eye makeup and lipstick." (POP272)
Inside the Union Square offices (sometimes referred to as the Union Square Factory), the editor of Art & Artist's magazine, Mario Amaya, was waiting for Warhol to discuss an upcoming retrospective in London. After getting off the elevator, Jed retired into Warhol's private office and Andy took over a telephone call from Viva while Paul Morrissey, who had previously been talking to her, went to the bathroom. Viva was calling from Kenneth's Hair Salon where she was having her hair dyed red for a forthcoming appearance in John Schlesinger's film, Midnight Cowboy. After a few moments of conversation, Warhol handed the phone to Fred Hughes who was also in attendance.
Valerie pulled out a .32 automatic from her paper bag and fired at Andy twice. He fell to the floor and attempted to crawl under a desk. She fired a third time and the bullet entered his right side and went straight through him, coming out the left side of his back. Warhol later told his friends that "It hurt so much, I wished I was dead." (BC)
She then turned her attention to Mario Amaya, fired another shot at him, missed, and then aimed again. Her second shot wounded him just above the hip but did not cause serious damage. She then pointed the gun at Fred Hughes who pleaded with her to leave. She pressed the elevator call button and then returned to shoot him. The gun jammed so she pulled out a back-up gun - a .22 caliber from the paper bag, but the elevator arrived and she left.
When the ambulance arrived nearly thirty minutes later, both Mario and Andy were taken in it to Columbus Hospital on 19th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. In the ambulance, the driver told Mario that sounding the siren would cost five dollars extra. Mario replied "Go ahead and sound it. Leo Castelli will pay." (DD75)
At the hospital, Warhol was pronounced clinically dead. Valerie's bullet went through his lung, then ricocheted through his oesophagus,gall bladder, liver, spleen, and intestines before exiting his left side, leaving a large hole. The doctors managed to revive him and operated for 5 1/2 hours, removing his spleen. Warhol was in critical condition but survived.
At approximately 8:00 pm, Valerie walked up to a traffic cop near Times Square and surrendered. Later, when questioned as to why she did it, she replied "I just wanted him to pay attention to me. Talking to him was like talking to a chair." (BC32) She was arrested and later taken to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric examination.
While Warhol recuperated from his gun wounds, Paul Morrissey took over Warhol's filmmaking duties with a new project that starred Joe Dallesandro as a hustler, appropriately titled...